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Ghost Sounds

High and lonesome in Berkeley

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THU 1/29

The Magic City Chamber of Commerce was born in one former boomtown and named after another. When bassist Chris Kee (the Waybacks, plainjane) and his significant other, Jane Selkye (plainjane, Me Jane) were vacationing a few years back in Jerome, AZ, they wrote a "song in search of a band," says Kee. "Jerome is a funny town, a former copper mining town, one of the largest mines in the world. And then, like all mines, it ran out, and Jerome became a ghost town, but got repopulated in the '60s. So now it's this weird mixture of refugees from the '60s and methedrine labs. So there's a very ghostly feel to the town itself." That haunted feeling carries over to the music made by the six-piece MCCC, named for a former oil boomtown on the Texas panhandle where Selkye's grandfather lived. Featuring such other SF music luminaries as singer-songwriter Sonya Hunter, Erik Pearson (Mushroom), Peter Tucker (the Waybacks), and David Phillips (Jack West, Curvature), MCCC chooses its material from each member's back catalogue of compositions and favorite songs, remaking them to fit the band's aesthetic. The Roches' "Hammond," for instance, turns from a folky strummer to a country-rock epic, the swaying lushness of the MCCC version suiting the song's wistful subject matter nicely, and Hunter, Selkye, and Co. reconfiguring the vocals admirably, rather than trying to re-create the Roches' sisterly harmonies note-for-note. "Initially, we were trying to stick as much as we could to the theme of ghost-town cowboy music," Kee explains, "but we're not particularly doctrinaire about it at this point. We just try and do songs that we like." MCCC plays the Freight & Salvage (1111 Addison St., Berkeley) with Stephen Yerkey opening up and sitting in. 8 p.m. showtime, tickets $15.50 in advance, $16.50 at the door. Info: 510-548-1761. -- Stefanie Kalem

1/28-2/2

Lit Happens

The Other Madonna

Mary, Mary, the Monkees sang, where ya goin' to? Liberal Catholic scholar Charlene Spretnak answers this question and more at Black Oak when she reads from Missing Mary: The Queen of Heaven and Her Re-Emergence in the Modern Church, which examines the historic ups and downs of everyone's favorite Star of the Sea (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Salt- and freshwater meet to greet at an Audubon Society-sponsored slide show by John Hart, author of San Francisco Bay: Portrait of an Estuary, at Diesel -- witness herring and herons and yawls, oh my (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Striving to create an anthology of personal stories about the sources of their own satisfaction, fourteen local women wrote Proust, Pickles & Paychecks. Ask them about those pickles at Orinda Books (Thu., 4 p.m.). ... An informative speakers' panel at Easy Going features Greasele$$ author Loretta Breuning on survival abroad without bribery, author Christopher Barnes on international security, and more (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Going partially blind at twenty gave jazz-poet Charles Curtis Blackwell a particular perspective; he and Mike G. host an open-mic in this installment of the World Beat Reading Series at the Mediterraneum Cafe (2475 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley) (Thu., 7 p.m.). ... Drawing on A Course in Miracles and survivors' sagas, Kathy Cordova limns a new plan for spiritual surrender in Let Go: Miracles Happen. Maybe one will happen while she's at Altamont/Goodenough Books (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... With more than thirty volumes of poetry to his credit, UC Berkeley's Thom Gunn can stride proudly through the bardic world. Hear him at Cody's Southside with David Bespiel; $2 (Sun., 7:30 p.m.). ... Dress up and stay late at Benicia Public Library for Monte Carlo Night, where teens get glamorous free snacks and free chips with which to play games of chance, then cash 'em in for prizes (Mon., 7 p.m.). ... Bring your haiku but not your epics, because the open mic preceding the reading by Rhythmmic Revolution founder Mark States at Pegasus (2349 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) lasts only a half hour (Mon., 7 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

1/29-1/31

Eat to the Beat

Want some sugar pie with your Sugar Pie? In case you missed Jon Kauffman's review of the Eli's Mile High Club 's menu last month, here's a recap: "You're not going to find the fine-dining supper-club experience you've been craving ... (but) as bar food, Eli's pub grub is pretty damn fine." From caramelized plantains to walnut pie with oatmeal crust, you'll find a menu dripping with down-home deliciousness, foofed up nicely by chef Aaron Pringle. And this weekend, the music's just right, too: Thursday, there's a Local Blues Showcase ($5 cover); Friday, Oakland funky-blues stalwart Birdlegg brings his Tight Fit Blues Band to the stage ($8); and Saturday night, Bay Area legend Sugar Pie DeSanto puts on her soulful dress for all y'all ($12.50). All three shows start at 9:30 p.m., and Eli's can be found at 3629 MLK Jr. Way, Oakland. For more information, visit ElisBlues.com or call 510-655-6161. -- Stefanie Kalem

2/4-2/5

Positively 4th St

Want to write? Go to the oasis

Cecile Moochnek's weekly writing group has generated so much attention in twelve years that she felt compelled to add a second night. Each group session is eight weeks long, beginning Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Moochnek's upstairs gallery (1809-D 4th St., Berkeley), an oasis on a busy street, seems to be an inspirational spot for both novice and accomplished writers. The delightfully sparse, spacious gallery calms mind and spirit, allowing thoughts to flow freely. There is often an unspoken connection between writing groups and psychotherapy, but she points out that the intention of the workshops is strictly literary -- although the side effects may indeed be therapeutic. "It's not group therapy," she explains. "It's not journal writing. We are together to enter the poetic realm. It's about the realm of art making." Moochnek, who says she enjoys the interplay of all the arts, often brings a piece of music or talks about dance, applying those disciplines, together with the those of the visual artist, to writing. The cost is $250 per session. For information, 510-549-1018, Wed.-Sun., 11-5 p.m. -- Natasha Nargis

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