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House Of Tudor 

Anti-fascist Satanists, tabla beat scientists, and a Raye of hope

Wednesday, Jun 19 2002
In 1996, as a fledgling columnist, I inadvertently stumbled onto the first public performance of the "Apache Whiskey Rite," created by the Reverend Steven Johnson Leyba & the United Satanic Apache Front. On the street level of the cozy 848 Community Space, Leyba's disquieting collage art -- comprised mostly of images of distended assholes, dismembered labia, and lanky supermodels -- was displayed along with letters of condemnation from prominent Native Americans and demonstrations of public support from H.R. Giger and William S. Burroughs. Upstairs, two sexy USAF devotees laboriously carved a pentagram into Leyba's bare chest while the blasé crowd smoked cigarettes and chatted about everything except the blood streaming down the Church of Satan's ordained priest. The audience paid a little more heed when one of the women urinated into the fresh wounds, gathering the stream of piss-blood in a bowl for Leyba to drink. Then, when the woman strapped on a dildo harness and a full bottle of Jack Daniel's and proceeded to sodomize Leyba -- a literal representation of what he believes European settlers did to his ancestors -- the audience was genuinely moved. In a fit of solidarity, or hedonistic lunacy, several members even drank from the bottle. I left thinking I'd been in San Francisco far too long, but over the next couple of weeks, the United Satanic Apache Front became my favorite topic for dinner conversation. And, six months later, Leyba became the dinner topic of choice all across America.

As most people know, the Reverend and his cohorts were hired to perform at the 50th birthday party of political spin artist Jack Davis. During the show, Leyba slammed the United States with his "Invocation to Curse the Nation," then he slammed Davis' new football-stadium initiative, and finally he bent over and got slammed by a whiskey bottle. The party made national headlines. Taking full advantage of his notoriety, Leyba scheduled numerous public performances and became a featured artist at "Bondage A Go-Go," where he presented such shows as "Poop on the Flag: The Unthankful Thanksgiving." Since those giddy times, Leyba has produced countless pieces of politically charged artwork (often incorporating flags and bodily fluids), handmade books (some weighing as much as 70 pounds and occasionally containing bodily fluids), and performances pieces (usually centered around bodily fluids). This year, Marc Rokoff's documentary Unspeakable: The Life and Art of Reverend Steven Johnson Leyba screened at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, and the United Satanic Apache Front's first album, Addressing the Corporate Fascist State: Selected Performance Recordings 1996-2000, was released. The CD -- a sonically pleasing aural collage of electronic music, samples, and Leyba's rants -- makes for a unique and strange document of a slice of San Francisco art history, right down to the cover, a Leyba painting that overlays Old Glory with a pentagram, a swastika, and a whistling anus. To celebrate the album's release, Leyba presents his flag paintings and performs Track 12, "Curse for G.W. Our Illegitimate President," on Friday, June 21, at Studio Z (314 11th St. at Folsom) with Galaxxy Chamber and Whore opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 252-7674. Also, Leyba presents his flag paintings along with a reading and bleeding on Friday, June 28, at AK Press (674A 23rd St., Oakland) at 7 p.m. Admission is free; call (510) 208-1700. All the U.S. flag paintings will be on display July 5-19 at Balazo Gallery (2811 Mission at 24th Street); call 920-0896.

Last year, under the eucalyptus trees of Stern Grove, a group of exceptional musicians -- tabla master Zakir Hussain, vocalist and sarangi player Ustad Sultan Khan, vocalist Ejigayhu Shibabaw, bassist/producer Bill Laswell, Brooklyn-based percussionist Karsh Kale, synth wiz Fabian Alsultany, electronic artist Midival Punditz, and DJ Disk -- came together under the appellation Tabla Beat Science. The idea of the group began some time before, as Hussain and Laswell formed a studio project to embrace a loose configuration of artists interested in melding traditional Indian rhythms, African vocal styles, modern electronics, low-end dub, and DJ breaks. Tabla Beat Science's first release, Tala Matrix, featured the two producers, plus Kale, Khan, tablatronic pioneer Talvin Singh, and Bombay percussionist Trilok Gurtu. While Tala Matrix received enthusiastic reviews, it paled next to the live experience of the enlarged group. For those who missed the S.F. show, Axiom/Palm has released Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove, which is sure to take its place among legendary live recordings from the Bay Area. For those who want the real deal, Tabla Beat Science has regrouped to perform on Friday, June 21, at the Fillmore at 9 p.m. Tickets are $35; call 346-6000.

After a nearly 10-year absence, Los Angeles singer/songwriter Julianna Raye re-emerges with a truly gorgeous selection of balmy ballads wholly unlike the pop-rock songs found on her 1993 major label debut, Something Peculiar. The slinky, subtle sophistication of Ethan James' instrumentation on Restless Night leaves Raye's voice twirling in the dusky spotlight, an instrument as strong, smooth, and refreshing as an Old-Fashioned in 100-degree heat. If this were the '70s, Raye could take her place alongside songwriters like Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits at the Tropicana Motel or share club dates with Joni Mitchell. As it is, Raye's elegant, dark maturity should appeal to those yearning for the delicate purity of vocalists like Portishead's Beth Gibbons -- with an added touch of the crumbling hopefuls found at Hollywood and Vine. Julianna Raye supports Garth Steel Klippert on Sunday, June 23, at the Make-Out Room with Chrome Johnson opening at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 647-2888.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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