SHOW BIZ: One of my best friends came to town over Thanksgiving, someone whom I hadn't seen or spoken to for several months. And he isn't just any old friend; this is the guy who has introduced me to what became some of my all-time favorite bands--Mission of Burma and The Pixies spring to mind. (I'm sure I must have returned the favor, though I can't seem to think of any names.)

Anyway, he settled into a time-consuming job and married domesticity in the Bay Area several years ago, so now, he comes to me for musical advice. But on his visit, he and his wife did have one band that they recommended (and like I said, his recommendations carry a lot of weight with me). Independent of knowing that the band was playing an upcoming show here, he asked if I'd heard The Billy Nayer Show. "I have no idea how to describe them," he said, "except that it's a complete experience, and you have to tell as many people about it as possible."

Luckily, I have this here column, so let me do just that.

First off, there is no Billy Nayer in The Billy Nayer Show. Instead, it comprises drummer Bobby Lurie, singer/songwriter/autoharpist Cory McAbee and whoever else is playing with them at the time. Frontman McAbee, who has been described as "a modern William Blake" and "a schizophrenic G-man," is also a writer, screenwriter, award-winning film director (cult favorite The American Astronaut, among others), actor and illustrator--a regular renaissance dude. This summer, the band released their sixth album, the double CD Goodbye Straplight Sarentino, I Will Miss You (BNS Productions), and it's a hoot.

Stylistically, my friend was right--they're pretty much impossible to describe, as they hit upon so many genres, all rendered with a certain theatricality; it makes your head spin (if we must put a label on it, let's settle for cabaret rock). But it's the engagingly bizarre lyrics, which hit upon unexpected subjects at a skewed angle, that really solidify what you're hearing in the first place. Listen closely. What sounds like a goofy children's song is actually about three monkeys--a red one, a blue one and a yellow one--who follow each other around a triangle, eating each other's shit, until two of them die and the last living monkey--the blue one--waits at his corner "for things to get better." Elsewhere, a song called "The Message," whose sole purpose is the build-up to what the hell the message actually is, turns out to be one big, shaggy dog: We never learn what the message is. "The Smallest Star" is completely left up to the listener's interpretation: Is it a lost-love song about a girl who couldn't see the beauty in the narrator, or is it about a guy with a special gift? He's got a star in his head that's pure white light, after all, and we don't really learn much more about him than that.

As interesting as the CD is, my friend assures me The Billy Nayer show shines brightest in a live setting.

The Billy Nayer Show performs at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Friday, Dec. 12. Nowhere Man opens at 9 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $6. For more information, call 884-0874.

YOU SAY GOODBYE, I SAY HELLO: This month has seen its share of local bands both reuniting and breaking up, and this week sadly brings another case of the latter.

Good Talk Russ, who for the last three years have taken what is normally a tired genre--pop-punk--and infused it with enough songwriting smarts and sheer talent to make it actually sound fresh, will say farewell this weekend. A couple of the band's members are leaving Tucson for greener pastures, but not before one last gig Friday night, opening for their biggest advocates, Chango Malo. Incidentally, those naughty monkeys are playing their first show since bassist Justin Lilly's jaw-breaking bicycle accident, which unfortunately occurred the night before the band was scheduled to open for Living Colour.

Welcome back, Justin; Farewell, Good Talk Russ.

Chango Malo, Good Talk Russ and a band to be announced take the stage at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12. Cover is five bucks, and the number to call with questions is 622-8848.

MEAT IS DELICIOUS, AND IT MAKES ME SAD: Joe Pernice first made his name as headmaster of Scud Mountain Boys, whose hushed, melancholic musings in the alt-country mode were some of the finest of their day. (The band is responsible for one of my all-time favorite songs, which presents itself as a crushingly heartfelt love song until it reaches the chorus, which reveals the true object of the narrator's affection: his television--which, of course, only makes it even more heart-wrenching.) But after only three albums, the band broke up and Pernice formed the Pernice Brothers, who, over the course of their first two LPs, retained the Scuds' melancholic beauty but framed it in a lushly orchestrated pop vein.

But with Yours, Mine & Ours (2003, Ashmont), their latest album, the bros take a stylistic detour to the heyday of '80s guitar-driven pop bands like The Cure, early New Order (whose "Leave Me Alone" Pernice once covered on his album under the Chappaquiddick Skyline moniker) and The Smiths, all the while continuing the tradition of Pernice's economically evocative poetry ("I hope that this letter finds you crying / Feels so good to see you cry").

As it turns out, the Smiths' influence is no accident. As part of a new series of books issued under the heading 33 1/3, published by Continuum Books, in which musicians and writers wax poetic about their favorite albums, Pernice has written a semi-autobiographical novella that centers around The Smiths' 1985 classic Meat is Murder.

The Pernice Brothers appear at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, Dec. 13. Blake Hazard opens at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $7. For details, call 798-1298.

FAIR WARNING: It's time once again for the winter version of the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, and that, of course, means loads of free musical entertainment for the whole family. The event runs from Friday, Dec. 12 through Sunday, Dec. 14, and boasts six different stages of live entertainment: the FAMA Main Stage (corner of Seventh Street and Hoff Avenue), the Winsett Outdoor Performance Center (316 N. Fourth Ave.), the Tucson Blues Society Stage (Fifth Street and Hoff Avenue), the Magpies Pizza Patio (605 N. Fourth Ave.), Delectables Patio (533 N. Fourth Ave.) and the Chocolate Iguana Patio (500 N. Fourth Ave.).

The schedule for the FAMA Main Stage: on Friday, The Bunko Squad (noon), Kristy Kruger (2 p.m.) and The Jons (3 p.m.); on Saturday, The Wayback Machine (noon), The Stellas (2 p.m.) and Spirit Familia (3 p.m.); on Sunday, Nowhere Man (noon), Brown Sugar (2 p.m.) and Sunday Afternoon (3 p.m.).

The schedule for the TBS Blues Stage: on Friday, The Dinero Brothers (noon), Stefan George (1:15 p.m.) and 3-Legged Dog (2:30 p.m.); on Saturday, Gerry Glombecki (noon), Train Wreck (1:15 p.m.), Ms. Stevie Woods & Company (2:30 p.m.) and Hans Olsen (3:45 p.m.); on Sunday, Little Kings (noon), The Carnivaleros (1:15 p.m.) and Grams & Krieger (4 p.m.).

ON THE BANDWAGON: They ain't callin' it Hellbilly X-mas for nothin'. Four spooky bands who put the rock in rockabilly will inject a healthy dose of debauchery into the holiday season this weekend. San Diego's Deadbolt headline the affair, which also includes locals Al Foul, Whiskey Bitch and the Last Call Brawlers, and is set to take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $10 at the venue's box office. For more info call 798-3333.

Ageless, timeless, and stylistically versatile, Welsh singer and sex machine Tom Jones will make the faithful masses swoon at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12, at the Desert Diamond Casino, located on Pima Mine Road, just off Interstate 19. Advance tickets are available for $60, $45 and $35 at the casino's Desert Diamond Club and Yoly's Music Shop, or by phone at 866-DDC-WINS. They'll be $5 more on the day of the show. For further details, call 294-7777. And ladies, don't forget to bring that extra pair of panties to aim at the object of your middle-aged affection.

One of the few American acts to strike gold in the electronica world, The Crystal Method, will be spinning next Thursday, Dec. 18, at City Limits, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. DJ Vandebelle and Jas will kick things off at 8 p.m. The show is open to those 18 and up, and the best part of all: Tickets are a paltry $3 in advance at the club's box office and all Zia locations, online at www.calproductions.com, or by phone at 1-800-514-ETIX. They'll be a whopping $5 at the door. Questions? Dial up 733-6262.

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