Since Night Crawler went tiki (Feb. 26), Hawaiian-shirt enthusiasts have been pounding away at my little thatched door. It has been a colorful experience, but not always an aurally satisfying one. Thankfully, downhear Lounge has come to the rescue with life jacket and great music in tow. The "Spring Swell" will focus exclusively on the culture of California surf with vintage surf films and a live performance by the Aqua Velvets -- quite possibly the best seaside assailants the Bay Area has to offer (barring the Mermen on a good night). The shindig gets the final seal of approval from Beach Boys historian Domenic Priore, who will be spinning classic surf and tiki tunes. Most important, the bar staff is well-versed in all persuasions of tropical debauchery. Hang ten on Wednesday, March 12, at 9 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord. Ticket price is $3; call 861-5016. ... When Morphine suggested to the world that the rock guitar was passe, it was a wonder, but not a revelation. People had long ago tired of fruitless posturing by would-be guitar gods, but still -- doing away with the guitar altogether was a tad daring, almost as daring as playing rock music without, say, a bass player or a vocalist. In the summer of '95, when Dirty Three opened for Morphine at the Fillmore, the Australian trio proved that this was not only possible, but fabulous. Violinist Warren Ellis (whose work has appeared on recordings by Nick Cave, Robert Forster, and Kim Salmon) appeared as the captivating and cheerfully volatile frontman. Between each song, he would share a gut-splitting story about its inception -- Burt Reynolds stole the love of his life; he is sickly obsessed with Sally Jessy Raphael; truck-stop coffee is the elixir of life. He spun these yarns as if to remove the need for lyrics later on, but it was the trio's playing that really made words unnecessary. Even while Ellis whirled like a banshee, impishly breaking strings and sending violin notes careening into the chandelier, his partners -- drummer Jim White and guitarist Mick Turner -- upped the ante, with Turner playing both rhythm and melody and White detailing the soundscape as few drummers bother trying to do. Thursday's show is a rare opportunity for the band to play in a club with seating -- the thing most lacking in the Fillmore performance. KUSF also welcomes supporting acts Low and the Sunshine Club on March 13 at 8 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club. Ticket price is $8-10; call 474-0365. ... Explore the beauty and mystery of Romany (the dialect spoken by Gypsies, or Rom as they are known to their own) and many other tongues found within the Balkans while the six-piece ensemble Anoush Ellas performs Turkish-influenced Rom music, lilting songs from the Greek islands, wild dance music from Macedonia, and haunting vocal harmonies from Albania. The performance begins at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14, at the Slavonic Cultural Center. Tickets are $7; call 584-8859. ... Since the dissolution of the Stray Cats, a couple of things have happened: Lee Rocker founded Big Blue, a blues-oriented four-piece, and Brian Setzer formed the Brian Setzer Orchestra, a 17-piece big band that engages in loud rock-guitar solos. While both projects possess admirable qualities -- Rocker is one hell of a bass player and Setzer quite a composer -- neither group has a vocalist who is worth a damn. Rocker should never, under any circumstances, sing Delta blues, and while Setzer was a great frontman for the Cats, his voice is just too thin to front a 17-piece jazz orchestra. Who the hell does he think he is? Count Basie? Sorry, no dice. The Brian Setzer Orchestra performs at the Warfield on Friday, March 14, and Saturday, March 15, at 7 p.m. Ticket price is $20-22.50; call 541-0800. ... For those who would prefer to hear Setzer sing "Stray Cat Strut" rather than "There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder," the folks from New Wave City empathize. For this reason, they present their tribute to the Cats. The best pompadours and faux kitty prints will win EMI's greatest hits collection Runaway Boys: A Retrospective '81-'92. Take your pomade and your tiger coat and head on down to the Cat's Grill & Alley Club on Saturday, March 15, at 9 p.m. Ticket price is $5 before 10 p.m.; $8 after with a $3 discount for those with a Setzer Orchestra ticket stub; call 675-LOVE. ... It is still argued that ToonTown (1991-1992) was the greatest rave ever to grace the bay. This was largely due to the talents of producer Dianna Jacobs, who was also responsible for later faves like Carefree and LoveWorks. Well, it's been awhile, but she's back with The Moon. Teaming up with Owen, producer of By the People, Jacobs promises an open and diverse scene with thundering sound provided by DJs Evil Eddie Richards and Terry Francis of London's Lunar Tunes, L.A.'s Steve Loria, and San Francisco's own Tony and Spun. Enter the orbit on Saturday, March 15, at 10 p.m. Ticket price and location will be announced; call 437-4462.
-- Silke Tudor