In the '70s and early '80s, shows booked by Dirk Dirksen transformed the Mabuhay Gardens from a Filipino cocktail lounge to a punk rock oasis on par with New York's CBGB's. During those years, KALX DJ and engineer Terry Hammer began working with Dirksen, recording hundreds of live shows -- everybody from the Jam to Hüsker Dü and Lydia Lunch -- at the Mab and other Bay Area venues like the Old Waldorf, the Keystone Berkeley, the Stone, and the Fox Warfield. Recently, Hammer released a live recording of the Lewd from an early Mab gig; the pressing quickly sold out and similar projects have been launched with the Offs and the Mutants, while more memories from Hammer's extensive archive have been plumbed and aired during DJ Vain Man's Saturday night show KALX Live! Still, everyone who remembers the good ol' days, and those who are just now discovering how good those days really were, are clamoring for the real deal -- a live Mab reunion. For now we will settle for the "Unauthorized Fab Mab Reunion Show," a little get-together in a venue less than a stone's throw from the old Mab. Dirk Dirksen will be on hand to toss popcorn and incite riots (or at least profanities) with his golden-day spewing of insults; D.J. Lebowitz, an authentic punk-rock pianist, will play a few numbers that will bring back memories and fuck with your head; the Avengers' too-cool-for-school frontwoman Penelope Houston will show folks what you do with your life after your band opens for the Sex Pistols before you're even old enough to drive (probably play an acoustic set with Katherine Chase and Michael Papenburg); and ex-Dead Kennedys Klaus Fluoride and East Bay Ray will show you what you do when you think the singer of your first band ripped you off for royalties (play crazy-eyed surf music with a band called Jumbo Shrimp, no doubt). Live video footage of Mab shows will screen throughout the night, providing a Where Are They Now? vibe, and the show will start with the minidocumentary Faster Louder Shorter on Saturday, May 20, at Club Cocodrie at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 986-6678.
The Sprocket Ensemble was formed in 1997 by wind and brass man Nik Phelps, whose protean compositions scored the much-lauded Twisted Tails of Felix the Cat cartoon television series and whose playing dappled Tom Waits' Mule Variations as well as Waits' soundtrack for the Academy Award-winning animated short Bunny. Comprised of chamber musicians and avant-garde instrumentalists, Sprocket effortlessly shifts from classical bombast to global exoticism to swaggering funk to knee-slapping Dixieland, conjuring aural narratives that supply the emotional extremes necessary for silent pieces of animation. Bringing attention to the often overlooked artfulness of animation scores, as well as animation itself, Sprocket's "Ideas in Animation" series is an ongoing tryst between musicians, animators, and the listening and viewing public. The latest installment features Victoria Livingston's wrenching 10-minute Claymation short Window, which won a Golden Spire Award at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, and is wonderfully enhanced by Sprocket's lush instrumentation: In a shadowy black-and-white world of office cubes and corporate-speak ("Work Promotes Confidence," reads an inspirational poster), one of many mouthless employees begins questioning the monotony of his life with a heartfelt lift of his downcast clay brow; on his way home, through a cold and blustery night, the man discovers a window reflection of himself that offers a gloriously colored pastoral escape, but is it enough to risk the safety of routine and conventional expectation? In Nina Paley's five-minute Fetch, an easygoing yellow beanlike character tosses a ball for his little blue dog, who leads the poor chap on a riotous chase through Escher-like mazes, lines, and shapes while Sprocket lopes and cavorts in the orchestra pit below. The joy of "Ideas" is that even when the animation, which is wildly varied -- including everything from digital collage to stop-action to more straightforward drawing -- doesn't tickle your fancy, the music will keep you enthralled. This show also includes a beautiful twirling light show by Jorge Scott and romantic sung interludes by Connie Champagne as well as offerings by animators Chris Lanier, Michael Rudnick, Damon Mark Davis, Marian Wallace, Pstacy Steers, Phillip Krohn, Gay Shelton, and Rock Ross. "Ideas in Animation" will be held on Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21, at the Victoria Theater at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 ($7 for students); call 863-7576.
The Slow Poisoners, those delicious pioneers of Victorian pop music, are renowned for their occasion-specific serenades, so I was thrilled to hear they had been scheduled to play along the Bay to Breakers race route. If anyone can sound lush, beautiful, and chillingly evocative at 7 in the morning, it's these guys, and they promise a new ballad titled "Slow Poisoners Go Marching On." The Slow Poisoners perform Sunday, May 21, at the corner of Fell and Baker from 7:30 to 11 a.m. If you can't drag your sorry ass out of bed even to catch sight of the wild salmon-men running against the race, the Slow Poisoners will also open for Glasstown and Holcombe Waller on Tuesday, May 23, at Bottom of the Hill at 9 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 621-4455.