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House Of Tudor 

Steven Emerson; A Series of Unfortunate Events; Electric Wizard

Wednesday, Mar 14 2001
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Did you ever wonder what happened to Roland Gift, the soulful beauty who led Fine Young Cannibals to international acclaim in 1989 and then swiftly abandoned his musical career? Evidence has it that, after garnering the title of one of People magazine's 50 sexiest people alive, Gift turned his artistic abilities and exotic good looks to acting. Following key roles in Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and Scandal, Gift disappeared, except for appearances on four episodes of the Highlander TV series. On that program, an ancient clan of Immortals wandered the globe, tracking and hacking each other up with swords, the triumphant Immortal decapitating his enemy in order to gain the fallen one's knowledge and talent.

If I didn't know better, I'd say Bay Area vocalist Steven Emerson gave Roland Gift a bit of his sword some time ago. Like Gift, Emerson's heart seems perpetually caught in his throat, leaving his velvety tones sounding tragic, fragile, and imploring. Unlike Gift, however, Emerson does not temper his natural proclivity with pop hooks and bouncy beats. With graceful, mournful resignation, Emerson sets his stride in the fragile footsteps of jazz trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker. On his new album, Set in Motion (produced by Tori Amos bassist Jon Evans), Emerson dissolves his voice in a delicate wash of strings and understated female backing vocals that recalls the early '70s soul of Al Green. While the album's smoky keyboard, restrained guitar, and refined horns perfectly -- almost deferentially -- create the necessary late-night moment, it is Emerson's voice that makes the music intimate and inescapable. Steve Emerson opens for Five Point Plan on Friday, March 16, at Tongue & Groove at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 928-0404.


Page 1 of The Bad Beginning, the first volume in A Series of Unfortunate Events by children's writer Lemony Snicket, warns, "In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle." This is exactly the sort of caution I yearned for as a child. As it was, I turned to more adult fare and, in so doing, permanently damaged my tender psyche with the self-absorbed musings of cynics and zealots. If only I had read A Series of Unfortunate Events, in which the Baudelaire orphans -- ingenious 14-year-old inventor Violet, well-focused 12-year-old bibliophile Klaus, and philosophical baby Sunny -- are beset by tremendous misfortune and plagued by an evil-minded, money-grubbing cousin named Count Olaf.

In the series so far, the orphans have faced poisonous snakes, man-eating leeches, hook-handed henchmen, wicked hypnoptometrists, an elderly relative deathly afraid of doorknobs and hot food, and the near nuptials of sweet Violet to disgusting cousin Olaf (an unimaginable offense for which Snicket was banned from speaking in Decatur, Ga.), and we are only in book six of 13. The latest installment, The Ersatz Elevator, begins with a very practical distinction between the words "nervous" and "anxious" and the suggestion that the reader peruse the dictionary -- or any other book for that matter -- so long as it is not the book he currently holds in hand. Beyond the fast-paced adventure and the somewhat frequent caveats against reading this series, each small, hard-bound book holds deckle-edged pages and beautifully inked Victorian-style illustrations. I won't spoil The Ersatz Elevator by mentioning Dark Street, Mount Fraught, and the 71-bedroom penthouse of trend-savvy guardians Mr. and Mrs. Squalor; for that, I'll leave you to Lemony Snicket himself. Though that is risky, since Snicket is a bit of a hermit; most of his public appearances are handled by 30-year-old San Francisco author and former Magnetic Fields accordionist Daniel Handler, who counts among his favorite authors Edward Gorey, Vladimir Nabokov, Edgar Allen Poe, the Marquis de Sade, and, of course, Lemony Snicket. Booksmith presents Daniel Handler on Sunday, March 18, at Park Branch Library (1833 Page) at 2 p.m. Admission is free; call 863-8688.


Electric Wizard may be one of the few bands that do not reject the labeling of all heavy, guitar-sludge groups as stoner rock. In fact, the British doom trio (there I go again) seems to revel in the classification, having names like Tim Bagshaw, Mark Greening, and Jus Oborn (which I'm sure translates as something druggy in Dorset rhyming slang). And the cover of the band's fifth album, Dopethrone, features a fuzzy-edged Beelzebub exhaling a veil of smoke across a bong. Inside is no different: An unyielding clobber of drums transforms thick, swirling guitar into psychedelic demons made of feedback that are then chased by hammering bass into detuned and demented mantras for the effusively inebriated. The lyrics for songs such as "Vinum Sabbathi" ("Now I'm a slave to the black drug/ Forced to serve this black god") and "We Hate You" ("Hopeless and drugged/ My black emotions seethe") leave little to, or demand little of, the imagination. But no one interested in the Ultimate British Cosmic Sludge Stoner Rock Doom Band, whose political maxim is "legalise [sic] drugs and murder," will be looking for subtlety. Electric Wizard performs on Tuesday, March 20, at the CW Saloon with Lost Goat and Warhorse opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 974-1585. The band also plays Wednesday, March 21, at Bottom of the Hill with Totimoshi, Goatsnake, and Warhorse opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.

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Silke Tudor

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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