Sweet William Englishman-turned-Tennessean William Topley preaches the gospel of white-boy soul. He's been called the new Van Morrison because of it, but his voice is deeper and gruffer than Van's, with just a few more shades of wistfulness and longing. The former leader of roots-rock band the Blessing has just released his second album on Mercury Nashville, Mixed Blessing, a polished amalgam of languid balladry, downtempo Hammond B-3 grooves, and bursts of brass, led off by the surprising, arresting ode "Wake Up (Your Dream Sounds So Sad)." The Eric McFadden Experience, the acoustic incarnation of local roots-rock group Liar, opens for Topley and his four-piece band at 9:30 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $5; call 861-5016.
Crash and Burn Sweating, gyrating euphoria was the thing at the Makers show two weeks back, but it's all about primal-scream therapy when their Estrus labelmates The Quadrajets play. They've half-jokingly nicknamed themselves "Alabama's Guitar Army," but when they break into extended, high-pitched hollers and crank out a fast and dirty punk number like "Punkinheaded Motherfucker" on three guitars, including a Vox, well, it's enough to make a girl's teeth rattle. They'll warm up for The Demonics, with whom they share a fetish for fast cars, fast music, and loud graphics -- both bands contributed to the Gearhead comp All Punk Rods!, a celebration of dragster music and subculture. The Weird Lovemakers open the show at 9:30 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $6; call 621-4455.
Dancing in the Streets Spanish singer Isa Mura's voice, a full-bodied and intensely mournful instrument that sent shivers down the spines of flamenco lovers, was finally silenced this year when Mura succumbed to breast cancer. The Bay Area-based singer's formidable legacy includes her daughter Yaelisa, the Emmy Award-winning dancer/choreographer, who pays tribute to her mother with "Caminos Flamencos,", a flamenco performance benefiting San Francisco's Breast Cancer Fund. Yaelisa's Solera Flamenco Dance Company will be joined by Spanish dancer Sara de Luis, Sevillean Gypsy singer Jesus Montoya, members of Theater Flamenco of San Francisco, and others for a kind of flamenco jam featuring 45 singers, dancers, and musicians. It begins at 8 p.m. (also Friday) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $20-24; call 978-ARTS.
Thank You -- Don't Come Again So, you think you've had a bad day? So has everyone in "Have a Bad Day," two nights of performance on a "bad day" theme. It's curated by Pidgin English Productions, the same performance collective that curated last year's sold-out show "The Feast of St. Dymphna," which honored the patron saint of the insane (and if misery really does love company, "Bad Day" ought to sell out as fast as its crazy-themed predecessor). Some of the tragedy borders on comedy, like Lorcan Keating's monologue about life in an Irish orphanage (Saturday), or Kathleen Ross' sketch The Singing Didactic, a portrait of the morning after a horrific blind date, performed by actors Kerry Reid and John Baumann (also Saturday). Shakespeare scholar Lorraine Helms mines her bad day from classic tragedy in Looking for Margaret, an examination of the Bard's mad queen (Saturday), and Kevin DiPirro, who recounted a series of mishaps on a trip across Ireland in Through Shite to Shannon, returns with a tale of auto parts salvage and beer-drinking philosophers in An Ache in the Engine (tonight). The show includes door prizes and a post-performance party both nights and begins at 8 p.m. at Shotwell Studios, 3252A 19th St. (at Shotwell), S.F. Admission is $6-10; call 386-6292.
Laugh Track As it turns out, there is a science to writing sitcoms: Dan Goldstein has proven it. As a Chicago grad student, Goldstein took an artificial-intelligence course that required him to draft a software program with "cocktail party appeal." He came up with Structuralist Gilligan, a program that predicts a sitcom's outcome after plugging in the structural elements of its narrative: initiating event, conflict, action, and resolution. Goldstein watched hundreds of reruns to create Structuralist Gilligan, and between the program and his own vast memory of sitcom staples, he and partner John Bourdeaux created Sitcom, an improvised theater show that gave way to sitdotcom, a spinoff structured like an interactive half-hour comedy program. Goldstein directs a cast of Bay Area Theatersports performers in the local installment, which begins as audience members suggest a relationship (like hairdresser/client), a location, and some key words, which the troupe then weaves into an improv show based on the sitcom formula. The inevitable commercials are also based on audience suggestions. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 22) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $10; call 538-8681.
Belly Up As a public service, we'd like to offer the following tips so that first-timers get the most out of the Mr. and Miss America of the Belly Dance Contest and Show: If you get lost in the hotel, listen for the "ching ching" of tiny finger cymbals. When a particularly skilled belly dancer undulates in your direction, whooping, whistling, and exclaiming "Yallah!" (a contraction invoking Allah and loosely translating as "Go for it!") are considered appropriate; shouting "Keep on truckin', mama!" is not. When someone says "That's def!" he is probably referring to a Middle Eastern frame drum of the same name. Dancers from as far away as Germany and Egypt will participate in the contest, where they will be judged on ability, technique, stage presence, choreography, and costumes. Performers including Calliope Carvajal, "Whirling Dervish" Gregangelo (who performs locally), and the San Francisco Royal Academy Belly Dance Troupe will demonstrate Egyptian and Turkish styles and the more aggressive American style; the audience is invited to come in costume (belly dance costume, please) and join in the open dancing. Omar Faruk Tekbilek and Reda Darwish will provide music and a Middle Eastern buffet will be served at the show, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Union Square, 480 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Admission is $30-35; call 387-6833.