Perhaps more incredible than a year-old hip-hop club is a 3-year-old musical laundromat series. Over the years, producer Ian Brennan has enticed hundreds of musicians to experiment with their work while their socks tumble dry in the casual, noncompetitive confines of Brain Wash. The heterogeneous Unscrubbed: Live From the Laundromat CD series has become a wonderful barometer of San Francisco's music scene year to year. The third release in the series includes no less than 26 artists, everyone from Ali Khan, Snowmen, and Billy Nayer Show to Bar Feeders, Wilson Gil, and Gun & Doll Show. At least 20 of them will perform at the "Unscrubbed" Benefit Show, perhaps the single largest night of local music this year. The new charity dunk tank will include BAM's Greg Heller, the SFPD's Bob Geary, KUSF's Terror Bull Ted, Live 105's Renee Rotten, and Paradise Lounge booking agent Bryon Schostag. The show will be held at the Paradise Lounge and Transmission Theater on Saturday, May 22, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 861-6906.
Being on intimate terms with the Dionysus Records Empire gives you instant garage-rock street cred and teaches you everything a well-versed, booze-guzzling Gearhead fan must know: The Bomboras were creating their go-go sound long before they appeared on DGC's Zombie A Go-Go Records; Les Baxter is the godfather of exotica; the Boss Martians wrote the theme song for ESPN's Indy 500 coverage; Ray Campi's 1957 masterstroke "Caterpillar" is the rockabilly Holy Grail; the Dead Boys "live at CBGB's" was not lost forever; and Mae West was not a drag queen, but she sang like one. The mighty Empire turns 15 this year, and while San Francisco has historically been overlooked for the three-day garage bacchanalia that is the Dionysus Demolition Derby, we have been chosen, with Philadelphia, to host "Dionysus Records' 15th Birthday Bash." Gearhead, Tiki News, and Liftoff! SpaceCapades present labelmates Tiki-Tones, Davey Allen & the Arrows, Frenchy, and the Dukes of Hamburg with a special performance by the Devil-Ettes at the Cocodrie on Saturday, May 22, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 986-6678. Frenchy and the Dukes of Hamburg also celebrate at Amoeba on Friday, May 21, at 6 p.m. Admission is free; call 831-1200.
I would be remiss not to admit Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers was the first punk band I gave a damn about. For the uninitiated, the combination of soul, reggae, and punk might bring the Clash to mind, but there is no doubt Jake Burns could kick Joe Strummers' ass with one hand, and a foot, tied behind his back. For the edified, SLF aren't saplings (they were jumping off stages in 1977) and since Bruce Foxton took over bass duty, a quarter of their live set is Jam material. Stiff Little Fingers perform at Slim's on Saturday, May 22, with Gadjits and Fogging Molly opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $16; call 522-0333.
As demonstrated by the compulsory spectacle that is the "Estrus Showcase," the viscous essence of Estrus transcends language barriers and spans oceans. Sunday's show includes the Coyote Men, a quartet from Newcastle, England, that lays claim to two years of masked-wrestling training in Mexico City; they're better known for corrupting aural offensives, ugly-girl baiting, and chicken thieving. Seattle's Gimmicks lurch and roar through a drunken, bluesy landscape littered with fallen Dead Boys and misbegotten Stooges howling from a Southern Baptist pulpit. Thundercrack hails from Nancy, France (if you call them nancy-boys you'll get a new understanding of their name and a harmonica shoved in a warm place where the sun don't shine), but their grainy, Oblivions-style groove will be difficult to rival at this year's "Garage Shock" in Bellingham, Wash. Catch them at Bottom of the Hill on Sunday, May 23, at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 621-4455.
After all these years, Jonathan Richman is still oddly engrossing and slightly disarming. On his new album, I'm So Confused, I thought "When I Dance" might finally explain part of it, but no; "When I Dance" is an unabashed declaration of his own trancelike (sex) appeal. He admits it's peculiar, but undeniable, and he must tell us so with equally guileless lyrics. As with all his albums, I'm So Confused is filled with Richman's unadulterated observations on love, parties, loneliness, and thrift stores. He seems to think anything that pops into his mind is worth recording, but he's right as a car wreck. Maybe it's just that he's delusional enough to convince us all, or maybe it's the simple way he says, "I want people to love me the way I love/ I want to open up my lunch box and find a peanut butter sandwich/ Just like when I was 6 years old and somebody loved me." Richman plays the Starry Plough in Berkeley on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 25-26, with !Tang opening at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10; call (510) 841-2082.
-- Silke Tudor