On a warm August evening, guests of KQED Arts and Content Magazine gathered together in what was once a Masonic Temple but is now one of the premier event spaces in downtown San Jose. Perhaps it was the glamorous Prohibition-era setting that made the evening feel like a step back in time, but like everything Silicon Valley, it was also full of innovation and creativity.
During the lively cocktail hour, guests enjoyed artwork by Force129 and the chance to create music with Tim Thompson’s futuristic Space Palette before filing into the magnificent, arabesque Corinthian Grand Ballroom for an evening with KQED’s The Do List and a variety show-style collection of music, film, comedy, and interviews.
The show opened with San Jose’s own Aki Kumar, who plays the harmonica like he was raised in the Delta and blends retro Bollywood pop with classic blues. Kumar, with his debonair good looks and cadence of a young Clark Gable, led his band in a short set that had the audience charmed and dancing along to the vibrant rhythms.
Cy Musiker and David Wiegand of The Do List, along with Rachael Myrow, KQED’s South Bay arts reporter, then welcomed the audience and introduced the short film Tacos & Punk. In the film, while cooking in a warm, cozy kitchen, Michelle Gonzales of Spitboy, a legend of the early punk rock scene, discusses the challenges of being a woman of color. Then, Christine Tupou of Try the Pie reveals that for her, a woman of Polynesian descent, things haven’t changed that much in punk in the intervening 25 years. But the message is hopeful. As Gonzales says, “If you have something to say and you say it enough […] someone will listen and be interested […] because our experiences are universal.”
Changing course, comedian Nato Green took the stage, entertaining the audience with his acerbic style and almost anthropological insights into the current political season. A brief interview afterwards with Wiegand offered a peek into Green’s methods. Green sees himself as an “embedded comedian.” Instead of observing, he participates in events, allowing for a deeper understanding of people and circumstances—and what makes them funny.
KQED then gave the audience a sampling of its new Bay Curious series, which examines various peculiarities of the Bay Area one question and answer at a time. For example, one listener wanted to know the story behind the man who dances with a big red heart on an overpass to entertain weary commuters below. The Bay Curious team discovered that the dancer is Javonne Hatfield, a local praise dancer who is driven by a desire to “give back to the world,” and he says that really, his motivation “is all about the love.”
TheatreWorks treated the audience to a preview of Something Wicked This Way Comes, a thrilling new musical based on a Ray Bradbury novel of the same title. Two young boys in a small town in Midwestern America are drawn into the strange and frightening world of a carnival. After a performance of two of the musical’s original songs, Musiker sat down with the show’s creators, Neil Bartram and Brian Hill, and TheatreWorks’ Brian Kelly to discuss the endeavor.
Rachael Myrow then shared a piece called “Priced Out,” which details the struggles that many face with the rising costs of living, particularly in the South Bay. This segment followed the exodus of artists streaming out of San Jose, seeking more affordable communities. Despite finding new homes in remote corners of California, many feel that they have left their hearts in San Jose.
Aki Kumar and his band closed out the evening, inspiring many to get out of their seats and dance under the ballroom’s decorative palm trees. The evening was a celebration of creativity across mediums, a showcase of some of the best that the Bay Area has to offer, and was witnessed by many of the city’s most dedicated arts enthusiasts.
Written by Kate Evans
Photography by Mark J. Chua