High Voltage Uncle Tupelo's debut album No Depression was auspicious in more ways than one: Not only was the title later borrowed to describe rootsy country rock outside the Nashville "new country" marketplace, but the band itself produced two good offshoots: Jeff Tweedy's Wilco and Jay Farrar's Son Volt. There's no shortage of depression in the music, actually: Son Volt's inaugural album Trace sang the Midwestern natural disaster blues with "Ten Second News" and dipped into country balladry with "Tear Stained Eye." Farrar and bandmates Jim and Dave Boquist, sometime collaborators with members of Minneapolis bands like the Jayhawks and Soul Asylum, followed Trace with the road-weary Americana lyricism of Straightaways, which is awash in 12-string and pedal-steel guitar, banjo, and organ. With new album Wide Swing Tremolo, Farrar and company infuse the country twang and bluesy lamentation with a harder-rocking electric edge. Andrew Duplantis opens for Son Volt at 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $18.50; call 346-6000.
Film Strip Find out once and for all what's behind the Green Door, and why John Holmes was nicknamed "The King" (hint: big ol' scepter), at "Beyond Boogie Nights: Celebrating the Golden Age of the Blue Movie," a celebration of erotic films organized by sex-toy store Good Vibrations and hosted by Carol Queen. Talented directors and actual scripts, sets, and plots are said to have mattered more in the pre-video '70s, when sexual experimentation reached its climax. Queen guides viewers through a collection of classic and seldom-seen porn clips, including selections from Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat, and The Devil in Miss Jones, among others. A post-screening panel discussion follows, where genre stars Annie Sprinkle, Candida Royalle, and Richard Pacheco talk about cultural perceptions of porn, shifts in the industry, and related issues. The screening begins at 8 p.m. at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $10 for the film and panel discussion, $50 for the film, panel discussion, and 6 p.m. reception with stars from porn's salad days; call 974-8985, ext. 250.
The Brecht Connection Germany's loss of playwright Bertolt Brecht, who left the country when Hitler rose to power, ultimately proved the theater world's gain: Brecht wrote some of his most notable work, including Mother Courage and Her Children and The Life of Galileo during his self-imposed exile in Denmark and Finland. Happy Birthday Brecht, a musical theater portrait of the playwright's political and personal entanglements throughout his turbulent life, uses Brecht's plays, letters, and diaries to trace his early collaboration with Kurt Weill on The Threepenny Opera through his relocation, his brief stay in Hollywood, his summons from the House Un-American Activities Committee, and his eventual return to Germany, where he founded the Berliner Ensemble Theater Company and staged his own work. The show, which comes from the stage of London's Royal National Theater, commemorates the 100th anniversary of Brecht's birth and features songs from Weill and Brecht, including "Mack the Knife." Di Trevis directs the show, which begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through Sunday) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida (at 17th Street), S.F. Admission is $10-15 (proceeds benefit Send a Piana to Havana, a program for schoolkids in Cuba); call 621-7797. Meanwhile, Brechtian conventions (in particular, the disruption of theatrical illusion) emerge in Exit Laughing: The Freest Theater in the Reich, Betty Grandis' one-woman multimedia cabaret show about the performances concentration camp inmates staged for each other and, under duress, for their guards. Grandis addresses the audience directly in the piece, which begins as a lecture and morphs into a show using video, music, and movement. It opens Friday at 8 p.m. (and continues through Nov. 15) at Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa (at Florida), S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 751-6040.
Take a Powder At this weekend's Great San Francisco Snow Party city dwellers can build snow figures, ski and snowboard, even pee in the snow (prosecutorial immunity not included) without the long commute and the pricey lift tickets. Western ski resorts hope to generate business by trucking in piles of man-made white stuff from Berkeley's Glacier Ice Co., and creating a public "skis on" cross-country course and a Kids Learn-to-Ski Maze -- equipment and instruction provided. Competitive skiers and snowboarders will be showing off their skills in a stunt show, while klutzy artistic types do their thing at the snowpeople-building activity area. It all begins at 11 a.m. (also Saturday and Sunday) at Pier 39, Beach & Embarcadero, S.F. Admission is free; call 981-PIER.
She Said/She Said Between founding the Lesbian Herstory Archives, a Brooklyn-based repository of lesbian-related archival material, and editing books like The Persistent Desire, a collection of gripping personal histories dating back to the bad old days of bar raids, author/activist Joan Nestle has been instrumental in recording American lesbian history. The extent of her influence clearly shows in "A Tribute to Joan Nestle," in which a lesbian author A-list reads from Nestle's old work and selections from her latest book, A Fragile Union: New and Selected Writings. Bastard Out of Carolina author Dorothy Allison MC's the night of readings, which features Dykes to Watch Out For comic creator Alison Bechdel, Best Lesbian Erotica editor Tristan Taormino, The Leather Daddy and the Femme author Carol Queen, and playwright Bayla Travis (The Dyke and the Pornstar). It begins at 8 p.m. at the Victoria Theater, 16th Street & Mission, S.F. Admission is $8-10; call 431-0891.
Soaring Strings The Tang dynasty meets Mahler and the Alexander String Quartet in a trio of dances performed by Lily Cai Chinese Dance. Cai, a former principal dancer with the Shanghai Opera House, has been experimenting with the fusion of Eastern and Western technique ever since she founded her eight-member company. In this outing, she offers a world premiere piece set to a score played live by the Alexander String Quartet and composed by Gang Situ, who also created music for Begin From Here, a striking update of traditional Tang dynasty ribbon dances that is included on the program. Candelas, which opens with a candlelight procession and is danced to the fourth movement of Mahler's "Symphony No. 5," rounds out the show, beginning at 8 p.m. (also Saturday) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $18-26; call 978-ARTS.
It's a Psychobilly Freakout! Psychobilly is rockabilly's wild-eyed cousin, the one who drinks too much and packs a switchblade. The Reverend Horton Heat offered a paean to the former with "Psychobilly Freakout," a kind of thrashy, electrified honky-tonk played at punk speed on rockabilly's standard guitar-drums-upright-bass lineup. The good Reverend is one of the few psychobilly purveyors who won't be playing Burnouts, Beerguts, 'n' Greasy Combs, a two-day psychobilly festival featuring Germany's Phantom Rockers, Denmark's Godless Wicked Creeps, Utah's Unlucky Boys, our very own Mutilators, and L.A.'s Pearl Harbour, fresh off her opening gig at the Halloween Cramps show. Blasters/X contemporaries the Paladins headline the festival, which celebrates the Hairball 8 CD release of Hotter Than Hell, a psychobilly comp featuring 27 tracks by American bands. Incredibly Strange Wrestling and tattoo booths will contribute to the unstable atmosphere. The music begins at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Sunday) at the Paradise Lounge & Transmission Theater, 11th Street & Folsom, S.F. Admission is $11-18; call 565-0511.
Trunk Show Tony La Russa's day job is managing baseball overachiever Mark McGuire and his St. Louis Cardinal teammates, but in his free time, La Russa likes to dabble in the arts. The Danville resident has already appeared in the Oakland Ballet's Nutcracker, and for an encore, he'll narrate the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra children's production The Travels of Babar. Composer Raphael Mostel (singer Zero's nephew) adapted Jean de Brunhoff's book about the adventures of the French imperialist elephant king; the production debuts with a slide show at noon and 3 p.m. at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek. Admission is $8 for children, $15 for adults; call (925) 943-7469.
The Real Folk Blues From Carnegie Hall to the Hungry i to the civil rights rallies of the '60s, folk singer Odetta's voice has rung out all over this land. The classically trained alto became part of the folk music renaissance three decades back, after friends introduced her to the San Francisco scene; she went from accompanying herself on guitar to knocking 'em out at the Newport Folk Festival with spiritual standards, love ballads, and blues numbers, including "All the Pretty Little Horses" and her a cappella arrangement of "God's Gonna Cut You Down." Joan Baez and Tracy Chapman sent congratulatory notes when Odetta recently celebrated 50 years in the business with a Florida party -- Marty Balin and folklorist Alan Lomax (whose box sets of American folk music feature Odetta performances) offered their praise in person. Odetta performs at a second, local 50th anniversary concert beginning at 8 p.m. at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., Berkeley. Admission is $16.50-17.50; call (510) 548-1761.
Cocktail Hour After a couple of stiff drinks, many people will express a yearning for better days, although in certain cases, those nostalgic folks never actually lived through those better days, which were arguably worse. If not for said people, we wouldn't have Cocktail Nation and Combustible Edison, whose specialty is "hypnotica," a kind of sleepy lounge music styled after Martin Denny's Peaceful Village exotica. The band, which made its Sub Pop debut in 1994 with I, Swinger, insists that genuine irony-free affection for easy listening propelled them through the Tiki Wonder Hour revue, Schizophonic!, and now The Impossible World, which leans more toward 2001-era sci-fi than jungle village or spy movie retro. And to the group's credit, the record's as blandly inoffensive as its inspiration -- perfectly good background music for an evening of intoxicated escapism. Combustible Edison plays at 8 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $13; call 474-0365.
Funky Town Tap dance Wunderkind Savion Glover picked up his craft the way most dancers do: on a hard studio floor, passed down by older, more experienced dancers who learned the very same way. Those physical memories and their transfer between generations inspired Glover and George C. Wolfe, who worked together on the blues musical Jelly's Last Jam, to create the tap dance musical Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk. The show, subtitled "A Tap/Rap Discourse on the Staying Power of the Beat," offers a social history of the African-American experience, as framed through vignettes created from Glover's choreography, text by spoken-word artist Reg E. Gaines, and musical styles ranging from hip hop to R&B to blues. The four-time Tony Award-winning production previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Dec. 6) at the Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor (at Market), S.F. Admission is $19-67; call 776-1999.