Some concert halls feel like chapels. Hallowed walls vibrate a warm room tone; the masterful lights transport the listener to another realm where music has color and pulse.
Attend enough shows at the same spot and the venue starts to feel like a friend. Any more than that and it’s a music family dwelling, or a church. To San Francisco concertgoers of a certain era, the Warfield felt like one of those places. Twenty years ago this week, for my nightlife column “Dilettante,” I saw Björk there.
Sometimes there’s an artist whose contributions and collaborations are so ground-breaking and iconoclastic, the only way to find the words to express it is to repost an hour-long documentary about it, featuring scores of very accomplished legacy musicians articulating the nuances of her genius:
In her thirty-plus year career, Björk has composed and facilitated some of the most complicated, clean, angular neo-classical dub space opera (along with corresponding fashions and collaborations) a woman has ever produced.
Her music, timeless and quite inexplicable, empowered grrrls to riot, even quietly in their own arctic spaces — and on this night in 1998 Björk filled the Warfield with other women who wouldn’t fit in, and we howled along to her oddities like she was the coyote mom.
Twenty years later, I don’t think it’s too far off to say she’s one of Western culture’s greatest living artists, now that Bowie and Prince have died. (Notice I did not say she was human because what if she’s actually a selkie.)
This is the 10th entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).
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