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
In May, a sudden explosion ripped through a 19th Avenue apartment, tearing the building off of its foundation and driving one resident through his wall into the garage of a neighbor. The blast and ensuing fire -- caused by a hidden reserve of illegal fireworks -- gutted surrounding homes, leaving folks like Kent Carter, bass player for the band Slender, picking through water-damaged remnants of household photographs. Seventeen people were injured and nearly as many were left homeless. In an attempt to raise funds for former residents of 1454, 1456, and 1456A 19th Ave., Danglin' Orphan Productions, Dino & Luigi Productions, and the Paradise staff -- who are working for nada -- have put together a night of high-octane garage rock and incendiary surprises for the "Exploding Apartment Benefit." The Bay Bombers, led by a fetching leopard-coated crooner with an affinity for tattoo ink and hot rods, will wreck their way through original punkabilly gems like "Queen of the Trailer Park," "Redneck Girlfriend" (an ode to the Seattle band of the same name), and "Since I Started Drinking Again." Magnolia Thunderfinger -- arguably the greatest turbo grease-monkey band in Northern California -- will wrap their wah-wah pedals around wide-leg rock-star poses and drag-strip serenades like "Broke Down Busted" and "Cocksucker (Means I Love You)," which approximate a fictional moment in time when the New York Dolls pulled a Cheap Trick with Ian Astbury and a carton of Lucky Strikes. 440 Six Pack, who have arrived in San Francisco via St. Louis sounding a lot like Nashville Pussy minus the pussy factor, will make your ears bleed. Slender will prove once again that they can rock even without a garage. Last but not least, the Naked Mole Rats -- featuring the collective talent of DJ Disk, some members of M.I.R.V., and some members of Action Plus -- will produce some really strange-sounding shit, apparently inspired by the documentary Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. You can only hear it at the Transmission Theater on Wednesday, July 8, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 861-6906.
In other blaze-related outgrowths, James Knight -- a documentary filmmaker-cum-pyrotechnic enthusiast -- watched and recorded as his quiet Los Angeles neighborhood was terrorized by 13 acts of arson in less than three months. Faced with an ineffectual police force that allowed three major fires to be lit in a single night, Knight's neighbors decided to take matters into their own hands. As the vigilantes grappled with issues of race, sex, religion, country, family, authority, and community trust, Knight crafted a new work, Ballad of Fire, a disturbing portrait of a once-familiar community. Knight plays an active role in his film, explaining the neighborhood's transformation and speculating about the disturbed hero of the Lithuanian underground whom his landlords go to great lengths to hide and protect. Ballad of Fire shows at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Wednesday, July 8, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6-7; call 552-3456.
Longtime Slim's booker Dawn Holiday says she took her first gig -- at the Paradise Lounge 12 years ago -- for the sole purpose of finding a room for the Dinos. And the flagrant cover band played every Thursday at the Paradise for nearly six years. They have been credited with inciting the lounge scene in San Francisco, inspiring such musical miscreants as Bud E. Luv and Dick Bright. The Dinos, of course, deny any and all such allegations. Die-hard fans assert that the Dinos only perform the very worst songs -- "Brandy," "98.6," "I Love You More Today Than I Did Yesterday" -- and that they are more fun than a barrel of desperate three-legged weasels. True to the original Dinos charter, there have been no rehearsals since the group's last night onstage over five years ago, or ever. They will be performing on the floor of Slim's, leaving the stage to younger men who care about such things. "This is elastic-waistband rock, baby," says a humble Dinos spokesperson. "We show up, we rock, we end early." The Dinos play at Slim's on Thursday, July 9, at 9 p.m. Admission is free because, as Holiday says, no one should ever have to pay for a Dinos show; call 522-0333 for information.
Led by the slippery, nautical strains of surf savant Ivan Pongracic, aka Ivan StratoCossak, Washington, D.C.'s Space Cossaks perform spirited instrumental rock that will leave you pulling sand out from between your teeth. Bands like the Ventures, the Shadows, the Atlantics, and, of course, Dick Dale play a part, but there is more to this mix than beach volleyball and California thighs. Hawaiian chording and Moroccan melodies find a place on Interstellar Stomp, as does European fingering reminiscent of a Romany camp, gleaned perhaps during Pongracic's eight-year residency in Croatia. Space Cossaks and Pollo Del Mar perform at the Paradise Lounge on Thursday, July 9, at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 861-6906.
Unlike those of us merely amused by Laughing Sal -- the maniacal, cackling, mechanical puppet behind glass at the Musee Mecanique -- director Sarah Ells is obsessed. Through Sal's smiling squint Ells found the secrets buried under Playland at the Beach, and she realized the horrors behind the cackle. Follow Ells and co-obsessive Roberto Gutierrez Varea back through time as they travel with a mechanical circus from a penny arcade, driven to murder and anarchy by the spirit of Laughing Sal. Sal opens at the Exit Theater on Thursday, July 9, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12; call 242-5797.
-- Silke Tudor