The House of Tudor

Kembra Pfahler was the product of a perfectly blond California union: Gidget-meets-surf-hero on white SoCal sand; the first kiss accompanied by innocuous Beach Boys riffs; the union blessed with an adorable, golden-faced child. For years, little Kembra played the part of seaside cherub -- but then, puberty struck and she quickly realized that her true nature was more akin to Kali than to Pebbles. At 17, she moved to New York City. More than anything, she wanted to be a dark, city woman -- disgusting, degenerate, and evil. She wanted to play punk rock, naked. The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black was born. Onstage, a freak show: A dozen figures, wearing elaborate drag or covered in gruesome body paint, writhe and careen around the newly transformed Pfahler. Her teeth are black, her hair's a mess, sweat and saliva glisten off of her bright-blue tits. She growls into the microphone. Her husband, Samoa, matches her aggression with dazzling guitar work. It's art, of a sort, and should be seen at least once in a lifetime. The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black perform Thursday, May 1, at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall. Tickets are $10.50; call 885-0750. The Moons open. ... It's baffling to realize that nearly 25 years after the advent of punk rock, Britain has only recently begun to relax its classist judgment of the written word, as if the voice of working-class men could be tolerated in music but books must remain in the hands of Merchant-Ivory blue bloods. The salt and sting of "common dialects" and "common people" -- as U.K. literary critics refer to them -- were purposefully disregarded until the early '90s, when a virile strain of young Scottish writers broke through the veil with a long-suppressed shriek. While some literati took notice, most critics recoiled in horror. Even when James Kelman won the coveted Booker Prize in 1993, one disgusted judge rebuked his colleagues, calling How Late It Was, How Late "a piece of crap." The London Times referred to Kelman's work as "literary vandalism." Other critics were preoccupied with counting the number of times "fuck" appeared within its pages, as if this were condemnation enough. Thankfully, villainizing Kelman only opened the floodgates wider, paving the road for young upstarts like Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting and Acid House, and twentysomething Duncan McLean, who won the 1993 Somerset Maugham Award for Bucket of Tongues. "Great Scots!" brings all three authors together, for the first time in the States, to discuss their surprising impact on American youth culture and to read from their newly published works. Kelman's latest, Busted Scotch, is a collection of 35 of his best short stories. Rife with pubs, betting shops, snooker tables, tenements, and decaying industry, Busted Scotch reflects two decades of Kelman's exploration into the dark, dank corners of Scotland and England. It is a must-own for any lover of gritty Selby-esque realism. Marabou Stork Nightmares is Welsh's ambitious account of Roy Strang, a comatose tenement thug fond of gang rape. While the characters developed in this book have Welsh's signature wit and uncompromising personality, tricks employed to distinguish flashbacks from hallucinations cheapen the novel's artistry, leaving it somewhat more limp than Ecstasy (Welsh's last hallucinatory sojourn). Bunker Man is McLean's startling inventory of a psychopath's inner works. Unlike Welsh's novel, McLean's does not play hide-and-seek with the nature of psychosis. It is brutal, graphic, and strangely insidious -- a slow, steady pollution of the mind that is not for the weak of heart. Extremely ugly and powerful. The three authors will speak Sunday, May 4, at 7 p.m. at Cowell Theater. The event is free, so arrive early to ensure seating; call 441-3400. The trio also read at Edinburgh Castle Saturday, May 3, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 885-4074. ... For all those who wanted to see the Offspring at the Warfield on Sunday, but were too busy being bookish, I leave you with something even better. Comprising members of NOFX, Lagwagon, and No Use for a Name, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes recognize, revitalize, and revolutionize the most popular tunes of our time. Within the clutches of punk's finest, songs like "Nobody Does It Better," "Sweet Caroline," "I Am the Rock," "Rocket Man," and "Seasons in the Sun" become classics from which legends and careers might be built. Although you could be tricked by their song list, make no mistake: MF&TGG are not a shtick band. These musicians may be devoted fans of John Denver and Billy Joel, but once they have performed a song, it becomes their own. Never again will you be able to sing "Me and Julio down by the schoolyard" without visualizing lead singer Spike Slawson riding the energetic crest between coffee jitters and booze-related debauch. This is star quality, no doubt. Pick up their Fat Wreck Chords debut, Have a Ball, at the Paradise Lounge on Monday, May 5, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 861-5121. The Demonics and Limp open with punk-rock karaoke Above Paradise.

-- Silke Tudor

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