Best Bets: Pher, Golden Gate Park Band, ‘Breed or Bust,’ ‘Gladiator,’ ‘Music for Migratory Birds’  


Freebie of the week: Singer, songwriter and producer Pher was born Chris Turner in Oakland and grew up absorbing the Bay Area’s rich jazz, soul and R&B sounds. Now based in New York, he has forged an enviable career as an educator at The New School, his alma mater, and as a singer who’s found success as a solo headliner and as an in-demand collaborator. Embracing straight-ahead and contemporary jazz as well as soul and R&B (including the slow-burning bedroom-soul hit “Cool Down”), Pher earned praise for his work on Big Apple jazz collective Snarky Puppy’s 2016 release “Liquid Love,” and has worked with A-List artists including Usher, Stevie Wonder, Robert Glasper, Eddie Palmeri, Esperanza Spalding and Jon Batiste. Crediting his Bay Area upbringing with helping develop his wide-ranging vocal talents, Pher this week returns to his roots to perform on Thursday in the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. It’s from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the Yerba Buena Gardens Great Lawn on Mission Street between Third and Fourth streets in San Francisco. Like all Yerba Buena Gardens Festival shows, it’s free. Go to for more information. 

The Golden Gate Park Band performs a free program of Armenian music Sunday afternoon in Golden Gate Park. (Courtesy Golden Gate Park Band)

Another freebie: If you find yourself in Golden Gate Park on Sunday — and we could think of worse places to be on a long weekend in spring — you can catch the latest chapter in a long-running San Francisco tradition. We’re talking about the 142-year-old Golden Gate Park Band, which performs free on Sunday afternoons in the park each May through October. Billed as San Francisco’s oldest music organization, the band recently welcomed a new music director, Dr. German Gonzalez. He’ll lead the outfit in differently themed concerts each week. This week, “Armenian Echoes” celebrates the 106th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. Curated by Lena Manugian, the program features such works as Gomidas’ “Dele Yaman,” Alexander Arutiunian’s Concerto for Trumpet and Band, and traditional Armenian dance songs, as well as segments from Aram Khachaturian’s “Gayane Ballet,” among other works. The concert will also feature child and adult dancers from San Francisco-based Araz Dance Group.

Golden Gate Park Band performances begin at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Spreckels Temple of Music, also known as the Golden Gate Bandshell. For more information, as well as the full schedule of concerts, go to

Joyful Raven takes audiences on a subversive and funny journey through female reproductive options with “Breed or Bust” at The Marsh Berkeley through June 8, 2024. (Courtesy Elijah Nouvelage)

Reading, writing and reproduction: Thanks to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and a bruising presidential election campaign, women’s reproduction issues are seemingly as prevalent, and as politicized, as ever these days. The hot-button topic is getting a sassy yet hard-hitting look with “Breed or Bust,” a solo theater show written and performed by Joyful Raven now at The Marsh Berkeley. Raven has presented solo shows and directed scores of similar shows by other performers, for some 20 years. Her “Tales of a Sexual Tomboy” enjoyed a successful off-Broadway run and was an award-winner at the San Francisco International Fringe Festival. In “Breed or Bust,” described by organizers as a subversive and timely mix of standup comedy and storytelling, Raven covers a wide range of potent issues as she “reckons with her reproductive choices and contends with her primal baby-making instincts.”

“Breed or Bust” will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday and June 8 at the Marsh Berkeley. Tickets are $20-$100; go to

The San Francisco Symphony will play the live score to the Ridley Scott film “Gladiator” starring Russell Crowe. (Courtesy San Francisco Symphony)

Swords and sandals at the Symphony:  What could be better than watching a muscle-bound Russell Crowe thrash and slash his way to the ultimate revenge for the death of his family in the 2000 multi-Academy Award-winning film “Gladiator”? Well, watching it on an oversize screen  in Davies Hall while the San Francisco Symphony plays the Hans Zimmer score for the Ridley Scott-directed film live. Justin Freer conducts, and soprano Ayana Haviv and Jenny Wong’s San Francisco Symphony Chorus assist.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and tickets, $125-$199, are at If you’re hankering for something a little less, actually, a lot less violent, be advised that the Symphony is providing the live score to the charming Disney film “Encanto” screening at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. 

“A Season On The Wind” is a musical program focusing migratory birds and nature being presented in Berkeley. (Courtesy Charley Harper Art Studio)

Chirping away: “A Season on the Wind” is a “cinematic concert” inspired by ornithologist and conservationist Kenn Kaufman’s book of the same name. Presenters in the Bowerbird Collective, an Australian-based organization “making art for nature,” call the 50-minute show “an inspiring ode to migratory birds and an unforgettable night of musical storytelling” journeying “from the shores of Lake Erie across the Americas.” The work features a newly commissioned score by The Brothers Balliett. The “Music for Migratory Birds” program also includes “Rivers are our Brothers,” a song cycle by Majel Connery on ecological responsibility told from the point of view of the land commissioned by Musica Sierra and established with Learning Landscapes, an educational program of the Feather River Land Trust. Tunes in the cycle take a first-person view of nature, ascribing human qualities and feelings to water, trees, mountains and rivers.

The performance is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley. Tickets are $5 for students and $35 general HERE

The post Best Bets: Pher, Golden Gate Park Band, ‘Breed or Bust,’ ‘Gladiator,’ ‘Music for Migratory Birds’   appeared first on Local News Matters.

Comments are closed.