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The House of Tudor 

Wednesday, Mar 31 1999
All Fools' Day marks the beginning of April, when -- if we weren't living in San Francisco -- young green sprouts would push their way through the winter-gray loam, and delicate springtime flowers would pepper the fields. Throughout the centuries and all over the globe, this change of season has been greeted by irrepressible delight and shameless buffoonery. In France, the April Fool is called un poisson d'avril, and in Scotland he is called a gowk, or cuckoo. Of course, fools are not limited to Christ-loving countries (though some short-sighted folks point to the mockery of Christ's trial as the celebration's root). In India, the Holi Festival begins on March 31 and culminates the following morning, with tricks and larks throughout. In ancient Rome, the Cerealia included all sorts of wild abandon and tomfoolery.

Passover is not quite as facetious: The Jewish festival solemnizes the night on which the Angel of Death flew over homes smeared with lamb's blood, sparing the firstborn son within. The highly ritualized eating of the Paschal lamb historically occurs on the 14th of Nisan -- around April 12 -- and is followed by a seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread that properly reminds folks of the hardship endured during the Israelites' exodus from Egypt.

This year, however, an infrequent menological intersection has caused Passover and April Fool's Day to fall on the same date. To commemorate this oddball occurrence, Amy X Neuburg and her crazy, be-yarmulked Men have decided to put the monkeyshine on Passover -- at an Irish bar, no less. Not only do you get a great dose of Amy X's demented electronic cabaret art-rock (complete with MIDI mallets, lightning motion sensors, and chapman sticks), but folks of all denominations may partake in the sacred ritual "Eating of the Cardboard," the "Sacrificial Yam," the "Spillage of the Guinness," and the "Four Stupid Questions." The Men's Herb (Heinz, guitarist) promises to be more bitter than usual and, of course, there will be klezmer sing-alongs and Hebrew Irish jigs during the April Fools' Passover at Starry Plough in Berkeley on Thursday, April 1, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $4; call (510) 841-2082.

In another strange menological twist of fate, Serge Gainsbourg and the Ski Instructor -- a reclusive Gainsbourg impersonator who grew up in an Alpine ski chalet between France and Switzerland -- share a birth date with me. I couldn't possibly resist a Serge birthday party at "Bardot A Go Go," which includes an early-evening performance by the coy Instructor, along with swag from Emperor Norton Records (whose Serge tribute, Pop Romantique, contains covers by Luna, Apples in Stereo, and John Wesley Harding), go-go dancers, liquid lights, and DJs Pink Frankenstein, Brother Grimm, and Alec spinning all your soon-to-be favorite French ye-ye hits at Cocodrie on Friday, April 2, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 986-6678.

If one quarter of the bands in the "swing revival" had one half of the talent and energy found in any one appendage of the eight members of Detroit's Atomic Fireballs, the trend might still be worth the price of a martini. To be fair, though, the Fireballs play jump blues -- sweaty, sexy, gritty, grindy -- and they are more likely to drink a canal of scotch and bourbon before they touch a thimbleful of gin or vodka. During live shows, the Motor City octet forgoes swank and tony for hard and craaazy, and they perform their own material. (Will wonders never cease?) Their Atlantic debut, Torch This Place, delivers on its promise: a combination of high-energy Louis Jordan-style fish-fry hoppers, bongo-heavy Cab Calloway jivers, and smoldering raspy ballads that leave Tom Waits' "Invitation to the Blues" gasping for air. Impressively, lead singer/writer John Bunkley has the attributes needed to sustain his aspirations -- a voice like Louis Armstrong, a presence as wild as Calloway, and a lyrical bent reminiscent of Jordan's boozy, homey manner. If there is any auricular equity, Bunkley's career will outlast the backward musical drift and he will be eating "caviar chitlins" long after the Atomic Fireballs perform at Verdi Club on Friday, April 2, at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 861-9199.

On the off chance we're visited by April showers this weekend, folks can curl up with salty snacks and monster movies at Daycamp. The first in the Godzilla Series offers Mothra and Godzilla on Monster Island at the new Artist's Theater Workshop in Oakland on Saturday, April 3, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5; call (510) 653-1602.

Like the Stranglers, the Vibrators were a bit long in the tooth (in their 20s, at least) compared to their punky British compatriots in 1977. That might explain the band's complete lack of rage. Its debut, Pure Mania, was a buoyant collection of simple '60s-garage-inspired tunes with spunky titles like "Whips & Furs," "I Need A Slave," and "Bad Time." While singer Ian "Knox" Comochan occasionally tried to sink his teeth into pithy subjects -- government, drugs, sex, violence, jealousy -- the Vibrators were about as menacing as a toothless family dog, and as beloved. Sure, it became a little difficult when line-up changes left the drummer as the only original player between 1978 and 1980, but Pure Mania remains one of my fondest early punk memories, and now that Knox is back, the songs on that album are certain to be at the core of their live show. Otherwise, the Vibrators would be an unlikely addition to August's "Social Chaos" tour with the Damned, Misfits, Exploited, and UK Subs (you excited yet?). The Vibrators perform at Slim's on Sunday, April 4, with Gang Green and Dr. Know opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 522-0333.

-- Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor


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