On 1998's The Villain That Love Built, the Billy Nayer Show dug into a labyrinth of aural catacombs that offered extreme exhilaration, but only at the cost of grave peril. Even in the glittery corners where veins of the BNS's lyrical humor spread out like a lifeline to the surface, the apprehension of darkness and collapse remained. On the newly released Return to Brigadoon, the Billy Nayer Show floats, as the whimsical cover art might suggest, just above the Earth's crust, dipping its musical toes in cloud banks and ether, rushing over treetops and horizons lined with bells and brass. However, the lyrics are far from airy. In a catalog already littered with mythic characters like Mr. Satan Butterwolf, the Bunny King, Scottsy, and a truck-driving dude named Christ, singer/songwriter Cory McAbee has admitted themes of more grand biblical proportion into Brigadoon. On the apocalyptic "Day of the Lie," McAbee lightly sings, "Death to the pain and truth that remains/ Let honesty mercifully die/ Long live the day of the lie/ The soul is dead/ Long live the flesh." The tongue twister of "Weasel Heart" ("I want to be buried in a box of pine/ I want to be pined for with a box of berries") is given a histrionic twist in "Caesar and Barry" ("I've come to praise Caesar not to bury him/ I've come to bury Caesar not to praise him/ I've come to praise Barry not to seize him"). In keeping with the antithetical tension so masterfully created by McAbee and musical director Bobby Lurie, even the sweet afternoon lullaby of "Little Boats" takes on an epic quality. In Brigadoon, it appears, nothing is entirely as it seems: Only the old favorites "Window" and "Apartment #5" (both gratefully reprised from the out-of-print The Billy Nayer Show) and the misanthropic crowd-pleasers "ABCs" and "Billy's" are played straight, with both lyric and intent aimed at the same cut of the psyche. The Billy Nayer Show celebrates its record release Wednesday, Jan. 12, at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12; call 388-2820. And on Thursday, Jan. 13, at Amoeba Music at 6 p.m. Admission is free; call 831-1200. And later that night at Bottom of the Hill with Storm and Holcombe Waller opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 621-4455.
Approaching the Year of the Dragon, it has become clear to some lovers of flounce and circumstance that a Dragon "queen" will be needed to preside over the festivities. Enter Dragon Lady 2000, a beauty contest judged in three parts: lounging lingerie, fetish evening, and show-your-moneymaker talent. The following week, a Bruce Lee look-alike will be chosen as the Dragon Lady's companion. Paparazzi are welcome. Dragon Lady 2000 will be held on Thursday, Jan. 13, at the Stud at 10:30 p.m. (contestants must sign up between 9 and 10 p.m.). The Bruce Lee look-alike contest will be held on Thursday, Jan. 20, at 10:30 p.m. Tickets for each show are $6; call 313-4196.
If congas could talk, which they do under the steady stroke of young conguero Johnny Blas, you might hear sweaty rumors of courtyard dances in Puerto Rico with bare bulbs swinging in the breeze and slick mustachioed playboys watching their marks from under the eaves. You might hear of family secrets, open-ended celebrations, and street-wise hustles, and after you've heard it once, you might want to hear it all over again. On King Conga, Blas and his hungry young guns bring a modern, cinematic scope to the dance floors in Los Angeles, via New York and by way of a long line of traditions. Johnny Blas performs on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 14 and 15, at Mr. E's in Berkeley at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $12; call (510) 848-2009.