An American lust for freedom -- from rules and boundaries and convention -- is the clear thematic link among surf, rockabilly, and garage bands, all home-grown offshoots of the original rock formula. Over time, these offshoots have mutated and spread beyond our borders, but the love of wide-open spaces (and barreling into them at reckless speeds) remains, whether you're talking about California surf punks or European psychobilly.
At Battle of the Surf Bands, you're talking about San Francisco surf punks Drifting Sand and Hayness Surf, who square off at a benefit for the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to beach preservation. The show opens with a battle of the groovy surf movies (at last word, band members were pitting Ride the Wild Surf against Beach Party '63). The fun begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Harrison), S.F. Admission is $5; call (650) 344-3193.
That same night, Tacoma garage band Girl Trouble regroups its cult after a five-year absence with a fresh shot of stompers and shouters from Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Be sure to pick up a copy of their band zine Wig Out!, wherein singer K.P. Kendall recalls a childhood trauma at Seattle's International Raceway when he was attacked by fire ants. XL Four opens the show Wednesday at 9:30 p.m., followed by the Woggles, at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $7; call 621-4455.
U.K. psychobilly band The Hangmen, meanwhile, would benefit from less billy and more psycho, but maybe we expected something too menacing from a band headlining for Hayride to Hell and Hellbound Hayride, as well as German band Chibuku. Nobody's promising blood-splattered pitchforks so far, but at the very least, guests can expect a gothic twist on Johnny Cash's "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," and a warped treatment of monster movie themes, played by sweaty, tattooed men on stand-up bass. The show starts at 9 p.m. Friday at Club Cocodrie, 1024 Kearny (at Broadway), S.F. Admission is $6; call 986-6678. (