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The House of Tudor 

Wednesday, Feb 24 1999
Twenty years ago, Tav Falco stepped onto a Memphis stage in a frockcoat, gloves, and tails. He plugged in his battered Silvertone guitar and wailed a bizarre rendering of Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues," at the climax of which he placed his instrument between two tables, fired up an electric Skilsaw, and split it in half while the strings screamed through the house PA.

Standing in the audience was Alex Chilton, who had a transcendental experience watching all this. The pair formed Tav Falco & the Panther Burns, which combined cabaret, rockabilly, Delta blues, and Falco's innate mania to form a theatrical bridge between the Cramps and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Over the course of a dozen albums, countless tours, a few movies, and numerous habitats (including Vienna and, most recently, New Orleans) the flamboyant Falco has incorporated surrealist poetry, South American tango, and African percussion into his dusky melange. You can usually count on hearing Lee Hazelwood's "Poor Man," Charlie Feathers' "Working on a Building," and "Running Wild" by Nightcrawler, but it sure won't sound like what your mama remembers. Tav Falco & the Panther Burns perform at the CW Saloon on Thursday, Feb. 25, with Odd Numbers and the Flakes opening at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 974-1585. And also Friday, Feb. 26, at the Ivy Room in Albany at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call (510) 524-9220.

Steven Bernstein owns a slide trumpet he actually plays. This makes him something of a savant, since no one else really plays the slide trumpet -- they play the trombone. However, Bernstein's unconventional predilections have placed him in good company over the years: He's recorded with Tricky, Foetus, Cake Like, They Might Be Giants, Digable Planets, Aretha Franklin, Bootsy Collins, Mel Torme, and Allan Toussaint. He's also arranged the super-jazz-band that appeared in Robert Altman's Kansas City and, in another lifetime, he was musical director for John Lurie's Lounge Lizards. His current group, Sex Mob -- comprising young-gun saxophonist Briggan Krauss; fellow Lounge Lizard bassist Tony Scherr; and drum dissident Kenny Wollesen, whose many distinctions include stints with John Zorn and Tom Waits -- began playing during a weekly slot at New York's Knitting Factory. From the start, Sex Mob's jazzy insurrections were stuffed with the same smarmy, downtown wit that informed John Lurie's earlier work, but apparently Bernstein thought his group should be even more accessible to the neophyte.

Din of Inequity, Sex Mob's debut, expresses Bernstein's irregular affinity for cultural ersatz: The Cardigans' "Been It," Prince's "Sign o' the Times," and James Bond themes like "Goldfinger" and "Live and Let Die" all find their way onto the album. As with the Oranj Symphonette, these are superbly gifted musicians turning their talents toward secular phantasms, but while the Symphonette's sublimations are discriminating and joyfully elegant, Sex Mob's treatments are gritty and somewhat snide, turning even songs like "Macarena" and "House of the Rising Sun" into street-corner hustles that are only funny as long as you're in on the joke. Sex Mob performs at Cafe Du Nord on Friday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 861-5016. And at Amoeba Records on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. The show is free; call 831-1200.

Purim is one of those delightful Jewish holidays (or pagan rites of spring, depending on whom you talk to) that is almost entirely devoid of acrid memory and heavy-browed ritual. It is, in fact, a day of great joy (Esther prevented a great massacre by the wicked Persian noble Haman), and folks are encouraged to make big merry by exchanging gifts, giving alms to the poor, playing pranks, and eating in great amounts. Rabbi Yosef Langer and Chabad of San Francisco welcome folks of all denominations to Purimpallooza.

The night includes a Jewish feast (in the balcony), light appetizers (for all), and family entertainment with Perry Farrell (formerly of Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros), Greg Anton (of Zero), DJ Mars (of Frequency 8), Rabbi Asi Spiegel, Mr. Yoowho (a clown), and Wavy Gravy (a clown). Purimpallooza will be held at the Great American Music Hall on Monday, March 1, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the main floor; balcony seats, with a full festive Purim feast included, are $50 ($25 for children); call 885-0750.

-- Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor


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