This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Lap steel guitar, layered, dreamy vocals, and wide-ranging instrumentation mark the sound of Summer Hymns' latest EP, Value Series Vol. 1: Fool's Gold. It's a good listen, and the organs, synth, and violin (even a theremin, way in the back there) also help in making it a great production. The sound is late Beach Boys meets early Eagles, and it's sometimes compared to that of Austin psychedelia scenemates Olivia Tremor Control, but if we were mean we'd call it a rip-off of Olympia's mellow-elegists the Microphones or Little Wings. We're nice, though, so we'll just say that it's gorgeous no matter what the inspiration. (Apparently, even Billy Bob Thornton likes it.) Love X Nowhere joins Summer Hymns in opening for Elf Power at 9 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $8; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com.

Thursday, May 20, 2004
Given that he admits to thinking about candy at least once an hour and hoarding 3 to 7 pounds of the stuff in his house at all times, Steve Almond is our kind of guy. Cursed with an inveterate sweet tooth that blossomed into a near-obsession, Almond let his unbridled lust for goodies lead him to the national tour of small sweets factories he chronicles in his book Candyfreak. The background information the author relates about small-fry confectioners (such as Hayward stalwart Annabelle Candy Co., maker of Big Hunks and Abba-Zabas) and their products is fascinating on its own, but what elevates Candyfreak into the realm of art is Almond's candy-besotted prose, which can only be compared to erotica. It's a portrait of a man bewitched, and we can't resist. Almond reads from his work tonight at 7 at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness (at Turk), S.F. Admission is free; call 441-6670 or visit www.bookstore.com.

Friday, May 21, 2004
Oh, the Butchies, the dreamy, dreamy Butchies. You don't have to be gay or a girl to fall in punk rock love with this group, but it's true the band carries the torch passed by Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. We figure you're savvy readers and don't make generalizations about all-women or all-lesbian bands, but just in case you were wondering, these three musicians are respected for avoiding clichés as well as for rocking so dang hard. Even the harshest critics (we're talking snotty indie tastemaker Web site Pitchfork and suchlike) love Kaia Wilson's pitch-perfect voice, Alison Martlew's sharp guitar hooks, and Melissa York's furious drum attack. Nearly everyone else out-and-out worships the trio. Davies vs. Dresch and Drip Joy open at 10 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $10; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.

Saturday, May 22, 2004
ArtsFest is up and running around, and one of the favorites in this weeklong smorgasbord is a performance collective often described as "Punk du Soleil." Xeno has been working on new stuff for the past nine months, says manager Austin Lewis when we call him. The show's going to have "new flavor," he insists, "stuff our fans haven't seen before. We're a little nervous about it." But Austin, it's kinda hard to imagine people who specialize in fire work and aerial dance being nervous. In flame-wrangler Sparky Rich Szpigiel's place, say, we'd have an attitude closer to, "I throw fire around in high style, and if ya don't like it, F-U!" The performance is scheduled to include live music, "preprogrammed sonic environments," and acrobatics in addition to the aforementioned dangerous stuff, and it all starts at 9 p.m. (also both nights next weekend) at Xenodrome, 1320 Potrero (at 25th Street), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 285-9366 or visit www.xenodrome.com.

Sunday, May 23, 2004
Sometimes it seems hard to avoid all the magazine articles, Web sites, and tall tales Burning Man spawns. But for those of us too uptight to truck out to the Black Rock Desert, it's still fun to look at the myriad photos our wacky friends bring back. Even so, it would be nice to see those weird thingamajigs up close. At the "Burning Man Flambé Lounge," one of the best parts of the desert festival gets served up city-style, just for weenies like us: the art, which this year responds to the theme "Vault of Heaven." Many of the performers, creative constructions, and vehicular innovations bound for BM in a few months are yours for the ogling today (and sans the infamous playa dust). The Mad Scientist Olympics and something called a "Borealis BBQ" are also scheduled, and the event is kid-friendly. Fanciful costumes and extravagant self-expression are encouraged, starting at 2 p.m. at the SOMA Recreation Center & Park, 270 Sixth St. (at Clementina), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-5263 or visit www.burningman.com.

Monday, May 24, 2004
Reading about the life of Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, we are reminded of the character named Chloe in the 1999 movie Fight Club. Chloe, terminally ill with cancer, stands before the members of her support group and tells 'em how totally horny she is. She explains that she just wants to get laid one last time. It's a fantastically stereotype-smashing moment, and one that raises questions such as: Will closeness to death be complicated and unexpectedly funny, or just weird? Kübler-Ross, the author and patient advocate famous for her book On Death and Dying, would probably say "all of the above." She has definitely said that terminally ill people deserve to give and receive information freely and respectfully. Currently, the 78-year-old Kübler-Ross is in stable health, but she figures she won't hang around a lot longer, and the inevitable looms large for a woman who's spent her life researching death. Facing Death seems like a somewhat bald title for a documentary about her, but it's likely a tone she prefers. Show times are tonight and tomorrow at 7:15 and 9:20 at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $4-7; call 668-3994 or visit www.redvicmoviehouse.com.

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