Volume 43 Number 15

“The W. Kamau Bell Curve”

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REVIEW Standup comic W. Kamau Bell has reopened his frank, funny, and genuinely thoughtful one-man show at SF Playhouse, and it’s worth catching if you haven’t yet (I took in a recent performance at the Climate).

Subtitled "Ending Racism in About an Hour," Bell’s reflections on the recent election and Proposition 8, among other race-inflected personal and political matters still closer to home, are topical, to say the least, and run considerably deeper than the usual one-liners or simplistic oppositions of much race-based comedy. Meanwhile, Bell’s sure and charismatic stage presence, ready wit, and excellent comic timing ensure that the lines between scripted material, inspired tangents, and eager engagement with both the day’s headlines and his diverse audience remain all but seamless.

THE W. KAMAU BELL CURVE Opens Thurs/8. Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m. Through Feb. 28. SF Playhouse Studio Theater, 533 Sutter, SF. $25 (bring a friend of a different race, and get in two for one). www.wkamaubell.com

3 Inches of Blood

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PREVIEW Keyboard neckties. ‘Ludes. Neck beards. Meerkat racing. The 2005 Dan Alvarez would have told you that all of these things have a better chance at becoming popular with kids than the dork fest that is power metal. This is coming from a guy who spent his formative years listening to groups like Rhapsody, known for their symphonic epics about goblins and dragons and their uncanny ability to induce crippling bouts of prolonged virginity. So you could imagine the 2008 Dan’s surprise when groups like Dragonforce, Dream Evil, and Protest the Hero began headlining shows and moving units with the very same operatic (read: cheesy) vocals and bombastic (read: indulgent) qualities I hold so dear.

One of the undisputed leaders of power metal’s shocking renaissance is Vancouver sextet, 3 Inches of Blood. The armor-wearing, orc crushing — they actually have a song called "Destroy the Orcs" — miscreants craft technically impressive, melodically sophisticated captivating battle anthems. They are led by a twin-vocal attack, highlighted by the aptly named Cam Pipes, who recalls a young Rob Halford and who is seriously into larping. Pipes’ glorious, shrill falsetto is backed by the brutal, guttural barks of second vocalist Jamie Hooper. Though Hooper had to take the year off due to throat problems related to his intense screaming, guitarist Justin Hegberg makes sure the band retains its steel by effectively stepping in for Hooper. The group’s frenetic live shows seem guaranteed to go over well at the metal-friendly Slim’s. Sharpen your broad sword, tap your mana, and get ready for war!


3 INCHES OF BLOOD With Toxic Holocaust and Early Man. Tues/13, 8 p.m., $15. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. (415) 255-0333, www.slims-sf.com

Funky Meters

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PREVIEW Since we’re dealing with a reunion here, let’s start with what’s missing: the funky Meters are not the same as the original Meters. You might own some records by the plain old Meters, the New Orleans funk unit whose best-known full-lengths are Look-Ka Py Py (Josie, 1969) and Fire on the Bayou (Reprise, 1975). That version of Meters consisted of — in addition to singer-keyboardist Art Neville and bassist George Porter Jr. — guitarist Leo Nocentelli and drummer Joseph Modeliste. The band, which broke up in 1977, reformed in 1989 as the funky Meters, with the latter two original members being replaced, at different points, by Brian Stoltz and Russell Batiste Jr. To make matters more confusing, the original lineup occasionally plays dates as well — thus, the original vs. funky distinction.

Robert Christgau called the Meters "a totally original band," and as usual he’s right: the band’s sound contributed in a big way to the development of funk and was an idiosyncratic voice within it. Fire on the Bayou is probably its most-appreciated album, but even at the height of its power, the group had a funny way of shamelessly accommodating itself to pop formulae without abandoning its uniqueness. This is the kind of outfit self-aware enough to give its disc’s longest and least engaging track the self-deprecating title "Middle of the Road," and yet make the track — whose style presages the smooth jazz radio format — melodically and rhythmically sophisticated enough to maintain your basic attention, because the musicians know that’s all they can ask for. Although Modeliste’s and Nocentelli’s contributions to the Meters were substantial enough to justify being wary of their substitutions in the Funky Meters’ lineup, something in the ensemble’s past behavior indicates they all might be on the same page, with the same doubts, and better — or at least more honest — performers for the experience.

BILL’S BIRTHDAY BASH With funky Meters featuring Cyril Neville, Marcia Ball, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and Bonnie Raitt with Hutch Hutchinson. Sat/10, 9 p.m., $50. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 421-TIXS, www.livenation.com

“A Trip Down (False) Memory Lane”

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PREVIEW The Lexington Club is an underground landmark of San Francisco. If you’re queer, and especially if you’re a lesbian, the bar has probably played a role in your life at one point or another, and something important probably went down there, by the jukebox or in a graffiti-lined bathroom. In "A Trip Down (False) Memory Lane," curator Jessica Silverman of Silverman Gallery taps into the Lexington’s importance and its history through an ambitious but also human-scale group show that’s been more than a year in the making.

The Lexington has hosted some excellent art at times (I’ve seen paintings by Alicia McCarthy there, for example), though you might not know it. "About a year ago, I was there and I asked [some bar-goers] what show was up, and they didn’t know," says Silverman. "No one was looking at the art. That was bothersome to me. I also wanted to do a show that addressed the space."

Silverman has brought together an array of local and international artists — including Susanne Winterling, Bruce LaBruce, and Slava Mogutin — to create individual works for the exhibition and smaller works for a limited 50-edition box set. Some people, such as New York’s Daphne Fitzpatrick, have never been to the Lexington, even if they have friends who work there — in such cases, they create works that imagine the site, or forge a connection to it. I’m looking forward to seeing Luke Butler’s collages, photographer Job Piston’s sculptural piece, and Tammy Rae Carland’s c-print. Some other potential highlights: Brandon Herman’s jewelry box containing a lighter — which overtly plays off of the ritual of smoking a cigarette in front of the bar — and a postcard invitation from Danny Keith.

A TRIP DOWN (FALSE) MEMORY LANE Reception: Tues/13, 7–9 p.m. 3464 19th St., S.F. (415) 863-2052, www.atripdown-false-memorylane.blogspot.com