You're Going to Die Presents YOU'RE ALIVE at SF's Great American Music Hall

By Alison Sperling | @ali_sperling |

It’s not meant to be a threat – that You’re Going to Die – it’s a fact. The reality that many of us find this fact imminently threatening is the charge and challenge of a bi-monthly performance series held at The Lost Church in San Francisco, the name of which places this fact front and center: “You’re Going to Die” (or, “YG2D” for short). On Friday, August 11th, YG2D will host its largest evening yet at the iconic Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. It’s a show that evidences YG2D’s vital and growing cultural influence in the Bay Area, a show that, especially for newcomers, will be a debut on a main stage in one of the leading cities in the world for the arts.

Over the past eight years, the YG2D movement has been taking shape around the city. It’s a movement centered on mortality – your own, yes – but also the mortality of those we have lost, and of those whom we are terrified to lose to death. It features an open mic packed with no longer than five-minute performances by poets professional and amateur, local musicians, comedians, storytellers of many forms, who each take as their task the subject of death and dying. YG2D also presents curated shows with featured performers ranging from full bands to spoken word, but all talented artists and always entertainment experiences inspired by a shared engagement with mortality. This is the ongoing project of Ned Buskirk, who curates, manages, and hosts the series. If performers go over their allotted time, Ned will come up on stage and hug them as a cue that their time is up. It’s that sort of thing, deeply introspective but wildly, frighteningly, thrillingly shared, a mutually agreed upon public vulnerability.

It was in May of 2009 when Ned and Sara Buskirk opened the doors to their San Francisco apartment for the first open mic that would eventually become the “You’re Going to Die” series. Crowded into their living room, people took turns standing and reading something – a poem, a spoken word piece, a page of Shakespeare, a toilet paper wrapper. I had only just met Ned then, maybe a year before, but it was clear he was extraordinary, adorned in plastic jewelry (no one seems to remember why), as he read a rumination on two black birds he spotted in a distant parking lot, but which turned out to be instead a wind-caught plastic bag dancing upside down on its handles. Acting as both the evening's host and performing as a writer -- a dual role that he would continue to develop as YG2D took shape --  Ned's persona and his writing had us in fits of laughter spontaneously checked by moments of contemplation. Maybe this is the balance that YG2D attempts to strike, a lightness of heart that doesn't refuse or shy away from the heaviness of grief.

Ned smiles at YG2D's first open mic, held inside his apartment in 2009.

Ned smiles at YG2D's first open mic, held inside his apartment in 2009.

If it isn’t already obvious, Ned is a friend of mine. I think he’s my best friend, though he is likely to have other best friends besides me. I admit this because I want to acknowledge my bias about Ned, about YG2D, about the many ways in which I feel invested in this movement, in my friend. [Over the last eight years there have been a number of well-done (more objective) write-ups about YG2D.] Ned has a kind of courage in facing mortality, born perhaps from the loss of his mom in 2003, which has informed YG2D from the start. It’s a courage that translates into the YG2D events and into the countless substantive, intimate relationships he has with community members and friends. He encourages in others an experience in vulnerability, a kind of shared, communal emotion around loss and the ways we might mourn and recover from loss together. He’s the kind of person you trust with your heaviest of feelings, the kind of person who is willing to bear them for others as if they were his own.

For those of us who have been attending YG2D’s since 2009, who have seen the events change and grow, take new forms in new venues, it’s hard not to feel like this August 11th show at the GAMH is a kind of culmination, the pinnacle of an organic, spontaneous night eight years ago in a San Francisco living room. Now, it’s an event that will likely sell out a major Bay Area performance venue. It’s astonishing, what we all can do together, what feelings and what people YG2D has given voice to, what spaces it has filled with those willing to face difficulties together, and with strangers. But YG2D is only getting started, with some big announcements on the way about the movement’s future (follow YG2D on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates). Don’t miss a chance to take part in this fully curated entertainment experience on the biggest stage YG2D has taken yet: “A Mortal Celebration.”


Ned onstage at a YG2D event, inside  The Lost Church  in SF.

Ned onstage at a YG2D event, inside The Lost Church in SF.

Complete show information and link to tickets below:

Get your tickets HERE

You're Going to Die Presents...
YOU'RE ALIVE: A Mortal Celebration featuring
Major Powers & The Lo-Fi Symphony
Midtown Social
with special appearances by
Scott Ferreter + Chelsea Coleman
& words from
Angela Hennessy
Great American Music Hall
Doors at 8pm
Show at 9pm

You're Going to Die offers a concert series proudly presenting great artists as they deserve to be presented: in the concert context of acknowledging their brilliant beaming mortal magic.
YG2D Presents curated shows steeped in the context of mortality, showcasing inspiringly enlivening musical acts with movingly entertaining spoken word.

On Friday, August 11th @ Great American Music Hall, YG2D proudly presents both friends & inspiring artists, Midtown Social & Major Powers & the Lofi Symphony...

Deeply inspiring & guaranteed to make you sweat just as much as it makes you think, Midtown Social presents a message of solidarity & hope, voiced by a community of people who are as diverse, bold, authentic, & vulnerable as the community in which they were forged. Midtown Social asks us all to come together, to find common ground, love & camaraderie, to fight for our communities, way of life, & rights—and to stand together as one.

Major Powers & The Lo-Fi Symphony plays Adventure Rock™. Imagine Mary Poppins writing songs for Weezer during a cliff diving competition between Freddie Mercury & Tom Waits while Danny Elfman makes out with Indiana Jones during a game of Dungeons & Dragons.

Angela Hennessy is an Oakland-based interdisciplinary artist and Associate Professor at California College of the Arts where she teaches courses on visual and cultural narratives of death and textile theory. Her current project, The School of the Dead, is a program for the decolonization of death and grief through the radical inquiry of aesthetic and social practices that mediate the boundary between the living and the dead.