The Wrath and the Calm

El Pollo Diablo's righteous klucking; Wussom*Pow!'s fruitful gestation

Sexy beasts need homeEl Pollo Diablo is having a hard time beating the cluck out of his opponents these days. In fact, all of the beasts who do battle during Incredibly Strange Wrestling -- Jesus Cross, Macho Sasquatcho, Ku Klux Klown, et al. -- are struggling to get a leg up and over their opponents. The problem is not one of physical prowess; rather, Audra Angeli-Morse's wrestlers simply need a new venue to play, now that the Fillmore has bawk-bawked at booking their peculiar brand of entertainment. (ISW offers a wild night of punk bands, costumed combatants, and flying tortillas.)

"[The Fillmore staff] say they want Incredibly Strange Wrestling -- it sells out shows and has really good bar sales," Angeli-Morse says via cell phone. "But they keep giving me a line of BS about moving to a larger place to accommodate us."

"It kind of has outgrown the venue," Fillmore booker Michael Bailey says about the event. "We've been looking for a bigger venue ... but we haven't found the right place."

Bailey suggests the rowdy audiences are a problem as well. In response, Angeli-Morse says, "They say there's been damage, but I've seen no proof. I've had to sign off [on the club's condition] after each show, and we've been OK."

If she sounds exasperated, that's because she's seen her event become hugely popular (it visited 52 cities last summer with the Vans Warped tour and got write-ups in the New York Timesand Los Angeles Times), but she can't find an S.F. spot to hold it. Since the last Fillmore show in October 2001, she's put on only one local gig -- at On Broadway in North Beach.

As for the Fillmore's reluctance, Angeli-Morse believes it comes down to issues with the club's security people, who often create more problems than they solve. "We give people tortillas so they don't throw other things," Angeli-Morse says. "People get excited at the side of the stage, but it's not a big deal. You let people have their fun."

How much damage can a giant chicken do, anyway?

It has a good beat, but you can't dance to itAt last week's Shins show at the Fillmore, I was struck once again by how decidedly inert an indie rock audience can be. There was little movement, save for some minor knee-jerking and wobbly head-bobbing. After a while, I began wishing the security staff had done a more thorough search at the door, and cleaned out the sticks hidden in the far reaches of the crowd's collective rectum.

Sometimes I don't know whether to blame the kids or indie music in general, which often preaches smirking distance while ignoring the groove altogether. But then I hear a record like Wussom*Pow!'s debut, Deep Blue Hearts and Solid Hands, and I forgive everything.

Wussom*Pow! has been around the S.F. scene for quite a while. The quartet formed in 1996, after Michael Eberhard met Linda Yeo at a barbecue and discovered a shared interest in the Velvet Underground and the Stone Roses. Eberhard conceived Wussom*Pow! as an alternative to the speedy indie pop of his previous band, Poastal. "I wanted something sparse with clear tones," he explains via phone from his Oakland office. "A shoegazer band without a lot of effects."

By 1997, the duo had been joined by bassist Mikel Delgado and drummer Reed Burgoyne, who brought in an interest in the Pixies, Neu!, and Jawbox. After a well-received single on Paris Caramel in 1999, the foursome recorded Deep Blue Hearts in mid-2000. Unfortunately, Yeo's job dispatched her to London for a year, so the CD went unreleased until now.

Happily, the album was worth the wait. The long gestation period before recording allowed the band to explore all aspects of its personality, from the chugging guitar-vamp of "It Will Be Clear" to the breezy bossa nova of "Twenty-Four" to the achingly slow chime and strum of "Days and Nights." Yeo sings in a breathy monotone that's infused with longing, while she and Eberhard unfurl slow guitar riffs that threaten to pool like tears at their feet. Perfect for rainy days, Deep Blue Heartswon't get you up on the dance floor. But when a record sounds this good, you won't want to leave the house anyway.

Wussom*Pow! plays with Delta Song on Thursday, June 27, at the Edinburgh Castle. Call 885-4074 for more information.

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