Come be part of my live album!!

I’m so excited to announce that I will be recording my first live album on Sunday, May 18th at The Center SF !  This show will feature all of my bawdiest material, all my most vulnerable and revealing songs, at a super special and intimate show that will be recorded for posterity!  Plus, you’ll be automatically set up for a free download of the album, upon release.

Get tickets now!  Limited capacity 🙂

RSVP to the Facebook event too, while you’re at it!



larkade #3 april 2nd

this just in!  the third larkade is gonna be even more epic than the last two!  zakiya harris is an incredible performer.  she’ll be opening up this night with commanding R&B vocals and an insanely tight bay area-based band.

check her out!

RSVP to the event!

see you there 🙂

come to my monthly party!

omg omg omg omg omg omg


so exciting!

i finally got my very own monthly spot at the boom boom room, one of my favorite spots to play in san francisco!  so here’s the thing though: they gave me two months to start.  wednesday feb. 5th and wednesday march 5th.  i gotta prove i got peeps, and then they might give me a whole year!  woo hoo!

this has been a dream of mine for a looooong time.  this will be my night where i can workshop new ideas, re-arrange songs with new lineups and collaborations, work with dancers, light designers, djs, emcees, vocalists, musicians, the works!  i intend to pour all of the performance ideas that have built up over the years into this event to make sure that each month, something super special is hatched just for you guys.

february 5th will feature legendary one-man band and loop guitar pioneer, the genie.  this guy’s dope.  if you haven’t seen him… dude, just check him out, he’s amazing.

in addition, the night will always be closed out by my awesome best friends, JK47, rad DJs with impeccable taste that will you keep you dancing late night.

this is really my gift to you guys.  the night is totally free!  your gift to me is just coming out and enjoying yourselves.

see you february 5th!

check out the Facebook event here!

diary of a substitute #4

it sucks, really it’s just the worst feeling in the world, when a group of eighth grade boys is laughing at you and you don’t know why.  it’s a trap and there’s no way out.  when you get to this point, it’s the result of one folly and one folly only, incorrect expectations.  the kids are laughing at you, always, because they see you expect something that you’re not going to get.  it’s hilarious.

what can i say?  i was thrown off.  when i arrived at the school, mentally prepared to sub for 7th and 8th grade math (the worst!) i was given the delightful surprise that instead i would be teaching first grade.  i loooooove teaching kindergarten and first grade.  these guys are so easy.  first of all, they love you, without you having to do anything.  and when you show them special attention, they absolutely melt.  they’re easily entertained with the simplest and most tedious of games, and their rewards and threats can be minimal and inspire intense concentration or deep remorse.  but as i walked into the classroom i could tell that actually this group was not just your average cute group of six and seven year olds.  these guys were a dream.  i picked them up from recess and their single-file line was impeccable, really, truly stunning.  they were silent when i arrived but as soon as they saw me their little eyes widened with the anticipation of all the questions they could ask me, later of course, now wasn’t the time or place, they knew that.

we walked slowly and deliberately into the classroom and i, quite sincerely, complemented them on their extraordinary line right up to the entrance, where they put their backpacks on their hooks and marched onto their little squares on the rug at the front of the class.  i came up to the front of the class and took a seat, beaming, and announced, “good morning, boys and girls!  i’m ms. rachel, i’m your substitute today.”

“gooood morn-eeeen missess raaaa. chelll.”  they chorused.

“wow, i’m already so impressed with this group.” the lesson plan had said that the morning usually started with a song.  “would you all like to learn a new song?”  they nodded eagerly and exchanged sideways glances with each other, shifting in their seats a little bit.  i started them clapping on their laps and hands.  lap, clap. lap, clap. lap, clap. lap, clap.  they were already giggling.

i had a little frog

his name was tiny tim

i put him in the bathtub

to see if he could swim

he drank up all the water

he ate up all the soap and then he

burped last night

from a bubble in his throat!

*hiccup* excuuuuuuuse meeeee!

they totally lost it.  they were all hiccupping and burping and saying “excuuuuuuuse meeee.”  ah, the little ones.  if you reference bodily sounds of any kind they’ll be yours forever.  after we finished the song, a boy painfully stretched his hand as high as he could with a look of intense desire and strain.  “yes?” i asked.  the room immediately became attentive to the boy with the raised hand.

“can we play cat, dog, mouse???””

something flashed in the eyes of the other kids as the power of this possibility hit them.  a murmur of whispered “yeahyeahyeahyeah…” spread throughout the group.

“well…” i pretended to mull this over for a moment.  “right now you have art, but afterwards i think we’ll have some time to play it before recess.”

if the kids could have screamed they would have.  obviously they couldn’t.  they knew that.  so they silently opened their mouths and looked at one another as if they were screaming.

after art, we indeed played cat, dog, mouse.  the kids got into a circle, already smiling in preparation of whatever about this game was so silly to them.  one of the girls instructed me, “now you say, cat or dog or mouse.”

“cat.” i said.  everyone looked around confused.  another boy came up to me and said, “you have to tell us to start walking in a circle first.”  the group nodded in agreement.

“oh, sorry.  ok, start walking!”  the smiles returned and they walked, half giggling in the circle.  “cat.” i said.  they all turned around and changed directions.  now they were completely overtaken by the giggling.  “dog.” i said.  they lost it again and began spinning in circles.  suddenly some of them were sitting in the center, hiding their faces in their hands while laughing in fun, slightly embarrassed shame.  i had no idea what was going on.  “mouse.” i said.  everyone froze.  one little girl, looking at me with a smile, started moving.  she wasn’t getting past the group.  everyone saw her.

“valeria’s moving! she has to go to the center!” they yelled.  she sat down, smiling.

just then someone walked into the class room.  “hi, sorry for all the craziness this morning,” she said.  i shrugged.  i didn’t know what she was talking about.  “we’re going to take you upstairs for seventh grade math and then you’ll be back with these guys in the afternoon.”  what, dude? you gotta be fucking kidding me.  “great!” i smiled.

so i walked upstairs to room 202 and was relieved to find a completely silent classroom and the teacher for whom i was supposed to sub.  “great, thanks for coming,” she said warmly.  “let me show you what’s going on.”  i saw all the signs of a classroom that was extremely well-behaved.  and based on the experience i had with first grade, and the school culture so far, i figured i was in for a refreshingly well-behaved seventh grade group.  she showed me the work and said, “it’s ok if there’s a little whispering…” this was a key piece of information.  if a teacher believes that silence is possible, that’s an extremely good sign.

i got prepped for the 8th and 7th graders and walked outside to greet the 8th graders as they lined up.  as they came in i waited expectantly up front.  the students were entering rowdier than i expected.  the volume level was already high enough that i couldn’t use my relaxed speaking voice, so i decided to start strong and decisive.  i tried the countdown.  “ok everyone i’m going to countdown from five and by the time i get to one i want to see you all in your seats, silent, and looking at me. five!” they continued talking and falling on the desks like drunk people.  “four!”  i started to feel uneasy.  i saw not even a flicker that they registered that i was even talking.  shit.  this is the problem.  when you think something’s going to work, you try it, and then when it doesn’t, you can’t just abandon ship.  you gotta see it through, and play the mean sub.  that was the situation i was now in.  i increased the volume, “THREE!” i screamed.  a few kids turned to me and started chuckling.  shit.  shit, shit, shit.  now they hate me, and i have no control of the class.  the worst possible combo.  by the time i got to one i was actually pissed off.  i felt it in my blood and it scared me.  it’s dangerous to be this emotional in middle school.  for students and for teachers.  the stress and resentment of the previous days started flowing into my veins.  i was supposed to be camping… but my car died and so i had to be subbing for extra cash.  these facts rose into my consciousness as justification for anything evil i ended up doing to these little shits.

after three exhausting periods of power struggle, i was returned to my model first graders.  my face was transformed from the hard, bitter, tired bitch that resentfully subbed the middle school into the kind, approachable, fun-loving lady the first-graders knew me to be.  their faces lit up as i entered the room.  “ms. rachel, ms. rachel!  can we play cat, dog, mouse again?” they pleaded.  i pretended to think again.  “hmm… yeah.  i  guess we can do that.”  the class erupted into gleeful screeches.

diary of a substitute #3

sometimes it is sooooooo hard to keep a straight face while telling a sixth grader to be quiet, especially when what they are supposed to be listening to is possibly the least important presentation they will ever hear.  i’ve shown up just in time to participate in their community meeting.  the topic this week: dress code.

the administrator has put together a lovely powerpoint presentation for the fifth and sixth graders, with pictures of shirts tucked in, shoelaces tied, and a demonstration of the stark contrast between a boy with a hat on, and his hat taken off.  see how he’s taken the hat off?  yes.  i do see.  the hat is off now.  god.  i’m DYING to check my smartphone and see if something interesting has happened.  actually, i would take anything at this point.  any status update, any e-mail, anything at all to break up the banality of this guy’s voice.

which is why i can’t in good conscience come down too hard on these children who have already sat through about 20 minutes of this heroically and who are finally reaching their breaking point.  their shoulders are moving.  they’re starting to hang their teeth off the backs of their chairs, experiment with what the world looks like upside down, pluck at the headbands of those around them… anything.  they’re getting desperate.

the crowd has started chit chatting.  “excuse me.” the administrator says dryly.  he waits an unwise amount of time with an unwise amount of uncertainty as to what response he’s expecting from that ‘excuse me.’   the chattering continues.  he looks around stoically.  “if i need to do a count-down, that’s five minutes from your recess.”  i look at the kids and i see literal physical pain on their faces.  the last thing they want is time off their recess, yet they don’t know how much longer they can take without some kind of stimulation.  they scrunch their eyebrows and kick their legs, trying to send the inconvenient energy and curiosity out through their toes.

he’s moved on to the slide about “professional day.”  “can someone tell me what professional day is?”  a small girl towards the front raises her hand.  “yes, young lady.”  some imperceptible amount of sound comes from up front and he asks her to stand up.  she meekly scratches her head while she begins an admirable attempt at addressing the entire school for, maybe her first time.  “um… well, professional, professional day.  it’s, um… when, like, the rest of the days?  cause you have to wear your uniform usually?  but on professional day?  you don’t cause, um, it’s professional, like, so you have to wear different.  you have to dress different on that day.” she quickly sits.

“ok,” the administrator says.  “cara says you dress different on professional day.  do you all agree with her?”  the kids aren’t sure if they’re supposed to talk.  a few say yes.  a few others slowly nod.  still more look like they’re about to cry.  “excuse me.  i asked if you all agree with her.”  a few more say yes.  “that’s better.  ok.  so, if it’s true that we dress differently on professional day, why is that we dress differently that day?” a few brave, or maybe just bored, souls raise their hands.  “yes, young man.” he says to a boy up front.

“professional day is when you wear suits and look professional like you were going to a job interview or an interview for college so that you can learn what it’s like to be professional.”  i let out a sigh of relief that’s slightly too loud.  i think for a moment that this child has just succeeded in saying everything that needs saying about professional day and that we can now move on to another, possibly more interesting topic, like, maybe, the types of hair accessories allowed on campus.  but the administrator is not so easily thrown.  “young man, that was a very good answer, but i asked why do we have professional day?”  i’m totally at a loss.  i thought for sure this prodigy just answered that very question.  he raises his eyebrows in nervousness.  he’s drawing a blank.  what did he miss?

“we have professional day because that’s the day the upper school has college day, and we’re preparing you for college day.”  oh.  i see.  this kid jumped the gun.  he forgot that middle school is actually just preparation for high school, and that everything they teach you is in order to make it easier for your highschool teachers to control you.  what he doesn’t know is that he’ll actually need to unlearn all of this by the time he applies to college if he wants to have a prayer of seeming like an individual thinker.  here’s the lesson, kid.  here’s what this whole assembly is about.  don’t get ahead of yourself, and don’t think too deep.  focus on the rules, and the small world that forms your school.  don’t think outside of this little learning factory.  you won’t be ready for that until you’re good and broken in and ready to follow the rules.

“so, what types of clothes are acceptable on professional day?” asks the administrator as he clicks to a new slide showing pictures of men taken from catalogs, all wearing sports coats, collared shirts, ties, etc… one by one children raise their hands and guess parts of the dress code for professional day.  i am in absolute agony.  the boredom i feel is bringing me right back to childhood, waiting for my mom to finish a parent-teacher conference while i sat in the lobby thinking, jeeeeeeeeeez this is taking a long time, practicing the utmost will power to keep from running circles in the lobby, tearing all the art off the walls and making confetti with it.  except now i have something easier to gratify my excess energy which is a smartphone, and i know it holds all of the answers to every negative emotion i’m feeling right now; distraction, social interaction, new information.  and it’s just sitting there, burning a hole in my pocket.  i need it.  i need to look at it.  no!  definitely not.  i’m supposed to be modeling for these kids how to pay attention, and looking at my smartphone is an absolutely unacceptable example to set.  so i try to focus on the kids, since the presentation isn’t going to do anything to hold my interest.

what i see really kind of breaks my heart.  the kids have gone past their breaking point and they have regressed into zombie-like infants.  pulling on their tongues and lips, rolling their eyes maniacally.  they’ve lost it.  well, i don’t know what they’ll learn later today, but at least they’re docile.