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House Of Tudor 

The heavenly Mediæval Bæbes, the earthy Manic Hispanics, and the Sabians, who are somewhere in between

Wednesday, May 15 2002
There are those Bay Area natives who are loath to admit they've ever attended the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, even as nerdy children. On the other hand, some folks proudly call any row of portable toilets "the privies," refer to the "dreaded black snot" as a proper noun, and still rue the loss of the re-enactment troupe the Thieves Guilde. Men of either category should perk up at the mention of the Mediæval Bæbes, since, for once, the parcel lives up to its appellation. Led by Katharine Blake of madrigal-Goth group Miranda Sex Garden, the Mediæval Bæbes are nine fetching young ladies from Britain who like to dress up as seductive nymphs and set the words of Chaucer, Dante, Tasso, and other poets to music. Primarily a choral entity -- but with all the necessary accents of glockenspiel, hurdy-gurdy, dulcimer, violin, harmonium, and zither -- the Mediæval Bæbes watched their first two records fly to the top of the classical charts within weeks of release. Most recently, the sweltering sirens released The Rose, a collection of arcane and lustful love songs for which they added medieval Welsh and Russian to their already extensive repertoire of Latin, Middle English, medieval French, German, and Italian. The Bæbes also recently joined forces with Ken Russell, contributing both song and countenance to his upcoming movie, The Fall of the Louse of Usher. As both Russell and the Bæbes share a passion for antique aesthetics and modern sex appeal, it promises to be a fruitful coupling. The Mediæval Bæbes perform on Thursday, May 16, at Bimbo's 365 Club at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10-12; call 474-0365.

If you live in the Mission, love classic punk rock, and don't own last year's The Recline of Mexican Civilization by Manic Hispanic, yours is a vapid and dour existence. Comprised of members of the Cadillac Tramps, Adolescents, Agent Orange, the Grabbers, and Los Infernos, Manic Hispanic is a supergroup of punk rock pedigrees and Latino extraction, with microphones planted firmly in butt cheek. The band's album art lampoons The Decline of Western Civilization's photograph of Darby Crash lying on his back clutching a mike, showing Gabby from the Cadillac Tramps holding a half-eaten churro and a bottle of Tecate. Even more biting are the musical parodies inside, which border on comic genius. In swift fashion, Manic Hispanic turns the Clash's "I'm So Bored With the U.S.A." into "Bored With You Esse" and "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" into "Brown Man in O.C. Jail." The group transforms the Heartbreakers' "Chinese Rocks" into "Mexican Tar" and Sham 69's "If the Kids Are United" into "If the Vatos Are United." Bad Religion's "Atomic Garden" becomes "Uncle Chato's Garden," Social Distortion's "Mommy's Little Monster" changes into "Mommies Little Chola," and X's "White Girl" morphs into "Brown Girl." If Manic Hispanic's musical chops were less finely honed or its sarcasm less astute, this might be a one-note joke. As it is, The Recline of Mexican Civilization is a three-chord laugh-a-thon and a loving roast of two cultures. Manic Hispanic performs on Thursday, May 16, at the Justice League, with Fabulous Disaster and Pinhead Circus opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8-10; call 289-2038.

Those yearning for a touch of piety in their musical reflections should find succor in Chorissima and Virtuose, the performing and recording ensembles culled from the San Francisco Girls Chorus. For this program, the groups play recently rediscovered music from Mexico's Baroque period. These scores, last performed 250 years ago by the orphan girls of the Conservatorio de las Rosas, will conjure the aural splendor of the New World's first conservatory, appropriately presented here within the confines of San Francisco's oldest church. The world premiere of Alberto Grau's Caracolitos Chicos, which is based on the surrealist poetry of Federico García Lorca, will also be featured, along with American spirituals and works by Heitor Villa-Lobos and William Schuman. Musicologist Dr. Craig Russell will give a pre-concert lecture on musical discovery and development. Chorissima and Virtuose perform on Friday, May 17, at Mission Dolores Basilica (3321 16th St. at Dolores) at 8 p.m. with the lecture at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12-24; call 392-4400.

San Jose's Sleep was one of the progenitors of the current stoner rock craze, having released the sludgy classic Volume One back in 1991. After that record's creation, though, Sleep guitarist Justin Marler took to playing with razor blades a little too often. During one particularly bad night, Marler found himself in a Russian Orthodox monastery, where he chose to remain for the next eight years. Meanwhile, Sleep delighted music critics with its 1993 LP, Holy Mountain, and confounded expectations with its follow-up, an impenetrable 52-minute ode to grass that brought about the band's demise. In 1999, Marler re-emerged with a pocketful of songs and a head filled with suffering, redemption, and sanctified fear. He joined with former Sleep drummer Chris Hakius and created the Sabians, a heavy band claiming influences of folk, metal, and sacred chanting. Sadly, the players seem hesitant to own either their heaviness or their influences on the Sabians' first album, Beauty for Ashes. Only "Via Dolorosa" -- which begins with a grim Greek chant and explodes in a crescendo of snarling guitar and pitiless percussion -- makes full use of both experience and bloodline. The Sabians share a stage with High on Fire, the group of fellow Sleep alum Matt Pike, on Saturday, May 18, at the Balazo Art Space (2811 Mission at 24th Street) with Anubis Rising opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 920-0896.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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