Driver's Seat All Oxford's Swervedriver needs is for someone to love them properly. The record labels didn't — they've been dumped by three, including majors like A&M and Geffen. Between early '90s manias for dream pop and Seattle sludge, the band's swirly, guitar-driven psychedelia and blasts of fuzz and feedback didn't make the imprint the group had hoped for when it released 1991's Raise and 1993's crushing Mezcal Head. The unfortunately titled follow-up for British label Creation, Ejector Seat Reservation, turned down the noise and channeled the quartet's energies into a poppier sound that drew comparisons to the early '60s melodies of the Who (whose songs the band has covered), but it wasn't enough to keep Swervedriver signed. New York indie Zero Hour was the next bidder and has released this year's 99th Dream, on which acoustic finger-picking, electric space rock, and the loopy strains of mellotron peacefully coexist. Hugh opens the show at 9 p.m., followed by Spoon, at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Harrison), S.F. Admission is $12; call 522-0333.
Look! Up There in the Sky! A strip of Highway 280 near Bayshore Boulevard will be attacked by fighter jets at twilight for the next three days, so commuters should plan accordingly. Artist Robert Catalusci's multimedia installation Promotion to Glory, an 18-foot by 23-foot billboard perched on the roof of the Metrae Arts gallery, will broadcast footage of military jets advancing over the industrial landscape toward motorists, accompanied by a synchronized soundtrack blaring the whine and roar of powerful engines. This project, meant to evoke the confusion and fear of wartime, isn't Catalusci's first effort involving transportation; he is concurrently working with architects and painters on a remodeling project for the S.F. Municipal Railway building at 700 Pennsylvania, slated to open in September 1999 and visible from 280 as well. Promotion opens with a reception at 8:30 p.m. (and runs from dusk to 11 p.m. through July 4) at Metrae Arts, 2027 Oakdale (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 822-3007.
Granny a Go-Go Producer/editor Mary Patton balances the high-minded with the fun-loving and the downright ridiculous in “Riot GRRRandmas!,” a program of video shorts with a Sapphic sensibility. Irish drag kings do excruciating ZZ Top impersonations in Margaret O'Flanagan and Judith Kinsella's The ZZlezbians in Concert, while the Jeanine Olsson/Danielle Sawicki short Dollywood or Bust, which is similarly propelled by a music icon fetish, follows two young dykes as they travel to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in search of their honky-tonk heroine. The lesbian-history portion of the program contains interviews with Ruth Ellis, dubbed the “oldest known living African-American lesbian,” and Persistent Desire author Joan Nestle, founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Rounding out the bill are An Evening With Sappho Socialites (a.k.a. Sons of Sappho), a collection of excerpts from the 1995 documentary about a decades-old women's social club on Chicago's South Side, and Judy and Callucci's 15th Anniversary, about a party at a country-western bar. The screening begins at 8 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-3890.
That Other Musical Hayden “It's like this is my living room,” declared Canadian singer/songwriter Hayden from his solo perch when he played Neil Young's Bridge School benefit two years back. He wasn't referring to the venue itself — the yawning Shoreline Amphitheater — so much as the acoustic format, which perfectly suited his folkie storytelling style, and to the company he was in, including Patti Smith and Young, a fellow Canadian. Hayden's album The Closer I Get is the second to be released on the Geffen subsidiary label Outpost (run by R.E.M./Nirvana producer Scott Litt and Smashing Pumpkins manager Andy Gershon) following a major-label bidding war that the self-effacing singer claims took him by surprise. Closer is marked by the mournful, weary tone of a man who's been thinking hard, with quavery admissions that trail off into whispers. It's more Lou Barlow than Neil Young, even the assertive entries like “The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees,” which bursts into full pop attack mode. Action Slacks open for Hayden and his band, who follow up their Fleadh appearance with a show that begins at 9 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $10; call 474-0365.
Death Row Drama Composer Carla Lucero's opera-in-progress Wuornos is a fairly literal musical account of Aileen Wuornos' life, beginning with the media circus that surrounded her trial. Wuornos, currently a death-row inmate in southern Florida, is a former prostitute convicted of six murders, all involving former johns whom she claims to have killed in self-defense. Wuornos was dubbed a “lesbian serial killer” for her crimes, although self-defense isn't typically an issue in serial killer cases. The trial, which included testimony on Wuornos' childhood abuse, struck a nerve among child and prostitution advocates, feminists, lesbians, and activists on both sides of the death penalty: In researching materials for the opera, Lucero found biased accounts from all camps, although she says filmmaker Nick Broomfield's documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer actually presented a balanced version of Wuornos' life. As with other composers who've made opera from headline news — think Harvey Milk — Lucero has been accused of exploiting tragic circumstances, but audiences will have the opportunity to sift through the issues after the performance, as Lucero, Brava! Executive Director Ellen Gavin, S.F. Opera Carmen director Sandra Burnhard, and Wuornos director Kim Porter speak at a post-show panel discussion. The opera, featuring singers from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, begins at 8:30 p.m. at Brava! Theater Center, 2789 24th St. (at York), S.F. Admission is a $10 donation; call 554-0402.
You Put a Spell on Me Professional hypnotist Jack Louchlin claims to hold a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, but he's forgone private practice in favor of the cruise ship-casino-comedy club circuit frequented by “hip hypnotist” Pat Collins and that ilk. Ominously nicknamed “The Director of Fun,” Louchlin hypnotizes a handful of willing volunteers at each of his shows and then “directs” them to do things that many of them probably wouldn't do if they weren't under his influence. He's made grown men believe they were nine months pregnant, and has orchestrated shoe-swapping, exotic-dancing, mock pot-smoking shenanigans punctuated by his own showmanlike banter. The drill is simple: Following his introduction, Louchlin asks for volunteers, who emerge from the audience and testify that they're not actors or paid plants, after which Louchlin performs his so-called “mass rapid induction” and tests the depth of his subjects' trances by asking them to complete basic tasks. Louchlin demonstrates the power of suggestion, or at the very least, his ability to channel extroverts, at a show beginning at 10 p.m. (and continuing Fridays throughout July) at Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint, 3583 16th St. (at Market), S.F. Admission is $10; call 861-7933.
And You, and You, and Even You Were There Judy Garland's old pal Mickey Rooney is, well, still alive for one thing, and for another, stars in the touring theatrical production of Garland's most famous vehicle, The Wizard of Oz. Rooney plays the Wizard to singer/actress/septuagenarian vixen Eartha Kitt's Wicked Witch of the West in this 90-minute adaptation of the 1939 film. Madison Square Garden Productions created the piece, which debuted last year in New York with Roseanne Barr as the Wicked Witch, a bit of casting that plenty of former Roseanne scriptwriters must have found painfully ironic. Like the film, the musical theater show begins in a black-and-white setting and explodes into color when Dorothy, played by 16-year-old Jessica Grove, steps out of her twister-wracked farmhouse into Munchkinland. Oz opens at 2 p.m. (and continues through July 26) at the Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $24-56.50; call 776-1999.
Warped — Woof! There are so many attractions competing for attention on the Vans Warped Tour that concertgoers may find themselves pulled in 10 different directions during any given hour. Besides the independent film tent, the skating showdowns on vert ramps and half-pipes, and the Warped Mural Project, there's the Ladies' Lounge, which features skate and snowboard betty paraphernalia like magazines and music and which hosts appearances by professional women boarders and skaters. The bands themselves fall generally in the skate-surf-ska-hip-hop orbit, and California is represented both in the show's beach vibe and in person, by the Mad Caddies, East Bay punks Rancid, and L.A.'s Ozomatli, whose infectious Latin hip-hop and funk blend ought to be one of the most danceable sets of the day. Bad Religion, NOFX, and funk band-turned-swing act the Cherry Poppin' Daddies share headlining duties, while original skameisters the Specials and Spain's Def Con Dos offer international variations on the theme. The show begins at 11 a.m. at Pier 30/32, Embarcadero, S.F. Admission is $20.25 (which works out to roughly a dollar per band); call (510) 762-2277.
Ray of Light Working in everything from oil to paper collage to iris prints, artist Rex Ray presents a consistent body of work with a pop-y, modernist edge. His imagery is based largely on the vocabulary of text and image in contemporary print media. The tips of exclamation points meet the tips of a thought bubble; the dot of an exclamation point is repeated into a texturally rich visual pattern. Although Ray's magazine collage paintings are sometimes too literal, his bright orange, red, and chalky mint-green oil paintings have a richer, more instinctive feel to them. For this exhibit, Ray also created an edition of book-size iris prints that virtually celebrate an intergalactic luminating vibrancy. An exhibit of Ray's work is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (through July 17) at Gallery 16, 1616 16th St. (at Kansas), S.F. Admission is free; call 626-7495. (Marcy Freedman)
See Jane Long before she was dressing Nicole Kidman in 19th-century collars and bustles in The Portrait of a Lady, and stripping Harvey Keitel of his clothes altogether in The Piano, Jane Campion was directing lesser-known leads in the short film medium. A collection of Campion's shorts screens tonight at El Rio's independent movie program “Outdoor Cinema,” held the first Tuesday of the month in the bar's open-air courtyard, where viewers can pull up a beer and a section of carpet and take in unusual films under the night sky. Local filmmakers Kim Hawkins and Xandra Castleton, who produce the series, have compiled a program of 1984 works that predate even the psychosis-heavy black comedy Sweetie and the Janet Frame story An Angel at My Table, but offer flashes of the same dark humor and Campion's celebrated talent for arresting visuals. Selections include A Girl's Own Story, a portrait of Beatlemaniac girlhood; Peel, about one family's hellacious car ride; After Hours (no relation to the later Scorsese film of the same name), a drama revolving around sexual harassment in an office; and Passionless Moments, a Monty Python-like collection of vignettes about private instances, with titles like “Angela Eats Meats.” The show begins at 8:30 p.m. at El Rio, 3158 Mission (at Precita), S.F. Admission is $5; call (510) 653-5171.