Sing Sing Sing Like the Whos in Whoville, participants in the 24-hour concert "Singing for Your Life" will celebrate the holidays by raising their voices in song. Bobby McFerrin started the concert tradition nearly 10 years ago as a musical way to close out the old year and welcome the new. It eventually became the "Symphony of Souls" at Grace Cathedral and served as a spiritual retreat from seasonal excess -- people could walk the winding path of the Labyrinth when they weren't joining the chorus. This year's concert, which focuses on nondenominational "prayerful" singing, has moved to the historical Main Post chapel, which was built on a sacred Ohlone site in the forested hush of the Presidio. Opening and closing ceremonies will be led by Native American chants; in between, former McFerrin Voicestra members and other vocalists will lead songs open to anyone who feels like joining in, regardless of how well he or she carries a tune. At 4 a.m., which is also noon Greenwich time, participants will join in an international prayer for peace. The music begins at 4 p.m. today and continues through 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Main Post in the Presidio, 34th Avenue & Clement, S.F. Admission is free; call 258-9151. The "Symphony of Souls" is still happening as well, from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is a $10 suggested donation; call 749-6358.
Party Like It's Still 1998 By now, you probably have a good idea of how you'll end the last day of the year, but how will you begin it? You could take a crack at a 16th-century, 2,100-pound bronze bell at the New Year's Bell Ringing Ceremony, an observation of an ages-old Japanese Buddhist custom meant to banish the 108 mortal desires tormenting humankind. The bell will clang and reverberate 108 satisfying times before midnight, once for each desire (the figure 108 is arrived at through higher math, multiplying the five senses with various time frames and so on). The bell-ringing begins at 11 a.m. in Gruhn Court at the Asian Art Museum, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free-$7; call 379-8879.
Time for a Paddlin' Austin's Asylum Street Spankers make music the old-fashioned way: without what they ominously call "demon electricity." No eardrum-piercing riffs or screaming feedback, just a stage fulla folks playing acoustic '20s-style Texas swing with kazoos, clarinets, banjos, ukuleles, and mandolins, anchored by snare drum and stand-up bass. The 10-member band, a kind of laid-back all-star group featuring members of the Jazz Pharrohs and 8 1/2 Souvenirs, reminds us what it's like to actually hear lyrics. And they've got good ones, too: their own, and a catalog of covers, from the Violent Femmes' "Country Death Song" to the sweetness and light of "I'll See You in My Dreams" to Appalachian murder ballads. It's all delivered like a vaudeville show, with between-song banter and bad jokes, and a little of the ol' soft shoe. MC Mysterious John wields a paddle to keep rowdy drunks in line and swat birthday boys and girls in the crowd. The show begins at 10 p.m. (also Saturday) at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $7; call 861-5016.
Mod Cons So it's not exactly brawling in the streets à la Quadrophenia, but the hundreds of scooter enthusiasts expected to buzz into town for the 13th annual Scooter Rage weekend rally may experience some dissent within their ranks. Scooter Rage organizers the Secret Society Scooter Club host a first-night happy hour at Dylan's (19th Street & Folsom) at 7 p.m. tonight, followed by a group ride to 111 Minna Gallery (Minna & Second Street; call the hot line at 332-5800 for more information on all their events). Meanwhile, the Cavaliers, a scooter club formed by dissatisfied Ragers, will meet at the Orbit Room (Market & Laguna) at 7 p.m. tonight for a group ride past Dylan's, picking up any other dissatisfied riders along the way, according to Cavalier Dave Dubiner, who hopes competing events will liven up the weekend. DJs Kirk and Joel will be playing the Who, the Byrds, and James Brown at "Maximum R&B" 10 p.m. tonight at 330 Ritch (330 Ritch at Brannan, S.F.). Admission is $5 and the scooterless public is invited; call 541-9574. On Saturday at noon, Scooter Rage hosts a custom show at the San Francisco Motorcycle Club (2194 Folsom), followed at 7 p.m. by drinks at Dylan's and a ride to the 7th Note Showclub (915 Columbus at Lombard, S.F.) for rocksteady and ska from the Rhythm Doctors and the Steady Ups. On the other side of town that same night, DJs spin '60s and '70s soul at the "In & Out Soul All Nighter" 11 p.m. Saturday at 330 Ritch. Admission is $8; call 541-9574. And finally, the Vespa Club of San Francisco hosts a third, unrelated New Year's Eve mod party with the Nick Rossi Set and the Debonaires. It begins at 9 p.m. Thursday at Il Pirata, 2007 16th St. (at Potrero), S.F. Admission is $5; call 752-4648.
Blame It on Rio Along with the French New Wave and the Italian Neorealists, Brazilian moviemakers began revolting against uninspired commercial films from Hollywood and their own country in the '60s, and threw themselves into creating a clearer-eyed, more visually compelling portrayal of their homeland and countrymen. The movement that took hold enjoys a two-month revival with "Brazil: Cinema N™vo and Beyond," a collection of films (many of them newly restored prints) that too few Americans ever got to see. From satire to magical realism to cold, hard reality, these 31 features and nearly a dozen documentaries and shorts run the thematic and stylistic gamut. Politics play a big role: Glauber Rocha's 1969 film Antonio das Mortes, the tale of a hired gun's political awakening, was so successful and consequently so infuriated right-wing Brazilian politicos that Rocha was forced to work abroad for the rest of his career. Cultural divisions figure in as well: The gangster thriller Amulet of Ogum examines the Afro-Brazilian Candomble religion, while All Nudity Shall Be Punished and Everything's Fine, two comedies propelled by sexual intrigue, play for laughs. A subsequent series, "Experimentos Tropicais: Recent Video From Brazil," traces the effect of Brazil's brave new cinema on modern work -- it begins Jan. 13. "Cinema N™vo" opens at 5 p.m. tonight with Antonio das Mortes at the Pacific Film Archive, 2621 Durant (at Dana), Berkeley. Admission is $3.50-7 (add $1.50 for double bills); call (510) 642-1412.