Walk into your local comic-book store, snag a copy of X-Men, Metallix, Batman, Robocop -- even, for either the very old or the very young, an Archie & Friends -- off the rack and cruise out the door without paying. What's that called? On any other day, stealing. This Saturday, it's called exactly what you're supposed to do.Dreamed up by Joe Field, owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, and backed by the comix industry, which knows that the best price for anything is no price, the second annual Free Comic Book Day is when patrons get something for nothing at independent comix stores around the world. Next Saturday was chosen because the brains behind this gig figured on the dual frenzies generated by Friday's premiere of the X2 movie and the opening, a month or so hence, of Ang Lee's Hulk -- scenes of which were filmed around Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, under the aegis of producer and UC Berkeley grad James Schamus.
Comic-book characters have soared into big-screen ubiquity over the last few years, from Spider-Man's spinaway success to this month's Bulletproof Monk, which is based on Michael Avon Oeming's 1999 Image Comics release. But in a world of moving images, Free Comic Book Day gets back to the basics, to the classic American art form that began it all: the books.
The number of freebies per patron varies from store to store, as does the array of available titles, but more than two million copies are expected to be given away in all. Participating East Bay emporia include Comic Relief in Berkeley; Collectors Corner and Dr. Comics & Mr. Games in Oakland; Dave's Dugout in Albany; Stand Up Comics in El Cerrito; Legends of Sports & Fantasy in Richmond; Comics, Cards, Etc. in Pinole; Alameda Sportscards & Comics in Alameda; and Blondie's and Flying Colors in Concord. Visit www.freecomicbookday.com for more locations and info. -- Anneli Rufus
With Cinco de Mayo around the corner, Mexican indigenous dancers Mixcoatlanahuac will honor the spirits of Aztec gods and goddesses at the Contra Costa College Amphitheater (2600 Mission Bell Drive, entrance on El Portal Drive and Castro Street, San Pablo) on Friday from noon to 2 p.m. It's free, and the fact that the Latino Student Union and La Raza Studies Department, who organized the Latino Heritage Celebration, are still intact is definitely worth celebrating. In California in the 1960s, Chicano students organized high school walkouts and launched a Mexican-American Civil Rights movement to protest the lack of educational opportunities. In East Los Angeles in the 1970s, a statewide movement rose that would lead to the establishment of La Raza studies departments. But the rollback '90s and anti-affirmative-action movements wiped out many of these programs. Traditional foods will be sold to raise funds for the LSU with Loco Bloco, the acclaimed SF Mission District youth drum-and-dance troupe, highlighting the event. SF Carnaval Parade winners last year, they play barrio-style samba, Afro-Cuban, and Latino beats with a hip-hop sensibility. Call 510-235-7800 ex. 4249 for more info. -- Jesse "Chuy" Varela
Starting at 1 p.m. and continuing into the early evening, the sound of vibraphone, cajon, and dozens more smackable instruments will bam-boom-bap through downtown as the Oakland Day of Percussion goes down. Come to the Alice Arts Center (1428 Alice St.) for performances, clinics, and master classes, organized by the Percussive Arts Society of America's California chapter. Savants of every discipline will be on hand: multiple award-winner Stefon Harris, who will teach a mallet master class; Alex Acuña, winner of the Modern Drummer magazine readers' poll for "Best Latin/Brazilian Percussionist" for five years in a row; Michael Spiro; drum circle leader Afia Walking Tree; Zak Diouf; drummer, producer, and engineer Celso Alberti; San Francisco's Marquinho Brasil; the Concord Blue Devils Drum Corps; and musical representatives of Berkeley's Thai Cultural Center at Wat Mongkolratanaram. The cost is $7 for students, $10 for everyone else. Call 510-238-7219 for directions and log on to www.pas.org/chapters/california for complete schedule. -- Stefanie Kalem
The New Yeux
Who knew klezmer could sound so contemporary, so full of energy, and so sexy? Before the release of Les Yeux Noirs' Balamouk in 2000, the genre's image seemed as dated as the Talmud. But that album -- which blended the traditional rhythms of Jewish folk music with Romanian and Middle Eastern gypsy stylings and a rock 'n' roll attitude -- opened a lot of eyes to what modern klezmer could aspire to be. Emotionally stirring vocals, passionate violin riffs, funky bass lines, electric guitar textures, and up-to-date recording techniques all came together in seemingly magical fashion. Both surprisingly accessible and highly danceable, Balamouk was nothing short of a tour de force. The group's newest album, Live, spotlights the majesty of their concert performance, with stirring renditions of "Balamouk," "Cioara," and "Yiddishe Mama," as well as several new songs. The group plays Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley) at 7:30, a show that promises to overflow wi-- Eric K. Arnold
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