Not many bands these days take their names from Mark Twain, but it makes sense when your music is that high, lonesome Americana sound known as bluegrass. The musicians of Punch Brothers took their names from a Twain story called "Punch, Brothers, Punch!"
Led by mandolin player and lead singer Chris Thile, who played in the band Nickel Creek for many years, Punch Brothers is coming to town on Friday, Oct. 15, for an 8 p.m. gig at Stanford University's Dinkelspiel Auditorium.
Presented by Stanford Lively Arts, the concert will include songs from the band's new album, "Antifogmatic," as well as the mixture of bluegrass, classical and rock that the band prides itself on. (By the way, the band's website notes that antifogmatic is "an old term for a bracing beverage, generally rum or whiskey, that a person would have before going out to work in rough weather to stave off any ill effects.")
Tickets are $42/$38 for adults and $10 for Stanford students. For more information, go to http://livelyarts.stanford.edu or call 650-725-ARTS.
Chefs from The Kitchen Table restaurant will create a four-course kosher meal before an audience. Bruce Bierman and the Klezmakers will lead a session of Yiddish dance and klezmer music. Kids will learn to stage Jewish stories and skits.
These are among the activities planned for the "To Life!" Jewish street festival this Sunday, Oct. 10, on Palo Alto's California Avenue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event of food, art music and dance is back after a one-year hiatus, presented by the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center.
Two stages will host performances, while 50-some artists will show and sell their work in booths. The "tents of community" will house various Jewish and other nonprofit groups. And sumo wrestlers will be on hand.
Sumo wrestlers? But of course. Several champs will give a demonstration at "To Life!" at 12:10 p.m.; they're in town for an Oct. 9 screening of the film "A Matter of Size" at the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival. (The screening is at De Anza College; information is at svjff.org.)
For a full "To Life!" schedule, go to http://paloaltojcc.org/tolife or call 650-223-8606.
Japan Tsuchiura Festival
When folks from your sister city are in town, it's high time for a celebration.
This Sunday, Oct. 10, Kappore dancers, a Zen master and other people from Palo Alto's sister city of Tsuchiura, Japan, are in town, taking part in the Japan Tsuchiura Festival in the Lucie Stern Community Center. The day of activities runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes dance and taiko-drumming performances; origami and chopstick demonstrations; bonsai, ink-painting and game booths; and tea ceremonies.
The event is co-sponsored by the city of Palo Alto and by Neighbors Abroad. It aims to not only honor the sister-city relationship but also share Japanese culture with attendees.
Other activities will include demonstrations of Japanese martial arts, archery and fencing, as well as Zen meditation sessions.
The Lucie Stern center is at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto. For more information, go to http://neighborsabroad.org/JapanFestival/ or call 650-561-9771.
'Portraits of Initiates'
While paintings on display at the Palo Alto Art Center (see page 25) look at the Voodoo religion in Haiti, a new photo exhibition at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center focuses on the religion in the Republic of Benin in Africa, where many of the traditions originated.
Opening Oct. 13, the Cantor center show is titled "Vodoun/Vodounon: Portraits of Initiates" and features 25 diptychs by the Belgian photographer Jean-Dominique Burton. The diptychs pair images of practitioners and of their shrines. (Vodounons are initiates of the religion, which can also be spelled "Vodou," "Vodun" and other ways.)
Burton took his black-and-white portraits and color photos of shrines in the Republic of Benin, where the religion was born. The Cantor show also includes a documentary video, "VOODOO, the Origins," directed by Samuel Lampaert and featuring some of the initiates Burton photographed.
A blessing of the exhibition by Bay Area practitioners is planned for Oct. 13 at 5 p.m., with accompanying films and other performances planned later. The show will be open through March 20.
The museum is off Palm Drive at Museum Way, open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays until 8. Admission is free. Go to http://museum.stanford.edu or call 650-723-4177.
'East Meets West'
The advent of the printing press meant more than just the faster transmission of words. Prints made images available to more people, opening up their minds to a wider world of different cultures and ideas.
Starting Oct. 15, Lyons Limited Antique Prints in Palo Alto is exhibiting a collection of graphics and maps from the early meetings between East and West. In the show, called "East Meets West: The Opening of the Orient," the prints show what Western explorers saw — and illustrate the tales they brought home.
The prints hail back to the establishment of the Dutch East India Company in 1602, Admiral Perry's expedition to the Far East in the 19th century, and other events. An opening reception is set for Oct. 15 from 7 to 10 p.m., with a lecture by gallery owner Leila Phee Lyons on Oct. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.
Lyons Ltd. is at #10 Town & Country Village at 855 El Camino Real. For more information, go to http://lyonsltd.com or call 650-325-9010.
The artistic city
San Francisco has been captured in every artistic medium you can think of. An exhibition now at Gallery 9 in Los Altos adds new visions in watercolor and ceramics to the mix, with works by two artists who grew up in Japan.
Miyoko Mizuno, who says she once lived in Nagano "surrounded by prairie flowers and the grand Japan Alps," paints the floral side of San Francisco. Her work includes watercolor landscapes and silkscreens of flowers. Shigemi Sanders depicts city landmarks in ceramic ware, lighting them up with candles or electric lights for a nighttime effect.
The show runs through Oct. 24 at 143 Main St. in Los Altos, Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4. Go to http://gallery9losaltos.com or call 650-941-7969.