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House of Tudor 

FM Knives' razor-sharp punk, a John Waters Xmas, and black market holiday gifts

Wednesday, Dec 11 2002
In an article published in Sacramento News & Review this fall, the members of soon to be venerated Sacto quartet FM Knives denied any meaning behind their new name. (The band, comprised of former and current members of Pretty Girls, Los Huevos, Nar, and Groovie Ghoulies, once went by the similarly painful moniker the Clap). In fact, FM Knives claimed "FM Knives" means absolutely nothing, but we of the once British-bitten know better. FM Knives are incredibly strong, well-balanced, razor-sharp cutlery forged by Stellar Sabatier from a single billet of surgical steel. No well-equipped English kitchen would be without at least four such instruments for use during Sunday roast dinners, just as no well-stocked pundit of early British punk rock would be without singles by the Buzzcocks, the Vibrators, the Adverts, and the Undertones.

Although FM Knives' debut LP, Useless and Modern, is a sharp, seamless slab of '77-marinated punk perfection, the band is obviously inspired by more than the U.K.'s golden years, since every jerk-off in the power-pop booboisie claims the same. While the rasping dissent and swaggering fervor of bands like Stiff Little Fingers no doubt hold a place in these players' hearts, their musical sympathies appear more in line with the Vibrators and other groups that combined the harmony, structure, and themes of '60s pop with the reckless fury of punk. Jason Patrone's pubescent tenor is a dead ringer for a baby-faced Pete Shelley or Feargal Sharkey, but, unlike the Buzzcocks and the Undertones, FM Knives arrive as veterans, a fact that is musically unmistakable, especially with the dynamic performance of Chris Woodhouse, who has mastered the art of simultaneously drinking beer and playing guitar. Easily one of the best working punk bands on either side of the Pacific, FM Knives open for Electro Group on Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Hemlock Tavern at 10 p.m. Ticket price is $5; call 923-0923 or go to

I have historically been a scrooge, but having noticed several years ago that such petulance looks more and more pathetic the older one gets, I have made certain efforts to enjoy the season: eating spiced pears and cranberry scones, hanging wet wool socks over my gas heater, stringing tinsel and pull tabs around my elephant ear plant, and torturing my cats with balls of catnip. When in doubt, I take holiday hints from Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters. In the chapter titled "Why I Love Christmas," Waters writes, "Always spend in exact correlation to how you like the recipient. Aunt Mary I love about $6.50 worth; Uncle Jim -- well, at least he got his teeth fixed -- $8. If your Christmas comes and goes without declaring bankruptcy, I feel sorry for you -- you are a person with not enough love inside." Later, he offers, "Christmas is like an orgasm that never stops. Happiness and good cheer should be throbbing through your veins." Of course, it helps even more to see the cunning smirk and lascivious leer that accompanies such counsel, which is why nothing says Christmas quite like "A John Waters' Xmas." Snuggle into a plush theater seat and listen to warm, real-life tales of white-trash folly from the man who wrote the book on the subject. The "Sultan of Sleaze" gives his holiday sermon, followed by a live recitation of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by The Poseidon Adventure's Carol Lynley and a sing-along screening of the 1964 animated classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And, as if that weren't enough to put you in the spirit, we promise three drag-king Santas a-dancing, two drag queens a-whining, and a cha-cha heels contest that should leave you a-cringing. "A John Waters' Xmas" takes place on Friday, Dec. 13, at the Castro Theatre (429 Castro near Market) at 8:15 p.m. Ticket price is $29.95-74.95; call 863-0611 or go to

Wisely heeding the sage advice of the "Pope of Trash," you may now want to spend money as an expression of your love and disdain. As always, Santa's Black Market offers those hard-to-find gifts -- handcrafted by 40 of the Bay Area's most twisted artists -- to fulfill either equation. And to keep you in good cheer, the crafts fair will be followed by the seasonally appropriate "Santa Clown Smackdown" as well as musical performances from Kennedy & the Yule-Tards, Ass Baboons of Venus, and Kitten on the Keys, with surrealist moments provided by Popcorn Anti-Theatre, a fashion show presented by the Cloud Factory Design Collective, and a Mr. and Mrs. Claus of the Universe Pageant judged by one and all. The seventh annual Santa's Black Market will be held on Sunday, Dec. 15, at SomArts (934 Brannan at Eighth Street) from 2 p.m. to midnight. Ticket price is $7 before 6 p.m. and $13 after; call 695-9100 or go to

Hearkening back to ye olde days, the Asylum Street Spankers forgo all amplification, depending on the courtesy and curiosity of their audiences. Of course, with a six-piece old-timey band from Austin playing everything from washboard and ukulele to sheet metal and kazoo, fronted by a paroxysmal lunatic named Wammo and silver-tonsiled kewpie doll named Christina Marrs, it's not too difficult to grab attention. But if the combo's exuberant presence and faultless rendering of bluegrass, jump blues, and swing don't do the trick, perhaps the irrational lyrics about drugs, nipples, blue balls, and antifreeze will suffice. Asylum Street Spankers perform on Monday, Dec. 16, at 9 and 11 p.m. at the Make-Out Room. Ticket price is $10; call 647-2888 or go to The band also plays on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the Starry Plough in Berkeley at 9:30 p.m. Ticket price is $12; call (510) 841-2082.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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