During the Great Depression, impoverished city folks found solace and delight in the greater misfortunes of the residents of Dogpatch, a ramshackle town nestled in the Appalachian wilderness of Al Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner. "White trash" had been part of the American vernacular since 1819, but Dogpatchers -- portrayed in broad strokes as stupid, lazy, drunken, and desperate, and, in the case of Sadie Hawkins, uglier than a warthog sucking on a mud fence -- made the term laughable. Three years into Li'l Abner's 43-year-long run, Capp illustrated Sadie Hawkins Day, a racing event organized by Sadie's pa, Hekzebiah Hawkins, in which eligible young ladies could chase down and literally catch their future husbands. The notion of women taking the initiative in courtship enthralled progressives throughout the nation, and Sadie Hawkins events began springing up all over the country. By 1939, over 200 colleges had added Sadie Hawkins Dances to their calendars, and a deluge of fan mail convinced Capp to make the fete an annual event in the funny pages.
While traditionally occurring in November, the affairs can be held anywhere and at any time a bit of levity is required. To that end, Swing Set Productions presents the Sadie Hawkins Costume and Dance Party, complete with shotgun weddings, moonshine drink specials, a first cousins' dating game, a singles' dessert auction (funny money and desserts supplied, but every cupcake on the auction block must be willing to go down Lovers Lane with the highest bidder), and a Dukes of Hazzard costume contest. For the latter competition, prizes will be awarded to the best Bo, Luke, and Boss Hogg, with the cold, hard cash going to whoever looks finest in her cut-off Daisy Dukes. Sadly for all you ladies, even if you've got good gams and the virtue of an alley cat, you'll probably lose out to one of the fabulous punk drag queens in Pepperspray, who will be performing all your favorite white-trash rock songs live, after a little knee-slapping by Flatcracker, the cow-dyke five-piece fronted by Leigh Crow (aka Elvis Herselvis). The Sadie Hawkins Costume and Dance Party will be held on Saturday, March 29, at Club Galia with DJs Arm and Hammer opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10-15 ($20 without hillbilly duds), and the price includes a free buffet of chicken wings, potato salad, corn bread, and vegetarian chili; call 970-9777.
For most of us, punk rock has lost all but nostalgic significance, but perhaps we're just not looking in the right places. "We have no freedom of speech and no rights -- we fight for it with our music," writes a representative of the six punk bands in Wuhan City, China, whose collective symbol resembles a very pissed-off phoenix shaped like a hammer and sickle, over the words "made in cage." The punk rock scene in Wuhan is considered vibrant by Chinese standards. According to a friend who just spent a year in Shanghai (China's most liberal and eccentric metropolis), there is but one punk zine in the entire country, and it's only in its third issue. Alternative music didn't become available, even on the black market, in China until the mid-'90s, when the major-label deluge precipitated by Nirvana finally began to trickle down. In 1995, after discovering hope and fury in the clandestine dubbings of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, the Clash, the Cure, the Smiths, and Depeche Mode, two punk bands formed in Beijing (arguably China's most conservative city): Underbaby, which went for speed and catharsis, and Catcher in the Rye, which attempted a more melodic form of angst. The second generation of Chinese punk drew on later sources -- Fugazi, the Misfits, Operation Ivy, NOFX, and the like -- and gave rise to the "glory days," in which Beijing bands like Brain Failure sported tremendous mohawks, studded leather jackets, and safety-pin jewelry without irony or nostalgia, and played music like it could change the world. And it has, to some degree. This year, Brain Failure and Beijing's Hang on the Box -- mainland China's only all-girl punk band -- were invited to play South by Southwest, bringing with them the sort of passion, precision, and peculiarity that is best nurtured in an unsympathetic environment. Brain Failure and Hang on the Box support the Arrivals on Saturday, March 29, at 924 Gilman in Berkeley at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5; call (510) 525-9926. The bands also perform with Modey Lemon on Tuesday, April 1, at the Hemlock Tavern at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 923-0923 or go to www.hemlocktavern.com.