"From aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune -- I don't know what. Then there was 'Autumn.' ... The way the band kept playing was a noble thing. ... The last I saw of the band, when I was floating out to sea with my life belt on, it was still playing 'Autumn.' How they ever did it I cannot imagine." That's Titanic survivor Harold Bride, confirming a chilling tale told by several who escaped drowning on April 14, 1912. The image of the White Star Orchestra serenading the doomed passengers fueled Ian Whitcomb's obsession to re-create the music heard at that moment and earlier on the maiden cruise. The resulting CD, Titanic: Music as Heard on the Fateful Voyage, includes exquisite re-enactments of pieces performed for the first- and second-class passengers -- "British Light Music," "Music From the Continent," "Marches From America" -- as well as third-class tunes -- "Ragtime From America," "Music From the American Vaudeville Stage," and "Music From the British Music Hall." The select packaging of Titanic, which is, in itself, a loving testament to Whitcomb's muse, includes poetry, drawings, photographs, period reproductions, and historical narratives. During "A Titanic Experience," the new White Star Orchestra will perform all said works, including "Autumn," and the Cafe Du Nord chefs will cook the last Titanic dinner. Dress accordingly: turn-of-the-century or appropriately waterlogged. The show takes place at Cafe Du Nord on Friday, Oct. 31, at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $25, which includes dinner (10 p.m. concert only is $5 with costume and $7 without); call 861-5016.
Aside from homeboy Bobcat Goldthwait, few people in movie history have accurately captured the pathetic existence of a children's party clown. In Shakes the Clown -- a film written by, directed by, and starring the raspy-voiced cutup -- a deranged, alcoholic guy with big shoes wanders around Palookaville trying to stay drunk without getting his ass kicked by savage rodeo clowns. Moments of sheer delight (mime-beating scenes) and heartbreaking anguish (fucked-up balloon-animal scenes) make Shakes the Chinatown of bozo cinema, which by extension means Goldthwait is a comic auteur of sorts. Goldthwait returns to the Bay Area to do stand-up comedy at the "Comics Come Home" benefit, which also includes Janeane Garofalo, Margaret Cho, Tom Rhodes, Marc Maron, and many others. Live 105 radio personality Johnny Steele hosts the show at the Palace of Fine Arts on Saturday, Nov. 1, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27.50; call 567-6642.
When Popular Favorites came out in 1996, the Oblivians were touted by the alternative press as masters of lo-fi, sewer-caked garage rock. The Oblivians agreed. "We're more Little Richard than Jerry Lee. Jerry Lee has depth to him ... Little Richard's just screaming his head off," said Eric Oblivian, one of the band's two singer/guitarists. (The other is Greg Oblivian. Jack Oblivian plays drums; no one knows how to play bass yet.) Eric was lying about his band of reverb-loving Memphis simpletons: The recent Oblivians ... Play 9 Songs With Mr. Quintron is a very deep album, so deep, in fact, that it rekindles that part of the urbanite soul hidden under beer foam and a Lucky Strike ash. Joined for a day by organist Mr. Quintron, the Oblivians recorded a full-fledged gospel revival -- five originals, three classics. The sum is like a young, God-fearing Elvis Presley singing in his church choir after four lines of trucker speed. The Oblivians play at the Kilowatt on Sunday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. The Infections and the Vectors open. Tickets are $7; call 861-2595. As this is the Kilowatt's final show, I suggest you save your soul before it's too late.
The caressing baritone of Tindersticks frontman Stuart Staples gives a pretty clear idea of the voice Pulp's Jarvis Cocker hears in his head when he's writing songs. Of course, it's clear, too, who Staples hears: Cave, Cohen, Gira, Hazelwood, even Gainsbourg. Staples' writing lingers between serious longing, mellow irony, and contrived intensity, but his voice is finer than 100-year-old scotch: When he sings lines like, "When the cab ride gets too long we go fuck in the bathroom," it feels like you're drowning in an ocean of velvet musk. I can't imagine a way I'd rather go. Tindersticks perform at the Fillmore on Monday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. Elliott Smith opens. Tickets are $17.50; call 775-7722.
-- Silke Tudor