The singing offspring of singer-songwriters are generally duds, but it’s no surprise that it took the genes of a tragicomic misplaced vaudevillian to produce the extravagantly talented Rufus and Martha Wainwright. After all, this is Loudon Wainwright III, the exception to every rule laid down by his mewling, self-mythologizing peers. While James Taylor rocked himself to sleep, the leeringly honest young Wainwright stewed sarcastically over suicide, cheerfully (and famously) on a “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” and graphically about a father-son breastfeeding fantasy with Rufus. The latter must have made then-wife Kate McGarrigle squirm a little, but no more than “Motel Blues,” in which he implores a groupie to come up to my hotel room, save my life with such desperation in his soulful reed of a voice that he’s almost sympathetic.
A gig as a singing surgeon on M.A.S.H. and fifteen albums later, Wainwright does a lot more than poke his pen into discomforting places on Here Come the Choppers!, his new album. In a beguiling “Hank and Fred,” he weaves a eulogy for Fred “Mr. Rogers” Rogers into a tribute to Hank Williams, the civil-rights martyrs, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and all that’s truthful and inspired in our bedraggled purple nation. The railroad runs by the river that carried cotton, soldiers, and slaves, he sings, not one to paint a rosy picture, but adds: Fred McFeely Rogers knew how to talk to a train. This is one cynic who believes in art’s redemptive powers. Things, however, get squirmier on “When You Leave,” presumably about his relationship with his kids since divorcing Kate when they were just tots. And while that song suggests, half-seriously, that sad stories can have happy ends, Martha seems to see things differently on her self-titled debut album. In “B.M.F.A.” — short for “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” — presumably about her relationship with her dad, the younger Wainwright observes, Poetry’s no place for a heart that’s a whore. If there’s anything the author of “Motel Blues” should respect, it’s frankness. Be proud, Loudon. Ouch.
Loudon Wainwright III performs 8 p.m. Sunday at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage, 1111 Addison St., $23.50 door, 510-548-1761, TheFreight.org – Andrew Marcus
Danville is home to the Blackhawk Museum and Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House; after all that high culture, you might need a drink. Luckily, this weekend marks the Grand Opening of the Six80 Lounge (519 San Ramon Valley Blvd.), a swanky bar and club taking aim at the thirsts of the SRV’s twenty-, thirty-, and fortysomethings with a solid granite bar serving twenty different martinis, comfy spots to curl into, a fireplace, and weekly events such as Monday night screenings of classic films and rarities, massages and manicures during the Tuesday night Ladies’ Lounge, DJs on Thursdays, and live bands on Fridays and Saturdays. Call 925-552-6050 or visit Six80Lounge.net for more info. — Stefanie Kalem
Berkeley’s Antero Alli was so compelled by the “subtle powers of invocation” in the poem Requiem for a Friend, Rainer Maria Rilke’s eulogy for the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, who died shortly after giving birth, that he was moved to create a film titled The Greater Circulation. But the work of Czech object poets is not typical Hollywood financier-fodder, so a fund-raiser or four is required: This Saturday and Sunday and next, Alli will direct a production of Requiem, wherein three women portray Modersohn-Becker’s three sides — the mother, the artist, and the soul traveling in between — at the Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St., Berkeley. $10, 9 p.m. Info: Paratheatrical.com/requiem.html or 510-464-4640. — Stefanie Kalem
Pair Goes on Shooting Spree
Mark P. Nelson got his first camera for Christmas when he was ten years old in Scotland. His wife, Michele Nelson from Carmel, got hers at age eleven. They’ve been shooting ever since, as the landscapes and informal portraits (such as the amusingly titled Constricting Grace, at left) in their two-person show, Exhibit A, suggest. Drawn from photos taken between Kansas and Kauai, the show also includes a series of digital infrared photographs of an arboretum on Kauai. Opening night reception is Monday, 7-10 p.m., at Lanesplitter Pub and Gallery, 2033 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. The exhibit runs through the end of May. — Kelly Vance