She's Lost Control

The shit hits the fans

Every once in a while, there's a show that's so amazing and/or bizarre the audience goes apeshit. Afterward, word spreads, and the event weaves its way into the tapestry of San Francisco's musical lore. The Sex Pistols' final raspberry at the Winterland Ballroom, Crash Worship's pig blood-spewing warehouse parties, Paul McCartney trading gangsta raps with Too $hort -- all are discussed in rapturous tones. But until recently, no one had ever been so moved by a performance that they'd literally lost their shit.

That changed on April 18, when Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds played the first of two shows at the Warfield Theatre. Pandora Hastings, who describes herself as a "huge Nick Cave fan," was standing down by the stage, drinking in the somber tones of "The Mercy Seat," when the trouble began. "I was just listening, having this transcendent moment, when people began pushing to get past me," she recalls via phone from her workplace in the Mission. "Some guy yelled, '"Out of the way, bitch!' I looked down, and there was a pile [of shit] on the floor. I thought it was a prank -- that someone had thrown it from the balcony or something."

But in a post to craigslist and www.nick-cave.com, fellow audience member Mark Fantino offered the straight poop on what had transpired. During the show, Fantino wrote, he'd been watching a "very beautiful woman" who looked "very much like PJ Harvey" standing next to him. She seemed to be enjoying herself blissfully until, quite suddenly, she fell to her knees. Fantino and a friend struggled to lift her, but she pitched forward again. Luckily, a security guard arrived and took her away. Only then did Fantino and his buddy see what the woman had left behind. "I can't believe she had that much in her," Hastings says.

As Fantino rushed to the bathroom to clean off his soiled pin-stripe pants and left shoe, Hastings pointed out the problem -- and the terrible odor -- to security. Nick Cave played on unaware, possibly confused at why a large circle of space had opened up on the crowded floor. "People started walking through it," Hastings says, "and no one told anyone not to stand there. You'd think they'd know something was wrong -- all that space right in front."

After the show, Hastings went backstage and told the band what had happened. Several of the musicians felt the reeking refuse was indicative of their overall performance, while one member was amused they'd made someone lose control so completely. For his part, Fantino returned to see the next night's show -- wearing a different pair of shoes. No word if they were shit-kickers.

Tuff is the new softThe continuing collision of TV ads and indie music persists, with more bizarre results. Small-time artists like the Shins, who just played the moderate-size Great American Music Hall, now find themselves heard by millions of viewers nationwide in a McDonald's commercial. Miller Brewing Co. picks obscure acts such as Chicago's Smog without paying attention to lyrics like those in "Held": "I let the jets fly/ I'm wishing for their destruction/ Born to black in a perfect blue sky." Not very post-9/11 patriotic, is it?

Of course, now that garage rock has been appointed the new grunge, with The New Yorker suggesting in a recent issue that Sweden is the next Seattle, garage bands should turn up everywhere soon. Too bad that Tina & the Total Babes -- a collaboration between local Bobbyteens singer Tina Luchessi and Minneapolis' Travis Ramin, Jacques Wait, and Johnny O'Halloran -- may have already spent their 15 minutes of fame. In March, two songs from last year's full-length, She's So Tuff, were used in My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star, a supposed comedy on the WB that starred Kate Hudson's brother Oliver as a musician intent on "world rock 'n' roll domination."

It would be a crying shame if She's So Tuffwere overlooked by listeners, considering that it's one of the best home-listening rock records I've heard in years. Many other garage bands grow tiresome over the course of a whole disc, needing the sweat and bluster of a live show to thrive -- but not Tina & the Total Babes. Main songwriter Ramin stuffs every tune with thick and thorny licks, while Luchessi sings like the snarly girl-child of Pat Benatar, Pearl Harbour, and the Go-Go's. Hints of girl groups appear throughout, from the Spector-esque ballad "Tragedy" to the '80s-ish come-on of "All About Makin' Out." Luchessi even includes a cover of Holly & the Italians' "Tell That Girl to Shut Up." It's a shame that John Hughes doesn't make films anymore: These songs would be the perfect soundtrack to a story of adolescent yearning, doe-eyed fawning, and fucking shit up. More likely, of course, they'll end up in the background of some Gap commercial, with a bunch of pukes in khaki banging their heads.

 
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