On June 5, 2003, SF Bay Area musician Matthew Sperry was killed by an inattentive driver while riding his bicycle to work. Grieving friends in the Bay Area music community gathered spontaneously at 21 Grand at that time to play together in his memory, and every year since then, there’s been a Festival in honor of Matthew. It’s grown to include national and international artists drawn from Matthew’s wide circle of inspiration and collaboration — Tom Waits, M.C. Schmidt, Johannes Bergmark, Sean Meehan, Ellen Fullman, and many others have contributed to SperryFest in past years. I was first invited to join a SperryFest large ensemble in 2005, and I’ll never forget local composer and cellist Theresa Wong using Matthew’s bicycle as an electro-acoustic instrument.
Organized by musicians and Sperry collaborators Gino Robair and John Shiurba, SperryFest convenes the Bay Area creative music community not simply in remembrance and reunion, but to make new work and uncommon musical events drawn from Matthew’s notebooks. Each year there’s another recording released from Matthew’s unpublished discography, revealing new insights into his art and life.
Concerts begin this evening, June 2, at Studio 1510 in Oakland, CA. Trumpet player Lesli Dalaba returns to the Bay Area for a musical reunion with Fred Frith with Jason Hoopes, and rare duets with trombonist Gail Brand from the UK, with whom Matthew frequently collaborated. On Thursday, June 4th at San Francisco’s Luggage Store Gallery, Outsound Presents hosts a concert featuring works for large ensemble and the reprise of a composition based on Matthew’s quick sketch of a Jurassic karaoke machine called “Treasure Mouth” — which requires a band to follow along to lyrics as fast as they can be written out for them by others. The final concert on June 5 at The Hillside Club in Berkeley features Gail Brand in a series of duos, trios and quintets with Morgan Guberman, Gino Robair, John Shiurba, Tim Perkis and Tom Djll.
Tickets to the first two concerts are $6 – $100 sliding scale, and Hillside Club admission is $15.00. If, like me, you never had the privilege of knowing Matthew Sperry, you should still come by and witness the Bay Area new music community at its best.