The stage show alone is worth the price of admission: Not quite reaching Iggy Pop's motivational height of 5 feet 1 inch, Chicago's "bravest little man" more than evens the playing field with raw physical power, self-possessed conviction, and supernatural stamina. Bobby Conn squirms across the stage, face twisted with fervor, body contorting with fury, hair matted with sweat, chest heaving. He carries on with the show from the nightclub floor, straining to reach a less-than-sublime falsetto. His dancers writhe like hedonistic disco vamps. His band -- strings, horns, Fender Rhodes, Moog, backup singers, and flute -- plays as only the inspirational symphony for a madman would.
The message is worth the price of your soul: Born on June 13, 1967, Robert Robert Conn is a self-proclaimed "Judeo-Christian edutainer" and the living, breathing Antichrist. While Conn agrees anyone born in 1967 has Antichrist eligibility, he is confident of his ability to get the job done before the millennial apocalypse, to unify the entire world under one government, absorb all other religions into a single self-gratifying theology, and crush all kingdoms to the West. Conn sold less than 700 copies of his debut record, but there is no denying the little man's cult status in at least two major dens of iniquity: Chicago and New York City. And if Heaven's Gate can make castration appealing, certainly Conn's jail-inspired vision of a "Continuous Cash Flow System" (in which the U.S. economy is destroyed by unsustainable personal generosity) has a chance of catching on -- much like the satanically controlled United Nations, and the evil thing lurking in Conn's satin Speedo.
The music is worth four parking tickets, a seven-month relationship, and a bag of Chee-tos: Sure, on paper Rise Up! is an invective diatribe -- civil wars escalate to massive thermonuclear destruction and a showdown between the Second Coming and the Antichrist, which leaves the Earth a forsaken, smoldering sphere hanging in a desolate universe -- but it sounds like such fun! While Conn is tormented by fiery visions and icy piety, he knows humanity must give itself over to complete pleasure if he is ever to fulfill his destiny. To this end, he has created a concept album that sounds a little like Brian Eno, Ziggy Stardust, and Queen performing with the Birthday Party in a '70s soul version of Rocky Horror Picture Show. How can you resist? Bobby Conn supports Andre Williams & the Countdowns at Bottom of the Hill on Friday, March 19, with the Resineators opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 621-4455.
A peculiar confession: I share my home with four amphibians (toads, not frogs, mind you) and while my passion does not include ceramic figurines, stuffed animals, or chalk caricatures, I do count the documentary Cane Toads among my favorite movies (right up there with Wonderland). It explores the bizarre relationship the Australians have established with the poisonous toad since its introduction to the continent in 1935: Teenagers lick them to get high, children dress them up like dolls and take them for walks, artists use them as models, scientists study them, and gardeners plot against them. Not to give anything away, but the cane toad is invincible, as you will see at the Exploratorium screening on Saturday, March 20, at 2 p.m. Tickets are free with $9 museum admission; call 561-0363.
"Ballroom Blitz" is home to DJs Shindog's and Damon's favorite pre-millennium rock recordings, but this is their first live offering and I must say 10 Speed comes back to San Francisco under strong recommendation. On its self-titled CD, 10 Speed sounds like the abrasive progeny of Queen, conjuring expansive and catchy space-themed rock worthy of towering risers, crazy pyrotechnics, and at least 40 smoke machines. Onstage, the trio is more reminiscent of T-Rex, as shaggy-haired frontman Hutch Walker invokes the operatic resonance of Marc Bolan while parading around in tight striped flares accentuated by guitar-dude splits. When the band's A&M recording finally gets released, Walker's precious voice will be snatched from the club circuit and you'll be sorry you missed him at the Covered Wagon on Sunday, March 21, at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 339-8350.
If you missed Paris Combo last week, Pink Martini is a delightful stateside substitute. Led by accomplished classical pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale and silk-tongued China Forbes, who recorded the title song for UPN's Clueless, this 10-piece ensemble combines elegant French and Cuban ballads with classical chamber music, Brazilian dance numbers, and cinematic opuses that will make you forgive the lounge set for one more week. Pink Martini performs at Slim's on Tuesday, March 23, with Jill Tracy opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 522-0333.
-- Silke Tudor