Salsa goes electro with Los Amigos Invisibles

Alt-country music fans may know him better as the comically gaunt member of Slim Cessna's Auto Club — who serves as deadpan vocal foil to lead singer Slim's cowpunk Baptist preacher — but Jay Munly is an accomplished tunesmith in his own right. His current outfit, The Lee Lewis Harlots takes a gothic, chamber-group approach that stands in stark contrast to the Auto Club's frenetic Pogues-via-Appalachia attack. If the blood-splattered, grit-encrusted denizens of HBO's Deadwood burst into a cello-driven musical full of murder ballads, it would sound an awful lot like the band's brilliant, self-titled 2004 Alternative Tentacles debut. Munly & The Lee Lewis Harlots headline the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old Time Festival's annual alt-bluegrass showcase on Saturday, Feb. 10, at Café du Nord at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10-12; call 861-5016 or visit for more info. Dave Pehling

If Eleni Mandell did not exist, it's unlikely anyone could invent her. The easiest "handle" to apply to Ms. Mandell is "singer-songwriter," though she has little in common with introspective waifs with guitars or pianos. Mandell is an unlikely but silken synthesis of Randy Newman, Tom Waits, and Patsy Cline — a quirky, humane crank of performer with a torch singer's worldly-wise, smoky tone melded with a country star's guilelessness. Her latest opus Miracle of Five is a languorous, hazy, jazz-tinged tour of the vulnerable, cracked, and broken hearts populating the very last after-hours joint open in Los Angeles, the city Eleni calls home. Compare S.F. to L.A. via the divine Ms. M. on Sunday, Feb. 11, at Café Du Nord at 8 p.m. Admission is $15; call 861-5016 or visit for more info. — Mark Keresman

Venezuela offers no export half as fun as Los Amigos Invisibles, the cheeky dance-pop band that caught the ear of David Byrne, who signed them to his Luaka Bop label and facilitated their second home in New York. From raucous anthems about all-night orgies to ditties about favorite flavors — which these days appears to be "Caramelo Y Chocolate" — this bilingual troupe crafts a flirtatious sound that could be thought of as an electro-salsa hybrid. Two shows take place this week, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, and Wednesday, Feb. 14, at the Independent at 8 p.m. Admission is $23; call 771-1421 or visit for more info. Tamara Palmer

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