This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
The Purple Onion is reopening – for comedy. The famous club has had many incarnations, and the current organizers – Cafe Macaroni's Mario Ascione, photographer/producer Dan Dion, and comedian Jim Short – desperately want to distance themselves from most of them. They have a specific vision for the new old place, and it does not include punk bands, anyone looking for buffalo wings, or tourists. In fact, press materials brag about plans to "eliminate the Long Island Iced Tea crowd and their ilk" from the hallowed hall. They're to be forgiven for such snobbery, though, considering their genuine love for the joint's awesome comedic history. The relatively small venue's stage has held the Smothers Brothers, Phyllis Diller, and Lenny Bruce, among many more, and the trio obviously wants to attract a crowd of interesting, intelligent local people – "adults," they specify. "Comedy Returns to the Purple Onion"features Short and others and begins at 9 p.m. at the Purple Onion, 140 Columbus (at Pacific), S.F. Admission is $6; visit www.purpleonioncomedy.com.

Thursday, March 11, 2004
Slightly embarrassing confession: We developed our abiding love of mosaics at Disney World. Yes, Disney is ground zero for conformity and prepackaged corporate fun (underlaid with some rather ominous politics), but when you've ingested certain psychotropic substances and are lingering underneath Cinderella's castle, you can't help but notice that the brilliant glass mosaics are ridiculously beautiful, so beautiful that you might live with a predilection for mosaics ever after. Which is why we're so entranced with "Opus Veritas: Fragments of Truth," an exhibition of 65 magnificent pieced-together works that range from representations of real people and things (Jennifer Tipton's glimmering enormous fingerprint, Lucio Orsoni's 9/11-inspired diptych) to abstract objects (Ellen Blakeley's gorgeously veined Blue Bowl). See the pretty pictures starting at noon at the Museo ItaloAmericano, Fort Mason, Bldg. C, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free-$3; call 673-2200 or visit www.museoitaloamericano.org.

Friday, March 12, 2004
For those of us who can remember the early 1990s, it's still a little weird to realize how popular country music has become among independent musicians. How did this happen? Why? Our childhood spent singing along to the bell-bottomed, sideburn-heavy bands whose style was old-fashioned but a little stoney was something to hide, not celebrate – but that was then. Listening to Dave Gleason's Wasted Days, it all makes sense. The group's loose twang and unexpected influences (the Replacements?) make its classic country rock, so often compared to Gram Parsons or the Flying Burrito Brothers, the kind of honest music people play just for the love of it. Tonight's CD release party celebrates Midnight, California, the band's second full-length recording. Smelly Kelley's Plain High Drifters open at 10 p.m. at the Ivy Room, 858 San Pablo (at Solano), Albany. Admission is $7; call (510) 524-9299 or visit www.ivyroom.com.

Saturday, March 13, 2004
What is it with the frickin' circus thing? This city has a whole school of circus arts, and about a zillion freaks who just want to run away with one (think Burning Man). Half of these folks have formed circus troupes of their own, and will eat fire at the drop of a hat. In case you need to see the most sex- and drug-oriented circus in town, try the "Mid-Month Cabaret Variety Night." OK, it's not a circus, exactly, but it does have clowns, accordions, sideshows, and magicians, all of them dirty-minded, foul-mouthed, and 100 percent adult – except, perhaps, for Cirque de Flea, which is just, well, fleas doing tricks. Hosted by Dr. Techno's Traveling Minstrel & Medicine Show, the evening also boasts "etherealness and blacklight puppetry," burlesque, and "inappropriate comedians." Step right up, starting at 8 p.m. at the Center for Variety Arts, 608 Taraval (at 16th Ave.), S.F. Admission is $10; call 242-4433 or visit www.technomaniacircus.com.

Sunday, March 14, 2004
Someone once said that Madonna hacked a path through the jungle, and women musicians who came after her were just picking daisies in her footsteps and complaining about it. It may be an unusual analogy, but a lot of people feel the same way about the MC5. The Detroit proto-punk band is an obvious role model for many groups today. Overtly political poster children for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, the Motor City Five took rock, sped it up, messed around with feedback and fuzz on two guitars, and made famous the battle cry "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!" Back in the late 1960s, this method did not go over very well with parents or record companies. But kids and rebels, as everyone now knows, made these hallmarks into rock necessities, and the band's fans continued to multiply even after its industry double-crossing and drug abuse-fueled demise. Touted as "the last great untold story of the 1960s," the band's tale is the subject of a new documentary, MC5: A True Testimonial, which promises rare TV and film footage, stills, and interviews with the legendary act's members. It screens nightly at 7 and 9:30 p.m. (also 2 and 4:30 p.m. today and Wednesday) through March 18 at the Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St. (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $5-8; call 863-1087 or visit www.roxie.com.

Monday, March 15, 2004
The past 11 years have ushered in changes both monumental and minor – the Twin Towers went down in flames; the dot-conomy came and went; Mariah Carey transformed herself from musical icon to bug-eyed pariah. But over at the venerable Death Guild things are pretty much the same. Waxen goths favor velvet and PVC, load on the eyeliner Siouxsie-style, and, most of all, continue to pack the weekly dance party to sway to the strains of Bauhaus, Ministry, and other black-clad gloom-and-doomers. Celebrate Death Guild's 11th Anniversary with a solemn spin around the dance floor tonight. The clove cigarettes are on us starting at 9:30 p.m. at Glas Kat, 520 Fourth St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is $3-5; call 495-6626 or visit www.deathguild.com.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Danny Wallace claims he started a cult by accident. It's called Join Me!, also the title of his book, which is all about how he did it. We are skeptics – we haven't joined him, and we're not sure we trust him. He's so ... happy. The story goes that Wallace, inspired by an eccentric great-uncle's stymied efforts to start a commune, took out a small ad in a newspaper. It read simply "Join Me." People responded in surprising numbers, and soon considered him their guru of sorts. Although Wallace claims that he had no plans for "his" people, they began to demand that he command them to do something. Figuring it couldn't hurt, he asked them to do small, random, nice things for strangers. Like good cult members, they followed his directions to the letter, and now they go around buying beer for strangers and leaving flowers at senior citizens' homes. If you want to join, all you have to do is send your passport photo to Mr. Charismatic Leader, then take the leap of faith in believing that humans can be warm-hearted, silly, and fun. We're still not sure about that last part. Hear Wallace (and see some of his joinees) at 12:30 a.m. at Stacey's Bookstore, 581 Market (at Second St.), S.F. Admission is free; call 421-4687 or visit www.staceys.com.


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