New Face of the Blues When she belts out "I Always Get My Man," Shemekia Copeland sounds remarkably confident, especially for someone who's barely old enough to date. The 19-year-old blues prodigy may have gotten a head start in the business from her father, Texas blues guitarist Johnny Glyde Copeland, but coaching alone didn't produce the unexpectedly powerful and polished voice that belies her lack of life experience. No one would expect a teenage city kid to sing about brewing white lightning and working the fields, of course -- Copeland goes for raucous, electrified urban blues, pausing just long enough to stun listeners with the soulful gospel ballad "Salt in My Wounds," which suddenly explains all those Aretha comparisons. Copeland appears at 9 p.m. at the Boom Boom Room, 1601 Fillmore (at Geary), S.F. Admission is $15; call 673-8000 or check www.ticketweb.com.
Bang a Gong The '70s-era Gong Show kept Chuck Barris and Jaye P. Morgan off the streets, helped launch Pee-wee Herman's career, and turned the Unknown Comic into a cultural footnote, so its existence was essentially justified. The same remains to be said of the '90s version, called Extreme Gong, where the new musical acts of Corey Feldman and Ike Turner have already gone to die amid naked cowboys, talking dogs, opera-singing cowboys, and senior citizen stuntmen. Essentially unknown comic George Gray (whose work in big-league films like Stargate made the cutting-room floor) MC's the show, which hosts new bands, "Babes/Hunks of the Day," and variety acts; if you lack what it takes to succeed in show business, you might consider Extreme Gong's open auditions -- acts must be three minutes or less, and musical accompaniment must be acoustic, on tape, or CD. The fun begins at 5 p.m. on the terrace level of the Metreon, A Sony Entertainment Center, 101 Fourth St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free; call (312) 214-4520.
Girls on Film The exotic, warlike tribe native to the American tract home is studied in painstaking anthropological detail in Oakland filmmaker Sarah Lockhart's Super 8 mockumentary Suburban Guerrillas, part of her video and mixed-media program "Product DisPlacement." Lockhart further tweaks consumer culture with Slow Job, a video that reveals striking similarities between the language and rhythm of sex work and those of customer service; with Cellular Suicide, she argues the case for cell-phone-induced brain cancer through a series of slides, video, and found sound. Lockhart shares the bill with Texas transplant Lori Surfer, whose equally eclectic and often alarming program "Surferesque" is comprised of medical and dental disaster slides, a montage of horror and home movies accompanied by an eerie soundtrack, and a collection of weird animated shorts. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-3890.
Take the Low Road Warning signs that the Scottish Highland dance show Fire & Grace has Riverdance potential: promises of "fiery" Scottish dancing, pouty shirtless studs, Celtic New Age music. What may save it: live bagpiping, three U.S. Adult Scottish Highland Dance Champions. Laura Carruthers, an international Highland dance champ and former ballerina, put this show together with members of her Arizona-based Celtic Dance Theater and the Scottish Dance Company of Canada; the idea was to move beyond Riverdance. If we're lucky, she'll move way, way beyond it, ditching the fog machines and rhinestone sweatbands of Michael Flatley's Las Vegasized vision as she goes. Narrative works and athletic variations fill out Fire & Grace, which takes its title from the Scottish warrior/poet duality found in hit films like Braveheart and Rob Roy; apparently, Carruthers bypassed the drunken Scottish hooliganism popularized by Trainspotting. The show starts at 8 p.m. (also Saturday) at Herbst Theater, 410 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $7-30; call 392-4400.
Avenging Angel After dropping out of art school at 19 and joining a punk band that opened for the Sex Pistols' swan song at Winterland and shared stages with X, the Go-Go's, and the Dead Kennedys, what's former Avengers frontwoman Penelope Houston supposed to do for an encore? Evidently she thought it best to round up some old friends and try something new on her solo album Tongue. Avengers fans will have to satisfy themselves with old favorites from the band's recent reunion shows, because Tongue is not a punk record. Even "Scum," an obvious fuck-you to someone, is still catchy enough for radio play. Owing more to Houston's post-punk career as an acoustic neo-folkie, Tongue takes one last look back with the anthemic "Grand Prix" before plunging into the lush string arrangement of the inexplicable "Ballad of Happy Friday and Tiger Woods." Go-Go's pals Jane Wiedlen and Charlotte Caffey contributed to two tracks on this pop-kissed post-punk reverie. Peachfish (formerly Moxie) opens for Houston at 10 p.m., followed by the Negro Problem, at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $10; call 621-4455. Houston also plays an in-store at 2 p.m. at Amoeba Records, 1885 Haight (at Stanyan), S.F. Admission is free; call 831-1200.
SLA on Wheels It's been 25 years since the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped publishing heiress Patty Hearst; enough time for Hearst to plead brainwashing, get out of jail, and land a role in John Waters' Serial Mom; enough time for SLA member Kathleen Ann Soliah to change her name, move to Minnesota, and land roles in community theater productions. Just last month, however, Soliah was arrested on 24-year-old California charges and the Hearst family newspaper was positioned as the last daily in San Francisco, which put the story back in the news and the San Francisco Bike Coalition's Patty Hearst Bike Tour on track. Like the Colma graveyard tour before it, this 10-mile SFBC excursion specializes in overlooked local lore, putting the Hearst story in the context of its tumultuous time. Highlights include the Daly City closet where Hearst was held for a month and the Western Addition apartment where Hearst and the SLA could "hide in plain sight." Riders meet at 11 a.m. at the Daly City BART station. Admission is free-$5; call 431-BIKE.
It's All Geeks to Me There's a connection between the muddy utopianism of Woodstock and 'Hell and High Water ... Geeks to the Rescue," a multimedia benefit for Nicaraguan survivors of Hurricane Mitch. Specifically, it's an electronic connection, between Woodstock's CyberVillage in upstate New York and Geeks here in the city. Thanks to a video conference hookup, Woodstock MC Wavy Gravy and festival musicians will be swapping notes with Summer of Love musicians and leaders attending the Geek party, and getting an earful of Geek performers. Technological marvels aside, the Geek fest is an old-fashioned variety show with honorable intentions and worthwhile attractions. Multi-instrumentalists Rube Waddell will create a roving three-man carnival with rusted-out Appalachian folk, back-porch blues, and drunken sea chanteys, while the Ali Khan Band will texture Sufi music with reggae and hip-hop grooves. And that's just the beginning: look for Carnaval dancers Birds of Paradise, Lilith alum Deb Pardes, and a slew of others on four stages throughout the night. The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Transmission and Paradise Theaters, 11th Street & Folsom, S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 643-0270 or check out www.geekapalooza.com.
Play the Blues, Punks! You could say that Andre Williams and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion need each other; Williams gives Spencer credibility, and Spencer gives Williams exposure. Williams was, and is again, everything that Spencer admires: an impeccably dressed bluesman with a salacious smile and a dirty mind. Williams' first big hit came in 1956 with the slow-grind "Bacon Fat," followed by an insinuating little number called "Jail Bait"; by the '60s he was producing for Motown, which fired and rehired him half a dozen times. By the '80s, he was strung out and broke, but rehab and persistent fans revived his career, and in 1997, punk label In the Red (which released Spencer's first album) put out Silky, a raunchier-than-ever comeback -- songs like "Pussy Stank" don't leave much room for misinterpretation. Last fall's Blues Explosion party album Acme finds Spencer's wife (Boss Hog's Christina Martinez) getting down with producer Williams, musically speaking, in bluesy hootenanny with hip-hop stylings supplied by the Automator and Luscious Jackson's Jill Cunniff. Andre Williams & the Countdowns open for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $16.50; call 346-6000.
Boogie Chillen Of course, if Jon Spencer just seems like too much of a scene, there's always the weekly barbecue and hoedown known as "Swamp Boogie." Pray for good weather, because jambalaya and pineapple upside-down cake taste better with summer heat and cold beers, and from a diner booth on Eli's back patio (decorated in fine style with old car parts and cookware doubling as musical instruments), you can watch the sun set behind the power lines and unruly bougainvillea blossoms spilling over the fence. The Oaktown Medicine Show stages a bluegrass jam for mandolin, washtub bass, and washboard; roots band Joe Buck shows off its thunder broom and pedal steel prowess. The music begins at 6:30 p.m. at Eli's Mile High Club, 3629 MLK Jr. Way, Oakland. Admission is $6; call (510) 655-6661.
There's a Riot Goin' On With 60 Second Wipeout, Berlin's Atari Teenage Riot has perfected the art of bracing, blow-your-hair-back white noise. It's digital hardcore, a kind of electronic entropy created by shrieking, knob-twiddling kids who bend screaming metal riffs around the clanking of heavy machinery and adrenalized dance beats. It looks like glassy-eyed teens who've spent too much time in the dark. It sounds like a semi plowing into an angry mob. Eventually, of course, it'll sound like the X Games or some kind of soft drink, so enjoy its perverse pleasures while you can. Mocket opens the show at 9 p.m. followed by Add N to X at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $12-14; call 885-0750.
It's a Terrible Thing to Lose One's Mind The music that didn't fit in to the Flaming Lips' four-CD sonic experiment Zaireeka eventually became The Soft Bulletin, which the Lips bring to the Music Against Brain Degeneration Revue. The Lips' release of Zaireeka, whose four CDs can be played simultaneously or alone, stemmed from their "Parking Lot Experiment," a kind of chance music created when hundreds of people got together to blast singer Wayne Coyne's various cassette tapes from their car stereos. Fans have come to expect that kind of mind-bending provocation ever since the Lips' psychedelic mash of guitars, fuzz, and static hit college radio, which is where tourmates Robyn Hitchcock and Sebadoh always found a home for their musical musings as well. Thanks to Jonathan Demme's Storefront Hitchcock, more people have discovered Hitchcock, late of the Soft Boys, and his happily surreal little world of dead wives and men with light-bulb heads. Lou Barlow, meanwhile, seems to have adjusted his thinking with The Sebadoh: The lyric lo-fi lovesickness has been tempered by a new drummer and guitarist Jason Lowenstein's harder rocking edge, and ever since Folk Implosion, Barlow seems less interested in killing former bandmate J Mascis. Sonic Boom's E.A.R. opens the show at 8 p.m. (also Wednesday) at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $21.50; call 346-6000.