Fronted by a robust Arkansas beauty school hopeful and filled out by two more barely 20-year-old youths, the Gossip is a glimmering instance of garage-rock pluck and Southern tenacity. Beth Ditto, with her perfect little bouffant and indomitable restlessness, wails like a country-fried Ronnie Spector while guitarist Nathan Howdeshell and drummer Kathy Mendocha churn out Need-y pogo riffs. The Gossip's full-length debut, That's Not What I Heard, offers 14 vivacious contusions -- thumbnail sketches about gettin' it on, gunning 'em down, and guzzling it all -- in less than 25 minutes. Although recent tours with Sleater-Kinney and Sonic Youth have helped, the currently Olympia-based group has built its reputation on Ditto's unique, guts-in-a-barrel voice. The Gossip plays an all-ages show on Friday, Feb. 2, at the Bottom of the Hill with Fabulous Disaster and the Richmond Sluts opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 621-4455.
Spawned from the Grammy Award-winning crew the Roots, Scratch is a human beatbox, a vocal turntablist and verbal contortionist who needs no equipment other than his body and brain to create beats and scratching so complex you might claim fraud if you weren't already depleted from his funkified exertions. Scratch and fellow Philadelphian Dice Raw (a rhyming protégé featured on numerous Roots albums) recently completed a critically acclaimed hip hop and soul revue called "The Okayplayer Tour." Now, they set off on the "Live From the 215" jaunt, backed by a full band -- saxophone, guitar, keyboards, and horns -- with Scratch as DJ and drummer. Schoolz of Thought, winner of Philadelphia City Paper's Readers' Choice Award, will also perform, along with Kamal and World DMC champion DJ Dangerous on Friday, Feb. 2, at Justice League at 9 p.m. Tickets are $17-20; call 289-2038.
The winter answer to the popular summer surf movies of the '60s was the ski-party flick -- squeaky-clean comedic romps that sent Frankie Avalon and the like bounding across the powder into the arms of coquettish snow bunnies like Yvonne Craig. Between the catastrophe of losing the girl and the rapture of gaining the slopes, there were opportunities a-plenty to bump and wiggle to Lesley Gore singing "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" at the chalet. Last year's "Wild Wild Winter Dance Party" offered fresh fondue and rarely remembered scenes of a young James Brown performing fireside hijinks. This year's installment, aptly held in a cozy little club at the bottom of a snow-covered hill (use your imagination), promises more of the same, but better: warm cheese and barbecue, clips of rare ski-party movie moments, and live snowplow tunes from Slacktone, Saturn V, Pollo Del Mar, and Drifting Snow. "Wild Wild Winter" takes place on Sunday, Feb. 4, at Bottom of the Hill at 3 p.m. Tickets are $7, and include an all-you-can-eat buffet; call 621-4455.
In concert, master banjo player Tony Trischka slips easily from swampified covers of the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac into slave ship fugues and classical medleys of Bartok and Beethoven. In the past, he has given Bela Fleck instruction and contributed rock riffs to the Violent Femmes; played a banjo autographed by William S. Burroughs, who narrated a piece for one of Trischka's numerous solo albums; and told stories over the mournful tone of a banza (a banjo precursor used in the 1700s). While best known for his experimental works of the '70s, Trischka often returns to his earlier musical loves -- everyone from Bill Monroe to Miles Davis -- and he never loses an easy porchside manner that prompts audience members to sing along or shout out keys for free improvisation. Trischka is joined by mandolin master Radim Zenkl, who will perform an opening solo set as part of the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival, on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at the Last Day Saloon at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12-14. The S.F. Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival begins Friday, Feb. 2, and continues through Sunday, Feb. 11, at various venues throughout the Bay Area. Call the festival hot line at (888) 649-8101 for more details.