By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Halfway through a recent Asylum Street Spankers show, Mysterious John, the elegantly dressed master of ceremonies for the all-acoustic Nashville-style medicine show, stops to scrutinize the crowd with a huckster's eye. This has not been the first interruption of the night. Mysterious John's stern mockery falls on a group of drunks absorbed in clamorous memories of a long-lost perfect pass. He fingers the paddle that has, until now, served as an acceptable percussive instrument and assumes one of his many Southern-style character voices. "What can be done?" he asks the crowd with a wink. The answer is simple: Mysterious John, along with 10 other band members and 50 zealous folks from the crowd, "encourage" the drunks to leave, then make sure they do by following them down the block brandishing the paddle. When the impromptu mob returns, its members cheerfully settle down for another hour of down-home, knee-slappin' music-making. These adept musicians have uniformly eschewed electricity, but they're still rather fierce. Without the use of mikes, amps, pickups, or even a PA, it is only natural that the band might feel the need to discipline a noisy, drunken nightclub crowd. Surprisingly, such chastisement is rarely necessary (although fun when it comes up). With musicians hailing from Ronnie Dawson's Band, 8 1/2 Souvenirs, and the Jazz Pharaohs, the Asylum Street Spankers rumble through prewar swing with a waggish savoir-faire that could make the Squirrel Nut Zippers wish they had opened a candy store; then it's a quick jump onto the porch swing for some Dixie Stompers-style bluegrass; a lazy crawl down the Mississippi for some dobro-soaked blues; and an easy two-step over to the local honky-tonk. Friend, if it's American music you're craving, this is the bottomless whiskey-barrel of folklore. The Asylum Street Spankers have a repertoire of more than 200 songs: everything from Robert Johnson's "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day" to the Violent Femmes' "Country Death Song." Between numbers, Mysterious John and Wammo the washboard man keep the crowd entertained and quiet, or else! The Spankers perform at Cafe Du Nord on Thursday and Friday, March 26 and 27, with Rube Waddell opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 861-5016.
Tinder Records, based in Sonoma County, is a long way from what it does best. The Rohnert Park label finds rich musicianship and exquisite voices from distant corners of the world: Havana, Cape Verde, and Andalusia. Cameroon's Henri Dikongue is such a voice. Breaking with the souped-up electronics of modern-day makossa, Dikongue differentiates himself from most African male vocalists by exploring understated poetry and fragile melodies more often associated with that country's female singers. His buoyant voice and playful use of Latin rhythms and jazz riffs are similar to compatriot Sally Nyolo's, but his depth and eloquent reserve would please even "Barefoot Diva" Cesaria Evora. Dikongue performs at Virgin Megastore on Friday, March 27, at 4 p.m. Admission is free; call 397-4525. He is also on KPOO-FM 89.5 at 1 p.m. Friday; and on KPFA-FM 94.1 at 11 a.m. and KALW-FM 91.7 at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 26.
Any Star Trek/X-Files-loving freakazoid will confirm that the human race is being attacked by a slew of covert and sinister powers including but not limited to the government, little gray men, and conscious technology. Servotron is one of the latter. Imagine a sardonic Moog setting up an organic link with a punk rock body. That Moog dons a sexy, silver Jetsons get-up and seduces you into the Way of Machine with artificial intelligence and hemoglobin pulses. Now multiply it times four. This may be the most insidious invasion our planet has seen yet. And they are well-armed: Members of the Servotron collective have served under Man or Astroman? and Super Nova. Prepare to be assimilated at the Bottom of the Hill on Friday, March 27, with the Peechees, FH Hill Co., and Captured by Robots opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.
Commemorating the centennial anniversary of the United States' purchase of the Philippines from Spain, Kulintang Arts presents Centennial Project Part I: Gabriela Warrior Spirit, a project that combines the ritualistic gestures with the physicality of warrior arts. Leo Giron's Bahala Na Escrima Association and Arriola School of Kamatuurun Kali will give demonstrations in stick and blade fighting, while Royal Hartigan & His World Music Ensemble provides live music at the ODC Theater Friday through Sunday, March 27-29, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12-14; call 863-9834.
More savage intergalactic invasions: As the name suggests, the Klingonz's attack on San Francisco will be violent and ill-mannered. While Servotron believe that a computer chip is mightier than the sword, the Klingonz -- psychobilly nutters who broke from Dublin's Boneshakers -- believe that a solid head-butt is better than either. The Klingonz perform at the Paradise Lounge on Tuesday, March 31, at 10:30 p.m. with Hayride to Hell and Nocturnal Teds. Tickets are $3; call 861-6906.
-- Silke Tudor