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O Brother, Where Art Thou?; "Biff! Bang! Pow!" ; Me First & the Gimme Gimmes; Hogmanay

Wednesday, Dec 27 2000
In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen brothers' new movie based on Homer's Odyssey, three petty criminals played by George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, and John Turturro escape from a chain gang to follow the words of a blind prophet to a cache of lost treasure. Traveling through the Depression-era South, the trio encounters danger and curiosity -- a wandering minstrel, a one-eyed Bible salesman, a notorious hood, a forgotten siren, and a campaigning politician -- purposefully woven through an aural canvas of mountain gospel and hillbilly blues. Since the vintage recordings and reproductions (compiled and produced by T-Bone Burnett) play as prominent a role as any character in the film, it's nice to see that the movie's opening night screenings will include an opening band. Braiding fiddle, pedal steel, and mandolin with gospel-hued harmonies and yodeling, San Francisco's Red Meat creates winsome airs of abandoned folk, western swing, and chin-bobbing honky-tonk. Tonight, the band will, most likely, also play traditionals from the film's soundtrack, such as "Po' Lazarus," "Lonesome Valley," and "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues." Red Meat performs at Landmark's Bridge Theater (3010 Geary) on Friday, Dec. 29, at 7:05 and 9:35 p.m. with O Brother to follow; KUSF DJ Toby acts as MC. Tickets are $8.50 and available at the box office two days prior; call 352-0810. Red Meat also celebrates the release of its new CD, Alameda County Line, on Jan. 5 at the Great American Music Hall.

Named for the Creation song "Biff! Bang! Pow!" this year-end Swingin' London all-nighter offers all things musically sleek and stylish from the '60s. Expect songs from the Small Faces, the Kinks, Booker T. & the MGs, Jacques Dutronc, and Georgie Fame. Expect DJs from "Hip Hugger," "In N' Out," "Marmalade," and "Bardot A Go Go." Expect mods, suedeheads, and skinny men with skinny ties and skinny tires. Expect to dance until 3 a.m. Unless you're reclining in the Britpop Lounge with the 18-year-olds. "Biff! Bang! Pow!" will be held on Saturday, Dec. 30, at 330 Ritch at 10 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 541-9574.

What do John Denver, Jägermeister, Andrew Lloyd Webber, German porn, Billy Joel, George Gershwin, karaoke, and cross-dressing have in common? Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, the shameless super cover group comprised of members of Lagwagon, Foo Fighters, NOFX, and Swingin' Utters. Having already treated us to snarling renditions of "Rainbow Connection," "Sweet Caroline," "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," and "Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard," the band is now rumored to be working on a '60s album. While the record won't be out till March 20, you can get a preview of surly, breakneck renditions of Cat Stevens' "Wild World," Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind," and Del Shannon's "Runaway" on Sunday, Dec. 31, at the CW Saloon. The Dragons, Fabulous Disaster, and DJ Nate open the show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 974-1585.

The Scots, who've long dismissed Christmas as faddish, pay far more attention to their rowdy and roupy celebration of the coming new year, called Hogmanay. Fire, booze, and sheep's entrails are just the beginning: Among the varied customs are "First Footing" (following the firing of guns at midnight, folks take a tour of friends' houses, exchanging "coal, cake, or coin" for a dram of wine, whiskey, or a potent combination of ale, nutmeg, and whiskey called a "het pint"); the "Burning of the Clavie" (a group of men drag a barrel of fire through town, allowing onlookers to scoop up hot embers to kindle their New Year's fire at home, or send the cold remains to families living abroad for good luck); and the "Creaming of the Well" (single women rush to collect water from the first drawing, hoping to marry the man who drinks it that first day). While other folkways like reciting rhyme and beating animal pelts in strangers' kitchens haven't caught on internationally, the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" (adapted from a poem by Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns) and the new year's resolution -- the heart of Hogmanay -- are widely received.

Derived from the Gaelic oge maidne ("new morning"), Hogmanay is a chance to bury the hatchet and turn over a new leaf. Even if most resolutions last no longer than the length of a cigarette, there is riotous good fun to be had in the few hours people are free of grudges and faults. Anyone who has celebrated New Year's Eve at the Edinburgh Castle knows the whir of bagpipes, the shouts of "guid-willie waught" (goodwill drink), the press of bodies, the smell of steaming haggis, and the passionate moment when strangers and enemies embrace. This year, though, I'm told the Edinburgh Castle's Hogmanay will be a slightly more cultured affair. The pipes and haggis are being set aside for Burns Day in late January; instead, at the stroke of midnight, the Marin Symphony's Tyler Mack will perform a rendition of Richard Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra" (as heard in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey) on timpani, accompanied by a video display and the 1959 recording of Herbert Von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It all sounds very civilized, but I know better: You can take the boy out of Scotland, but you better have a "hair of the dog" waiting in the morning (one part Scotch whisky, one part double cream, one tablespoon of honey). Hogmanay is celebrated at the Edinburgh Castle on Sunday, Dec. 31, at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 after 8 p.m.; call 885-4074.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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