Kim Nalley channels Nina Simone, and Burning Man channels personal pizza
SUPER EGO "I remember the last time I saw Nina Simone, it was just after the Bush-Gore election fiasco. She was maaad," graciously loquacious jazz chanteuse Kim Nalley told me over the phone when I asked her about the High Priestess of Soul's relevance today. "Here was this woman who had been there through so many stages of the civil rights struggle, fought for voting rights in Mississippi, been there through all of that — and then to hear about black communities, Jewish communities, where the votes just disappeared ...
"Well, she wasn't having any of that. She told us we had to always keep up the fight, keep the fire going, and never let go. What was gained in one generation could be completely wiped out in the next. And all the while she was playing the most spellbinding music. I think that's her angle on now"
Golden-voiced and full of fierceness, Ms. Nalley, a longtime (but not too long) Bay Area phenom and former owner of Jazz at Pearl's in North Beach, intends to keep that message alive for five straight weeks at the Rrazz Room — and sing the sugar out of a Nina Simone set list that runs to 44 songs, augmented with tales of the activist diva's life and accomplishments. If just thinking about doing all that makes you draw a breath, add in that Nalley is finishing up her Ph.D. in history at UC Berkeley, teaching jazz to grade school kids, and preparing to embark on a string of international tours and recording projects. Plus she's catching up on all four seasons of Mad Men. Did I mention she's gorgeous and actually exists?
She's also well aware of the hold almighty Nina still exerts on the dancefloor imagination — from the famous, or infamous, Verve Remixed series of the early '00s, to more recent sample-based efforts like those of Massive Attack, Gui Boratto, Ark, and this spring's rather unfortunate minimal-tech hit "Sinnerman 2011" by Sean Miller and Daniel Dubb, which apparently took two people to make. (Civilization has so far escaped an Auto-Tuned strip-rap version of "See-Line Woman" or Deadmau5's "Young Gifted and Black" but I could easily see Nicki Minaj as all "Four Women" at once.)
"You hear these newer versions of her, but some can sound so dated so quickly," Kim said. "The originals never stop being fresh, alive. There's nothing wrong with introducing her to new audiences in different ways. But Nina has always been with us, right there, so go out and hear her actual music, already." *
SHE PUT A SPELL ON ME: THE MUSIC OF NINA SIMONE
Through July 17, Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.,
Sundays, 7 p.m., $30–$37.50
Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko
222 Mason, SF
TRANNYSHACK: HEKLINA'S BIRTHDAY
The highest hog in dragland turns 103, and this night of greatest hits command performances will be an over-the-top trashtacular. Plus: Justin V. Bond from New York City, and probably some light rimming.
Fri/17, 9:30 p.m.–-3 a.m., $12–>$15. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.trannyshack.com
It's that time, again — time for the Burning Man gear-up and things that sound like this: "We invite you to live out this year's theme in ways that manifest your personal journey." I'm gonna be a pizza! Put it on the pizza! Put it on the pizza! It's all good. With a holy helluva lot of DJs, theme installations, and fun-fur coughs.
Sat/18, 8 p.m.–4 a.m., $15 in "Playa finery," $20 without. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF. www.publicsf.com