Semi Legend 

Kirchen plays truckers' favorites

THU 12/11

If you've read the press on Bill Kirchen over the years, you know his music has been found to contain grit and grease and steel and diesel. His playing -- the Telecaster is his axe of choice -- is said to scorch, swagger, kill, rip, run, wail, and twang. And, of course, rock. His band is called Too Much Fun. All of this shouldn't imply that Kirchen is somehow hazardous (well, maybe he is a little), just that it's hard to do his big sound any justice with mere words. Some might say the best place to experience Too Much Fun is behind the wheel of a big rig on the open interstate at high noon or midnight, and that may be true, but the Freight & Salvage this Thursday seems like a decent alternative. Kirchen's command of the guitar suggests, rightly, that he's been at it for decades. When you have licks like his, it takes a long time to get to a point where it's not just about the licks. A folkie by training, Kirchen has along the way picked up powerful doses of blues, swing, honky-tonk, country, rockabilly, and -- this is important -- a sense of humor. His career really throttled up when he had the good sense to talk his original, Detroit-based band, Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, into moving to the Bay Area. That got Kirchen on the map, and he got around a lot thereafter (Texas, Washington, DC, England, etc.). Now he is widely hailed as one of the originals of American roots-rock. When the National Council for the Traditional Arts, in partnership with the Cracker Barrel restaurant franchise, included Too Much Fun's last CD, Dieselbilly Road Trip, in its Heritage Music Collection, it became officially safe to call Kirchen a national treasure. So it's nice that he and Too Much Fun, with Johnny Castle on the bass and Jack O'Dell on drums, have now returned to raise a ruckus in these parts. -- Jonathan Kiefer

11/12-1/6

Revolutionary

News from Chiapas

Like fellow photographers Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Maya Goded, Jutta Meier-Wiedenbach has devoted her art and craft toward the struggle for social justice in Mexico, particularly in the embattled southern state of Chiapas, where a revolution has been brewing since 1994 -- and where most of the SF-based photog's recent pictures have been taken. The crisp imagery has the urgent ring of photojournalism to it. You can see for yourself through January 6, as long as En la Orilla de la Luz (At the Edge of Light), an exhibition of her work from 1995-2001, is on display at La Peña Cultural Center's gallery, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. The show is sponsored by Global Exchange and the Mexico Solidarity Network. 415-255-7296, ex. 229 or GlobalExchange.org -- Kelly Vance

SAT 12/13

How Convenient

With apologies to whatever anonymous Express writer penned the following sentence, there are certain critical constructions that should be banned forevermore. "Guided by Voices and the Flaming Lips sit down to lunch with Elvis Costello as their waiter." Though that portrayal of Six-Eye Columbia may be convenient, it simplifies things a little too much, considering the careful way the Bay Area band wraps its odd pop majesty in smarts, electronics, an orchestra of noisemaking devices, and a melancholy air. It's like saying tonight's Blake's (2367 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley) headliners Rogue Wave sound like the Shins. Sheesh. The Red Thread opens up at 9:30 p.m. $6 cover. 510-848-0886. -- Stefanie Kalem

12/13-12/14

Friends on the Wall

Amanda Bereny's oil paintings depict a lonely night world of empty public spaces. Karen Frey devotes her watercolors to the intricate wonders of nature, especially trees in bloom. Echoes of French Impressionism abound in Celia Wedding's watercolors and monotypes of ordinary people relaxing on the beach. The work of these artists, along with that of Linda Sutton, Leslie Williams, and Marika Wolfe -- all of whom are friends -- are part of the Visual ID show, Saturday and Sunday at the Brick House Gallery in Oakland (201 3rd St., near Jack London Square). There's a reception Saturday at 4 p.m. 510-452-3230. -- Kelly Vance

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