Wry Crooner 

Mini-folk fest at the Starry Plough

SAT 10/1

Victoria Williams, who brings her introspective Americana to the Starry Plough Saturday night, hasn't made a new album in three years, yet her girlish voice and wry songcraft continue to charm new fans. It seems that she might be one of those musicians whose popularity gains in drought, as she has released only a handful of recordings since her debut in the mid-1980s. Many fans discovered her via 1993's Sweet Relief tribute album, which brought together her more famous admirers to raise money for the daunting medical expenses Williams faced after developing multiple sclerosis. The singer-songwriter now runs the nonprofit Sweet Relief Fund to assist other musicians in covering their health-care costs, since medical insurance is usually beyond the reach of most struggling artists and their families. Williams may be better known nowadays for her collaborations with husband Mark Olson and their band the Creekdippers, but her solo performances are rare and intimate moments, filled with expert musicianship and intense emotions. In a time when real musicians are hard to find on the pop scene, troubadours like Williams continue to haunt the smaller venues, playing honest music to fans yearning for the skill and sincerity of days gone by. Her style is almost country, almost rock 'n' roll, almost folk, and definitely something unique of her own.

Williams' music offers a listener-friendly alternative to the glitzy sheen of the product-placement performers that dominate corporate-owned airwaves, as does the equally thoughtful music of Carolyn Mark and Bermuda Triangle Service. The soon to be ultra-hip Mark has played in bands such as the Vinaigrettes and the Corn Sisters (with Neko Case), while local trio Bermuda Triangle Service is also on the way to alt.country glory, with a dash of bluesy exotica. The whole shebang starts at 9:30 p.m. this Saturday at the Starry Plough, 510-841 2082. $12. This event is wheelchair accessible. StarryPloughPub.com -- Amrah Johnson

10/3-10/8

A-OK

Boom Times

Nothing is more fascinating than the spectacle of death, and images of early atomic weapons blasts, with their eerie black-and-white scenes of mushroom clouds and buildings being pulverized, have achieved the heights of mort-porn. That's not to say that the vintage military photos in Michael Light's book, 100 Suns (Knopf, $45), are not exquisite. Light's installation of the same name -- a description from the Bhagavad Gita as quoted by nuke scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer -- visits the lawn in front of Doe Library on the UCB campus for six days beginning Monday, as part of "The Arts & the Atomic Bomb" series at BAM/PFA. Witness it. For more info, visit BAMPFA.berkeley.edu -- Kelly Vance

THU 9/29

We Need the Funk

There's no question that funk in the trunk is all good. Especially when you're talking about an Oaktown-style fashion show featuring local designers. Thursday's Funkytown Trunk Show at @Seventeenth (510 17th St., Oakland), sponsored by the Express, showcases the stylish designs of Riki, mzz Trzz, Nicacelly, the Giant Peach, A Diva's Closet, Momoca, Designs on Your Heart, Tumi's, and more -- everything from formal and upscale wear to casual attire, jewelry, and accoutrements. You can make room for all your new 'fits and earn karma points by donating your gently-used gear at the donation booths -- it all goes to Hurricane Katrina survivors. For tickets, visit At17th.com -- Eric K. Arnold

SAT 10/1

Keep Sunol Shining

Normally, the Sunol Country Festival is the spitting image of Rockwellian Americana, offering such activities as face painting, horseback riding, and old-timey music. Yet this year, the event has an added sense of urgency. The good people of Sunol are currently engaged in Lorax-like battles against Alameda County officials to stop a proposed giant recycling dump and a mining operation, which threaten the gladiolus and the air quality of Sunol Valley. This year's festival (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Downtown Sunol Community Park) is sponsored by various pro-environmental nonprofits working to keep the region green. Admission and parking are free. For more info, visit Sunol.org -- Eric K. Arnold

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