Thursday, August 1
Jay Alexander's New Swing Circus How long has it been since you saw someone pull a rabbit out of a hat? (Bullwinkle reruns don't count.) The Swing Circus promises to create a world of entertainment. They call it "Trick City," a place where gangsters greet you at the door and demand a password; cigarette girls hawk goods pinched from other guests; magicians, tarot readers, fire-eaters, and a Punch and Judy show entertain you; Olaf the Prince of Fools tickles your funny bone with European-style clowning; and the band blows your mind. Featuring the hardcore swing talents of Lee Press-On and ringmaster Jay Alexander, the New Swing Circus will sweep you back to 1940s Chicago, Toon Town-style. Transmission Theater, 9 p.m., $10.
Friday, August 2
Luciano While artists claw their way to the top, hungry for a record deal that will bring them wads of cash, hot babes, and fast cars, this Jamaican vocalist simply rests in his faith. Becoming one of the leading dancehall singers in America and the U.K. may have changed his audience, but not his message: Spiritual hope is the key. Of course, the DJs who clamor for Luciano records don't spin them because each track is a personal testimony to the artist's faith, they just look for that powerful beat and those soulful vocals that keep a dance floor hoppin'. Lucky for dancehall cravers, Luciano's musical talent and God go hand in hand. Sizzla opens. Slim's, 8 p.m., $16.50-18.
Saturday, August 3
Johnny & the Blades Like a tumbleweed rolling down a dusty highway, this Taos rockabilly outfit feels like a band that has somewhere to go but is in no hurry to get there. The Blades take their time, seducing the crowd back into a simple era when men sung about their cars, their girls, and their hair with equal ardor. While the indie release Eat at Fred's Place includes a couple of standard faves like "Black Slacks" (that one song that most rockabilly bands seem unable to avoid or play well), the rest of the album is chock-full of originals that twinkle with a very charming un-'90s innocence. Upright bass player Bill Lynch should write more. It is his "Sun Don't Shine," a little tale about drowning with a bottle of gin and a pack of Lucky Strikes, that highlights the band's talents; helping out are natural-born drummer Eli Rinek; guitarist Cullen Winter, who played with the Muddy Waters Band and Son Seals; and vocalist Johnny Kellen -- once one of our own, he used to play with San Francisco's Ramblers. Paradise Lounge, 9:30 p.m., $7.
Sunday, August 4
David Murray Octet As we near the anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death, it is not surprising that fellow musicians and friends should want to pay musical tribute. Oakland-born David Murray lent his powerful tenor saxophone to the Grateful Dead vibe on more than one occasion, including a performance in Madison Square Garden. Now he's adding Dark Star (The Music of the Grateful Dead) to his catalog of more than 200 recordings. Deadheads everywhere can rest assured that Murray chooses his material with discretion and treats it with care. His Blues for Coltrane: A Tribute to John Coltrane garnered the sax titan the Village Voice Musician of the Decade award. This new album will be a unique fusion of jazz and favorite Dead songs, a coupling many say is only natural. Yoshi's Nitespot, 8/10 p.m., $18.
Monday, August 5
Electric Hellfire Club Around this time last year, this twisted bunch from Wisconsin made mothers tremble while their impressionable young children writhed and moaned to a darkly hypnotic beat. Playing up the whole apocalyptic-Satan-worshiping shtick, the Electric Hellfire Club spares no gimmick to make its show really spooky and creepy and undesirable for God-fearing Newt Gingrich followers. In fact, the band members are so immersed in their musical personas that a performance last year led one cynic to say in alarm, "Hey man, they really believe that shit. Hey, look, I don't think they're playing around. What the hell's going on here? I'm getting the o#*?& OUT!" ALL YOU FREAKY LITTLE GOTH TYPES OUGHTA LOVE IT. BOYD RICE OPENS. TROCADERO, 8 P.M., $5.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 6
Occams Razor If you missed their SFO3 show last week, here's another chance to check out Occams' musical motto: Keep it simple, stupid. This local quintet blends catchy guitar hooks with three-part melodies, a combination that has garnered the band an abundance of local radio play and selection in a nationwide talent search among 1,500 other applicants. Last year, rhythm guitar player Greg Loos credited the recording of their second album, Mister Moon, with his recovery from a rare form of cancer, saying that "playing with the Razor was exactly the kind of positive therapy" that he needed. Although much of the band's emotionally charged material comes out of this struggle, the album is not gloomy or morose; instead, the band's stripped-down sound reflects a warmth and intimacy. Paragon, 9:30 p.m., free.
By Silke Tudor