If the L.A. band Midnight Movies had written the soundtrack to, say, the late-night show at the Opera Plaza, the flick might feature the actress/singer Nico and Cat Power's Chan Marshall taking a woozy, boozy drive down David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. That's the kind of spooky vibe this act creates by layering vocalist/drummer Gena Olivier's buttery, haunted alto over Jason Hammons' moody keyboard while Larry Schemel lays down fuzzy, hard-edged guitar. The sound is pretty enough for the girls but dirty enough for the boys.
Armed with nothing more than a six-song EP and a residency at the hipster club Spaceland, Midnight Movies impressed folks in SoCal, earning a nod for Best Pop/Rock Band at the LA Weekly Music Awards and setting industry tongues wagging with profiles in rags like NME and Fader. Its debut long-player came out last month, and the album's amazing in a Cranes-Stereolab-Metric sort of way. Midnight Movies plays Thursday at 10 p.m. at "popscene," 330 Ritch (at Townsend), S.F. Cover for ages 18 to 20 is $8, or $5 if you're over 21; visit www.popscene-sf.com. If you're too cheap to go -- or just forgetful -- catch MM the next night at 6 for a free in-store show at Amoeba, 1855 Haight (at Stanyan), S.F.; call 831-1200 or visit www.amoebamusic.com.
-- Maya Kroth
The Castro's new runway
The Castro is loaded with foxy fellas and dishy dykes, but it's going to take more than a finely honed set of abs to bag bragging rights at the "Cutest of the Castro"competition. Since weekly preliminary rounds began Aug. 18, the pageant has displayed contestants who are evaluated on their community service participation and the wittiness of their responses to judges' questions, as well as the way they strut it in swimsuits and gym togs. There's a talent competition, too, but naturally the crowd's more interested in the eye candy than the chance to see a hometown boy doing his thing on the glockenspiel. You can catch the last preliminary contest (final judging takes place at the Castro Street Fair Oct. 3) at 9 p.m. at Harvey's, 500 Castro (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 558-3002 or visit www.noblebeast.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
A group theater venture
Bold experiments in Stanislavsky-based ensemble theater are a dime a dozen in the Bay Area (of course, that's one reason we like it here), and teenage prodigies have the potential to induce major gagging. But the young acting company Punch Theatre, whose charismatic leader is 18-year-old Eric Barry, has energy to burn and a great premise for its latest production, Victim of a Mind Trap. The Barry-penned play is about a psychiatrist with a dream machine and three kids who can choose to plug in or pull out. Also cool: The troupe is self-directed. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through Sept. 25 at the Xenodrome, 1320 Potrero (at Vermont), S.F. Admission is $13-15; call 285-9366 or visit www.punchtheatre.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Jamaican author Colin Channer's new novel, Passing Through, concerns a series of episodes set on a fictional Caribbean island, each with its own characters and plot, but arranged chronologically. Writer Z.Z. Packer calls his prose "silky," and we like the sound of that. Channer reads at 12:30 p.m. at the Alexander Book Co., 50 Second St. (at Market), S.F. Admission is free; call 495-2992 or visit www.alexanderbook.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser