Moe Staiano & the Switchboard Music Festival

Moe Staiano has something interesting in the works: a 40-minute composition for nine electric guitars, bass, and drums. It’s called “Away Towards the Light,” and he’s presenting it on May 28 as part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival, at Gallery 308 in Fort Mason.

Moe is a percussionist, and lately he’s been active with his rock band Surplus 1980 (see here), but he’s also led some intriguing projects with the large group Moe!kestra. Some of those pieces have a performance-art element — the most obvious one being “Death of a Piano,” in which Moe would demolish an old piano while the orchestra “accompanied” him.

While his music tends to favor big, loud sounds, he’s dabbled in chamber music, too. Here’s a nifty piece written for Sqwonk, the bass clarinet duo of Jon Russell and Jeff Anderle:

That performance was part of the Switchboard Music Festival, an annual, day-long series of concerts. I’ve never managed to attend, but the lineup is always intriguing, sitting loosely in the realm of new chamber music with shades of pop. Part of the idea is to present music that’s not easy to categorize.

Switchboard is gearing up for a 10th anniversary festival on June 10 at Z Space (450 Florida St., San Francisco). Kronos Quartet is going to headline, and the organizers are hoping to crowdsource some of the costs — you can find the campaign at

In past years, Switchboard has used Soundcloud to post short interviews with the musicians. I liked that idea, and I’m hoping they do it again this year:

To close out, here’s a set of random Switchboard links I collected a couple of years ago, a mix of previews and reviews:

New Music Box:

I Care If You Listen:

SF Civic Center:

SF Classical Voice:

Weekend of the 23rd: Vexations, Sonny Sharrock, Switchboard Music, Martha & Monica

Vexations tres lentSomewhere in San Francisco right now, someone is playing Erik Satie’s “Vexations.”

The 840-cycle piece started at Berkeley Arts in the afternoon of March 23 and is continuing until noon Sunday, March 24. It’s organized by Joe Lasqo, who organizes a previous “Vexations” in September that was “straight,” with musicians at the piano reading notes on paper — but even that had its twists and variations, he says. This time, the artists are playing a variety of instruments, including some that don’t play musical notes. (Berkeley Arts: 2133 University Ave., Berkeley.)

There’s also a fundraiser for the SF Offside festival. The show should be starting right about now — it’s the Sonny Sharrock Experience, a quartet that includes Offside co-organizer Alex Pinto playing the all-important guitar part as they cover Sharrock’s music (and McCoy Tyner’s, and Alice & John Coltrane’s). So, you could catch that show (Revolution Cafe: 3248 22nd St., San Francisco) then cross the Bay to camp at Berkeley Arts for a night of “Vexations.”

Switchboard 2013Then, there’s the Switchboard Music Festival — an eight-hour celebration of creative, modern, quasi-classical music presented with a dynamic, almost indie-rock vibe. That starts at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, at Brava Theater (2781 24th St., San Francisco).

martha&monicaIf you got restless just before 4:00, you could leave that venue (possibly missing part of Ava Mendoza’s Unnatural Ways’ set, which would be a tough call) to see martha & monica, the piano/cello duet, perform the world premiere of a piece by Matt Ingalls (of the sfSound troupe) and pieces by Elliott Carter and Dmitri Shostakovich. (Old First Church: 1751 Sacramento St., San Francisco).

Then you could head back to the Brava Theater for the concluding hours of the Switchboard Festival. Could you take the bus there and back! Sure! I think. (My Muni mojo is about a decade old.)

Someday, someone is going to look back at this as one hell of a musical weekend. Why should it be you?