Driver's Seat All Oxford's Swervedriver needs is for someone to love them properly. The record labels didn't -- they've been dumped by three, including majors like A&M and Geffen. Between early '90s manias for dream pop and Seattle sludge, the band's swirly, guitar-driven psychedelia and blasts of fuzz and feedback didn't make the imprint the group had hoped for when it released 1991's Raise and 1993's crushing Mezcal Head. The unfortunately titled follow-up for British label Creation, Ejector Seat Reservation, turned down the noise and channeled the quartet's energies into a poppier sound that drew comparisons to the early '60s melodies of the Who (whose songs the band has covered), but it wasn't enough to keep Swervedriver signed. New York indie Zero Hour was the next bidder and has released this year's 99th Dream, on which acoustic finger-picking, electric space rock, and the loopy strains of mellotron peacefully coexist. Hugh opens the show at 9 p.m., followed by Spoon, at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Harrison), S.F. Admission is $12; call 522-0333.
Look! Up There in the Sky! A strip of Highway 280 near Bayshore Boulevard will be attacked by fighter jets at twilight for the next three days, so commuters should plan accordingly. Artist Robert Catalusci's multimedia installation Promotion to Glory, an 18-foot by 23-foot billboard perched on the roof of the Metrae Arts gallery, will broadcast footage of military jets advancing over the industrial landscape toward motorists, accompanied by a synchronized soundtrack blaring the whine and roar of powerful engines. This project, meant to evoke the confusion and fear of wartime, isn't Catalusci's first effort involving transportation; he is concurrently working with architects and painters on a remodeling project for the S.F. Municipal Railway building at 700 Pennsylvania, slated to open in September 1999 and visible from 280 as well. Promotion opens with a reception at 8:30 p.m. (and runs from dusk to 11 p.m. through July 4) at Metrae Arts, 2027 Oakdale (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 822-3007.
Granny a Go-Go Producer/editor Mary Patton balances the high-minded with the fun-loving and the downright ridiculous in "Riot GRRRandmas!," a program of video shorts with a Sapphic sensibility. Irish drag kings do excruciating ZZ Top impersonations in Margaret O'Flanagan and Judith Kinsella's The ZZlezbians in Concert, while the Jeanine Olsson/Danielle Sawicki short Dollywood or Bust, which is similarly propelled by a music icon fetish, follows two young dykes as they travel to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in search of their honky-tonk heroine. The lesbian-history portion of the program contains interviews with Ruth Ellis, dubbed the "oldest known living African-American lesbian," and Persistent Desire author Joan Nestle, founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Rounding out the bill are An Evening With Sappho Socialites (a.k.a. Sons of Sappho), a collection of excerpts from the 1995 documentary about a decades-old women's social club on Chicago's South Side, and Judy and Callucci's 15th Anniversary, about a party at a country-western bar. The screening begins at 8 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-3890.
That Other Musical Hayden "It's like this is my living room," declared Canadian singer/songwriter Hayden from his solo perch when he played Neil Young's Bridge School benefit two years back. He wasn't referring to the venue itself -- the yawning Shoreline Amphitheater -- so much as the acoustic format, which perfectly suited his folkie storytelling style, and to the company he was in, including Patti Smith and Young, a fellow Canadian. Hayden's album The Closer I Get is the second to be released on the Geffen subsidiary label Outpost (run by R.E.M./Nirvana producer Scott Litt and Smashing Pumpkins manager Andy Gershon) following a major-label bidding war that the self-effacing singer claims took him by surprise. Closer is marked by the mournful, weary tone of a man who's been thinking hard, with quavery admissions that trail off into whispers. It's more Lou Barlow than Neil Young, even the assertive entries like "The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees," which bursts into full pop attack mode. Action Slacks open for Hayden and his band, who follow up their Fleadh appearance with a show that begins at 9 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $10; call 474-0365.
Death Row Drama Composer Carla Lucero's opera-in-progress Wuornos is a fairly literal musical account of Aileen Wuornos' life, beginning with the media circus that surrounded her trial. Wuornos, currently a death-row inmate in southern Florida, is a former prostitute convicted of six murders, all involving former johns whom she claims to have killed in self-defense. Wuornos was dubbed a "lesbian serial killer" for her crimes, although self-defense isn't typically an issue in serial killer cases. The trial, which included testimony on Wuornos' childhood abuse, struck a nerve among child and prostitution advocates, feminists, lesbians, and activists on both sides of the death penalty: In researching materials for the opera, Lucero found biased accounts from all camps, although she says filmmaker Nick Broomfield's documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer actually presented a balanced version of Wuornos' life. As with other composers who've made opera from headline news -- think Harvey Milk -- Lucero has been accused of exploiting tragic circumstances, but audiences will have the opportunity to sift through the issues after the performance, as Lucero, Brava! Executive Director Ellen Gavin, S.F. Opera Carmen director Sandra Burnhard, and Wuornos director Kim Porter speak at a post-show panel discussion. The opera, featuring singers from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, begins at 8:30 p.m. at Brava! Theater Center, 2789 24th St. (at York), S.F. Admission is a $10 donation; call 554-0402.