Big Lou leers like an off-kilter Donna Reed from the cover of her self-titled Big Lou's Polka Casserole, offering cheesy sustenance from flashy gold lamé oven mitts. In the corner, on top of an antiseptic white fridge, gleams a candy-apple red accordion. Big Lou's accordion has added color to Polkacide, Thee Hellhounds, the Stir-Ups, Those Darn Accordions, and Salut Matelot, but the secret sauce in the Polka Casserole is Big Lou's voice, an endearing trill filled with home-style charm and yodeling elegance. Singing "Norman," "Mon Amant de Saint Jean," "Hotsy-Totsy Girl," and the "Bartender's Polka," Big Lou conjures that dreamed-of neighborhood lady who always makes strangers feel welcome and carries laughter into a room. The recipe is heightened by some of the finest players in town: Phillip Greenleif on alto sax, Joshua Raoul Brody on piano, Sheldon Brown and Nik Phelps on clarinet, and Zach Spellman on tuba, just to name a few. In the end, though, it's Lou's party and you're happy to be there. Big Lou's Polka Casserole opens for Tango #9 on Saturday, March 18, at El Rio for a patio show, weather permitting, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 282-3325.
As a very small child, seeing cow eyeball dissections at the Exploratorium held a certain fascination and repellent allure, but in the year 2000, with self-possessed detachment as the primary currency even among children, it takes a little more than bovine goo to wow a crowd: How 'bout human dissection? Now we're talking. "Revealing Bodies" offers an unflinching view of human anatomy over several centuries, including "The Visible Human Project," for which the bodies of a 39-year-old Texas man and a 59-year-old Maryland woman were frozen and passed through a scientific saw that rendered them in paper-thin slices which were digitally photographed and put back together like a giant flip-book, allowing viewers to look at the bodies as a whole, or as highly precise pieces. Also on display: A tubercular skeleton from the 18th century, skinless hands preserved in the 19th century, a wax cast of a face ravaged by syphilis, and the breathtaking "Medical Venus," an anatomical model of a woman from 18th-century Florence that is considered an Italian national treasure and is making its first appearance in the States. In conjunction, London-based artist Alexa Wright offers folks the opportunity to witness real "normalcy" in the form of 3-D faces comprised of a statistical cross-section of museum visitors on which your own face might be superimposed, revealing the true freak of nature that you gratefully are. "Revealing Bodies" runs Saturday, March 18, through Monday, Sept. 4, at the Exploratorium. Exhibit is free with regular museum admission of free-$9; call 563-7337.
An emphatic fist-pumping call-out to H-town -- that's Hanover, Germany -- might be the last thing you'd expect at a rock en español show, but 30 seconds with Wisecräcker will clear up all the confusion. Led by the compelling street-tough Alex Mendez, who sings in Spanish and English, not German, Wisecräcker's easy collision of oi-tinged ska and Latin punk rock put the band on a world tour with Bad Manners and garnered legions of new rock en español fans. Of the six songs on ...de puta madre, five are completely unshakable, unless you mean to shake beer, boots, and butts. Traveling down the coast into Mexico with Wisecräcker are Watsonville's Caradura, whose perfect hyperkinetic fusion of spaghetti western, ska, punk, and cumbia is what Sublime promised to attain (beg for their Spanish version of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop"), and Mexico's punk rock socialist big band Tijuana No! San Jose's Blasfemia, San Pancho's Lodo y Asfalto, and España's Don Cikuta also perform on Sunday, March 19, at the Cocodrie at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12-15; call 986-6678.