Switchboard Music Festival as eclectic as ever 

Now in its fourth year, San Francisco’s annual eight-hour Switchboard Music Festival continues to unabashedly trumpet its uniqueness.

“No other Bay Area music festival or concert series offers such an eclectic, genre-crossing, convention-breaking, bastardizing group of experimentalists, innovators and musical omnivores in a single event,” proclaims the show organizers while beating their boundary-busting breasts.

If that intro hasn’t scared you off, the nonstop marathon of music that defies genre boundaries has a seat for you on Sunday. Relocated to the beautiful and comfortable Brava Theater on 24th Street in The City, the far more attendee-friendly event boasts one of the best sound systems and lighting array of any venue of its size.

“Switchboard is about combining different genres in organic ways where it’s not easy to tease apart the components,” says festival co-founder, composer, and electric guitarist/bassist Ryan Brown. “You may get the sense of rock, jazz, folk and experimental elements, but they all blend together.”

The description is especially apt for Causing a Tiger, the 8 p.m.  headline trio that features Bay Area legend Carla Kihlstedt (Tin Hat Trio). “They move between songs and improvisation,” says Brown. “Carla has a classical-jazz-folk-rock-heavy-metal background, and she combines all those elements in her music.”

Another star-billing offering, Birds & Batteries, goes on at 9 p.m. Given that its bassist Jill Heinke attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (as did Brown and his two co-directors, bass clarinetists Jeff Anderle and Jonathan Russell), this indie rock band draws on both experimental traditions and classical influences.

“Those are just our headliners,” says Brown. “We bring together performers and composers who might otherwise perform in disparate venues to very different audiences. By allowing people to come and go throughout the day, and play on a sliding scale, we want to expose them to music they otherwise might not hear. Hopefully they’ll stick around to hear far more than what they came for.”

Among other delights, Brown will return from his doctorate studies in composition at Princeton to play electric guitar with the Classical Revolution string quartet in the West Coast premiere of Extended Family.  Brown wrote the piece for the Brooklyn Philharmonic Chamber Series. Before that, at 2:30 p.m., the quartet performs a new work for string quartet and electronics by William Britelle.

Co-director Russell premieres one of his latest pieces at 6:25 p.m.

Other delights include music by composer/teacher/organizer Dan Becker, experimentalist Loren Chasse, scratch guitarist The Genie, the combination of Western classical and jazz with the rhythmic traditions of India that define quartet Gojogo, trumpeter Erik Jekabson, Patrick Cress’ jazz quartet Telepathy, and Jordan Glenn’s hardly describable Wiener Kids. Wow.


The Switchboard Music Festival

Where: Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., San Francisco

When: 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $15 to $40 sliding scale

Contact: (415) 407-9794; www.switchboardmusic.com

About The Author

Jason Victor Serinus

Jason Victor Serinus

Jason Victor Serinus is a music and high performance audio critic, whistler, and lecturer on opera and vocal recordings. He is editor of Psychoimmunity and the Healing Process: A Holistic Approach to Immunity & AIDS. In addition to writing for the San Francisco Examiner, he has written about music for Opera News,... more
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