literary art · music · performance art · poetry

Litquake: Chemical Weddings & Electric Performances

Venue: The Make-Out Room
Date: October 12, 2015

LITQUAKE 2015

As someone from the Bay Area who graduated with a BA in Creative Writing, it really is a shame that 2015 is the first time I’ve attended any event during Litquake. I remember every year at least two of my professors would ask the class if anyone was going to Litquake and as a commuter I thought, “Hmm going alone to events at night in areas I do not know well, thanks but I’ll pass.” Sure it is a pretty list of lame excuses, but that’s where I was. This year I decided to make the effort because as surprising as this may be, working and trying to make time for these events is in no way easier than school. Luckily this time around my boyfriend David decided to scope out the literary scene with me which saved me from being alone.

For those of you like me before I started at SFSU, Litquake is a 9 day literary festival in San Francisco, CA. Since I am an intern, it was a logical choice to have my first event be presented by Quiet Lightning. As a part of Litquake, Quiet Lightning hosted Chemical Wedding which is a series of shows that combine music and literature. It was a particularly special event because it was Quiet Lightning’s 85th show and 6th year at Litquake. Four authors and 2 musicians were set to perform at The Make-Out Room in the Mission District.

Outside of The Make-Out Room., SF, CA
Outside of The Make-Out Room., SF, CA

After devouring delicious tacos at El Farolito, David and I walked a few blocks to find the venue. I have never been to The Make-Out Room before and if it wasn’t for this event I probably never would have which would be a shame. Upon entering, we received a Litquake Festival Guide as well as issue #2 of Vitriol Magazine (a Quiet Lightning publication). Free books? Yes please. The start time was set for 7pm so we had arrived at that time only to find that every seat was already occupied. Couples, people fresh out of work with loosened ties, and very young looking 21 year olds filled the small booths that lined the walls. It was relatively dark inside the venue which seemed fitting for a bar or the stereotypical atmosphere of a poetry reading (think Corey & Topanga at the poetry reading and/or An Extremely Goofy Movie).

The main & only stage inside the venue. Blurry thanks to my S4 camera.
The main & only stage inside the venue. Blurry thanks to my S4 camera.

We ended up lounging against a beam between the bathrooms in an effort to look as casual as possible. There was a clear view of the stage which was surrounded by decorations falling from the ceiling giving off a very Drops of Jupiter feel. Star balloons, ribbon, and what can only be described as glittering tinsel colored strings all caught your eyes in the most amazing way. It created the sense that something marvelous would be uttered on this stage because of the surrounding pizazz.

A poorly lit bathroom selfie.
A poorly lit bathroom selfie.

I tried to take a picture in the bathroom as a typical 20 something does yet all it captured is how dark it really was inside.

Shimmering 70's Disco Ball.
Shimmering 70’s Disco Ball.

I’d have to say that my favorite piece of décor aside from the deer heads by the bar was this disco ball. It caught the light in all the right places and in complete honestly I don’t think I’ve ever seen a disco ball in real life aside from the miniature ones next to rainbow strobe lights at middle school dances.

Free books are the best books.
Free books are the best books.

The disco ball was definitely magical because minutes after taking this photo a gentleman decided to give up his seats to us for whatever reason, thanks Disco Ball. We cuddled into the tight booth complete with a candle on the table which unfortunately was the only one in the whole joint that wasn’t lit up. As soon as we were comfortable, the introductions began and the Litquake donation bucket was passed around. If you decide to attend any of these events, put at least something in the bucket. A 9-day festival gets by on donations and if that isn’t amazing to you, you need to realize how much work that actually is. I commend this festival on so many levels but I digress.

View from our table of Maggie Tokuda-Hall.
View from our table of Maggie Tokuda-Hall.

The first reader of the night was Maggie Tokuda-Hall. I had read through the lineup before the event but didn’t recognize Maggie until she stepped on stage. A few months ago I went to an event for sparkle + blink magazine where Maggie read as well and she was amazing. This time around, it was even more incredible. Ben and Miri’s story of alien abduction was a great start to the show and my favorite line was easily at the end. It was along the lines of “…marvelous like every Tuesday when you’re in love.” There is something irreplaceable about hearing those lines out-loud that gives the written word so much power.

Mimi Lok read next and I was so captivated by her immense detail that I completely forgot to take a photo of her. She read from a piece she’s working on called “Sumi” which takes place in Hong Kong. Even if she hadn’t said the setting beforehand, the descriptive sentences painted the picture all on its own. Hot airless evenings combined with talk of Cantonese Operas definitely set the stage for what I can only imagine is an emotional piece. I did my best to pick out my favorite lines from the performances and Mimi’s was “…odd to sit in a dark room with strangers for 2 hours.” This was in reference to the character’s discussing the cinema yet it was relevant to my current situation. There we were sitting in a bar on a Monday night with strangers nodding at the literary brilliance of it all.

Maya Dorn aka Babar @ the Bar.
Maya Dorn aka Babar @ the Bar.

The final act we seen was songwriter Maya Dorn. Although I wish we could have stayed for the remaining acts, she was definitely a great place for David and me to end the night. Equipped with her acoustic guitar Maya sang beautifully about a range of topics from room for my womb to a friend sending her boyfriend with a one way ticket to Mars. Her “high-low” voice is what held my attention because it takes incredible skill to manage an instrument, meaningful lyrics, and show off vocal range. It also sounds pretty in simple terms. Her lyrics were really thought provoking with an example being: “Help yourself/Love yourself/Be kind to yourself” and “…every breath’s a brand new start.” She made what would otherwise be corny lyrics come to life with her guitar and impactful voice. Throw in a keyboard guitar and a sing-a-long about Babar the elephant and that was where we ended the evening.

David & I headed back home.
David & I headed back home.

We made our way onto the BART train home with the chorus “elephant in the room” humming in our heads and smiles on our faces. So how would I rate the whole experience? I would give it an 8/10. For starters it would not be fair for me to give a 10/10 rating because we didn’t stay for the whole show. Even though I enjoyed the LED lights and the relaxed atmosphere, there was a certain missing link since I do not drink. It always perplexes people whenever I go to bars given that I never order alcohol which was definitely part of the complete experience at The Make-Out Room in my opinion. Finally, I could not fully enjoy myself because it was a Monday night which left work for the next morning. I’m aware that every event can’t take place on a weekend, it’s just what I prefer. Overall, this was the perfect introduction to Litquake for me. I am looking forward to what the rest of the week has in store and Quiet Lightning did a splendid job as always. With that being said, may I have the rings so we can get this whole shindig started?

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