Prior to the dozens or film screenings throughout the this week, audience members are instructed to turn off their cell phone so as not to disrupt the experience.
That precaution will be thrown to the wind at the 11-day event’s Prohibition-themed Closing Night party on Sunday at the San Rafael Community Center, as the raucous-yet-symphonic daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra serves as the main event.
Geoff “Double G” Gallegos, the group’s founder and conductor, sums up the sentiment in Hip Hop Maestro, a documentary about the group that screens in a program of shorts on Saturday, Oct. 15 at the and Sunday, Oct. 16 at the Rafael Film Center.
“It don’t matter if you leave your cell phone on ‘cause you ain’t gonna hear it anyway,” Gallegos says in the film, speaking to a packed house at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where the orchestra performed in 2004.
The statement wasn’t hyperbole. A Los Angeles Times review of the group's June 2010 show in LA stated, “About halfway through the show, the rhythm of the violins, the oom-pah-pahs of the brass, the thumping of the drums and the fierce grunts of the rappers created a beat that rocked so hard, the ground shook.”
LA filmmaker Christine Lee’s Hip Hop Maestro chronicles Gallegos’ relentless quest to maintain an orchestra that ebbs and flows in size between 30 and as many as 90 musicians, all while navigating an economic environment that doesn’t exactly make it rain for the artists.
“Today I’m still counting out spare change for gas and groceries but I have this treasure that I could’ve only wished for in my life and I would not trade that with anybody for anything,” Gallegos says toward the end of the 40-minute film.
That search for change kicked into high gear over the past several weeks, as Lee and Gallegos created an online fundraising campaign through Kickstarter to raise enough money to pay for a bus and hotel accommodations for the 31 musicians making the trip to Marin this weekend. The effort, which drew contributions from 77 people, was put over the top by a $3,000 donation from Sol Food in San Rafael, the primary sponsor and food provider of the Closing Night party.
“It revealed that what daKAH does contains some sort of value to the universe,” said Gallegos, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music. “In 12 days, we experienced what felt like a two-minute drill in the NFL. There were a couple of big playmakers, with one 40-yard pass in the drive [from Sol Food.”
Lee and Gallegos attended the festival’s opening night party at the Mill Valley Community Center, and Gallegos spoke at Marin School of the Arts at Novato High last week. He’s riding back up to Marin with the rest of the group on a bus Friday.
Gallegos said the group will perform music from the film as well as selections from Gangsta Wagner, which it performed at Grand Performances in 2010 for Ring Festival in Los Angeles.
Everyone who can't get in [to the Closing Night party] should bring the party to the park surrounding the San Rafael Community Center,” Gallegos said. “You'll be able to hear us."
The 411: The Closing Night party, which is preceded by two screenings of The Artist at both the Sequoia and the Rafael Film Center, is from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the San Rafael Community Center, 618 B St. Tickets are $50, or $75 for both a screening and the party. Click here for more info or to buy tickets.