Mining the past for mystery

Sat 9/18

Long before the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? sparked a new interest in old-time music, the Crooked Jades were digging up and reviving some of America's oldest songs, making critics, music lovers, and especially fellow musicians take notice. These young upstarts didn't just love quirky traditional mountain music; while playing together, they lived it. Four albums and a decade since singer-guitarist Jeff Kazor and slide guitarist Lisa Berman met at an old-time festival and started the Crooked Jades, the Bay Area quintet celebrates its first ten years with a concert Saturday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage, "back where we started," Kazor notes. They'll mix the band's original songs with favorite forgotten gems of the '20s and '30s by the likes of the Leake County Revelers, the Skillet Lickers, and Dock Boggs, and be joined at various times by another half-dozen musicians from the band's community of friends. It wasn't just Kazor and Berman's shared love for Appalachian obscurities that launched the band. "We sang some things together," Kazor recalls, "and noticed how well our voices blended. So we started to put the band together." Fiddler and claw-hammer banjo player Tom Lucas joined the next year, followed by fiddler Stephanie Prausnitz and bassist Dave Bamberger. The Bay Area has been a spawning ground for many pre-bluegrass style groups over the years, but the Jades struck a chord with the scene, creating a style and concert ambience based on the slower tunes, with the keening sound of the fiddle and the crying sound of voices sustaining certain notes. It's a sound not found in the music of today's faster-paced world.

Kazor and crew are famous for digging up not just the most obscure Appalachian tunes, but ones filled with mystery and seemingly strange views of life and death. "It's stuff that's melancholy and slow," Kazor explains. "Even the songs that I write come out that way. There's a charm in old-time music that I don't hear in music after the 1950s. It's a sad music, so much strife, bad times, and unfortunate events, and there's a quirkiness about the subject matter. The lyrics are filled with non sequiturs. Sometimes the words don't seem to make sense, but they're so moving."

Tickets for the 8 p.m. concert are $16.50 advance, $17.50 at the door, from the Freight & Salvage, 1111 Addison St. 510-548-1761 or -- Larry Kelp


Angst Farm

Ceramic Panic

Francis McIlveen's sculptures don't just sit there -- they launch attacks. Marty Robbins: Operation is a snide ceramic variation on the children's game Operation, with the image of the cowboy singer superimposed on the "patient" token, and gunshot and stab wounds replacing the game's original ailments. Babycake (above) features a grumpy infant gesturing dyspeptically atop a gaudy layer cake. William Tell $@#%'d Up! has sardonic fun with an apple and bullet holes. And so on. McIlveen's new solo exhibition, appropriately titled Angst Americana , opens today (Wednesday, September 15) at Toki Gallery, 1212 San Pablo Ave., one block north of Gilman St., in Berkeley -- the latest in a necklace of hipster art stops along San Pablo. Call 510-524-7363. The show runs through October 22. -- Kelly Vance


They Wake Up Screening

Against all odds, the Oakland International Film Festival presents its third annual indie-movie celebration, an ambitious eight-day event at the righteous Grand Lake Theater. Few people in the movie biz expected the group of African-American creative entrepreneurs known as the Oakland Film Society to succeed by screening a pile of unadvertised films, mostly shorts, with no movie stars -- but it's still here, and this edition is probably the strongest yet. The fest opens Thursday with "Straight Out of Oakland," a collection of shorts. Also among the entries is Victor Garcia's nine-minute Spanish shocker, El Ciclo (right). Check -- Kelly Vance

Sat 9/18

Berk Fashionistas

These days in Berkeley, thrift stores are not the typical dull places full of decaying duds gathering dust -- they're hotbeds of homegrown fashion sense. Take Time Zone Vintage at 2556 Telegraph Ave. along the South Campus strip. This Saturday evening (7-11 p.m.), the recently relocated new vintage clothing shop operated by Joanne Perez hosts a runway fashion show featuring creations from seven local designers, a DJ from LadySmith Enterprises, live blues/rock music by Ride the Blinds, and an art sale. Also participating are two other vintage/arty clothing stores, Twisters Vintage and Happy Beats. The event is free. -- Kelly Vance


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