The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.
Props to Proops: Greg Proops is the kind of comedian the Bay Area should be proud to claim as one of its own. His is the antithesis of comedy based on polished routines with family anecdotes or cute observations of the silly things cats do. With prominent, black-framed glasses, he looks a little like a middle-aged, irritated Buddy Holly. He’s extremely quick on his feet – one reason why he was part of the TV improv comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” – and he’s smart. Very smart. So smart you get the feeling that his standup routine is a stream of riffage based on whatever’s on his mind at that moment. He’s unabashedly liberal, intensely well read and has a sneering disdain for duplicitous politicians, fat cats and the superficiality of much of contemporary life and society. In what’s become something of a Bay Area tradition, Proops will be back at the Punch Line comedy club, 444 Battery St., in San Francisco, headlining a New Year’s weekend run. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday (when he’ll be taping a segment of his modestly titled “The Smartest Man in the World” podcast), 8 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Friday and 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday (New Year’s Eve). Tickets are $25-$57; visit www.punchlinecomedyclub.com
Freebie of the week: Jefferson Airplane played an indelible role in San Francisco music history. The band emerged from the Haight-Ashbury music and hippie scene in the 1960s and, with its free-flowing blend of folk, jazz and early rock influences, became a cornerstone of the San Francisco Sound and the emerging genre of psychedelic rock. Jefferson Airplane’s early shows at the Fillmore auditorium are the stuff of legend and its 1967 album “Surrealistic Pillow,” with such iconic songs as “Someone to Love” and “White Rabbit,” remains a classic of the era, helping the band leapfrog from local heroes to international rock stars. In the early 1970s, beset with internal divisions, the group splintered and fell apart but was rebranded and reborn in 1974 as Jefferson Starship with original members Marty Balin, Grace Slick and Paul Kantner. With the mega-selling “Red Octopus” album and hits like “Miracles” and “We Built This City,” the band helped define another sound – the catchy if critically derided commercial pop-rock that dominated FM radio into the 1980s. It’s easy to review Jefferson Airplane/Starship’s sonic history – the albums remain available and the music can be found on Pandora, Spotify and other streaming platforms. But now a San Francisco gallery is offering a visual history. “From Jefferson Airplane to Starship, A San Francisco Story” is an exhibit on display at the Haight Street Art Center through Jan. 22. Built from the Center’s extensive collection of poster art, as well as art works by singer Slick and variety of photographs, the show traces the band’s evolution from local and regional favorites to an outfit that has a home in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a plaque on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. The Center is at 215 Haight St. Hours are noon-6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (but closed on New Year’s Day). Admission is free. Go to https://haightstreetart.org/
A swinging New Year’s: By the time they were crowned best new artist at the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards, Monsieur Periné had been around for eight years, drawing a sizable following with its infectious blend of 1930s Django Reinhardt swing with Afro-Latin grooves and contemporary Latin pop and jazz melodies. At its center is charismatic vocalist Catalina García, who croons delightfully in Spanish, French, English and Portuguese. The seven-piece band got its start in Bogota, Colombia, but its unique, global sound and lively, colorful stage show has drawn fans from all over the world. If the notion of “world music” has become a tired cliche, Monsieur Periné is here to remind us that music that falls under that genre can be as new and compelling as ever. And it keeps finding ways to draw new fans. Earlier this year, the band’s 2015 song “Nuestra Cancion” starred in a TikTok dance video that went viral. But Garcia and her bandmates say they aren’t interested in singles or viral videos, they just want to play music that gets listeners to let loose and dance. And that is what Monsieur Periné will do this weekend at SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco in a New Year’s Eve run. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday (New Year’s Eve) and 7 p.m. Sunday. And, yes, the dance floor will be open. Tickets are $25-$85 ($50-$115 New Year’s Eve late show); go to www.sfjazz.org.
Singing in the new year: They’re waggishly calling him the Crooner Behind the Cartoons over at the San Francisco Symphony, as the august musical institution welcomes Grammy and Academy Award-nominated singer and actor Seth MacFarlane to the Davies Hall stage for a New Year’s Eve concert of jazz standards and holiday favorites. He’s famed for the speaking voice he uses on such animated and semi-animated features as “Family Guy,” “American Dad!” and “Ted,” but his smooth vocals also win fans for his Sinatra-style delivery (and his musical coaches, in fact, included those who also worked with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself). Concert time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and tickets, $69-$250, can be obtained at sfsymphony.org or by calling 415-864-6000. For a taste of what’s to come, check MacFarlane weighing in here with his version of “The Night They Invented Champagne”: https://youtu.be/QXVQIl0cJpc
Two Jons and an Alec: It’s an eclectic and far-ranging program the San Jose Chamber Orchestra is mounting Saturday afternoon as award-winning pianist Jon Nakamatsu joins the ensemble and clarinetists Jon Manasse and his son Alec in a concert to usher in the new year. Conducted by Barbara Day Turner at 3 p.m. in San Jose’s St. Francis Episcopal Church, the lineup includes Prokofiev’s “Overture on Hebrew Themes,” Jessie Montgomery’s “Strum for string orchestra,” the Larghetto movement from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, the Romanze from Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor, the Allegro from Franz Krommer’s Concerto for Two Clarinets, the Michael Touchi arrangement of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” and Touchi’s own “Fantasia on Klezmer.” Tickets range in price from $15 to $75; find them at www.sjco.org or 408-295-4416.