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Cheap Date: Spice Up Your Life! Plus Terry Malts, a Celebration of Ronnie Gilbert, and More

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The Spice Girls.

Hey, remember 1997? Sure you do. Bill Clinton was president. Titanic shattered box office records. In a suburb north of San Diego, 39 people donned shiny new Nike sneakers and poisoned themselves to death in an attempt to board a spacecraft they believed was following the Hale-Bopp comet.

And lo, like a sparkly spandex ship appearing slowly over the horizon, Spice World made its spastic, terribly acted way from the U.K. to American shores — and the term “girl power” would never be the same.

Yes, our collective cultural understanding of feminism still has a way to go in 2016. But should you ever need a reminder of exactly how far it’s come in the past two decades, look no further than the Spice Girls’ feature film debut. If I remember correctly, the plot of this movie is that fame is really hard, and also that some vaguely evil newspaper man wants to destroy the band. Then there’s a madcap chase scene on a tour bus that’s funny because none of them can drive (haha!) but thankfully the girls get out of nearly every terrible situation by flirting with a policeman, and it all ends with a performance of “Spice Up Your Life” that (of course) breaks the fourth wall? I’m probably forgetting something. Also Elton John is in it.

So, look, this is an insane time capsule of a movie. Roger Ebert declared it “the worst film of the year” three weeks into the year. And, like all remarkable works of camp, it has amassed a devoted cult following that’s directly proportional to the level of vitriol lobbed at it upon the film’s initial release.

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Should you need proof: When Oakland’s New Parkway Theater announced it would be screening the cinematic gem this Friday, Jan. 22, tickets immediately sold out. They added another screening, and that too sold out. As of this writing, there are eight different showtimes for the flick over the course of Jan. 22 through Jan. 24, and four of them have sold out.

If you’re among those who can’t handle the thought of going through life without seeing Geri Haliwell on the big screen once more, you should probably jump on one of these tickets while you can. Admission is $8; and the details are here.

For the rest of us? Here’s a handful of other ways to get out and about in the Bay Area this week, all for under $20 — a.k.a., this week’s Cheap Date. 

Wednesday, Jan. 20: Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra at Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley. With a sound and a writing talent that both seem to emanate from a much older man, Santa Cruz singer Marty O’Reilly serves as proof that studying the greats — in his case, Blind Willie Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, and John Lee Hooker — can pay off big-time. Opener Kelly McFarling brings some soulful tunes and a serious set of pipes to the table as well. $12; Details here. 

Thursday, Jan. 21: Celebrating Ronnie Gilbert at Freight & Salvage, Berkeley. Pete Seeger may have gone on to become the best-known of the Weavers, but folk singer and activist Ronnie Gilbert had quite the following of her own, as evidenced by the outpouring of kind words when she died last June in her adopted home of Mill Valley. With performances from Bill Bowers, Barbara Dane, Melanie DeMore, Robin Flower, Barbara Higbie, Linda Hirschhorn, Holly and Timothy Near, and many more, this show will be broadcast live by KPFA. Free with RSVP; details here. 

Friday, Jan. 22: Rear Window at the Castro Theatre, San Francisco. Jimmy Stewart. Grace Kelly. Need I say more? This double-feature (with The Public Eye) helps kick off nine full days of the “Noir City” film festival. $12; details here. 

Saturday, Jan. 23: Terry Malts at El Rio, SF. Call ’em punk, call ’em power pop, call ’em rough-hewn indie-sludge-emo-rock (actually please don’t). Whatever you call them, know that this local trio has been in the background of some of my favorite sweaty dance parties in the city over the course of the past five years. Add the dark, funky back room at El Rio and you have a winning combination. $7; details here. 

Saturday, Jan. 23: American Tripps Singin’ and Pingin’ at the Rickshaw Stop, SF. Berlin-style ping-pong — that is, a group of people calmly (and sometimes drunkenly) circling a ping-pong table, all taking turns keeping the ball going — is one of those things you kinda have to see to believe. Lucky for us, it’s also got a huge home in San Francisco, thanks to the San Francisco Berlin Style Ping Pong League. Add in the also-very-San Francisco DJ Purple on some sweet sax solos, karaoke, and alcohol, and you’ve got yourself a solid Saturday night in the city. $10; details here. 

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