Rock in a Hard Place 

Deep inside the local scene

IT'S A HOLIDAY
in California: embattled ex-Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra's celebrating the 22nd anniversary of his label Alternative Tentacles this Saturday with a showcase at SF's Great American Music Hall. Having the East Bay's brutal Dead and Gone and bizarre Victim's Family back from the dead would be reason enough to celebrate, but there's more: up-and-coming Oakland "punk soul boogie" outfit the Pattern, fellow label newcomer Phantom Limbs, and the country evil robots of Slim Cessna's Auto Club.

You won't find the Pattern nor the Limbs on the label's new sampler The Ecstasy of the Agony, a thirty-track epic with a little starburst cautioning to "pay no more than $5.99." But there's the Devoesque yelps of the Causey Way, endless undulating prog-punk from NoMeansNo, random musical ramblings from Jad Fair and Wesley Willis, and a whole lot of howling metallic rock and feral punk: Pitchshifter, Black Kali Ma and the Dicks, Lard, Creeps on Candy, etc. But most interesting are the short bites of science busted by Noam Chomsky, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Angela Davis, Howard Zinn, and Biafra, cleverly tucked between all the rock. After listening all the way through, you won't have to go to the Music Hall to see Jello Biafra; you'll pretty much be Jello Biafra.


AFTER ALL
that noise, a little silence goes a long way, and it just so happens that silent films are very "in" this week. (Next week it'll be top hats and sideboards on cars.) Only they won't be silent once our best and brightest are through with 'em. The trailblazing, ingenious praise magnets the acoustic chamber jazz trio Tin Hat Trio set the short films of early Russian insect animator Ladislaw Starewicz to their own eclectic accordion-violin-guitar mix of jazz, tango, bluegrass, classical, and who knows what-all this Saturday at San Leandro's Bal Theatre. Then on Tuesday comes the natural pairing of elegantly chilling chanteuse, composer, and pianist Jill Tracy and her Malcontent Orchestra with F.W. Murnau's immortal original Nosferatu at the Red Vic in SF. The 1922 silent film was pleasingly picked apart in the recent black comedy Shadow of the Vampire, but Tracy's macabre cabaret/ragtime sensibility seems even better suited for the vampiric classic.


Those lucky ones
who crammed into the Starry Plough to hear Texan Rhett Miller trying out new material in a couple of solo acoustic gigs last year can finally lay their hands on those songs that've been running through their heads in some mangled form ever since. The Old 97's' latest, Satellite Rides, is a generally strong platter that sadly puts its weakest feet forward before getting to the good stuff: "Buick City Complex," with its pathetic refrain, "Do you wanna mess around?"; the playful, "Bird in a Cage"; the beautiful proposal "Question"; and the sly come-on "Designs on You." Or they can head over to Slim's this Friday and relive the live set as a full-band outing.

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