"It started because my friend Ari Fellows-Mannion and I thought it would a fun Halloween show to do. We love this kind of music," explains Val Esway, when asked about "Murder Ballads and Songs of Misery & Despair," the Starry Plough show she has been organizing for the past four years. The fun songs she is referring to, naturally, are murder ballads, spooky stepchildren of 18th- and 19th-century street ballads, with titles like "Horrible and Atrocious Murder of a Women at Wednesbury." They laboriously detail the dates, victims, murderers, places, and circumstances of the crimes. The murder ballad is also an adaptable beast -- Irish-born "The Wexford Girl" got a slight name change after it emigrated, resettling in Tennessee under the moniker "Knoxville Girl." If anyone can make murder ballads fun, it's the massive and motley crew that will assemble Saturday night. Eleven bands will be offering sinister serenades for a mere seven bucks, which comes out to about 64 cents a band, if you're keeping track. And while the musicians draw from the tradition of those early murder ballads, the balladeering will feature brand-spanking-new songs.
There are torch-and-twangers Stiff Dad Cat (perhaps once a victim itself in a murder ballad?) as well as the uku-erific and lovely Tippy Canoe, who describes her sound as "'20s-jazz-country-doowop-pop." Esway takes the stage as a solo act, as well as with her band Loretta Lynch, which gives the murder ballad a good bluegrass treatment. Also playing are sisters Zoe and Kim Boekbinder, aka Vermillion Lies, who share guitar-playing and singing duties while exploiting found objects, including F-18 jet parts. Esway describes former Harvette frontman Danny Allen as "a fabulous local treasure," whom she's happy to have on board for some malicious balladeering. Things get loud with Death by Stork, and you should prepare to be equally fascinated and frightened by the cabaret-core of Acoustic Virgin, Penny Allman, and Mantra Ben-Ya'akova and Slut's Wool. Um ... and there will also be a rock 'n' roll puppet singer who calls himself Bunny Numkins & the Kill Blow-Up Reaction.
Be prepared for a rollicking, massacre-filled good time, and don't forget your costume -- perhaps Jack the Ripper would be appropriate? The show kicks off at 9:30 p.m. at 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Please be 21 or older. StarryPloughPub.com -- Elka Karl
Wonder women network
We could sure use some more "sheros." This Saturday, the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music & Entertainment presents the Bay Area's Top Black Female Sheros at Geoffrey's (410 14th. St., Oakland). This panel discussion and networking conference features some of the most dynamic African-American women on the local scene, including KMEL DJ Backside, NWBL player Monika Roberts, SFBFF producer Ave Montague, singer Sunny Hawkins, Miss Black California Rachelle Cain, and more. 8 a.m.-1 p.m. 510-702-9183 or NABFEME.org -- Eric K. Arnold
Beatniks? In Brentwood?
San Francisco Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti has more than verse going in his Coney Island mind -- the legendary literary lion's paintings have graced the walls of his City Lights Bookstore in North Beach for years, and he has shown his visual art in New York, Rome, Florence, and Verona, as well as Santa Monica and Santa Cruz. Now it's Brentwood's turn. On Halloween Night (Monday) at the Brentwood Business and Technology Center (101 Sand Creek Rd., 925-516-9266), The Art of Lawrence Ferlinghetti debuts, including Liberty #1 (right). The man himself appears November 2 for a reception. Also in the show are artist Toby Tover-Krein's colorful "Diva" paintings. The exhibition stays up until January 27. -- Kelly Vance
Don't Fear the Reaper
The maiden, the mother, the crone -- the original holy trinity? So say the Daughters of the Goddess, who celebrate the crone, Hallowmass, and the Pagan New Year Friday night during the 22nd Annual Womyn's Ritual and Spiral Dance at the Orinda Masonic Temple (9 Altarinda Rd.). The crone is often connected to the concept of death, which is always followed by rebirth -- therefore, she is to be celebrated, not feared. Wear black and bring candles for this women-only event. Info: DaughtersoftheGoddess.com -- Eric K. Arnold
Culture Spy - December 8, 6:10 PM
What the Fork - December 6, 3:51 PM
What the Fork - December 1, 1:56 PM
What the Fork - November 28, 1:33 PM
What the Fork - November 15, 1:37 PM