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Arts & Entertainment

The Standard weekend guide to SF events & entertainment—Aug. 25-28

Stephen Shugerman via Getty / Doni Conner

From Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest to San Francisco metal pioneers Deafheaven; from Drunken Master to Drunken Master II (both starring Jackie Chan)—we have yet another action-packed weekend in San Francisco on our hands.

Also this weekend, Dave Eggers’ local literary nonprofit 826 Valencia celebrates its 20th anniversary 20th with a block party birthday bash and Spark Social in Mission Bay hosts the grand opening of a new type of fast-casual restaurant—one where the robots serve the food.

Read on for all this and more.

Thursday, Aug. 25

Jazz Is Dead: The Tour 

August Hall, 420 Mason St.
8 p.m.  | $30

As the longtime arranger and right hand man for Gil Scott-Heron, Oakland’s Brian Jackson etched his name in music history. But to many, the breadth and beauty of the pianist’s legacy was something that needed full immersion and a desire to dip into music history to appreciate. With their Jazz Is Dead Series, multi-instrumentalists Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad have forged entire albums of new compositions with legends like Jackson to introduce new generations to the wonders of his mastery. Across 14 volumes and counting, they’ve done the same with people like bassist Henry Franklin, organist Doug Carn and now even with surging LA jazz collective Katalyst on the paradigm-shifting JID013 album. The first Jazz Is Dead tour comes to San Francisco for a night that’s honoring the past, but undoubtedly looking towards the future of jazz. (AS)

San Francisco Porn Film Festival

Brava Theater, 2781 4th St.
Through Aug. 27 | $15+

This multi-day festival, which kicked off Wednesday, celebrates the City by the Bay’s progressive sexual and LGBTQ+ politics while showcasing the creativity and craft of adult filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond. Thursday’s film headliner is Fred Halsted’s 1972 experimental erotic LGBTQ+ film LA Plays Itself (said to have inspired professor Thom Andersen’s landmark documentary of nearly the same name.) Keep the sex positive conversations going at a casual mix-and-mingle afterparty across the street from the Brava Theater at Pop’s Bar on Saturday at 9 p.m. More genre-pushing, sexy shorts play throughout the weekend, which caps off Sunday at 7 p.m. with This One’s for the Ladies, a documentary about finding love in the underground world of exotic dancing. Miss a screening? Festival films are available on demand through Sept. 10. (CJC)

Friday, Aug. 26

BOXBLUR + SF Dance Film Festival

Catharine Clark Gallery, 248 Utah St.
8:30 p.m. | $50 - $100

Ana Teresa Fernández’s new exhibit At the Edge of Distance explores the intersections of borders, bodies, migration and the environment. Musicians Amos Yang (Cello), Sam Schlosser (trombone) and Charles Chandler (bass) respond to the artist’s work with an original score inspired by the use of tango in Fernández’s oeuvre. Dancers Adji Cissoko and Michael Montgomery of Alonzo King LINES Ballet bring that music to life with new chorography. A selection of short films curated by the San Francisco Dance Film Festival rounds out the night, featuring the short film Identidad, which focuses on queer and trans-inclusive Latin dance. A second performance will be held Sunday, Aug. 27, at 3 p.m. (CJC)

Playground Festival 

Potrero Stage, 1695 18th St.
7 p.m. | Free

This weekend, theater lovers will have the opportunity to see the works of four playwrights presenting their creative labors at the Free-Play Festival. Starting this Friday, on the bill will be Joyful Raven's Breed or Bust, the premiere of Lana Richards’ Tips For Nervous Fliers and a staged reading of J. Lynn Jackson's Lucía Fuentes, presented by Miyoko Sakatani and Playland Productions. For 28 years, PlayGround has been a leading playwright incubator and theater community hub in San Francisco. With a core commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, their mission is to support the development of local playwrights' voices in theatre by helping them launch their writers onto the national performing arts scene. (MM)

Saturday, Aug. 27

Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival 

Grant Ave. between California & Broadway
Sat.-Sun., Aug. 27-28, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. | Free 

The Autumn Moon Festival traditionally falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar and is celebrated with moon watching parties, lantern riddles, and of course, mooncakes. The San Francisco Chinatown Merchants Association has planned an outdoor festival on Saturday and Sunday that will include everything from lion dancing to food vendors. Come out for the festivities, learn about the legend of the moon goddess Chang’e, and sample your favorite mooncake fillings like lotus, red bean and salted egg yolk. (BF) 

826 Valencia Block Party

826 Valencia St. between 19th & 20th streets
12 p.m. | Free

Local youth writing center 826 Valencia celebrates its 20th anniversary with a block party birthday bash. Student writers will read from their latest literary creations and the public can play giant board games and Jenga outside the nonprofit’s nautically-themed writing center and “Pirate Supply Store.” Pick up a spy glass or a copy of a student-penned publication to benefit 826’s writing programs for under-resourced students. The readings will include a mix of poetry, nonfiction and speculative fiction. (BF & CJC)   

Mdou Moctar

The Fillmore, 1805 Gary Blvd.
8 p.m. | $30

Combining Tuareg folk music traditions with an electric approach that recalls Western artists like Cream and Television, guitarist and songwriter Mdoo Moctar has deservedly become an international sensation. With a sound influenced both by African music and Western artists, Moctar synthesizes those sources of inspiration into something wholly original. Refreshingly unencumbered by what Anglophone listeners might call traditional song structure, Moctar’s music is exploratory, improvisational and hypnotic all at once. Though English speakers aren’t likely to pick up on his lyrical themes—including religion, women’s rights and exploitation of his native lands—Moctar is confident that the emotional content of his entrancing music gets across the larger ideas. (BK)


Jerry Garcia Amphitheater, McLaren Park
2 p.m.| Free

Perched atop McLaren Park with views of Downtown, the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater is a hidden gem that has gone largely underutilized in its time. But now, the open-air and open-seated space will play host to Noise Pop and the SF Parks Alliance’s new “Due South” free concert series of diversely-minded acts. The kick-off concert in the series is this Saturday’s Deafheaven show, which brings the San Francisco post metal rockers to the stage. Their latest album, Infinite Granite, is easily the band’s most accessible material. Singer George Clarke mostly sheds his screamo vocals in favor of building lush and layered, heavy soundscapes on tracks like “The Gnashing” and “Great Mass Of Color.” Joining Deafheaven on the all ages bill are Oakland post-punk outfit Marbled Eye. (AS)

Sunday, Aug. 28

Salsa Sundays

El Rio | 3158 Mission St.
3 p.m. | $10
Every fourth Sunday of the month, the sunlit patio of El Rio transforms into a dance floor dedicated to salsa. Salsa lessons from Rasa Vitalia start promptly at 3 p.m. But the party continues well into the evening and features a performance by Susana y Su Orquestra Adelante. DJ Malcriada and Gitana 747 will keep the tunes flowing. (XL)

Jackie Chan: ‘Drunken Master’ Series

Alamo Drafthouse, 2550 Mission St.
2:50 p.m. | $10

Global superstar Jackie Chan famously rejected the lead role in Everything Everywhere All At Once that would firmly cement Michelle Yeoh's cinematic regality. Alamo Drafthouse's excellent Fist City series reminds viewers of the legacy Chan already sealed when he portrayed the real life titular "Drunken Master" in both in 1978 and 1994, with the films screening in the Mission on consecutive nights. Wong Fei-hong (1847-1925) is a Queen Elizabeth- or Muhammad Ali-type role that's been portrayed over the years by multiple stars, including Jet Li and Sammo Hung. In his mid-20s when he first portrayed him as a young man, Chan was nearly 40 by the time of the sequel. The martial arts choreography in both are spectacularly Jackie Chan-worthy, and his trademark charm was already in full effect 44 years ago. After seeing the original, return Monday evening at 7:15 p.m. for a screening of Drunken Master II. (YK)

Robot Restaurant: Mezli Grand Opening

Spark Social, 601 Mission Bay Blvd. N.
11 a.m. | Free

What happens when a robotics expert, an aerospace engineer and a programmer spend two years together, armed with $3 million? They launch Mezli, San Francisco’s first completely robot-run restaurant. In a city now dominated by $15 salad chains, three Stanford grad students developed this automated restaurant as a way to provide quick, healthy lunches for half the price by eliminating humans from the on-site operation. In practical terms, Mezli is a shipping container with touch screens on the outside and machines on the inside that purveys Mediterranean bowls—falafel, za’atar chicken, spiced lamb and roasted vegetables are all on offer. When you walk up to Mezli, you’ll find what amounts to a large photogenic vending machine. But the business is not completely robotic. Chef Eric Minnich and his team prep, cook and portion the menu from a commissary kitchen and load the meal components into the shipping container daily. Mezli celebrates their grand opening by providing free meals to humans all day Sunday. (SH) 

Simpsons ’90s Trivia Happy Hour

The Knockout, 3223 Mission St.
6 p.m. | Free

Assuming that you, like virtually all Simpsons superfans, gave up watching it somewhere around Season 11 or 12—but it started to go downhill after Phil Hartman’s death right?—The Knockout’s every-fourth-Sunday Simpsons ’90s Trivia is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. It’s intended for dedicated Disney+ password moochers and other obsessives, so you probably shouldn’t down a Flintstones Chewable Morphine before entering. Sure, it may take the children of Springfield Elementary 40 minutes to locate Canada on the map, but you probably know which cop is Louie and which one is Eddie, don’t you Database? So head on over to Bernal Heights’ best dive, where everyone’s a winner—except, in another, more accurate way, the team with the most points wins. Everything’s coming up [Your Intimidatingly Obscure Reference team name]! (PAK)