Oakland’s arts/entertainment/culture scene is as vibrant, diverse, and exciting as the town itself. 2014 in Oakland has meant new books, new fashions, great shows, the National Poetry Slam, and many many music festivals. So much has been going on, it’s impossible to encapsulate in just five articles. However, the following pieces proved popular with our readership and do a great job cracking the surface, at least, of the amazing cultural scene we have going on here. (Check out other 2014 article highlights here.)

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Chasing Mehserle: Oakland playwright holds up mirror to hometown
By Matt Werner

Chinaka Hodge is no stranger to tackling some of Oakland’s biggest issues head-on. Her 2010 play Mirrors in Every Corner dissected the changing demographics of Oakland as seen through a family in a West Oakland living room over two decades.

Chasing Mehserle, her most ambitious play yet, tackles gentrification, race relations, white privilege, and police misconduct in Oakland. Hodge’s characters weave these subjects with tact, and audience members were teary-eyed even before intermission. Hodge’s intense play finished its run at Intersection for the Arts and is running at Z Space through May 31 before touring nationally.  Read more…

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Where else to go in Oakland now that the Uptown is closed?
By Pilar Vree

Now that the Uptown is gone (yes, the Uptown venue on Telegraph closed November 5th), there’s a giant guitar-neck-shaped hole in the heart of Oakland. “What are we going to do now?” seems to the collective cry of dedicated showgoers throughout the city. [….] Even in the absence of the Uptown, there are plenty of mid-sized venues that host not only up-and-coming local talent but also nationally notorious acts. So, before you throw in the towel when it comes to your $5 cover charge and $7 whiskey-cokes, rest assured that there are still plenty of venues throughout Oakland that can keep you consistently entertained during these cold nights.  Read more…

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Oakulture: Betti Ono, First Fridays, and the “booming” state of Oakland’s cultural arts
By Eric Arnold

During her recent state of the city address, Oakland mayor Jean Quan remarked, “last year I said we were rising… now we’re booming.” A big part of that boom has been the city’s cultural arts scene, which is exploding everywhere you look. The state of the arts for Oakland in 2014 goes beyond robust; it’s almost an embarrassment of riches. In the Chinese Year of the Horse, local culture is galloping. It was only a few years ago that Oakland was lucky to have one worthwhile event in a week worth checking out; in 2014, it’s not uncommon for there to be several happening events in a single night, which can make it difficult to keep up with everything going on, unless you have unlimited stamina.  Read more…

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Good graffiti makes good neighbors in West Oakland
By Nilofar Gardezi

The trains run in West Oakland once again. That’s certainly how it feels when you face a stunning locomotive-themed mural-in-progress that spans over 8,000 square feet on the Wrist Ship Supply building. And that’s how long-time Oakland graffiti artists Norman Chuck (a.k.a. “Vogue”) and Mike “Bam” Tyau like it.

Before you rises a full-scale and historically accurate depiction of railroad cars from a bygone era, displayed under the golden banner “West Side is the Best Side,” a riff on a lyric from Tupac’s “California Love.” In addition to those tremendous train cars, the mural also features a massive ship—in homage to Wrist’s status as “the world’s largest ship supplier” —and the iconic cranes in the Port of Oakland.  Read more…

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Leo’s opens its doors in Oakland with music, burlesque, and more
By Katie Schwarz

The floors are clean and unsticky. The dressing rooms still show signs of construction. “It’s so new you can get high off the paint,” says Jamie DeWolf to the second ever audience at Leo’s, a new music and performance venue in Temescal, which opened Thursday, July 24.

Truthfully, though, there isn’t much paint in the new venue. The walls and bar are mostly constructed of wood boards, which give the venue an earthy cabin feel. The first Friday performance at Leo’s featured local hardcore, punk, garage rock bands: Instant Gratification, Spider Heart, and Cornelius Asperger and the Bi-Curious Unicorns; as well as a burlesque show. Outside, the Meathead food truck provided burgers to revelers before and between acts.  Read more…

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