They're Ba-aack 

The return of Schlong

Wed 12/22

The band Schlong started out around 1988, performing in the East Bay often under various names, mostly at warehouse parties. (The name Schlong, after a cat the band knew, was adopted long after the members got into the swing of performing together.) The band eventually released its first record in 1996, Punk Side Story, a trashed punk-rock version of West Side Story, and vanished soon after. A collection of singles came out the next year, but the band had technically disbanded by that time, and has not appeared again since the mid-'90s. Schlong has now come to represent the East Bay punk scene of ten to fifteen years ago, and is also familiar to audiences as a vessel for other musicians, notably Jack Canada from Guano, and Pat Mello. Despite its continuous shifts in style and personnel, the band won devoted fans who admired their musicianship and versatility, their ability to skip from funk to ska or from punk to country and back in a hybrid, multigenre flux. The guitar work was tight, and drummer Dave Mello later gained fame for his membership in the cult favorite Operation Ivy.

In a daring plunge into the uncertainties of conceptual music, Schlong proved that "conceptual" could be as simple as getting drunk and performing standards from a musical everyone is familiar with. The band managed to please both fans of punk and 1960s musicals in one shot, and its original, improvised songs made for good comedy. The bizarre Punk Side Story garnered the band the unofficial and highly coveted fans' vote for Weirdest Punk Band Ever. Brash and out-of-control yet tunefully skilled to the teeth, Schlong never made it very far beyond its debut record.

Looking back, fans may wonder: Was Schlong a gang of geniuses or just a screeching, blitzed voice from the past? Regardless, the band maintained its credibility and, like the Sex Pistols in their fat, forty, and back reunion tour in the late '90s, Schlong reunites to the benefit of all involved tonight (Wednesday) at the Golden Bull, 413 14th St., Oakland. $6, 8 p.m. -- Ken Tanemura


It's the Light

Dutch Courage

Realism somehow never seemed so real as when practiced by the painters of the "New Dutch School" in the late 19th century, when the idealized natural settings of Romantic Realism gave way to the stormy Ijsselmeer seascapes of Johannes Christianus Schotel and the brooding village scenes of Pieter (Petrus) Gerardus Vertin. Schotel and Vertin are two of the Dutch masters on view in the misleadingly titled Waiting for Van Gogh, a nevertheless important exhibit of seventy paintings from 1830 to early-20th-century Netherlands, on loan from the collection of Contra Costa collectors Jan and Mary Ann Beekhuis, at the Bedford Gallery at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr. in Walnut Creek. Now through January 30. 925-295-1417. -- Kelly Vance


Buena Piston Social Club

Everybody knows that Havana is the home of classic American cars -- lovingly preserved relics of yanqui imperialism kept running not out of an urge to ride around in museum pieces, but from sheer necessity. What's the alternative? A Lada? Not when a cool '48 Buick Roadmaster or a '57 Edsel is available. Writer and photographer Christopher P. Baker obviously digs the sight of antique Detroit iron in the decaying streets of La Habana, and so Cuba Classics, a photo show from his book of the same name, now through December 31 at the Oakland Public Library's Lakeview Branch (550 El Embarcadero, 510-238-7344), is a must-see for car junkies, Cuba aficionados, and those who savor irony. -- Kelly Vance

Wed 12/22

Viva Las Hayward

It's best not to criticize Carolyn Kelly's singing at her Las Vegas Lounge Night. Not only has she performed all over the world and opened up for Reba McEntire, George Strait, Sheena Easton, Patti LaBelle, and others, but this 35-year-old transgendered lady spent thirteen years as a law-enforcement captain. She also has dual master's degrees in criminal justice and sociology, and a doctorate in law. So we think she may know a little bit more about a lot of things, bub, including what makes a good cabaret. Stop by the Rainbow Room at 21859 Mission Blvd., Hayward, every Wednesday from 8 to 11 p.m. to find out. No cover. 510-582-8078. -- Stefanie Kalem


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