Set against the harrowing backdrop of Mexico City, William S. Burroughs' Queer follows the sexual obsession of “William Lee” for a beautiful young man who gives his body freely but his soul rarely. Queer was so blatant and uninhibited in its depiction of Burroughs' homosexual longings that it went unpublished for nearly 30 years, even after Burroughs' self-assigned, drug-related exile to Mexico had ended and numerous other volumes of his work had been circulated. Even today, the story might be a slippery topic for a live stage performance in any other city but ours. In Erling Wold's adaptation, not only will Queer be staged, it will be transformed into an opera. Indeed, Burroughs' themes of overindulgent passion, unrequited love, and pathological fixations are ideal subjects for opera, if you don't mind a little gunk and grit in your aria.
Queer plays Wednesday through Sunday, Aug. 23-27, at ODC Theater (3153 17th St.) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18; call 863-9834.
It's a little hard to imagine any of the lascivious sex kittens from the Glamour Pussies finding themselves in a family way — on purpose, anyway. But it's true: Tigger LaTwang is bringing forth the next generation of whipped cream-covered garage punkettes and everyone's invited to the bare-assed baby shower as the Pussies prepare for the imminent arrival of Baby Puss. Expect your standard baby shower games (guess the circumference of said belly, pin a poopy diaper) with some unruly twists and some floor-shaking punk rock.
The baby shower will be held on Thursday, Aug. 24, with Fabulous Disaster and the Nads opening at the CW Saloon at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 974-1585.
Inspired by the 6,000-year history of a fictional cave on the Northern California coast of the illusory Crimson Bay, On the Banks of Time is a rueful, sweetly melancholic glance into the dark corners of Ray's Vast Basement. The project, begun as the solo rumination of Jon Bernson, has since enveloped a number of similar-minded history buffs, including five regular players and guests like Mark Growden and Jesse deNatale. The natural grotto, for which Bernson's conglomeration is named, was supposedly discovered by Sir Francis Drake in 1579 and taken over by missionaries in the early 1800s. Passing through the hands of sheep ranchers, shippers, soldiers, lighthouse keepers, and bootleggers, the land finally came to Ray McKelvey. He built a ranch house with a cellar entrance to the cave and used it as a speak-easy during Prohibition. Suicide, murder, and subterfuge stalked Ray's Vast Basement (as the cave was then known), until McKelvey was sent to prison and the cave became the domain of the Drakesville Women's Club. After brief stints as an illegal trailer park, an artists' commune, and surfer and raver accommodations, the house and cave were repossessed by an international investment firm and transformed into a cliffside resort. A group of former tenants fashioned the musical group Ray's Vast Basement to protest the loss of this historical landmark. Or so says the thick packet of curling flash cards that accompanies the album. Despite the meticulous concept, On the Banks of Time does not read lyrically as an exacting narrative: The songs are written as deeply personal metaphors inspired loosely by faded snapshots. Bernson identifies himself in first person as the fire that swept through Drakesville; similarly, his love songs, written about “historical” figures, are anchored in the land but not restricted by it. The music unfolds, like the lyrics, with a rambling poet's eye. Accordion, clarinet, violin, harmonica, and flamenco guitar flicker amid pop hooks, jazz phrasing, and Waitsian lyrics about bartenders with hourglass hands. Despite a dark, salty landscape and atmospheric samples from David MacGillis, Ray's Vast Basement's compositions bear the dusky, granular quality of cowboy songs, emphasized by Bernson's clean, sun-baked vocalization. There are sing-along moments, drinking moments, sobbing moments, swaying moments, and moments of strong, simple, outsider purity.
Ray's Vast Basement performs on Sunday, Aug. 27, at Amoeba Music at 2 p.m. Admission is free; call 821-1200. And at the Make-Out Room on Monday, Aug. 28, with Matt Lax & the Nearly Beloved at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 647-2877.