Rum, comedy, and the lasses

FRI 3/7

Rainy days, gridlock traffic, and general anxiety got you down? Maybe it's time to call on Tiki, the Polynesian Adam, to prescribe a little groove and rejuve so we can all begin the new season better equipped to handle the grind. That's right, Tiki. There's nothing like a little bamboo and the sound of a ukulele to transport the frazzled and weary to a place of nostalgia and utter relaxation. Some of us are just discovering what plenty of tiki enthusiasts have known for a long time: it doesn't take rolling waves and a moonlit night to medicate the soul. All you need is a well-stocked bar, a vintage Hawaiian shirt, and some kitschy tropical music. Which is exactly what the Starry Plough provides at its Hawaiian Tiki Party on Friday. The gods have lined up a sublime evening of music at the Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-2082). Coupled with a few strong beers or a Missionary's Revenge, you may find yourself doing your own version of the dirty hula.The Shut-Ins get things started before a campy performance by Petty Booka, a Japanese girl vocal duo in the midst of an American tour promoting their new album, Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian, for Weed Records. The charming little ladies are backed by a trio of guitar, slide guitar, and bass, and actually have no loyalties to any genre of music, swinging from C&W to traditional Hawaiian, and even covering pop favorites like "Material Girl" and Blondie's "The Tide Is High."

Every good Tiki Party needs an idol, not just a talisman or a totem pole but a bona fide heartthrob (think the pre-bloat Elvis). For the Plough's Tiki bash they've booked a guy whose soulful crooning and sharp sideburns will probably send the ponytail set into a tizzy. J.L. Stiles is more than just a beach hunk -- expect an evening of classic blues and folky down-home tunes that will hit you like a two-fisted Mai Tai. When you've recovered from that, you can shimmy the rest of the night away with DJ Otto Von Stroheim at the turntable. To get in the mood beforehand, check out Stroheim's elaborate site, the most complete Web guide to Tiki Nation. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. At $6, it's a lot cheaper than a trip to Kauai. -- Justine Nicole

FRI 3/7

Ladies' Night

A woman's work is never done and, given the current political climate, neither is a human rights organization's. In honor of that tireless ethic, Berkeley Copwatch brings you In Song and Struggle, an International Women's Day event featuring a medley of female musicians and performers. Julia Butterfly Hill headlines with a spoken-word performance, with blues mama Gwen Avery and a cappella ensemble Making Waves breaking up the largely folk bill. But the folk is diverse, too, from the funk of Rachel Garlin to the jazzy style of up-and-comer Green. The event starts at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar, Berkeley, and tickets cost $10-20 (sliding scale). 510-548-0425. -- Stefanie Kalem

SUN 3/9

Flute Babe

These days, if you're going to be a classical musician it helps to have movie-star looks. Take flautist Viviana Guzmán. The Chilean-born, Juilliard-trained performer, now operating out of Half Moon Bay, records such CDs as Mostly Tango and Planet Flute and composes love poems, and her Web site ( is crammed with rock-star-type photos. Despite all that, Guzmàn's Sunday afternoon date with the Diablo Symphony promises to be fairly serious: a bit of Mozart, Bach, Bizet, and Vivaldi, plus a performance of SF composer Jim Berenholtz's "First People, Last Stand," a tribute to Native Americans. The concert begins at 2 p.m. at Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek. 925-943-7469. -- Kelly Vance

THU 3/6

Viet Howdy

A Vietnamese woman named Tran Ahn Trinh and her two children move from Saigon in the tempestuous year of 1975 and relocate in the California Gold Country, in Dao Strom's new novel Grass Roof, Tin Roof. The displacement and cross-cultural friction wear on the family, especially when Tran marries a Danish immigrant, Hus Madsen, who has war memories of his own. Author Strom knows a little about melting into America. She based her fiction on her own life -- the Austin, Texas-based writer left Vietnam as a baby and relocated in the Sierra Nevada foothills, too, and now she's reading from the book at Diesel: A Bookstore. Thursday's reading (7:30 p.m.) is free. 5433 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-9965 or -- Kelly Vance


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