By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Thee Headcoatees are to Thee Headcoats as the Milkboilers are to the Milkshakes and the Delmonas are to Thee Mighty Caesars -- a female-driven conveyance (comprised primarily of the Headcoats' sweethearts) for Billy Childish's hyperkinetic songwriting bumper crop. Since 1997's Bozstik Haze, little Debbie "Bongo" Green and Johnny Johnson have parted ways, which means the latest album, Here Comes Cessation, misses her coquettish baby-doll sighs. But the other mellifluous majorettes are in full effect: the snarling Ludella Black, whose Childish career began in the Milkboilers; the brooding Holly Golightly, who came to the fold at 15 and still prefers to sing only Caesars songs and old blues numbers; and the fearsome Kyra LaRubia, whose thick Belgian accent and waist-length blond braids have served as Childish inspiration for more than 13 years.
Cessation features some of the best material Childish has written for his female progeny and, as usual, the Headcoats back up their ladies, but the girls steal the show. If the Shirelles had been under the affectionate tutelage of the Marquis de Sade, they might have sounded a little like Thee Headcoatees, who support Thee Headcoats at Bimbo's 365 Club on Wednesday, June 9, with the Bomboras opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 474-0365.
Once punk rock became big business it lost its firebrand edge, and most people quickly realized it had only changed trappings, not the world. So, it's nice to see there are still optimists around who believe we can make our own ways and choose our own fights. Organized by the philanthropic punk-rock label Sub City, the Take Action Tour and CD samplers include 13 bands who have named various nonprofits as recipients of 5 percent of all retail sales and door prices. Educational literature from each charity is distributed in the CD and the clubs, so you can get drunk, bounce around, and be edified, all at the same time. Fifteen, FYP, Dillinger 4, and Falling Sickness perform at the Cocodrie on Friday, June 11, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 986-6678.
Twenty-four years ago, La Pena Cultural Center opened its doors to protesters of the U.S.-supported ousting of Chile's Salvador Allende. Since then, folks have gathered within La Pena's walls to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Mitch; protect and support human rights; encourage socially conscious music, poetry, and dance; and, most recently, protest NATO's bombing of Kosovo. To celebrate nearly a quarter-century of grass-roots activism and performance, Guantanamo's Ban Rra Rra arrives from Cuba to explore Cuban-Haitian vodu ritual and folkloric dance. Led by Isaias Rojas Ramirez, this explosive troupe specializes in Tajona, a San Joaquin celebration using poles and ribbons that are woven through a flurry of leaping, spinning, and diving bodies; Gaga, a highly competitive, erotic dance employing machetes and fire sticks; Tumba Francesca, a Franco-Haitian society-dance involving formal dress, Creole singing, and intense percussion; and Conga Santaguera, a carnival dance with masked drummers and costumed dancers. A dance party with Ritmo y Armonia follows at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley on Saturday, June 12, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15; call (510) 849-2568. Ban Rra Rra also performs at ODC on Friday and Saturday, June 18-19; call 863-9834.
Deserted by her drug-addicted mother and homeless street-hustling father, Edith Piaf spiritually escaped the brothel in which she was raised by singing on street corners. The emotional breadth emanating from Piaf's tiny, fleshless frame caught the attention of an influential Parisian club owner, and soon the Little Sparrow was a sensation. Piaf's celebrity never seemed to quench her anguish and, as she grew older, fresh misfortunes further deepened her vocal resonance until she became nearly unapproachable in her stylings. (Billie Holiday is a notable exception.) Few songstresses have the fortitude or the vocal prowess to tackle Piaf's repertoire -- but Raquel Bitton is one of the few. Born in French Morocco, Bitton grew up speaking and singing in six languages. By 11, she was already a seasoned performer capable of expression far beyond her years. Since her immigration to the United States, Bitton has focused her talent on the ardent music of the '30s and '40s, becoming one of the world's foremost interpreters of Piaf and garnering praise from songwriters who wrote for and worked closely with the sovereign of song. Bitton glides delicately between English and French, but her most emotive performances are in her mother tongue. Bitton performs the songs of Edith Piaf and the Golden Age of Paris at Yoshi's in Oakland on Sunday, June 13, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $18; call (510) 238-9200.
Way back when punk rock was not considered an independently viable commodity, hard-hitting rock bands would play on any bill that would take them. It made for some creative, highly engaging booking; you might catch the Stooges opening for Ike and Tina Turner. Sound too good to be true? Hold on to your hats. The wild-haired Lisa Kekaula struts, shimmies, and bellows like a rapacious old-school soul diva, and while her band sounds more like the MC5 than the Stooges, it's still the best of both worlds. To give you an idea of how mind-blowing the BellRays are, Gilman Street once rejected them because Kekaula sings; maybe the bookers couldn't remember a time when punk bands looked at Parliament and Miles Davis for inspiration, rather than at each other. The BellRays perform at Bottom of the Hill on Monday, June 14, with Chrome Locust and Kingdom First opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.
-- Silke Tudor