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Beth Lisick: Buzz Town
Queer-punk cabaret; Mono Pause, better than Britney; Sundance-bound "By Hook or By Crook."

by Beth Lisick, special to SF Gate
  Wednesday, December 5, 2001

When the sold-out audience exited the Jon Sims Center Sunday evening after the first performance of "Dr. Frockrocket's Vivifying (Re-Animatronic) Menagerie and Medicine Show," a second capacity crowd was already lined up outside, ready to cram themselves into the freshly sweaty performance space for a 9 pm show. The queer-punk cabaret, which had already played in Portland, Olympia, Seattle and Boston over the past few months and had just completed shows in Santa Cruz and LA earlier that weekend, took over the JSC with a music-fueled mongrel of song, spoken word, dance, comedy and naked Twister.

Because one of the performers canceled, I was asked by local writer and performer Tara Jepsen to fill in during one of the show's 16 installments, and in accepting I got a frenetic peek at the behind-the-scenes action. (I was part of a comedy sketch where I got to wear a '70s leotard and perform improvisational-dance moves.) The show's house band, the Two-Bit Tonic Players -- which featured powerhouses from the Olympia indie-rock scene, including Rachel Carns from the Need, Nora Danielson from the Intima, Betsy Kwo from Ibobuki and Betty Ruption from Boy Pussy USA -- kept the mood charmed and freaky, while Dr. Frockrocket (local musician Jody Bleyle, formerly of Team Dresch and now a member of the Infinite Xes) cajoled and serenaded until her voice gave out.

At the very end, after Two Ton Boa's Beth Stinson danced a mean flamenco, performer Spider ranted and raved and performance artist Bridget Irish crafted four-leaf clovers using only green paint and her butt cheeks, Nomy Lamm took the stage. A writer, activist and self-proclaimed "badass fatass Jew dyke amputee," Lamm brought the show to the only logical conclusion remaining. As her full, throaty voice wrapped itself around a distinctly funky beat while she sang the words, "You free your mind, you free your effigy," the motley cast assembled onstage for a cathartic round of can shaking.

Last Wednesday, when I walked into the Bottom of the Hill, I wished so badly that I had never heard of the Oakland band Mono Pause. For just a moment, I wished I had never caught their White Ring show, where they performed as a group of fundamentalist bigots who had met during Operation Desert Storm. I wished I had never seen them lurking inside giant homemade pods onstage or been blown away by their found-sound collages. That way, when I walked into the city's best-known rock club last week and looked up at the stage to find a group of fresh, smiling faces beaming widely as the band kicked out a set of hyperenergetic Southeast Asian pop, I would have had the pleasure of being utterly flabbergasted. Instead, I just had the pleasure.

Recruiting Roofies back-up singer Diana Hayes for vocal duties, Mono Pause opened their show with 25 minutes of unadulterated Thai and Cambodian pop tunes. As the adorable, cheery Hayes belted out the lyrics (Were they in a real language? Or did they just sound real?), she danced around the stage like the head of the pep squad. Two of the five boys sang backup and generally behaved like the most pleasant wedding band around, easing the crowd into a good-natured spate of dancing. But then, at one point in their set, about a minute into a sort of moody, '80s art-rock song, one of the club's staffers audibly groaned. The song was pretty terrible. Suddenly, the band peeled off their instruments and stepped away from their mics while the song went on and on. Who knew they could lip-synch better than Britney?

Congratulations to the local cast and crew of "By Hook or By Crook"! The feature film, written and directed by and starring Harriet Dodge and Silas Howard, has been selected by the Sundance Film Festival to screen as part of the American Spectrum showcase. This gorgeous, wholly original buddy movie, produced by Oakland's Steakhaus Productions, was shot in SF on digital video and premiered at the city's Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in June.

It's official. Our beloved Bay Area record emporium, Amoeba Music, finally opened the doors to its Hollywood location with much fanfare. In addition to rabid collectors camping outside overnight and flying in from Japan and Europe for the occasion, it wouldn't be LA without those who's-whos and whoevers sniffing around at the opening.

Apparently, Mick Jagger, who was in town doing a concert, was seen peering through the windows the night before the launch. (On a side note, the LA Weekly published a hilariously dishy bit last week claiming that 50 people occupying the front row at Mick's LA show were hired by a company called Scottie's Bodies. Seems they had answered an ad looking for "Great Looking Sexy Fun Party People" -- the show was being filmed for the ABC bio "documentary" "Being Mick.")

Also on deck for Amoeba LA's opening were Margaret Cho, MTV's Johnny Knoxville and Twiggy Ramirez. We also heard Courtney Love requested access to the store for a private shopping spree on the eve before it opened, but apparently her entreaty was politely declined.

Mainstream Hollywood movies offend many peoples' sensibilities on a daily basis, but especially enraging are those innumerable remakes and "reimaginings" of older films. Though I hear J. Lo is considering starring in a hip-hop version of "A Star Is Born," I'm now referring to this weekend's big ensemble-cast juggernaut "Ocean's Eleven," Steven Soderbergh's take on the quintessential Rat Pack movie.

If you think you must trudge to the theater like everyone else who worships George Clooney, well, you're right! Just don't go in. Yes, East Bay lounge hound and Vegas-ophile Will the Thrill is encouraging like-minded individuals to protest this latest defilement of American pop-culture history. Show your fellow moviegoers how you really feel about Julia Roberts trying to fill Angie Dickinson's stilettos. All the details for the Fri., Dec. 7 action are available on his Web site.

Brushes with fame? Petty gossip? Random information? Let me know.

Beth Lisick is the author of "Monkey Girl" and "This Too Can Be Yours," out on Manic D Press.



©2001 SF Gate

SF Gate: Columnists: Beth Lisick's Buzz Town