Everyone has his or her favorite street performer -- the gold guy and the purple lady, the hollering mime, the BMX bike gang, the superfly-poppin' robot guy -- but, being greedy bastards, we expect a little more than face paint and a bad attitude before we're willing to part with our spare change. Wise Fool Community Arts knows this. They don't care. It's out of the goodness of their frivolous hearts that they present an entire weekend of street arts and theater without demanding a single coin or a ball of pocket lint. The fourth annual In the Street features stilt-walkers, fire-breathers, life-size puppet bands, clowns, aerialists, breakdancers, comedians, martial artists, portrait artists, musicians, actors, poets, and, my favorite, PMC -- kids from the Tenderloin rapping with Dr. Seuss rhymes. Special guests include master puppeteers from Mexico City Tatewari Teatro de Titeres. In the Street will be held on Friday, June 5, at Sixth Street Recreation Center (between Howard & Folsom) at 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7 on Ellis (between Hyde & Leavenworth) at noon. Admission is free; call 905-5958.
In the mid-1980s Meri St. Mary was the full-lipped punk siren to drive the prepubescent San Francisco anarchists wild. She was beautiful and crazy-eyed, as feral as a foul-mouthed alley cat, with a voice like Patti Smith and an attitude straight out of an Aqua Net can. As an L.A. freak, she had sung with the Road Hogs and Toe Jam, but here with the Housecoat Project -- Bomb guitarist Jay Crawford, ex-Scavenger saxman Bob Bartosik, Elvin Bishop drummer Michael Schorro, and bluegrass-punk bassist Erol Cengis -- she found her asylum, her husband (Flipper's Bruce Loose), and her son. She claimed San Francisco as her own with the Housecoat's Why Eye Doo Dat, a punk album with surprising jazz flourishes that portrayed this city as a place where a man will "shoot up his brother/ Probably sell his mother/ To get some dough, to buy some drugs/ To get laid," and where "wild wimmin don't die/ They just dye their hair/ And get out of town." Between Housecoat shows, she sang with the Skankin' Babylonians (you remember them -- members of the Residents and Club Foot Orchestra), starred in some underground punk documentaries, and plastered her lovely mug on the cover of every zine in town. She was everywhere at once. Then in 1991, she disappeared. People thought her dead. A strung-out mom whose hubby had signed to Warner Bros. and hit the road, she had to hide out, clean up, and take care of her kid -- and herself. In 1996, Mary made it back onstage, five years older and several years sober, with Sex Is a Witch -- Mia d'Bruzzi of Mudwimmin, Rachel Theole of Van Gogh's Daughter, and Mark Pino of Lithium Milkshake. Then Theole fell in love and moved to England. Sometimes, you just have to do things on your own. Meri St. Mary will perform solo at the Paradise Lounge every Sunday this month at 9:45 and 11 p.m. Magnet, with Mark Goodman and three former members of Camper Van Beethoven, headline at 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $11; call 861-6906.
Swaying to the late-night croon of Nick Lowe's most recent solo album, Dig My Mood, might make you feel a little old. Lowe has deserted the youthful irony that fueled Jesus of Cool (released as Pure Pop for Now People in the States) in '78 and the smug humor that made him deserving of the nickname "Basher" when he released "Cruel to Be Kind" in '79. Listening to this, you might never know that Lowe produced Elvis Costello, the Damned, the Pretenders, Ian Dury, the Redskins, and his wife, Carlene Carter. You might think he's just some smooth-tonsiled loner with a broken heart and a subtle pen. You might not remember he helped define Britpop as we know it, since his melodies of choice today come from Tin Pan Alleys, Las Vegas lounges, rockabilly roadhouses, and country lanes. You might think his songs perfect for elder American legends like Johnny Cash (who has sung them) or Frank Sinatra (who should have). You might realize that getting old isn't all that bad. Nick Lowe and his trio perform at Slim's on Tuesday, June 9, with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $21; call 255-0333.
-- Silke Tudor