San Francisco club crowds may be a diverse lot, but you can count on one thing: You will always get a reaction. If New Yorkers sit in stone-faced silence during their favorite bands, and Angelenos are too busy rubbernecking celebrities to even clap, Bay Area audiences let you know what they think, whether they hate you, love you, or merely tolerate you. Ask local audiences to participate, and they'll give you blood, sweat, tears, and any other bodily fluid they can think of.
Case in point: the Mexican Masked Wrestling event held last Saturday night at the Transmission Theater, where the Make-a-Circus 11th Street Fair degenerated into an all-out bread and circus. Hosted by infamous promoter Johnny Legend and His Rockabilly Bastards, it was a full-fledged white-trash extravaganza with a San Francisco flair. Featuring actual pros from Mexico and semipros who looked suspiciously like Paradise employees, there was cheating, double-dealing, smashed chairs, broken bottles, babes in short skirts, capes, masks, dominatrixes, transsexuals, blood, spit, and rock 'n' roll. Just your average night in SoMa.
Red-faced fans went crazy, shouting, pounding on the mats, slipping wrongdoers bottles to break over their opponents' heads, and ultimately challenging the wrestlers themselves. Between rounds, Foreign Object, a "punk wrestling band" from L.A., played music -- and I use the term loosely -- but what these guys lacked in talent they made up for in costumes and creative jeers. Not a song passed without the vocalist screaming obscenities at the sound man or taunting the crowd for living in "Nor-thern Ca-li-for-nia" and "listening to Greeeen Daaaay." The sweaty foursome worked the crowd into such a state that one indignant San Franciscan offered to represent the North and take on any Southern boy head to head. Conveniently, the band turned a deaf ear.
The final round, deemed a "Dog & Hair" (meaning the loser either cuts his/her hair off or eats a bowl of dog food) was preceded by a transsexual striptease that brought quite a few shy spectators in from off the street. There was a surprise or two for some boys from Fremont, but no one got hurt -- except the wrestlers. Still, a good time was had by all. As one masked man said: "Wrestling and rock 'n' roll just go together."
Who would've guessed that members of this barbaric mob were part of the well-behaved scene at the sold-out Morphine show at the Fillmore just one night earlier? No drunken stumbling, yelling, or shoving matches there; these folks sipped cocktails and smiled pleasantly, earnestly applauding instead of shaking their fists.
Australia's Dirty 3 warmed things up with manic instrumentals and clever anecdotes. Between songs and the breaking of violin strings, Warren, the friendly mouthpiece of the threesome, relayed the inspiration behind each song, which ultimately proved more interesting than the numbers themselves. Speaking of himself in the third person, he told of his paranoid party experiences and penchant for truck stops, and of his undying love for Sally-Jessy Raphael. Unfortunately, the music soon became mere filler between Warrenisms.
On the other hand, Morphine vocalist Mark Sandman, however funny and engaging, could not distract the crowd from the warm, sax-inflected drippings of his band's music. Bathed in dusky light, the Boston trio slid into "Honey White" within the first 10 minutes, then dipped into older material like the "Saddest Song Ever Written" (though, as Sandman pointed out, he has since written three sadder songs). "Sharks," with its poetry intro, had a Beat-like quality that was intriguing rather than embarrassing; listeners stood hanging onto every syllable, mouthing the words along with Sandman, feeling that glow.
Is everybody a somebody at Mr. Nobody's Cabaret? Well, that's what he told us Sunday night, as magicians, comedians, and drag queens shared the stage at Cafe du Nord. A medley of show-tune classics like "Carousel" included works of a decidedly more San Franciscan nature, including the catchy "Masochistic Tango." But camp aside, vocalist Ledisi (of the band Anibade) stole the show. She filled every corner of the room with her soulful voice, turning "Stormy Weather" into a song of triumph. Swept up in the moment, people shouted, "Oh yeah! Sing it, sister!" She did them proud.
By Silke Tudor