Girls, Girls, Girls Kindness, a trio comprised of 4 Non Blondes drummer Dawn Richardson, Penelope Houston bassist Katharine Chase, and Soul Divine guitarist Carrie Baum, makes its debut at a benefit for Live! Nude! Girls! Unite!, Julia Query's documentary on the unionization of North Beach strip club the Lusty Lady. Kindness offers its pop-kissed electronica, as Query and stripper-activists greet guests on the patio. Guests can also expect to hear from folk-punk figure Madigan and author Michelle Tea, organizer of the rowdy annual Sister Spit spoken-word caravan. The party begins at 4 p.m. at El Rio, 3158 Mission (at Precita), S.F. Admission is $8-25; call 550-1902.
Wherever They Rroma Maybe Americans are more willing to accept a nomadic people who soak up the flavors of every culture they run across. If that's so, it might help explain why the members of groups like Gypsy Caravan receive a warm welcome in the States, while the Gypsies, or Rroma, are more often greeted abroad with a mixture of fear and contempt. The vastness of the Rroma diaspora shows in the caravan's performance: Romania's Taraf de Haidouks play medieval ballads and Turkish-style dance music, as they did in Tony Gatlif's film Latcho Drom. Russia's Kolpakov Trio is led by triple threat Sacha Kolpakov, a singer/dancer who plays a seven-string guitar specific to Russian Gypsies; the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble plays Bulgarian wedding music; and Antonio el Pipa's Flamenco Ensemble offers Andalusian flamenco music and dance. These and other members of the caravan perform at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $14-26; call (510) 642-9988.
And Venus Was Her Name Saartjie Baartman, better known as the Venus Hottentot, lived the kind of tragic life that playwrights simply cannot resist. Circus promoters coaxed Baartman away from her native Africa in the 1800s with the promise of riches and adulation, but when she arrived in Europe, Baartman found herself alone and lonely, an exploited freak show attraction and the butt of cruel jokes about her ample posterior, which Europeans apparently found amusing. To add insult to injury, the governments of South Africa and France had a dust-up not three years ago over who should get to keep Baartman's pickled brain and genitalia, which had been harvested posthumously and left moldering in a back room at the Museum of Man in Paris. Suzan-Lori Parks (who wrote the screenplay for Spike Lee's Girl 6) won an Obie for her play Venus, one of many dramatic works inspired by Baartman's life. Thick Description will stage the drama, crossing Parks' poetic language with the crude theatrics of a 19th-century midway. The West Coast premiere of the show previews at 8 p.m. (and continues through April 11) at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom (at Ninth Street), S.F. Attendees earn a dollar for catching the preview -- regular admission is $10-15; call 565-0331.
Grace Notes Like the sing-along Messiah concerts that have become a widespread holiday tradition, the first ever "medieval chant-a-long" "Pange Lingua: Sing My Tongue" creates a harmonic convergence between amateur vocalists and professional musicians. In the hushed, cavernous environs of Grace Cathedral, the audience will sing Spanish cantigas and 12th-century Gregorian chants of the Lenten season, conducted by Marika Kuzma, who will ask them to "drone" or "tone" in certain sections. Members of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, Santa Cruz Chorale, UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, St. Mark's Episcopal Church Choir, and Chanticleer will also chime in, while tenor David Gordon and mezzo-sopranos Karen Clark and Jennifer Lane float solos over the top, accompanied by harpists and vielle players. The concert benefits the Dapper Hat Fund, which provides financial support to local early music artists suffering from life-threatening illnesses. It begins at 7 p.m. (with an optional 6 p.m. audience rehearsal) at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is a suggested donation of $15; call (510) 528-1725.
How Do You Say ... Kraut-Hop? They come from the land of riot grrrls and K Records, and they've toured with Unwound, but ICU (pronounced "ee-kooh") has radically departed from the raw punk and quirky pop that put Olympia on America's musical map. While Aaron Hartman (formerly of Old Time Relijun) knocks out a pensive jazz riff on stand-up bass, Michiko Swiggs builds a wall of sound from analog synthesizers and thrift-shop organs; Modest Mouse DJ K.O. drops in with spacey theremin melodies, guitars, and far-flung samples: children's choirs, say, or a travelogue record. ICU's Chotto Matte a Moment isn't quite trip hop or drum 'n' bass (the trio has been half-jokingly dubbed "Kraut-hop"), but if you listen carefully, you might catch a reflective Portishead-type moment amid the staccato drum machine beats and frequent tempo shifts. ICU plays at 5 p.m. at Amoeba Records, 1855 Haight (at Stanyan), S.F. Admission is free; call 831-1200. They're sandwiched in between performance artist Miranda July and the Dub Narcotic Sound System tonight; Kicking Giant opens the show at 8:30 p.m. at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $7; call 621-4455.
Wild Life Benjie Aerenson isn't fooled for a minute by Florida's sunny facade; his Florida isn't Miami beach parties and celebrity glitz so much as the state where rednecks and immigrants, strip malls and wetlands uneasily coexist. That dark side was much remarked upon after the debut of his play Lighting the Two-Year-Old, a comic drama marked by Mamet-like dialogue and set on a North Florida horse farm, where a father-son duo plot to kill a thoroughbred for the insurance money. And so it is with The Possum Play, Aerenson's first work, meant for a mature audience, which was deemed too complicated for smaller companies to stage and too controversial for bigger regional companies to risk. The Shotgun Players will open their eighth season with Possum, which sends a middle-aged Floridian housewife out into the mangroves and freeways for a walk on the wild side. It previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through April 19) at the South Berkeley Congregational Church, Fairview & Ellis, Berkeley. Admission is $8-20; call (510) 655-0813.