Way back in 1993, slackers warmed to Let's Knife, the debut from Japanese girl group Shonen Knife, which won hearts with sweet songs about jelly beans, Twist Barbies, and Tortoise Brand Pot Scrubbing Cleaner. The love affair only intensified with 1996's Birds & the B-Sides, on which the band twittered about Froot Loops, chocolate bars, and strawberry cream puffs. Culinary references aside, America's love affair with the broken-English verbal cheek-pinchery of singer/guitarist Naoko Yamano was often dismissed as cutesy ethnic co-opting, similar to the Hello Kitty gear fetish among adult women. But such pooh-poohing tended to obscure the talent behind the trio's surefire pop masterpieces.
As the '90s waned, former fans tired of the perceived shtick, turning their attentions instead to the bubblegum pop produced by the Britneys and Avrils of the world. Luckily for us, Shonen Knife wasn't nearly as fickle. 2002's Heavy Songs is the act's most ambitious album yet; hear for yourself when the band's North American tour reaches our town tonight. Deerhoof opens at 9 at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $15-17; call 255-0333 or visit www.slims-sf.com.
-- Kevin Chanel
San Francisco's a great town for the horny, with enchanting options available for almost every flavor of sexuality. We have enough strip bars, sex clubs, adult video emporiums, and private play parties to satisfy lusty locals and give Midwestern tourists something to talk about when they go home. But amid all the libidinous possibilities, there are subsets of the impassioned public that are just plain ignored. Dancer/choreographer/all-around talent Veronica C. Combs aims to even the score with "WET," an evening of erotic cabaret for and by queer people of color. Prurient performances include the voluptuous duet Pulse by dancers Michelle Bolong and Maija Garcia, seductive songs and poetry by Tina Cristina Maria D'Elia, striptease-style pole dancing from Fatemah, and smooth-as-butter sultry spoken word by Deep Dickollective member Marcus Rene Van and Other Brothers' Angelo Hannah. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. (and repeats at 9:30) at the Oakland Box Theatre (formerly the Black Box Theater and Gallery), 1928 Telegraph (at 19th Street), Oakland. Admission is $10-20; call (510) 451-1932 or visit www.oaklandbox.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Any actor can tell you that no matter how good the onstage dialogue is, it's stilted and censored compared to the hysterical stuff the performers say to amuse each other backstage. It's like the back of the classroom, the rear of the bus, or anywhere else people are both bored and hidden. It was backstage at a Montreal production of Macbeth that actor Rick Miller began farting around with an idea that would eventually move to center stage. He was playing the role of Murderer No. 2, who has only six lines, which gave him plenty of time to recite Shakespeare's immortal words -- using the voices of cartoon TV family the Simpsons.
Although he must have become verrry popular in the wings, the actor didn't consider taking his show on the road. Recently, he even told an NPR interviewer he thought it was "too stupid." Of course, in this country those words don't go together, and Miller was ultimately persuaded to show the world what he showed Murderer No. 1. The result is MacHomer, a one-man show with 50 familiar characters. Managing to keep most of Shakespeare's language intact, Miller switches from one voice to the next at a breakneck pace, inspiring the L.A. Timesto write, "It's intelligent, often hilariously funny," but more colorful praise comes from fans, who e-mail Miller things like, "It was so freakin' funny I thought I was gonna pee in my pants." Bart meets the Bard starting at 7:30 p.m. (with an additional 10 p.m. show on Saturday) at the Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, Gateway Boulevard off Highway 24, Orinda. Admission is $20-36; call (510) 548-9666 or visit www.calshakes.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
What determines gender? Our clothing? The hardware between our legs? The mysterious alchemy of synaptic firings and squirting chemicals in our brains? All three and more, says Amy Bloom, whose recent book Normal is a ribald, fascinating, deeply personal exploration of the world of gender outlaws. Bloom shares the insights she gained while interviewing transvestites, transsexuals, and the intersexed when she appears at 7:30 p.m. at Books Inc., 2275 Market (at 16th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-6777 or visit www.booksinc.net.
-- Joyce Slaton
Independent music is usually hard and rough, and for that, we're thankful. But indie rock group Mates of State is a husband-and-wife duo that plays catchy, pretty pop songs, mostly nonsensical odes to how much the band members love each other. Somehow, it's not irritating -- it's great. The Thermals and Rogue Wave open Thursday at 9 p.m., I Am the World Trade Center and Nik Freitas open Friday at 10 p.m., at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $12; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser