House of Tudor

Auditory cataclysms, TV theme-song hell, and a Grimm opera

I can think of better-suited names for the Invisible Tour -- say, the Auditory Cataclysm Tour or Sonic Tohubohu (drawing on the Hebrew word for primal chaos) or, better yet, Sansculottic Soundsystem Tour, named for the poorly outfitted extremists of the French Revolution. Any of these monikers would rightly evoke the aural phenomenon of Invisible's bands, Ripitand Nequaquam Vacuum. Ripit is the touring appellation chosen by France's leading transmitter of experimental noise, Nyko Esterle, founder of Riposte Records and the largest anarcho-squat community in Paris. His music -- ripped from the hearts of drum machines, samplers, and turntables -- is the sonorous equivalent of being trapped inside an abandoned steel mill during a rainstorm with a homicidal beserker on the way. It is, in turns, oddly beautiful -- rich with the subtle ambience of urban decay -- and fiercely taxing, with shrieks, blasts, and blares that demand immediate attention. Not to be outdone, Portland's Nequaquam Vacuum creates postindustrial, pre-coital improvisations using scrap metal, toys, wind instruments, butcher's cleavers, kegs, vintage electronics, a 300-pound piano harp, and a myriad of percussion instruments, including the Saw Blade Tower and the Double Bow Chime. The Invisible Tour stops in town on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 21 Grand with the six-piece Che Guevara Memorial Marching and Standing (and Stationary) Accordion Band opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5-10; call (510) 444-7263. The bands also play on Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Luggage Store Gallery (temporarily at 509 Ellis at Leavenworth) with turntablist Thomas DiMuzio opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6-10; call 255-5971.


My ex listens to the Facts of Life theme song relentlessly, four or five times in a sitting and at extraordinary volume, at least once a month. A childhood crush on Jo Polniaczek only partially explains this routine. The TV tune itself seems to unleash some latent adolescent energy, causing him to bounce around with a grin, commenting on the "wicked guitar licks" and pointing out the exact moment when each of the girls appeared on screen during the intro. "It's rambunctious, just like the house they lived in," he says by way of explanation. Apparently, mine was not the only man so obsessed, as others trade the theme song with some regularity on different file-sharing Web sites. Imagine his glee when I mentioned that the Six Million Dollar Band actually plays the tune live. He wasgleeful, that is, until I explained that the act plays additional theme songs -- from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Addams Family, The Greatest American Hero, and a legion of other shows -- all of which the group will offer at the Devil-Ettes' wintertime revue, "When Hell Freezes Over." No doubt it will be a nostalgic fuzzy something for everyone, except me. Seeing that I didn't have television during my formative years (cue the tiny violins), singing along with TV jingles is a special kind of hell, which is exactly the point. "When Hell Freezes Over" is a pop-culture paradise raised to an infernal simmer by cathode rays. The show also includes Bride of Ozzy, the Black Sabbath tribute band fronted by former Devil-Ette Buffy Visick. (Is it any coincidence that Ozzy Osbourne has a popular sitcom as well? I think not.) There will be a screening of Bride of Ozzy's truly gore-rrific music video for Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" and several devilish dance routines. Of course, the Six Million Dollar Band will provide the intro. "When Hell Freezes Over" will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at Studio Z, with DJ the Now Sound opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 (or $6 with devil or ice-princess costume); call 252-7666.


Dressed in fascistically inspired uniforms of utter black, and hidden beneath leather gloves and mirrored sunglasses, 400 Blows look almost as unsympathetic as they sound. Led by the snarling rasp of vocalist Sköt, this bassless trio offers angular, crushing, punk rock anti-melodies that turn sex into nihilism, chaos into law, and the man next door into an irresistible megalomaniac. 400 Blows' music is powerful instead of pretty, which is why it's so surprising that LA Weekly nominated the group for Best Punk/Hardcore Band two years in a row -- proof, perhaps, that authentic might makes right. 400 Blows appear on Saturday, Nov. 23, at El Rio with Everything Must Go and Black Furies opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 282-3325.


This year, San Francisco Opera has expressed interest in reaching out to people of my, um, sort, and, certainly, Engelbert Humperdinck's adaptation of Hansel & Gretel is a wonderfully gruesome place to start. The Brothers Grimm tale, which was first set to music in 1893 for the Weimar Republic stage, offers the misadventures of two children sent into the woods to gather berries near the home of an evil witch who habitually adds kiddies to her gingerbread recipe to give it oomph. This lavish production employs grandly ghoulish sets, hideously exaggerated face masks, sadistic force-feeding implements, a great big oven, and an even greater cast of voices to accentuate the nightmarish spirit of the fairy tale. As the opera is sung entirely in English and runs just a little over two hours (about half the running time of Handel's beautiful Alcina, which is also being presented this season), it is perfect for the operatic neophyte. For a limited time, readers of this column and this column only may visit www.sfopera.com/sfweekly to purchase two tickets for the price of one. Hansel & Gretelwill be staged on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30, at noon, and Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 8 p.m. at the War Memorial Opera House (301 Van Ness at Grove). Tickets are $42-165; call 864-3330.

 
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