House of Tudor

The voice of Pinetop Seven singer Darren Richard sways delicately between the pale, sophomoric timbre of Jonathan Richman and the pregnant, melancholic intonation of Dead Can Dance's Brendan Perry. Richard weaves dejected tales with cinematic clarity: A young runaway with a "face that's never been fit to laugh" realizes she's not missed; an old man watches from his garden as his young wife "smiles and rubs against younger men"; the body of an angel is found tangled in Kicking Horse Reservoir. The shadowy material on the Chicago trio's new album, Rigging the Toplights, is certainly the culmination of hundreds of lonely, rainy nights spent reading John Fante, but Richard's unique vocals make it glimmer in completely unexpected ways. Pinetop Seven supports the Buckets at Bottom of the Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 7, with Kuntry Kunts opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 626-4455.

What are the chances that three girls calling themselves the Ladies' Cello Society could tour with Marilyn Manson and Helmet? Not many. But three girls from the Ladies' Cello Society calling themselves Rasputina might have a good go of it, especially considering the sounds of their second record, How We Quit the Forest. Three demonic cellos chase the voice of a gothic Laurie Anderson through cathedrals filled with distortion pedals and samplers. It's ominous and not a little sexy. Rasputina performs at the Great American Music Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 7, with Remy Zero opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 885-0750.

Dukey Flyswatter -- the distorted frontman of L.A.'s famed Munsters-style shock-rock band Haunted Garage -- despaired at Courtney Love's betrayal of the white-trash punk sisterhood. But rather than lie back and whine as so many riot grrrls did, Flyswatter decided to do something about it. He bought a sleazy dress, borrowed a cheap wig, found five like-minded creatures, and formed Foxtwot. No silk tips or airbrushed touch-ups, here, sister. We're talking ugly, angry, in-your-face rock with bad thighs. Foxtwot performs at the Covered Wagon on Thursday, Oct. 8, with Romeo's Dead and Count Dante & the Black Dragon Fighting Society opening at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 974-1585.

Ian Svenonius' first band, Nation of Ulysses, was more of a Marxist-motivated political party than a rock group. His current band, Make-Up, is a religious congregation. Perhaps Svenonius recognized the political power of the ecstatic experience or maybe he just realized preachers cut more interesting figures than politicians. Whatever the explanation, there are many reasons to praise Make-Up's "Gospel Yeh-Yeh" -- a combination of garage gospel music and French '60s pop that surpasses the inspirational art of Mr. Quintron & the Oblivions, makes a pass at Screamin' Jay Hawkins, James Brown, and Little Richard, and ends in the arms of a riotous spirit from Motor City speaking in tongues. The latest album, In Mass Mind (released by the still conscientious indie Dischord), is a studio effort -- a rarity for a group that regards the congregation (audience) as its fifth member. While the record lacks the baptismal rapture of call-and-response, it's by far the foursome's best disc to date, recalling the strange, hypnotic experience of a live Make-Up show, during which the crowd shouts in exultation, waving their arms in the air, eyes closed, palms up, passing the shivering form of Svenonius from hand to hand as he sermonizes on the joy of sound. Make-Up helps the Hi-Fives celebrate the release of their new CD, Get Down, at the Great American Music Hall on Friday, Oct. 9, with Starlight Desperation opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 885-0750.

After four years, San Franciscans will be able to view the courageous collaboration among director Rob Nilsson, screenwriter Don Bajema, and the Tenderloin Action Group -- an acting workshop comprised of recently homeless local residents and volunteer filmmakers. Chalk is a deliberate, unwavering look at a "family" of small-time pool hustlers crippled by heroin and cowardice. Outstanding cinematography frames the moving performances of local actors Edwin Johnson, Johnnie Reese, and Kelvin Han Yee in seedy barroom light that leaves smoke hanging in your hair and sweat crawling over your skin. Chalk opens at the Lumiere on Friday, Oct. 9; call 352-0810. A benefit for the Tenderloin Action Group includes appearances by cast and professional pool players who will compete in a World Class 9 Ball Challenge Match at Chalkers Billiards Club on Saturday, Oct. 10, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 and include admission to Chalk; call 273-5408.

Since Serge Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf, and Jacques Brel were reintroduced into the American pop canon, it's become acceptable -- even desirable -- to admit French nationality (e.g., Dimitri From Paris and Daft Punk). The ambient-pop duo Air has even gone so far as to print "French Band" next to its moniker. I would like to say that Air is nothing more than a gaseous mixture, approximately 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen, or that all the hype surrounding the band is a futile delusion maintained by the same French guys who claim they are the world's greatest lovers, but alas, Air's debut, Moon Safari, is a breathy, cool, invigorating tour de force of easy listening. Kind of like skiing down an Alpine slope onto the set of an Alain Resnais film, only less pretentious. Air performs at Bimbo's 365 Club on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 13 and 14, with April March opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 474-0365.

-- Silke Tudor

 
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