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House of Tudor 

Do the funky robot with Lost Sounds, then short-circuit your tear ducts with Portugal's fado diva Mariza

Wednesday, Jul 30 2003
First the humorous, funky sex appeal of Electric Six and now the hilarious, sci-fi-ghetto fury of the Lost Sounds. It seems my prayers have been answered: I can return wholeheartedly to the squalid fold of rock 'n' roll assured of its fresh appeal (even despite both their crowds' propensity for very pointy shoes). While the Lost Sounds are not the first in the post-ironic breed to pit synthesizers against a wall of vicious guitar, they are certainly the meanest. Don't let the matching outfits, retro spaceship, and floating computer chips on the cover of Rat's Brains & Microchips fool you; this quintet is mean -- mean as rabid rodent-androids programmed to gnaw through your neck while twitching their cute little noses. Led by the Siouxsie Sioux-lilt and new-wave warbles of Alicja Trout and the plaintive Ian Curtis-sneer and post-punk thrusts of Jay "Jay" Rensley, the Lost Sounds draw scornful cues and precision from bands like Joy Division, Killing Joke, and P.I.L. while generating a sweaty, grimy, ramshackle sort of abandon that must have made fellow Memphians the Oblivions lose control of their bowels. And yet it's obvious that songs like "Ironic Graveyard," "Dreaming or Bleeding," and "Total Destruction" are not devoid of humor; the band just has no intention of letting us in on the joke, probably for our own protection. The Lost Sounds perform on Thursday, July 31, at the Bottom of the Hill with Bottles & Skulls and Last Dance opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.

As the rebetika is to Greece, the tango is to Argentina, the flamenco is to Spain, and the blues is to America, so the fado is to Portugal. A soulful, melancholy art form, the fado explores themes of destiny, betrayal, love, death, and despair, and embodies an essential quality the Portuguese call saudade, an irreconcilable longing for that which cannot be. To become a fadista in Portugal, it is believed one must be on intimate terms with such feeling. Traditionally, performers who are considered callow or insincere are ruthlessly chased from the stage and no performance is considered a success until the audience is moved to tears. Fittingly, when Amalia Rodrigues, the reigning queen of fado for over 50 years, passed away in 1999, the entire country plunged into three days of government-sanctioned mourning from which some fans have yet to recover. That being said, Rodrigues' death paved the way for the rise of modern fadistas, the most notable of whom is Mariza. Mariza began singing fado before she could read, finding the words through drawings her grandfather made for her, but she didn't gain national attention until she was asked to perform at Rodrigues' memorial concerts. Her debut, recorded with Rodrigues guitarist Jorge Fernandez, set Portugal to weeping and not merely because of the tribute songs therein. Husky, wounded, and dramatic, Mariza's voice belies her 30 years. Now, her second album has garnered three BBC international music awards and earned her the title "Voice of Fado" back home. As for Mariza's quality of saudade, her voice, while passionate, will surely be enhanced by age; however, her stage presence is already that of a fado diva. Solemn and majestic, but given to moments of grand flirtation, Mariza holds her body quite still and upright, allowing only her facial expressions and gestures to convey meaning where a common language is absent; her skill and power in this sphere of the fado tradition are such that she received a standing ovation at the Hollywood Bowl, from an audience that had paid to see Lauryn Hill. Mariza performs on Saturday, Aug. 2, at Bimbo's 365 Club at 9 p.m. Tickets are $22-25; call 474-0365.

A few days ago, I stumbled across a lemonade stand. Right there, in the middle of the sidewalk, an honest-to-goodness-Norman-Rockwell-eat-your-heart-out-type lemonade stand, with tiny paper cups, a glass pitcher, and, I'm not making this up, a little girl named Sue. The crooked cardboard sign taped to the front of her family's folding card table read "Lemonade ¢25." I blinked twice, rubbed my eyes, and placed a single coin in her small, outstretched hand while her father beamed from the garage. After a moment of grave concentration and challenging hand-eye coordination, Sue gave me a Dixie cup swirling with three cloudy half-moons of ice and two swallows of sweet, small-town Americana. Such an urban anomaly notwithstanding, there is no doubt that the recent streak of unseasonably warm weather has made the city actually feel like its homey 49 square miles: Folks are moving a little slower, smiling a little wider, wearing less, and talking more. All we need now is a county fair and home-grown rodeo to make our summertime cliché complete. Sadly, the Cow Palace has scheduled the very un-summer-fun Austin Computer Show this weekend. However, the Santa Clara County Fair is just a hop, skip, and 50-minute jump down the freeway; this weekend, the self-described "cleanest show in the West" offers horse shows, fireworks, pygmy goats, and a four-heat, open-call destruction derby (no drinking, teaming, or sandbagging in the pit). And next weekend, for half the gas mileage, you can attend the San Mateo County Fair, which promises vacuum cleaner races, hypnotists, Night Ranger, and the Wheels of Freestyle bicycle show, known for its anti-drug, anti-violence extreme-sports message. Perhaps, though, you're a bit like me -- not impervious to the sway of summer, but not all that eager to abandon your inner-city verisimilitude -- in which case the Heavy Pedal Cyclecide Bike Rodeo is the summer event to mark the season. It promises all the amenities of the small-town fair -- trick ridin', ropin', and wrastlin', petting zoo, carousel, Ferris wheel, hot dogs, music, and Sno-Kones -- but with an edge: The rodeo clowns wear torn fishnets, the Sno-Kones are made with booze, the bikes blow fire or wield blades, and the amusement rides are made of junk bicycles procured from the city's salvage yards and sewers. Cyclecide members make no claims on cleanliness or principle, but they do guarantee a full day of cheerful destruct-o-tainment on the blacktop on Sunday, Aug. 3, in the Pound parking lot starting at 4 p.m. Fluff Girl, Cookie Mongoloid, and Los Banos also perform. Tickets are $8; call 273-1169.

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Silke Tudor


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