Thirty years before Momus created a media buzz with its 1999 “send-me-lyrics-and-I'll-make-you-a-song” disc Stars Forever, Rodd Keith had earned the disheartening title “King of Send-Us-Your-Poem Songs.” For a musician, arranger, and singer with any self-esteem, “song sharking” (in which companies advertising in the back of magazines preyed on the starry-eyed hopes of office workers across the country) was akin to musical prostitution, but Keith did it anyway, squandering his talents and cranking out as many as 40 songs in a day until he died at the ripe age of 37. But his life wasn't wasted; because of him, there is a treasure trove of water-cooler philosophy and rush-hour dreams, full of poignant insight into the heart of Everyman, recorded for posterity. In celebration and investigation of this absurdly American genre, musician Joshua Pollock (Zircus, Mushroom, Daevid Allen's University of Errors) has written a quasi-musical titled Get Me Rodd Keith! Along with Keith classics, an original song (written from lyrics provided by you) will be performed each night. Get Me Rodd Keith! runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., April 21 through May 27, at the Exit Theater (156 Eddy). Tickets are $12-14; call 566-2578.
The physics of the world captivated Jim Carroll long ago. Even after his athletic stardom had dissolved in a small amber pool, principles of velocity and gravity held him in their sway, becoming emotional laws that shaped his poetic battle with the void left by the dissolution caused by junk and early acclaim. And it is this skewed association with physicality that makes Carroll so compelling to watch: The large, inexpert hands rifling through sheaves of poetry, the cool, slate-gray eyes skittering around the room like a moth looking for escape, the voice, at once street-hard and trembling, searching for laughter, and the final, awkward realization that a man who has seen it all, lived a dozen lives on borrowed time, could determinedly dissect his soul before a faceless crowd while still trying to crawl out of his own skin. It is, perhaps, this oddly severe confluence of corporeal presence and psychic escape that has made Jim Carroll a poet and honest storyteller. Anyone who has seen Carroll's near-annual readings in the Bay Area, or heard his few precious spoken-word CDs (most notably Praying Mantis), knows what great irreverent humor his frailty holds. It has been quite a while since Carroll has published anything — the latest being Void of Course (a comma would sit nicely after “Void”), which has lovely tributes to Kurt Cobain, train surfing, and the Buddha — but Carroll, like so many writers of his kind, should be seen and heard. This is also the most assured way to hear excerpts from the works of narrative fiction which have been taking up his time over the last few years. Jim Carroll reads on Saturday, April 22, at the Great American Music Hall at 8 p.m. Tickets are $13-14; call 885-0750.
Only on rare occasions do we see DJ Sep — dub reggae's local lifeguard and benefactress — more excited than when Systemwide is planning a visit. Certainly, appearances by the Scientist, Dr. Israel, and Ben Wa have been highlights of the three-year history of the collaborative club night “Dub Mission,” never more so than when this Portland quintet made its last landing. Rising out of the velvety silt of dub, Systemwide travels through vast expanses of sound, swallowing and building on the bones of those who have come before, leaving gems immersed in the sedimentary layers, barely noticed but quintessential. Though deeply rhythmic and, at times, nearly trance-inducing, Systemwide's wealth lies in its texture. There are hundreds of subtle audible events hiding in the corners of each song: drops of water etching maps in sandstone mountains that crumble and blow away; grass villages rustling in the salt flats; Sufis chanting over baskets of hot coals; harlequins skipping through court; armies marching over cobblestones; railroad cars marching over plains; pistons and data flying through space; spaceships flying through the air; cartoon characters finding didgeridoos. Whatever you want, if you listen close enough, it's in there. (Small surprise they made it onto DJ Spooky's top 10 list last year, just under the Soundlab Flav-O-Pac comp and just above his own Subliminal Minded EP.) The members of Systemwide are aural conjurers, not to be underestimated or trifled with. They perform on Saturday, April 22, at the Elbo Room for “Dub Mission” at 10 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 552-7788.
From the creators of the completely outrageous early-day raves at Consortium of Collective Consciousness comes the first annual How Weird Street Faire. A byproduct of the World Peace Through Technology Organization, to which certain Silicon Valley and Hollywood philanthropists have donated support, How Weird promises jugglers, mimes, clowns, and vendors, but mostly lots of electronic dance music and a groovy free-for-all in the middle of the street. How Weird will be held on Sunday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Howard between 11th and 12th streets. Admission is free; call 552-3628 if you are somehow confused.