Breathe Deep Golden Smog began as a busman's holiday for a bunch of Minneapolis musicians; their first release, On Golden Smog, featured goofy covers of songs by Bad Company and Thin Lizzy; their new album, Down by the Old Mainstream, by contrast, contains some splendid original songwriting, particularly on the booming "V" and the lascivious "Pecan Pie." And no wonder: While record-company politics keep the band members' names officially secret, principals include Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Gary Louris from the Jayhawks, and Dan Murphy from Soul Asylum. Sweet Virginia opens for Golden Smog at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F., $12.50-13.50, 885-0750; and on Thursday at Slim's, 333 11th St., S.F., $12.50, 522-0333.
The Art of Verse Poet elder Allen Ginsberg and the young artist-activist Eric Drooker live within blocks of one another in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Their occasional meetings at political rallies in the neighborhood led to a collaboration on a new book, Illuminated Poems, which pairs Ginsberg's prose with Drooker's paintings and illustrations, all on the subject of life and death in urban America. Drooker, a regular contributor to The New Yorker and SPIN, travels west to present the slide lecture "Art as a Political Weapon" at 7:30 p.m. at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berkeley, (510) 849-2568, ext. 15. He repeats this lecture at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia, S.F., 824-3890. Admission is $3-5. Drooker also discusses and signs copies of Illustrated Poems Friday at 7 p.m. at City Lights Books, 421 Columbus, S.F. Admission is free; call 362-1901.
The Turning Pointe Professional ballet dancers and emerging choreographers bend and reshape classical form in "Pas de Siecle: Dancing Towards the Millennium," the final performance in the Bay Area Dance Series '96 summer season. San Francisco Ballet soloist Julia Adam samples modern dance in a piece about the feelings and fears of children as revealed by their games; Oakland Ballet dancers, the Lawrence Pech Dance Company, and SFB School students all perform new work; Robert Moses' Kin sets ballet against blues; and finally, a group that calls itself "The Lab., Projekt Group-USA" combines ballet with Asian and contemporary influences. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, S.F. Admission is $14-16; call 392-4400.
Taking a Stand Local wits Marilyn Pittman, Charlene Tapia, Aundre the Wonderwoman, Diane Amos, and the all-women improv group In Too Deep comprise the talent pool in "Stand Up," a comedy showcase with a dual mission: to illustrate the healing properties of a good laugh, and to raise funds for San Francisco Women Against Rape, which provides a 24-hour crisis hot line, a bilingual outreach service, support groups, and rape prevention and awareness programs. There will be a drawing for over 30 raffle prizes, and a post-show reception with the performers, with refreshments donated by local businesses. "Stand Up" starts at 7:30 p.m. at the ODC Performance Gallery, 3153 17th St., S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 861-2024.
Silver Platter ODC/San Francisco (formerly Oberlin Dance Company) celebrates 25 years of work -- 20 of these in S.F. -- with a repertory concert of favorite pieces. Artistic Director Brenda Way moved ODC from Ohio to the West Coast in the experimental '70s; in the interim the company has performed in the woods and on major stages, making a name for itself with an athletic modern base. Program A's Force of Circumstance and Program B's Archipelago both feature live accompaniment by the Paul Dresher Ensemble. Program B begins at 8 p.m. (also Friday at 8 p.m; Program A runs Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. with after-show discussion). Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard, S.F. Admission is $9-26.50; call 978-2787.
Good Exorcise Her Oscar-nominated turn as a head-spinning, bile-spewing, possessed devil child may have been Linda Blair's finest hour, but then again, she had so many fine hours: Airport 1975, Roller Boogie, Hell Night, the Alex Bennett show. Leave it to camp collective the Sick and Twisted Players to stage the "Linda Blair Affair," a tribute and roast with staged scenes from The Exorcist and Born Innocent and highlights from her other films done in skit form. Contestants in the Exorcist look-alike contest will compete for prizes, and an agreeable Blair will discuss her career and answer questions from the audience at the event, a fund-raiser for Last Chance for Animals' Pet Theft Awareness program. It all begins at 8 p.m. in the Women's Building, 3543 18th St., S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 826-5358.
Something Special It hardly seems possible that their debut album came out way back in '79, but that's about the time rude boys and girls began tuning into 2-Tone band the Specials. In the face of economic and racial rifts that were only exacerbated during the reign of Margaret Thatcher, the Specials, like the Clash, crossed musical lines, injecting rock with jazz and reggae; their spooky, Brixton-riots-inspired "Ghost Town" hit No. 1 on the British charts. The band split into Fun Boy Three in the early '80s, but four of the original members have reformed the band with three new members, including former Selecter drummer "Aitch" Hyatt (in a sort of 2-Tone band shuffle, the Specials' original drummer has joined the reformed Selecters). The Specials' new album, Today's Specials, celebrates their roots, with covers of Toots and the Maytals' "Pressure Drop" and the Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Take Five" (with trombone replacing the piano lead), nicely done in familiar Specials style. San Diego's Buck-O-Nine opens for the Specials at 7 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary, S.F. Admission is $20; call 346-6000.