Grand Finale San Francisco Ballet closes out its 63rd season with velocity and verve: New York City Ballet principal dancer Merrill Ashley dances the lead (with Anthony Randazzo) in Balanchine's Ballo Della Regina, originally set to Verdi, and full of the fleet footwork for which she is celebrated. The piece is part of Program VI, which also features Helgi Tomasson's Sonata, a reflection on loss set to Rachmaninov's "Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Major," and Mark Morris' Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, in which a single dancer breaks from the ensemble for a set of bravura turns. Ashley dances tonight only at 8 p.m. Program VI continues through June 2 at the Palace of Fine Arts, Bay & Lyon, S.F. Admission is $18-85; call 776-1999.
Trailblazer Tribute Joe Goode tips his cowboy hat to the renegades who shaped the American landscape and spirit in the world premiere of The Maverick Strain. Goode collaborators include the Club Foot Orchestra Quintet, which performs an original score by Beth Custer within the movable units and paintings created for the piece by artist Nayland Blake. The staging allows the audience to experience the work as if it were a set of art installations; viewers can take in one section, then move on to the next. Goode and his six dancers, their sense of humor firmly in place, present this exploration of the pioneer legacy at 7:30 p.m. The Maverick Strain continues through June 2 at Center for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens Forum, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $14; call 978-2787.
See You in the Funny Papers Last Gasp Eco-Funnies presents the latest installment of its biannual underground comics anthology, Last Gasp Comix and Stories #4, with an artist-studded release party. For 27 years, Last Gasp owner Ron Turner has thumbed his nose at propriety with publications like Zap and Weirdo; for this edition, editor Noah Mass compiled work by Mats Stromberg, Renee French, and others, some of whom are expected to make the scene, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at Kate O'Brien's Irish Bar and Restaurant, 579 Howard, S.F. Free; call 824-6636. Meanwhile, Eightball creator Dan Clowes celebrates the release of his new book, Orgy Bound; he'll be joined by Richard Sala (The Ghastly Ones) and Adrian Tomine (the Optic Nerve series) for an in-store appearance at 3 p.m. at Virgin Megastore, 2 Stockton, S.F. Free; call 397-4525.
Boys to Men One man's cycle of violence is the catalyst for a hard look at male socialization in Spare the Rod. Mark Growden joined Man Alive after he hit his girlfriend; in the group, which seeks to end battery and abuse by males, he began to analyze the way he was brought up and the abuse he was subjected to as a child. This inquiry eventually broadened to include questioning notions of male roles and male superiority. With co-creator Remy Charlip, Growden put together a solo dance-theater piece, which plays at 8:30 p.m. and continues through June 1 at Dancer's Group/Footwork, 3221 22nd St., S.F. Admission is $10; call 824-5044.
Jam on a Roll Trip hop and hip hop shake hands with house and acid jazz at "Urban Jam IV." DJs Mark Farina of Mush-room Jazz and Felix the Dog of Black Diamond spin deep house and dance discs downstairs, while upstairs, the Mo'fessionals (recent winners of the first Disc-makers Unsigned Band World Series), Los Angelitos, Jungle Biskit, Telefunken, and New Dealers get a groove on. ACME Gallery adds to the underground ambience with a selection of motorcycles, blown glass, and posters from its "Custom" exhibit (on display at 667 Howard through May 31). "Urban Jam IV" doors open at 8 p.m. for this all-ages show; live music starts at 9 p.m. at the Maritime Hall, 450 Harrison, S.F. Admission is $11-14; call (510) 974-0634.
Ol' Blue Eyes Take a gander at a very rare gator: Antoine LeBlanc. On loan from New Orleans' Audubon Zoo, the 9-year-old, blue-eyed, white American reptile is technically not albino, but rather leucistic, or lacking the pigment cells that produce color in the skin. Alligators are rare enough as it is (they're protected under the Endangered Species Act), but Antoine is one of only 18 white hatchlings discovered in a Louisiana swamp in 1987. Our broad-snouted little friend will be visible from an underwater viewing glass as he glides through an 88-degree Fahrenheit pool and basks on an adjoining mud bank through Labor Day at the San Francisco Zoo's newly renovated aviary (which will now showcase a variety of tropical plant and animal life), 1 Zoo, S.F. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free-$7; call 753-7080.
Flip Yer Wig Drag diva the "Lady" Bunny jets West to officiate at San Francisco's version of the sequined, big-haired hoopla that is Wigstock. Manhattan drag queens have been known to spend all year preparing outfits for the festival, a live and lip-synced drag extravaganza that has fostered talent like Lypsinka and Deee-Lite; people-watching, however, typically eclipses the scheduled entertainment. The party was preserved on celluloid last year in Wigstock: The Movie, when America was enjoying a brief love affair with men in dresses. Wigstock West features Joan Jett-Blakk, Arturo Galster as Patsy Cline, and Elvis Herselvis, among others, at 5 p.m. in the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, S.F. Admission is $20-30. Tony DeBone's collection of Wigstock photos, "Hello Gorgeous, How About a Picture?" is at Vision Gallery, 2330 Polk, S.F., 621-2107; and a Wigstock afterparty with Bunny, Pussy Tourette, Ice Cube Tray, Justin Bond, and dozens of others begins at 9:30 p.m. at Club Universe, 177 Townsend, S.F. Admission is $10. Call the Wigstock hot line at 273-5979.
Nayer Sayers The inspired, evil lunacy of frontman Cory McAbee is where the Billy Nayer Show really comes together. A delicious mix of Dean Martin, Mr. Peppermint, and Peppermint's son, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, McAbee sounds sincere as all get-out when he sings, "Time for boys to kiss their dogs good night" (backed by -- would you believe? -- autoharp), but the band can crank lounge jazz up to guitar crunch with artful abandon. The show goes on at 8 p.m. at the Trocadero Transfer, 520 Fourth St., S.F. Admission is $8; call 995-4600.
To Be Rio The Carnaval Grand Parade and Festival, one of the best places to catch the city with its pants down, is like its Brazilian counterpart -- a dazzling display of percussive live music, elaborate feathered headdresses, and strategically placed sequins. Stages on Harrison at 16th and 22nd streets feature dance bands like Los Angelitos and Conjunto Cespedes playing soca, merengue, calypso, bossa nova, Latin jazz, and more beginning at 10 a.m. (also on Sunday). Floats, dancers, bands, and oversize puppets start at 24th and Bryant streets and hit 24th and Mission streets for a parade beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday. The Carnaval World Masquerade Ball is held tonight at 7:30 p.m. (also Friday at 7:30 p.m.) at the Cathedral Hill Hotel, 1101 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $25-40; call 255-8411.
We're Not Talking Shampoo The last Russian czars commissioned decorative Easter eggs from the late Russian jeweler and entrepreneur Carl Faberge; 17 of the 54 existing eggs, with hundreds of other metalwork and jewelry pieces from the House of Faberge, will be shown in the traveling exhibit "Faberge in America." Made from precious and semiprecious stones, platinized silver, and colored golds, the pieces became collectors' items at the turn of the century as word of the firm's ingenuity and craftsmanship traveled as far as the States. The exhibit is open through July 28 at the M.H. de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free-$9.50; call 863-3330.
Slow and Steady The instrumental Chicago soul of 5ive Style kicks off a night of musical and organizational cross-pollination. The band and its friends and cohorts in the Sea and Cake (who proffer groovy dance rhythms) and Tortoise (whose spaced-out dubs move occasionally into funk territory) play at 9 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, S.F. Admission is $10-12; call 474-0365.
Comes the Revolution The Climate Theater celebrates 11 years in the same SOMA space by ... moving out, and throwing a pre-relocation bash dubbed "rEVOLUTION PARTY." Guests get to drink beer and mingle with Climate stars, win prizes and souvenirs, and catch singing and dancing and video replays of past performances. Climate, host to landmark events like the Solo Mio performance festival and Festival Fantochio's digital and robotics displays, has outgrown its old home and will produce events at larger venues like Center for the Arts, Fort Mason, and the Herbst Theater. Classes and workshops will continue at the old location. The party is held at 9 p.m. at Climate's old building, 252 Ninth St., S.F. It's free; call 978-2345.
Straight Shooting A hip-shakin' good time is practically guaranteed with "From the Hip," a benefit concert for the Community Arts Apprenticeship Program featuring A.K. Black, Alphabet Soup, members of Midnight Voices, and a surprise guest to be announced. The show is held at 8 p.m. in the Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside, Oakland. $15-20; call (510) 536-2900.
Blue Monday Two American traditions -- Memorial Day parties and the blues -- intersect at the Golden Gate Park band shell with the California Blues Festival. KDIA's Frankie M plays master of ceremonies to performances by Bonnie Webb and the Smooth Blues revue, Billy Dunn and the Ladies' Choice Band, Stu Blank and the Blackie Jones Band, and Richard Barren and his band. The festival, which features food as well as live music, is a benefit for the Blues and R&B Music Foundation, which provides instruments to low-income youth. The music begins at 11 a.m. at Ninth Avenue off Lincoln Way, S.F. Free; call 437-6616.
Smarter Than the Average Bear Did you know that when they're stalking seals, polar bears will cover their black noses with their paws so as not to be seen? This bit of stealthy ursine behavior is revealed in "Bears: Imagination and Reality," an exhibit devoted to the myth and mystique, history, and status of the animal. The exhibit tracks every aspect of real-life bears and fictional favorites, with interactive displays on hibernation, life-size bear replicas, bear-claw jewelry and fetishes, and videos on Hollywood imagery vs. actual bear biology. The exhibit is up through Sept. 4 at the California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, S.F. The museum is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (9 a.m.-6 p.m. after May 31). Admission is free-$7; call 750-7145.