There are no neglected instruments in the wide world of music flooding into the East Bay. Consider the slide trombone. Unloved by many, the elongated brass band instrument is an avant-garde flamethrower in the hands of British player Gail Brand. Brand, a 29-year-old Londoner and veteran of Mingus Moves, Simon Fell’s Quintet, and the London Improvisers’ Orchestra, displays her rapid chops tonight in a special duet date at 21 Grand with local vocalist Morgan Guberman. They call their duet Planter Box, and why not? It’s springtime. The concert begins at 8 p.m. at 21 Grand, 449-B 23rd St., Oakland. Tickets: $5-10. Info: 510-444-7263 or www.21grand.org.
Anglo-Indian cross-cultural slices of life have been popular in plays, books, and films, here and especially in the UK, since at least the 1970s. Without them, how would we ever have heard of Jimi Mistry? Now comes The Great Celestial Cow, the story of an Indian family immigrating to England in the ’70s, with an emphasis on the females of the clan. The scenario, a drama with humorous touches, is the creation of writer Sue Townsend, whose comic novels The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 and The Queen and I are evidently greatly popular in the UK but are almost unknown hereabouts. Until now. The US premiere of The Great Celestial Cow, in a stage production directed by Clive Chafer for TheatreFIRST, previews tonight (8 p.m.), then opens Friday, March 14 for a run through April 6 at the Oakland YWCA, 1515 Webster St. Tickets are $16 and $19 with various discounts, at 510-436-5085. www.theatrefirst.com
Let’s hear it for cover bands. You grab a brew, catch a set, and everything’s familiar, like your old Tony Lamas with the worn-down heels. That’s exactly the way the Bonedrivers seem to like it. They’re a “roadhouse-style rock ‘n’ blues” outfit formed by Keith Karloff and R.D. Maynard of the Gone Jackals with the addition of Johnnie Colleton on vocals and guitar and Randy Zebb on drums, and they play the music of Keith Richards’ nightmares: Buddy Holly, the Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, even a cover of Bobby Womack and the Stones’ “It’s All Over Now” — all performed very, very faithfully. The Blueblack Records recording artists are regulars at the Boom Boom Room in the city, but tonight and tomorrow they inhabit Vinnie’s Bar & Grill in Concord (2045 Mt. Diablo, 925-685-9515). Showtime is 9 p.m., and the Bonedrivers promise, “We’ll be playin’ for as long as you can last.”
IMAX oldies, anyone? When it’s To Fly!, the 27-minute compilation of ultra-realistic 70mm flight films that premiered in 1976 at the National Air & Space Museum, how can we resist? To Fly! was one of the first IMAX movies, and it takes us on a ride with the Blue Angels, on a helium balloon over Niagara Falls, hang-gliding in Hawaii, and other places far away from here. As part of its celebration of the 100th anniversary of powered human flight, Chabot Space & Science Center is showing To Fly! in its Tien MegaDome Theater beginning this afternoon (2:30 and 4:30 p.m.) and running for a year. Tickets are $8.75, $6.50 kids and seniors, kids under 3 free, available at the door or by phoning 510-336-7373. Chabot Space & Science Center is at 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland. Visit www.chabotspace.org
Tonight’s performance of Surya: The Sun God begins with one of the oldest chants in the world — the Gayatri Mantra, a hymn to the sun in its twin manifestations as a representation of the supreme deity and as a symbol of the inner self of man. It gets better. The ambitious stage presentation by San Jose’s Abhinaya Dance Company uses two styles of classical Indian dance — Bharatanatyam and Odissi — plus vocals and instrumental accompaniment, all of which was conceptualized by Shanta Raman to relate legends of the Sun God using vignettes in the ancient Hindu manner. This is a perfect opportunity to drench yourself in Indian mythology. Surya: The Sun God plays tonight only, 7 p.m., at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $25, $15, or $10, from 408-983-0491. Info: www.abhinaya.com
Remember the War on Drugs? Born before the War on Terrorism and sometime after the War on Poverty, the federal government’s seemingly neglected antidrug campaign is evidently stalled somewhere in the jungles of Colombia. Maybe it will send us a postcard after the screening of Coca Mama: The War on Drugs, a documentary by Jan Thielen that takes a skeptical view of American efforts to eradicate drug production in Latin America. The filmmakers apparently had access to FARC guerrillas in Colombia, accused by the United States of protecting the drug trade. They talk to them, as well as cocoa-growing peasants, antitrafficking army patrols, and US lawmakers — all of whom benefit from our tax money. Coca Mama screens (on video) tonight at 7 p.m. at the Grand Lake Neighborhood Center, 530 Lake Park Ave. in Oakland. It’s sponsored by East Bay Community Against the War. Info: www.ebcaw.org
Quick. Name a Polish film director other than Roman Polanski. After racking their brains and coming up with Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda, or maybe Wojciech Has, even hard-core film fanatics would have a hard time with that one. To go further and compile a list of Polish avant-garde filmmakers is a job for experts only. That’s why the Pacific Film Archive is so amazing — it not only knows who Polish experimental filmmakers are, it’s devoting an evening to them, tonight’s Polish Avant-Garde, 1930-1945. The 70-minute program features work by Franciszka and Stefan Themerson, Jalu Kurek, Tadeusz Kowalski, and Jerzy Zarzycki, and begins at 7:30 p.m. 510-642-1412.