Reach for the Beach There are helicopters flying around inside Beth Custer's head, but she seems to be coping pretty well. The clarinetist for the Club Foot Orchestra, the eclectic group that has provided popular live scores for the silent film classics Metropolis and Nosferatu and the animated series Felix the Cat, has had plenty of ideas flying around inside her head, certainly, which she's translated into scores for theater and dance groups as well. Since the dissolution of her band Trance Mission, Custer has teamed with Christian Jones, a former hip-hop DJ and multi-instrumentalist, for Eighty Mile Beach, a music and spoken-word collaboration named for a desolate stretch of sand and surf in Western Australia. With their album Inclement Weather, Jones puts a bass line, drums, or hip-hop beats to Custer's sung-poems, which foray into strange new territories where stories about helicopters and hemp hum with tropical birds and didgeridoo, funky jazz licks, and low-slung dance grooves. Spoken word and music from Lilith veterans the Beth Lisick Ordeal open the show at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $10; call 885-5075.
Style Council The over-40 set knows the Stylistics from Philadelphia's '70s soul boom, while the younger crowd at least knows of them from secondhand records, soul compilations, and heavy rotation on the oldies stations. It would be hard not to have heard at least one Stylistics song at least once in one's lifetime; although they were never part of the Motown hit machine, their catalog is crammed with 12 consecutive Top 10 hits, sweetly smooth and mostly benign chart-topping ballads like "I'm Stone in Love With You" and "You Make Me Feel Brand New," and the enthusiastic "Betcha by Golly Wow." Original lead singers Russell Thompkins Jr., Airrion Love, and Herb Murrell, who've been touring internationally with the Chi-Lites, break out the love songs and the dance routines as the nostalgia brigade descends. They perform two sets at 8 and 10 p.m. (also Friday through Sunday) at Kimball's East, 5800 Shellmound, Emeryville. Admission is $24-26; call (510) 658-2555 ext. 4.
Amy Carter Meets Bigfoot A whole generation of kids who suffered through braces, glasses, geeky relatives, and other adolescent terrors in the late '70s silently commiserated with Amy Carter, the first daughter who had less of a private life than most kids her age, and who arrived at the nation's most prestigious address with less self-assurance than her '90s counterpart, Chelsea. Painter Steven Brown, a frequent contributor to the arts journal Great God Pan, has long been fascinated with Carter because of the parallels in their lives: They were born the same year to Southern parents, and though they never met, they shared a childhood fascination with the cartoon character Snoopy, and later, with cartoonlike musical icons the Butthole Surfers. Both studied children's book illustration, and while Carter went on to be expelled from the Ivy League, Brown went on to paint pictures of Carter, which will be shown publicly with new work by graffiti artist Bigfoot -- he's the one who tags city buildings with giant pictures of Sasquatches, fir trees, and other Pacific Northwest motifs. The show opens with a reception at 7 p.m. at ESP, 305 Valencia (at 14th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 252-8191.
... And All the Children Are Above Average The news from Lake Wobegon -- where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, the Powdermilk biscuits are piping hot, and the modern age has only just begun to collide with Midwestern small-town eccentricity -- comes to Berkeley live for the first time in 13 years with the appearance of Garrison Keillor & the Hopeful Gospel Quartet. Keillor, who began hosting the radio variety show A Prairie Home Companion 24 years ago in a St. Paul, Minn., theater, will provide summer news and stories from the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, which he has further immortalized in 10 books, including his most recent, Wobegon Boy. Between accounts, he'll join bluegrass artist Kate MacKenzie and country-folk musicians Robin and Linda Williams, all frequent Prairie guests, in singing four-square gospel, some folk, a hymn to sweet corn, a dash of R&B, and some Sanctified Brethren standards. The show begins at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, Berkeley. Admission is $28-40; call (510) 642-9988.
It's That Thingy You Put in the Whatsis Sample clue, from Dr. Ucalegon's Armchair Scavenger Hunt: "Though clearly just to mollify/ The parents in their zeal/ Our schools claimed it would qualify/ As a vegetable in a meal." If you remember a certain Republican administration's PR gaffe, then you know the answer is ketchup, and you are clearly qualified to play the game. The hunt, which began as part of a software company's Christmas party and has since been opened to the public, is based less on trivia than creative thinking, and unlike most scavenger hunts, contestants don't even have to leave their homes to participate. It's not a computer game, but teams of one to four people must retrieve the clues and registration information from the Web at www.unexpected.com/hunt. Once they've figured out what an item is, teams either have to find the item in their home or call people they know until they find someone who has it. To prove that they've found it, teams must describe a specific part of it (to prove that you'd figured out the ketchup clue, for example, you'd have to state the last ingredient). Teams then feed the answer back into the Web site. The game goes in nine half-hour rounds, and the site will post standings throughout, so people know how they rate. Lots of prizes will be awarded, and entrance fee proceeds benefit Pets Are Wonderful Support, an agency that helps people with AIDS care for their pets. The hunt begins at noon in homes across the Bay Area. Admission is $4-8; call 863-3506.
Hot Reuben Listen closely to A Tribe Called Quest or US3 and you might catch a sample of "Ronnie's Bonnie" or "Were in Love," which were originally written by Hammond B-3 organist Reuben Wilson. The boxer-turned-keyboardist has been tagged as a godfather of the acid-jazz movement for late-'60s albums like Love Bug and Blue Mode, which he recorded for Blue Note and have now been reissued by the label. Wilson also shows his hand on Chess/Cadet and Groove Merchant productions, and the funky jazz combination of organ and tenor sax of his early work carried over into the dance clubs of the '80s, where the title track of his 1974 Gotta Get Your Own album was co-opted by club DJs. Wilson demonstrates how one of the most loved and simultaneously maligned instruments in modern music can propel a soul classic like Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" at shows beginning at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi's, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland. Admission is $10; call (510) 238-9200.
Happy Apathy Day! With the exception of Civic Day, observed Aug. 3 this year by dutiful former Canadians, Californians have no holidays to celebrate this month. And not having to recognize an occasion is reason enough for a party, say the comedians participating in "The No Holiday Show!" Tonight, Kurt Weitzmann and Howard Stone rejoice in the lack of gift-buying pressure and hollow greeting-card sentiments. Colin Mahan, Dan Rothenburg, and Mike "Indigenous People's Day" Strong (who claims to use his nickname to get laid in Berkeley) celebrate the fact that we don't have to fuss over Admissions Day like Hawaii does. And the host venue, a fine Scottish pub with U.K. roots, encourages guests to laugh while they can, since we'll all be celebrating Labor Day soon enough even though we don't actually have a labor party. The show begins at 8 p.m. at the Edinburgh Castle Pub, 950 Geary (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $5 ($3 if you can name every Jewish holiday); call 885-4074.
Field and Stream Hands-on accessibility is the hallmark of Gregory Gavin's art. For the last few years, the founder of Will Power Arts has been teaching carpentry and design to San Francisco youngsters; 160 of these kids created full-sized, operational soapbox cars under Gavin's tutelage, and starred with their speedsters in Bernaltown, Gavin's comic narrative video about their neighborhood. (The film drew cheers from thousands of local viewers when it debuted last year at a Bernal Heights playground.) Gavin's most recent artistic collaboration is River in the Hood, an installation he created with adult and youth volunteers, in which a 100-foot-long man-made "river" of recycled running water flows from the top of a mountain down a gradually descending bar. Would-be engineers and artists can sit on stools on either side of the river and help build the landscape, including bridges, boats, and creatures, out of sand, wood, and recycled materials. Bottled water, with a "River in the Hood" label, will be for sale at the bar. A group of teen volunteers attended River Camp earlier this month to create "river art" and research California rivers and ecosystems, from the Sierras to the Pacific, which are represented in the exhibit. River opens at 1 p.m. (and is up through Sept. 19) -- an opening party and flotilla with live music will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29. It all happens at Will Power Arts, 2670 San Bruno (at Bacon), S.F. Admission is free; call 656-0119.