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House of Tudor 

Astrology songs, pungent death metal, Philippine culture, and a Presidential roast

Wednesday, Feb 5 2003
You might recognize him from television -- he appeared on episodes of Kojak, Barnaby Jones, Santa Barbara, Divorce Court, I Dream of Jeanie, and The Daily Show -- or from any one of hundreds of print advertisements, but more than likely you know Harvey Sid Fisher from his Astrology Songs, the little ditties that taught us to be wary of Aries ("Quick to be angry and quick to forgive/ A whole lot of sparks but the fire's short lived") and tenderhearted towards Pisces ("I can pick me up no matter how far down I fall/ But I have to stay real far away from drugs and alcohol"). If you were couch surfing in Los Angeles during the late '80s you might still own a first-generation bootleg of the public-access music video that made Fisher an unwitting cult celebrity. If not, don't worry; his shtick hasn't changed much. Fisher still wears a tuxedo and oozes charm like a dime-store Tony Bennett with a midnight curfew, and the 12 astrology songs are still the pièce de résistance of his live set (with tunes about golf sprinkled in). In fact, Fisher hasn't altered his live set much at all since his 1995 show at the Thirsty Swede (the Haight Street club once known as Nightbreak). At that time, Fisher video bootlegs had been circulating for years, but Astrology Songs had only just been released on Gregg Turkington's Amarillo Records, then home of Dieselhed and Anton LaVey. Fisher didn't have a band and, but for the occasional open mike, had never actually sung onstage, but as the song goes, Sagittarians "don't go by the book, [they] leap twice before [they] look." So Fisher came to San Francisco, where he was greeted by a superb one-night band arranged by Turkington and collared by several hundred adoring fans who knew all the words to his songs. It still sort of works like that: Someone wants Fisher to play, they give him a band and a couch, and he shows up to do what he does best. This week's shows feature a backing band of Mark Growden on saxophone, Rube Waddell's Freddy Price on horn, Japonize Elephants' Isabel Douglass on accordion, Chicken John on guitar, Chris Campbell on drums, and XRS Cunning on bass, with Ariella Morgenstern, Deb Fox, and Zoli providing backup vocals and the Devil-Ettes offering interpretive dances for each sign. As Fisher said in his wonderful interview with Elis Eil's EZine, "I've trained all my life for this, for seedy places, seedy clubs, smoky rooms, uncomfortable seats in interminable trips down empty dark roads, to arrive at obscure little rooms and play music, yes. This is not for the timid, the weak, or the unprepared." Harvey Sid Fisher performs Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 6-8 (and maybe Sunday, Feb. 9 if you can't get enough) at the Odeon at 9 p.m. Ticket price is $10, or $7 with a good scar or bad tattoo; call 550-6994.

Thought long lost to the morass of gristle, excrement, and blood that is the hallowed reward of all death metal bands departed from this world, Pungent Stench suddenly returned in 2001 with Masters of Moral -- Servants of Sin. Known for explicit graphics, lyrics, and stage presentations that might challenge even the indelicate sensibilities of death metal fans, the Austrian trio did not disappoint. Thick and jagged but brutally precise, the group's playing is technically better than it was 10 years ago, and the hellish growls of Martin Schirenc still offer corruption and horror aplenty. For Servants of Sin, the threesome takes on the villainous trappings of clergy (complete with a suggestive photo layout of tow-headed children), and the "prayers" leave little to the imagination as to what gets swallowed in the rectory. Expect a fairly disturbing communion when Pungent Stench performs on Friday, Feb. 7 at "Lucifer's Hammer" at Curve Bar with Phobia, Benumb, and Fall of the Bastard opening at 9 p.m. Ticket price is $10; call 896-2286.

Helobung means "never-ending joy" in T'boli, the language of the indigenous people of the Southern Philippines, and it's a suitable phrase to link with the customs preserved by the 85 artisans comprising the Helobung Cultural Troupe. Well versed in traditional weaving, beadwork, dance, healing practices, and the music of its ancestors, this troupe hopes to preserve its people's autonomy through the preservation of the culture. To that end, the members are bringing their unique arts to the attention of U.S. audiences for the first time. While here, HCT will teach master classes in all the above-mentioned forms as well as exhibit T'boli artifacts at a crafts market. During performances, HCT offer ancient rituals through epic chants, courtship dances, and warrior displays, accompanied by blowlon gongs, sloli flutes, and the kumbing mouthharp. Helobung Cultural Troupe performs on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7-8 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. at Brava Theater Center. Ticket price is $12-18; call 647-2822 for class schedules and market days.

I cannot stomach the state of the union, much less the State of the Union address. Even twice-buffered by the satiric wit of Jon Stewart, GWB's yammerings are toxic bilge; sepsis is inevitable, and purging is vital. Thankfully, the medical professionals at "First Frickin' Fridays" think they can help (your psyche, at least). Desperate times, they say, demand desperate measures. To that end, friends and family are invited to gather for the "First Presidential Intervention and Weenie Roast." Join those well trained in the art of disinformation and rhetoric by the Church of SubGenius and the First Church of the Last Laugh in haranguing, cajoling, poking, prodding, and pleading with our president (or a near facsimile), who will be bound and gagged until sanity is restored (or the keg runs dry). Intercession is imperative. "First Presidential Intervention and Weenie Roast" takes place on Friday, Feb. 7 at 21 Grand at 8 p.m. Ticket price is $5-10; call (510) 444-7263.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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