Devendra Banhart is a strange bird who refuses to be pigeonholed. You can't write him off as just another wandering-minstrel folk singer -- though he was named by an Indian mystic, has shaggy hair, and writes incomprehensible lyrics (sample: "My friend has my favorite teeth/ They bend backwards when she breathes"). Nor can you dismiss him as a talentless flavor-of-the-month buzz artist -- though critics from NPR and Britain's NME magazine have fawned over him. In truth, Banhart's both an eccentric and a star, his music a trendy yet timeless mix of lo-fi, psychedelia, and backwoods bluegrass. Think Jeff Buckley getting drunk with Syd Barrett to the strains of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
Devendra Obi (as in "-Wan Kenobi") Banhart grew up in Venezuela but cut his teeth on local stages, notably at Cafe Du Nord's Monday night showcase. Fittingly, he's wrapping his six-week U.S. tour here, along with Vetiver and baby-voiced local singer/harpist Joanna Newsom. Expect lots of improv from these close-knit artists, who might even make cameos during one another's sets, which start at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $13; call 885-0750 or visit www.gamh.com.
-- Maya Kroth
< span class="storyhed">Pretty Kitty
Pop-punk on the prowl
The trio of scrappy punks in Here Kitty Kitty come from skate, surf, and rock mecca Santa Cruz, and you can hear it in their music. Down there, pop-punk is a beloved and long-standing tradition. And having successfully ignored the emo revolution, the band's members pound out the bouncy three-chord stuff with a defiant snarl -- though you can tell they're having too much fun to be pissed.
But watch out: The two ladies up front have been worshipping the Muffs' Kim Shattuck for years, so they're not likely to take any shit. The Ramones-y, girl-oriented sound is easy to love, and the no-crap lyrics balance out the sweetness ("Do you think he knows your name?/ Get up off your ass, it's time for the walk of shame!"). Secret Janet, Hunbot, and Hemi Cuda share the stage starting at 8:30 p.m. at Kimo's, 1351 Polk (at Bush), S.F. Admission is $5; call 885-4535.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Let's Be Franken
Somewhere in the nether regions between stand-up and sketch comedy (a place so fearsome and shadowy some refuse to believe it even exists) reigns a sovereign of indeterminate mental health. His name is Will Franken, and he plans to unveil a new performance, Things We Did Before Reality, which he insists (on his Web site) will involve things people did before reality set in, "such as believing in a president, adhering to antiquated notions of gender and identity, relying on political correctness as a measure of a person's ethics," and other bizarre rites. The solo show begins at 11 p.m. at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
The Fantasticks -- a tweaked Romeo and Juliet -- is history's longest-running musical, which in its 42 years on Broadway brought us such stick-in-your-head classics as "Soon It's Gonna Rain" and "Try to Remember." Now the curtain rises here, at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday (with 3 p.m. Saturday matinees) at the Playhouse, 536 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Tickets are $30; call 677-9596 or visit www.sfplayhouse.org.
-- Brock Keeling