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
There are an estimated 15 million people spread out across the world who can trace their roots back to the Rom, colloquially known as Gypsies. In whatever country they have set foot, in whatever era, the Roma have swirled at the bottom of the social caste, a roving race considered untamable and illiterate by the gadjos who write books about them. The Gypsies' impact on world music traditions -- from Rajasthani folk to flamenco to Irish fiddling -- is undeniable. While the time signatures of the Texan Kalderash may differ from that of the Tzigane in New Zealand, the sentiment behind the music is familiar to all Rom:
Life is for living.
And music is the poor man's luxury.
A necessary luxury, says Romany vocalist Esma Redzepova, who likens music to love, air, and sunshine. In the course of bringing her wisdom to the world's outcasts, Redzepova and Stevo Teodosievski recorded more than 30 albums in more than 16 languages and played more than 3,000 shows. Last year, Teodosievski -- Redzepova's husband, companion, musical partner, and teacher -- passed away, but as she says, "Roma do not give way to sadness easily. We start living as soon as we are born. We try not to grieve." Redzepova performs with the Ansamble Teodosievski at the Slavonic Cultural Center on Friday, June 26, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12; call (510) 649-0941.
News from Astro HQ has it that the Astro-Man Genome Project has successfully cloned Man or Astro-Man? The clones' first task was to record an intergalactic-surf racing theme for the Touch and Go Racing Division. This they did -- the "cuts and volts/dra1n1ngthe1rbatter1es" 7-inch. Their second task is to perform said theme in front of a live audience of mortals who will foolishly mistake the clones for the real thing, enabling the original MoAM? to hatch similar plots elsewhere. The clones will arrive carrying the usual assortment of televisions, projectors, and mylar, but they will also be accompanied by three intergalactic supervillains -- the Famous Monsters. These evil vixens -- led by the bass playing She-Devil, known to Earthlings as Sean Yseult of White Zombie -- perform a horrific mixture of surf music and garage monster themes. If you're good, they'll show you what to do with your crucifix. The Man or Astro-Man? clones perform at the Bottom of the Hill on Saturday, June 27, with the Famous Monsters and Zen Guerrilla opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.
Having crossed the country more times than an interstate big rig, having seen the whole of Europe at least three times in as many years, having toured with everyone remotely relevant to punk rock -- Social Distortion, Supersuckers, Descendants, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, to name a few -- the Swingin' Utters stopped off at home just long enough to lay down another album for Fat Wreck Chords. As the name might suggest, Five Lessons Learned finds the Utters in a brutally self-reflective mood, one that befits the album's gritty but mature sound. As usual guitarist Darius Koski stands out as a uniquely insightful songwriter who uses Johnny Bonnel's gruff vocals to galvanize lyrics like "You're morally disconnected/ You seem to be a mistress, or some forgotten wallflower." Bonnel himself pens a couple of power punches about booze and self-pity that hearken back to The Streets of San Francisco. For the first time, guitarist Max Huber shares equal time with Koski, writing a slew of revelations about friends, failure, and fame. Lyrically more representative of the group as a whole, Five Lessons is a kaleidoscope of scenes viewed through the bottom of a pint glass: gregarious, fierce, giddy, somber, angry, and melancholy. Musically too, the Utters have stretched out, tinting their '70s punk sound with fiddle, accordion, upright bass, Hammond organ, and brass. The Swingin' Utters celebrate their new record with a release party at the Great American Music Hall on Sunday, June 28, with U.S. Bombs, Stitches, and One Man Army opening at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 546-0640.
Summer is the perfect time for music festivals, even at the movies. Ann-Margret kicks off the Roxie's 12-day Pop Music Fest with Viva Las Vegas and Bye Bye Birdie. Other titles include Having a Wild Weekend, starring the Dave Clark Five; the rarely seen The T.A.M.I. Show with live concert footage of the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and the Supremes; Monterey Pop with Hendrix, Joplin, and Otis Redding; Julien Temple's Absolute Beginners, the story of the birth of rock in 1958 London based on Colin MacInnes' acclaimed novel; Expresso Bongo; Hair; the Monkees' Head; and Purple Rain. All screenings at the Roxie Theater beginning Sunday, June 28; call 431-3611 for show times and prices.
-- Silke Tudor