Flamenco fans and veterans of North Beach nightlife may remember the Old Spaghetti Factory's fabled flamenco room, the bohemian brainchild of artist/impresario Richard Whalen. It enjoyed an enormously successful 26-year run until its demise in 1975. Now a local Spanish brewpub is reviving that tradition with a new "Flamenco Room" at its downtown digs around the corner from SFMOMA. ThirstyBear's spacious brick-warehouse brewery may seem an unlikely venue for something as intimate as cuadro (ensemble) flamenco. But at the event's debut, the local group Toque Flamenco created a scene you'd count yourself lucky to find even in an Andalusian bar or Gypsy tent during Sevilla's famous spring fair. Entering from the street, the troupe paraded past customers and aficionados along the long bar, as singer Patricia Velasquez belted out throaty flamenco verses accompanied only by the troupe's rhythmic palmas (handclapping) and chorus of Gypsy jaleos (shouts). Dancers Melissa Cruz, Carola Zertuche, Danica Sena, and Cristina Hall then took command of an L-shaped atrium stage that resonated with inventive footwork in countertime to the lyrical guitar playing of Roberto Aguilar and Bill Burgess. The company's opening, Jerez-style bulerías (from the Spanish verb burlar, "to jest") surprised the audience, which arced around the stage with wineglasses and brews in hand and stayed entranced for the next 40 minutes by the tight, riveting ensemble work. The show had all the raw intensity of an impromptu fiesta, something sorely missing in the overly staged productions of many contemporary flamenco groups.
Toque Flamenco is the Bay Area's only flamenco performance collective. By design, says founder Velasquez, there is no single artistic director. And the group, which has appeared three seasons in a row at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa, will be performing two shows of this close-up, in-your-face fiesta flamenco every Sunday evening at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at ThirstyBear Brewery, 661 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 974-0905 or visit www.thirstybear.com.
-- Carl Nagin
Kiss Your Television
Punk Gods Bounce Back
There are, no doubt, those who don't get ecstatic chills upon hearing the lilting opening notes of "See No Evil," the leadoff of Television's first album, Marquee Moon. But then, there are those who believe Dave Matthews fandom qualifies as an appreciation for indie rock. Though Television's epic didn't burn up the charts in 1977, its original art-rock songs and jazz-influenced guitar phrasings placed the record in the pantheon of primo punk debuts, along with such classics as Wire's Pink Flag, the Buzzcocks' Another Music in a Different Kitchen, and MC5's Kick Out the Jams. Since the band broke up after releasing 1978's follow-up album, Adventure, Television has played some scatter-shot reunion shows, most notably an extremely brief 1992-93 tour, as well as headlining a few European and East Coast shows in 2001. But it's thanks to Rhino Records' Sept. 23 rerelease of the group's seminal '70s albums that West Coast devotees finally get a chance to watch Television live. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $25; call 346-6000 or visit www.t hefillmore.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
That Was Zen, This Is Now
Eighties wild boys Duran Duran headline an afternoon of fun in the sun
This year's MTV Video Music Awards were the talk of the town -- but for all the wrong reasons. The fuss over Madonna and Britney's orchestrated kiss blindsided the realnews: Duran Duran finally got the kudos it deserved, in the form of a Lifetime Achievement Award. For many thirtysomething folks weaned on MTV, this '80s boy band fueled countless teen fantasies, thanks to the members' inimitable fashion sense and cinematic videos.
So the return of the original lineup -- Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, and the three Taylors (Andy, John, and Roger) -- is cause for celebration. At Alice Radio's annual Now & Zen Festival, this fab five share the spotlight with Seal, Liz Phair, and Maroon 5, but music won't be the only route to enlightenment. There'll be plenty of balms for the spirit including the "Mt. Zen" climbing wall and a Psychic Zen Den. From noon to 5 p.m. at Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free-$30; visit www.radioalice.com.
-- Lisa Hom
Some people are afraid of labels like "culture vulture" or "ugly American." When those folks travel, they tread lightly, keep quiet, maybe even try to learn the language spoken in the region of their destination. But Jeff Greenwald wants us all to be more uninhibited, to throw off the yoke of self-consciousness. His show Strange Travel Suggestions (the name is taken from a Kurt Vonnegut quote) highlights the author's own travels of the past quarter-century. Using a giant wheel marked with hieroglyphlike figures, Greenwald asks audience members to help him with his improvised monologue. Delving ever deeper into what those charming New Agers call "the self," the writer claims inspiration from the "vagaries of wanderlust." If you're a white person wearing Teva sandals and batik, this is the show for you, you soul-searching wanderer. Sudden inspirations and unpredictable encounters begin tonight at 8 (and continue through Oct. 4) at the Marsh Theater, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $12-22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser