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House of Tudor 

Wednesday, Apr 8 1998
If you owned a television set between 1969 and 1986, you'll recognize Buck Owens as the thicker-than-pig-slop hayseed in overalls who used to host Hee Haw. But don't hold that against him: For those whose memories, or vinyl collections, reach back into the '50s and '60s, Owens is the country maverick who fashioned the "Bakersfield sound," making it OK for folks on the West Coast to croon country, Nashville be damned. Owens transformed Bakersfield from just another dung heap somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco into "Nashville West." Because of Owens, guys like Merle Haggard got past singing in the shower. Sadly, after 19 No. 1 country hits, the death of Don Rich -- Buckaroos lead guitarist and Owens' best friend -- made it near impossible for the ornery nonconformist to write new songs. That and a 17-year stint with Hee Haw crippled his musical career. Still, he's done OK. Owens owns the masters to all his albums, which have never been rereleased, and lives like the Maharajah of Bakersfield, tooling around town in his signature steer-horned 1972 Pontiac convertible. Five years ago -- after a bout with throat cancer convinced him to, um, grab the bull by the horns -- Owens began construction in Bakersfield on his Crystal Palace, a $10 million concert hall/restaurant/museum where the kind folks of Kern County can eat a good burger and kick up their heels. One look at the memorabilia (much of which the Country Music Foundation requested for its Nashville museum) is worth the paltry $5 cover. But the real reason to visit the Palace is that Owens and his Buckaroos have taken to playin' again. Every Friday and Saturday night, folks from all over the country fill the dance floor while Owens meanders through 2-1/2-hour sets of hits like "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," "Love's Gonna Live Here," "Under Your Spell Again," "Act Naturally," and "Cryin' Time." Owens is happy to take requests written on crumpled bar napkins, and to try out a new tune or two (he's writing again). Owens and the Buckaroos perform at Bimbo's 365 Club on Wednesday, April 8, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22; call 474-0365.

In 1981, the icy shriek of death rock siren Dinah Cancer combined with the acrid guitar work of one-time paramour Paul B. Cutler to create 45 Grave. The coffin-sucking rock outfit later inspired Christian Death and Dance With Me-era TSOL; it was the high point in SoCal's live death rock scene. With ex-Germs drummer Don Bolles, Gun Club bassist Rob "Graves" Ritter, and keyboardist Paul Roessler, 45 Grave were heavy on talent, but light on profundity. Unlike latter-day goths who shall remain nameless (see the March 25 Night Crawler), Cancer kept her forked tongue planted firmly in her pale, gaunt cheek. Sadly, Cutler left and joined Dream Syndicate; Ritter OD'd; and Bolles founded Celebrity Skin, began contributing to Ben Is Dead and LA Weekly, and assumed the identity of geek rocker Sal Mussolino for Three Day Stubble. This left Roessler god knows where, and Cancer, her sense of humor intact, singing with a group called Penis Flytrap. (At least.) Penis Flytrap include drummer Hal Satan and guitarist Elvorian Von Spivey, both of Mi Diablo, and bassist Lucifer Fulci, a man with tattoos on his arms that could be used as promotional materials for Dawn of the Dead and The Zombie. Cancer still has bright purple hair, scary makeup, and a hell-inspiring wail. You can check out the band at if you're not afraid to navigate a maze of adult pornography, or live at the Covered Wagon on Thursday, April 9, with Phoenix Thunderstone and the Upsets opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 974-1585.

I have seen Ozomatli, an 11-piece Latin-funk-jazz-hop outfit from L.A., bring yuppies, goths, punks, and surfers to their feet in a euphoric rumba line that wound across the dance floor, out the door, and down the block. (How these divergent factions came to be at the same club at the same time was the work of some rabble-rouser who thought it amusing to book several popular, but widely diverse, acts on the same bill.) Before anyone could say, "We're too cool," the goths were glistening, the punks were hugging, the surfers were stomping, and the yuppies were finding rhythm. Everyone was happy before the music stopped and people began to remember themselves again. Ozomatli appear at Bimbo's 365 Club on Thursday, April 9, with Will Bernard 4-Tet and Blues Experiment opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 474-0365.

In the Hawaiian Islands, musical styles still pass from generation to generation -- you can tell a person's clan by how he tunes his guitar. Slack-key guitar master Ledward Kaapana draws on his Uncle Fred Punahoa's swift, sweet six-string technique and flashy performing style -- playing the frets with his forearms, feet, and teeth -- which Uncle Fred claims to have learned from a series of dreams. Add to this the timeless falsetto yodeling of the Ho'opo'i Brothers and you have a seaside soundtrack that would give Ennio Morricone goose bumps. Voices of Old Hawaii perform at the Great American Music Hall on Sunday, April 12, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 885-0750.

-- Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
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    Downtown Nevada City
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    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

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