Most singer/songwriters these days think they're epic novelists, pulling stunts like producing albums stuffed with 70 minutes of verbiage that could have been condensed into 20. Manhattan songstress Nina Nastasia, though, presents herself as an evocative short-story teller on her new eight-track, half-hour recording Run to Ruin. Like the material of all good tale-spinners (or lyricists), hers is often dark, edgy, and emotion-rich: "Regrets" deals with a convoluted web of drugs and intimacy; "You Her and Me" portrays a good-time road trip gone bad; "The Body" addresses spousal abuse.
Best of all, Nastasia weaves a sense of mystery into each shadowy vignette, skirting the overly direct route with a style that layers meaning through the perfect oblique detail, haunting images that reveal themselves over time, and unexpected internal monologues from her characters. The music -- largely acoustic strings and keys (from guitar to accordion) -- sets a noir-ish tone for the narratives to feed from, drawing the listener in close from the first note to the last. Steve Von Till and the Heavenly States open at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Tickets are $8; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Sam Prestianni
It's bedlam in Oakland
Back in the 1950s, irritated parents used to pound on their teenagers' bedroom doors to demand the kids turn that rock 'n' roll rubbish down. Those moms and dads didn't know how good they had it. Music's fringe has become increasingly cacophonous, with death metal, industrial, grindcore, and other bastard genres all providing demanding and dissonant aural experiences to disaffected listeners. The most ear-crushing style of all, however, is "harsh noise," popularized by Japanese musicians such as Merzbow, Masonna, and Kazumoto Endo, whose deafening distortions utilize electronic fuzz and the sonic power of the human scream. If that sounds more like pleasure than pain to you, book a seat at the second annual Oakland Noise Fest, one long night of the most discordant din imaginable. Xome, Stimbox, Pedestrian Deposit, Gong Gong, and more clamorous combos begin the babel at 7 p.m. at 21 Grand, 449B 23rd St. (at Broadway), Oakland. All-ages admission is $6; call (510) 444-7263 or visit oakland.noisefest.com. Earplugs are advised.
-- Joyce Slaton
Now & Later
Slides, spoken word, and music
Point Blank is a collective made up of three women notorious for their guerrilla art, and tonight they're running the whole show, not just the slide shows they sometimes project on buildings.
Presenting images and opinions that challenge the too-easy "presto change-o" reality sometimes set up by "before and after" photos -- from weight-loss advertisements to the New York City skyline -- PB has curated a many-media evening. Spoken-word artists galore (including local fave Tara Jepsen), a short video by Tammy Rae Carland, and a couple of bands all make appearances at "Before/After," starting at 8 at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 626-5416 or visit www.newlangtonarts.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Old Farts in the Mosh Pit
If you suddenly notice more mohawks and septum piercings in S.F., there's a reason: Fiend Fest 2003, the big, bad lineup of six graying punk rock acts, has hit the city. The Misfits (minus Glenn Danzig), the Damned, and the Dickies play with Balzac, D.I., and Agnostic Front. The noise begins at 7 p.m. at the Avalon Ballroom, 1290 Sutter (at Van Ness). Tickets are $35; call 847-4043 or visit www.morningspringrain.com.
-- Joyce Slaton