Talking Heads The poetic refrain "I wandered lonely as a cloud" hovers over the spoken word series "Cloud Treasures in the Courtyard"; while this material leans more toward Beat than Romantic, listeners are certain to get their word's worth. The Cloud House Poetry Archives has been documenting poets since the '60s; this series features outdoor video screenings of writers like Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Diane Di Prima, and Michael McClure reading from their works under a natural cloud cover. The series, held Wednesday evenings in August, begins tonight at 8 p.m. in the San Francisco Art Institute Courtyard, 800 Chestnut, S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 749-4588.
No Satisfaction Eric Bogosian's subUrbia updates a classic high school reunion nightmare. When one of their classmates blows through town as a newly minted rock star, a pack of unhappy grads reacts by venting their collective feelings of hostility, malaise, and disappointment at the world and at each other. Bogosian, the wickedly funny one-man star of the character sketch collection Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, is a natural source for this kind of material; the play was commissioned by Lincoln Center's 1994 Festival of New American Plays, where it was first performed. subUrbia previews at 8 p.m. (also on Thursday at 8 p.m., opening Friday at 8 p.m. and continuing through Sept. 28) at Actors Theater, 533 Sutter, S.F. Preview admission is $10; call 296-9179.
Surfin' Sahara Rippling psychedelia and Latin percussion flourishes give the Aqua Velvets' instrumental surf music a finish as smooth as the band's name suggests. Their new CD, Nomad, takes a dreamy aural trip through space, from the Mediterranean Sea to Neptune, conjuring up visions of hot sand and starry skies along the way. The Velvets play a CD release party at the experimental lounge series "downhear" with the tiki-oriented DJ Domenic Priore; the show starts at 9 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market, S.F. Admission is $3; call 861-5016.
Ode to Ella Jazz musicians and jazz lovers took a substantial hit recently with Ella Fitzgerald's death; but some fans want to make sure that her name doesn't fade from the public consciousness. San Francisco jazz vocalists Denise Perrier and Jewel "Sweetie" Mitchell, backed by pianist Larry O'Leno, offer a program of songs the performer made famous in "A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald." Both women are seasoned singers whose credentials include appearances in nightclubs worldwide. Perrier, an alto, has portrayed Bessie Smith and Dinah Washington on local stages; the husky-voiced, 66-year-old Mitchell, whose eyesight has been weakened by the same diabetic retinopathy that plagued Fitzgerald, opened for Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie, and sang with big bands like the one led by her late husband, Eddie Walker. The show begins at 9 p.m. at Julie Ring's Heart and Soul, 1695 Polk, S.F. Admission is $5; call 673-6798.
Up Your Antennae L.A. meets London in the Radar Bros.' eponymous Restless Records release. In just six songs, the band manages a slow-motion meltdown of hazy Southern California rock with a desolate, Pink Floyd-ish melodic resonance. Singer/guitarist Jim Putnam, formerly of Medicine and Maids of Gravity, has a fear of flying that loops through the music, which was recorded at Skylab Studios and tagged "Bad Aviation Songs." The Radar Bros. open for Ditch Croaker at 9:30 p.m. at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berkeley. Admission is $4; call (510) 841-2082.
The Earl of Comedy Who is Jim Earl? Well, sometimes he's Kirk Nerves, a disgruntled philatelist who terrorizes drivers on America's highways in his mad search for stamps. Sometimes he's the coffee shop regular with a penchant for spoken word. And sometimes he's just Jim Earl, a comedian who lip-syncs his monologue because his vocal chords were torn out in a horrible threshing machine accident. Earl and longtime partner Barry Lank are Comedy Central and Evening at the Improv veterans, but their partnership dissolves this fall when Lank leaves for journalism grad school at Columbia. The pair has recruited some of their funny friends and a three-piece band for dark sketch comedy, solo routines, and full-on musical numbers in Jim Earl Theater, which runs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. (through Aug. 30) at Venue Nine, 252 Ninth St., S.F. Admission is $10; call 626-2169.
Leaps and Bounds Figurative obstacles take literal shape in "Inner Limits/Outer Bounds," an evening of performance created by Hilary Bryan and Dawn Frank. In Wall and White Wall, giant plastic walls interrupt the intimacy between people who must then decide whether they should accept and work with barriers or fight against them. Mother-daughter relationships and gender rifts are also subject to scrutiny in this collection of dance-music-theater-improv vignettes. The show begins at 8 p.m. (continuing Thursdays-Saturdays through Aug. 24; Friday performances conclude with a post-performance discussion with the artists) at Luna Sea Women's Performance Project, 2940 16th St., Room 216-C, S.F. Admission is $8-10; call 863-2989.
Home Movies No parking trauma! No waiting in line! No overpriced Junior mints! Stay home and and have a TV party when KQED brings back its fourth Living Room Festival. These 55 independently produced films, which air on seven consecutive Friday nights, are grouped by theme; the first program, "Pop Culture," features Liza Johnson's Good Sister/Bad Sister, a faux documentary about the link between rocker Courtney Love and political fugitive Katherine Anne Powers, and Junwhan Chang's 2001: Imagine, in which a Korean youth thinks he's the reincarnation of John Lennon. The films are international in scope and origin; the program "Color" (Aug. 16), for example, examines the social constructs of skin tone with Daniel Robin's interracial love story Matza Balls and Black-Eyed Peas, which played Sundance; upcoming programs include "The Body" (Sept. 6), "Language" (Sept. 13), and "Love 'n' Hate" (Sept. 20). The series starts at 11 p.m. on KQED Ch. 9.