Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Fillmore on a Full Moon
January 19, 2009

It was a Saturday night, the full moon shining, as bright as it ever would in this lifetime so they said.  We were spontaneously cruising the Fillmore district in San Francisco, looking to see what was going on.  People I know come here for music.  Known as the jazz district, this San Francisco neighborhood is a hub for performing musicians which inevitably makes it a great neighborhood in which to don a hat.

Musicians wear hats.  I’m not sure exactly where it started, but I think its partly due to the historic conversation that musicians have with the great masters that came before them, from a time when everyone wore hats; partly the hat’s voice of attitude and confidence; and it’s sure to keep those bright stage lights out of your eyes.  I bet a hat helps musicians stay focused and keep with the beat.

Long before the music arrived, The Fillmore was a thriving business and cultural center beginning after the 1906 earthquake when the more severely damaged downtown was being rebuilt.  A Japanese community settled in, but this shifted in the 1940’s when the internment camps emptied out the Japanese whose homes attracted African Americans relocating to the area for war jobs. A number of music clubs catering to the community opened in the 1950’s.  Places like Jimbo’s Bop City, New Orleans Swing Club, The Booker T Washington Hotel and The Fillmore opened and drew in lightning acts such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Thelonius Monk.  It became known as the Harlem of the West.

African Americans continue to represent a demographic majority, but the character that once made it a thriving Black community also targeted the neighborhood by city officials as a center of urban slum.  Beginning in the 1960’s a redevelopment project began bulldozing the Filmore down, block by block.  This unsuccessful redevelopment project was followed by urban gentrification.  Now Fillmore Street features an extension of Pacific Heights style boutiques and restaurants.  But the music lives on at The Fillmore, The Boom Boom Room, Yoshi’s and Sheba Piano Lounge.

We sauntered into The Jazz Heritage Center, drawn in by the large becoming photos of musicians shining under track lights.  Once in the the door I sidelined to the glass case of fedoras and pork pies, also gleaming under the lights.  This feature was for another local business, Mrs. Dewson’s Hats, who is a local institution just up the street and known for her wide variety of both men’s and women’s hats and outfitting luminaries who visit the area including the former Mayor Willie Brown with his fedoras.  She happened to walk in while we were there, and took one look at me and said, “That’s a beautiful hat your wearing”.  I was tickled to have my craftwork recognized by a woman who has been in the business for thirty years.  She was happy to share her business is up 35% this year.  We all agreed hats are big right now, exchanged business cards and then left the bright center for the night beyond.

Down the street we were lured by the swingin’ blues music wafting out of the BooM BooM RooM, that famous club John Lee Hooker opened in 1997 on the corner of Fillmore and Geary.  The doorman told us Bohemian Knuckleboogie was playing.  We went in and danced to what they toot on their website as “good music for hard times”.  I tapped, snapped, shook and shimmied to the end of their set, after which I reached behind the curtain and thanked keyboardist Jeff Orchard for making our night and signed their mailing list to make sure I could catch them again.  You can find them playing regularly around the Filmore and you’re sure to fit in wearing a hat at one of their shows.

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Mission Bazaar
May 20, 2008

Mission Bazaar ran two long 10 hour days over the past weekend, opening San Francisco’s Armory building up to the public for the first time in 30 years. Thus, almost all participants and attendees were unified in our fresh experience of this cavernous building. Booths for local artists and designers lined the sides and nestled in between the two centrally fixed stages that flip flopped musical and dance performances ranging from Gaucho, a Jengo Reinhart jazz band, to the sultry women’s choir, The Conspiracy of Venus, to Indian and flamenco troupes.

The Armory is modeled after a 14th century Moorish Castle, yet the gaping space reminded me of an old train station in scope with Gare du Nord in Paris. The lofty ceilings of the main central room housed a cool light that washed in from high flung windows. The building has been abandoned since before I can remember, although i have heard stories of people breaking in to assess the mysterious, reinforced monstrosity of brick that sits ominously in the mid-Mission corridor. Rumors spoke pictures of concrete floors covered with bullet shells and creepy dungeon like rooms. It has been a big story locally since Kink.com purchased the building for a whopping 14.6 million at the tail end of 2006. In return for the city allowing the internet porn company to use their new space for filming, Kink has promised to restore the space and use it for community events, Mission Bazaar being the first of this trend.

O’Lover Hats set up a booth all weekend with SuperSugarRayRay. I had such a good time watching people try on my latest hats. I learn so much every show, as I get to see the variety of my designs on all different statures and face shapes. It was interesting how few people tried on straw hats, immediately attracted by the variety of styles and colors of fur felt hats. I can attest that a felt hat is never completely out of season in the bay area, with the cool breeze that so often blows in off the ocean. Thanks to my new clients who made the show a success and to everyone who had a good time trying on hats. I have two more shows this week, the Marin Association of Female Executives’ Spring Bling fashion trade show on Thursday and Capsule in Hayes Valley on Sunday.

Ciao