The House of Tudor

The small, detailed works of Edward Gorey have long been a favorite of anyone morose enough to delight in unpredictable disasters befalling the innocent and virtuous. There is The Unstrung Harp for the word-locked writer, The Hapless Child for those who dream of their own death as a path to revenge, and The Doubtful Guest for folks faced with tennis-shoe-wearing penguin intruders. But Gorey offers more than just waxy humor; he is a wellspring of Gothic haute couture: peg-top trousers, ankle-length coats with fur collars, knee-length scarves, middy blouses, shirtwaists with puffed sleeves, feather boas, vast picture hats, and parasols. Drawing on Gorey's distinctive black-ink fashion sense, Blood and Butter and Dark Garden Corsetry present "Resuscitation of the Enchanted Mannequins," an Edward Gorey fashion show MCd by the multifaceted guises of Jef Valentine and featuring the parlor melancholia of Jill Tracy & the Malcontent Orchestra at Cafe Du Nord on Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8-15; call 861-5016.

Headed by guitarist T.K. Smith (formerly of Big Sandy & the Fly-Rite Boys), Smith's Ranch Boys recover the authentic country swing sound popularized by the likes of Bob Wills, Homer and Jethro, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Speedy West. Slithering pedal steel and delicate, swooning vocal harmonies impart homespun tales about the simpler pleasures in life: love, chicken legs, moonlit nights, and dancing until the floorboards split. Better than an old hi-fi, Smith's Ranch Boys perform at Fuel in San Jose on Friday, Aug. 20, at $10 p.m. Tickets are $6; call (408) 295-7374. Also at Rasputin Music in Berkeley on Sunday, Aug. 22, at 1 p.m. Admission is free; call (510) 848-9005. And at Cafe Du Nord on Monday, Aug. 23, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 861-5016.

Renowned for her kinetic dance floors, "Box" founder Page Hodel has a rare gift for drawing together folks of every age, color, and sexual persuasion for the sole purpose of shaking butt. Her first weekly club night in far too long is called "Soul." As the name suggests, Hodel and fellow DJs Ruben Mancias and Olga T. will be setting the groove with Al Green, Barry White, Maxwell, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, and the Isley Brothers before heating things up with Prince, James Brown, Rick James, and Lauryn Hill. When the temperature is sufficiently high, the main dance floor will explode with house divas like CeCe Peniston, Ralphi Resario, and Deborah Cox. If you don't show up, you'll be the only one not at "Soul," which will be held at the Cat Club every Saturday, starting Aug. 21, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 657-8258.

Finally, proof that music can change the world: While we were sternly looking the other way, young Cuban musicians were honing their skills on government-supplied instruments, revitalizing their homeland sound with little influence from the outside world. The resulting abundance of paramount talent has enticed record companies and musicians to defy the U.S. embargo, to record at any cost. While Ry Cooder revitalized interest in the folkloric sons of Cuba with the Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club (which spawned the film of the same name), more forward-looking producers have embraced the current timba movement, an electrified variation of son that gives way to intricate, frenzied improvisation that encourages tembleque, or freestyle dancing, rather than more traditional partner dances. Fronted by two striking women with riveting voices and stage presence, the 14-piece Bamboleo is the most delirious of the timba groups. Fusing funk, jazz, rock, and folkloric traditions, Bamboleo is a modern-day glimpse of Havana, and by the sound of it no one in that town is satisfied with chair-dancing. Bamboleo performs at Yoshi's in Oakland on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 21 and 22, at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets are $20 ($5 for kids and $10 for adults with kids); call (510) 238-9200.

At a glance, it's easy to be duped by Jesse Dayton's youthful mien -- his baby-smooth kisser, slight frame, and immaculate brow -- but two words and an involuntary snarl are enough to prove the rugged Texas troubadour has had his fair share of mucking about. He's slung guitar for the Supersuckers, Tenderloin, and Waylon Jennings, supported Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Strait, and Lucinda Williams, and contributed songs to Melrose Place and Sam Shepard's Curse of the Starving Class, but aside from the 1995 solo album Raisin' Cain folks outside the touring trail have been deprived of Dayton's true shit-kicking wallop. That ought to change with the first release from his longtime band, the Road Kings (Dayton with drummer Richie Vasquez, whose Krupa-style virtuosity has sustained both Ministry and Asleep at the Wheel, and Jason Burns, whose slap-bass technique is furious enough to cause fires). Dayton struts through a nefarious border town marked by the craggy howl of "Hurdy Gurdy Monkey Shine," the ZZ Top stomp of "Gunslinger," the Tejano grind of "Boystown," the Aerosmith funk of "Are You Gonna Get Real," the twisted syncopation of the Cajun traditional "Casting My Spell," and the "Hound Dog" croon of "Holdin' on Again." Joy riding with Dayton can't be legal but it's worth the risk. The Road Kings support Wilson Gil & the Willful Sinners at Bottom of the Hill on Tuesday, Aug. 24, with the Giblet Drippers opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 621-4455.

-- Silke Tudor

 
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