Cum on Feel the Noize Five years ago, when the Orb combined whooshing waves with Minnie Ripperton's bird song on "A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From the Center of the Ultraworld," ambient club music seemed more like a jokey gimmick than a budding phenomenon. Today, though, sensory-oriented dance genres -- from trance to trip hop -- continue to fuse and mutate. The latest installment in the club series "downhear," Silent Night features loud aural atmosphere by artists and DJs. Santa Cruz's Dreams Without Number and San Francisco's Spirit Pie will perform; Aldo Bender and Brad Clark will spin. Sponsored by Silent Records and Club Life magazine, the soundscapes start at 9 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market, S.F. Door is $3; call 861-5016.
Hurricane Carl As an award-winning journalist for the Miami Herald, Carl Hiaasen has taken on dangerous doctors and drug smugglers. Hiaasen's skill at skewering sleazy characters also serves him in the world of pulp fiction; set in the wake of a disastrous hurricane, his latest novel, Stormy Weather, rips apart the construction and insurance industries. Hear him read from it at 7:30 p.m. at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness, S.F. Free; call 441-6670.
Black Steel Why is Tricky's Maxinquaye the best LP this year? Sounds and phrases (ex: "different levels of the devil's company," "my brain thinks bomblike," "take a second of me") that conjure images of crumbling cities and minds; and an orphan's artistic ambition that violates rules of genre and gender, restlessly crossing racial, sexual, and cultural borders. Whether slurring Tricky's words or those of Chuck D (on a brilliant subversion of Public Enemy's "Black Steel"), vocalist Martine maintains a detached air, as if communicating "emotion" is too strenuous. With a follow-up to Maxinquaye (Nearly God, featuring cameos by Bjsrk, Alison Moyet, and Blur's babelicious Damon Albarn) already recorded, Tricky is taking to the road; the equally innovative Laika opens for him at 9 p.m. at Slim's, 333 11th St, S.F. Tickets are $12; call 621-3330.
Night of the Living Fringe After two weeks filled with dozens of performances, the S.F. Fringe Festival is over. But the fest's most popular acts live on, via "The Best of the Fringe." The curtains part for Cindy Lou Johnson's The Person I Once Was (7 p.m.), Paul Benney and Myles Boisen's Whatever Happened to Baby John? (8:30 p.m.), and John Sowle's Horripilation! (10 p.m.) at EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy, S.F. "The Best of the Fest" continues through Sunday. Tickets are $12 per show; call 673-3847.
Trill-a-Minute Here are a few Stade-tistics about Frederica von Stade: She's among the foremost American bel canto voices in modern opera; she was last seen in S.F. in a production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses; and she doesn't throw nuclear hissy fits. Featuring selections from Berlioz's Roman Carnival and Les Nuit d'ŽtŽ, Debussy's Nocturnes, and Varse's Arcana, the program pairs the mezzo-soprano with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the S.F. Symphony at 8 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall, Grove & Van Ness, S.F. The program repeats Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are $24-68; call 864-6000.
Word for Word Writing is rarely a quick 'n' easy venture, and translating is often even more painstaking. Presented by Pen West, "The Art of Literary Translation" presents readings by some of the Bay Area's most distinguished multilinguists; they include Robert Hass (translator of Czeslaw Milosz), Chana Bloch (co-translator of The Song of Songs), John Felstiner (translator of Pablo Neruda and Paul Celan), Zack Rogow (translator of AndrŽ Breton), and Thomas Christensen (co-translator of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate). The program begins at 7:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck, Berkeley. Free; call (510) 486-0698.
Bust a Gut The S.F. International Stand-Up Comedy Competition celebrates its 20th birthday this year, and the list of past finalists is a Hall of Fame of hilarity: Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Ellen DeGeneres, Marsha Warfield, and more. Since Roseanne and Steven Wright didn't even make it to the finals when they competed, a case could be made for seeing as many comics as possible. The event's semifinals offer 10 hopefuls; chuckle at them and root for them at 8 p.m. at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs, Santa Rosa. Tickets are $19.50; call (707) 546-3600.
Party Arty Intersection for the Arts is S.F.'s oldest alternative arts organization. Fittingly, it's celebrating its 30th anniversary with a month of creativity by visual artists, musicians, performers, and poets. The arty party begins with performance and tunes by Laurie Amat, Albert Greenberg, High Risk Group, Alice Hutton and Twyla Ruby, Reed Kirk Rahlmann, and Erling Wold at 8 p.m. at 446 Valencia, S.F. Performances continue through Oct. 24. Tickets are $10-20 (proceeds benefit Intersection for the Arts); call 626-2787.
We Show Short Shorts An open showcase for short shorts of the filmic -- not fabric -- variety, the Short Attention Span Film and Video Festival offers bite-size animated, horrific, political, comedic, linear, and experimental treats; all entries must be no longer than two minutes. Viewers' Choice Awards will be given to the artists based on audience approval, so feel free to boo or clap for entries like Anti-Christ Kitten. Hungry eyes can sample the cinematic snacks at 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St, S.F. The festival continues Saturday. Tickets are $5; call 282-4316.