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House Of Tudor 

Silke Tudor praises misanthropes, nude bands, and fire feasts.

Wednesday, Jun 20 2001
Despite Bill Callahan's enduring penchant for lingering in the slender crannies between indulgent ennui and debilitating melancholy, the new album from his appellation Smog, Dongs of Sevotion, is funny. Not gut-busting funny; funny in the way that dejected, sharp-witted misanthropes tend to be. In "Dress Sexy at My Funeral," Callahan instructs his modest wife to dress as she never has before, then go tell the minister explicit stories about their sex life and blow kisses to his grieving brother. In "Bloodflow," a skulking number about a machete rampage, a cheerleading squad shouts out the letters of the title behind Callahan's meandering contemplations. In "Cold Discovery," Callahan first murmurs, "Oh I can hold a woman," over hesitant piano notes and shambling guitar chords, then delivers the punch line with "down on a hardwood floor." Callahan jokes with another lost love in the bluesy, lo-fi hymn "Strayed," singing, "I have loved in haste/ I've been an alley cat and a bumblebee/ To your panther and your wasp/ Oh, I have loved/ While thinking only of the cost." In the hauntingly simple "Permanent Smile," Callahan actually jokes with God between the steady reverberations of a bass drum and the mothlike tinkling of piano keys: "Oh God, can you hear the saltwater drying on your skin?/ Oh God, can you feel the heart beating in my tongue?/ Oh God, by being quiet I hope to alleviate your debt/ Oh God, by sitting still I hope to lighten your load." And when, later in the song, insects lay eggs under Callahan's skin and eat his eyes, and the jester has, at last, earned his permanent smile, Callahan sings, "Oh God, I never never ask why." Smog performs on Wednesday, June 20, at the Great American Music Hall with Refrigerator opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12; call 885-5075.

Here in San Francisco, where barroom tans and bear-claw physiques have been in vogue since the 1940s, a musicianly wall-of-flesh does not sound overly appetizing. What Live Nude Bands might lack in aesthetic appeal, it more than makes up for in hilarity and good-natured self-ploitation -- and there are always surprises (let us not forget last year's "full monty" by essence). This year's show features Zen Guerrilla, the Hail Marys, Black Kali Ma, Bonfire Madigan, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Gun and Doll Show, PBR Street Gang, the Pre-Teens, Cantankerous Lollies, the Clap Band, Kevin Army, Brown-Star, Ocean 8, Moe! Staiano, 20 Minute Loop, and the Blast Rocks!!! Live Nude Bands unveils itself on Friday, June 22, at the Fillmore, with DJ Swiftrock opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.50; call 346-6000.

While none of the members of the Nigerian Brothers are related by blood and only half of them are from Nigeria (the other half being from Liberia and Ghana), the group's name properly evokes the balmy, familial spirit of the West African folk music it performs. Lacking the electric stimulus that drives the members' other groups -- Kotoja and the West African Highlife Band -- the music of the Nigerian Brothers relies on textural harmonies, bells, shakers, talking drums, and acoustic guitars, as well as childhood memories of the songs their families and neighbors played. Baba Ken Okulolo & the Nigerian Brothers perform on Saturday, June 23, at the Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center in Berkeley at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12; call (510) 525-5054.

Someone once told me fire is cheap, but that someone was not Michael Sturtz, executive director of the Crucible, a 22,000-square-foot foundry, metal shop, and sculpture studio located in Berkeley. Last year the Crucible raised money for its educational facilities by throwing the single best fire festival I have witnessed within city limits. Giant sculptures poured flame, as folks ran their hands through a burning reflecting pool; chefs served fire-licked prawns and strips of delicate meat, while scarlet nymphs and demons offered candied red grapes and vichyssoise; Sturtz escaped from a large metal cylinder using a blowtorch as a stylus; jugglers, dancers, acrobats, and singers blazed throughout the structure; and a breathtaking river of white-hot metal ran into casts, making me finally realize the splendor Zeus once so jealously guarded.

I am told last year's fete will pale in the light of Fire Feast 2001: A Legendary Benefit in Three Acts. Act 1 will be a formal dinner titled "Prometheus' Palate," during which culinary wizards will prepare delicacies like blackened tuna, lime-spiked quinoa, and forbidden black rice. Act 2 is a silent auction of flame-wrought art presided over by Vulcan (the Roman equivalent of the fire god Hephaestus, who created Pandora and her box of horrors), who will descend from the ceiling in fiery brilliance to strike his anvil for high bids. Act 3, titled the "Flight of Icarus," will include a pour of molten bronze and a re-enactment of the doomed flight of Daedalus' spawn, who flew too near the sun. Capacitor, Lumin, Ménage à Trois, Frank Olivier, Phoenix Rising, Pyrogeist, DJ Vordo, Xeno, Lumin, and Zambra Bailar Yalla will perform. The Fire Feast will blaze at the Crucible (1036 Ashby Ave. in Berkeley) on Saturday, June 23, from 6 p.m. until 4 a.m. Tickets are $125 per plate for Acts 1 and 2 (advanced ticket purchase required) and $20 for Act 3; call (510) 843-5511.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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