Out with the old ...

If last impressions are the strongest — and I believe they are — then 2007 for me will be the year of the tiger that ate San Francisco.

The end of the year is typically a junkyard as far as news is concerned because we in the news business tend to take the holidays off, just like you.

Which explains the national headlines garnered by the 350-pound Siberian tiger that suddenly went Steve McQueen by attempting to escape from the San Francisco Zoo. On the way out the door it stopped to eat a 20-year-old man, leaving us to debate the safety of America's zoos.

Believe me, I hate to use a word as pretentious as metaphor, but it's apt here. That tiger's ill-fated dash for freedom is a metaphor for 2007.

Strange things happened, a lot of which struck us as surreal and often blackly hilarious, though almost every major headline-grabbing event closed in tragedy.

In this context, the San Francisco tiger makes for the perfect 2007 story. It explodes off the neat-o-meter and fulfills our bloodlust.

Virginia Tech University was struck by unimaginable terror after a degenerate with mommy issues and two semi-automatic handguns mowed down 32 students and teachers.

Insult to injury: Months later we were forced to listen on Saturday while sports commentators across the country sung the healing powers of football while the Virginia Tech team took the field.

What? You didn't know the ol' pigskin does wonders to alleviate the pain brought about by abject cruelty and madness?

If anything, 2007 taught us that entertainment will not save us.

Consider Britney Spears. We howled like jackals when she lost her children in a haze of drugs. Then the sobering realization set in that her little Louisiana dumplings will be raised by the utterly worthless Kevin Federline and suddenly it stopped being funny. Two more youths destined for a date with the paparazzi firing squad.

And don't get me started about the Michael Vick saga, the housing market crash, Pakistan falling apart, the iPhone craze and the Chinese toy recall.

God, I'm glad 2007 is over, now that I think about it.

But we here in Southern Oregon need not worry about such troubling events. We came to our little Nirvana to escape the real world's dark grip.

So, here are a few local shows we can look forward to in the coming year. Human suffering be damned!

George Carlin

Yep, the angriest man alive is coming to the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater on Feb. 2.

My tolerance for stand-up comedy hovers around the very little to the nonexistent, but I reserve a spot in my heart for Carlin.

I can remember sneaking into my old man's record collection, the one he kept away from my brother and I, and listening to recordings of Carlin's legendary New York shows. You can thank him for the tone of this column.

Bill Hicks will always be the Zeus of the stand-up Mount Olympus, but George Carlin stands a close second. I'll be there.

Joe Buck Yourself

The self-described hillbilly punk strung out on hillbilly junk will play Johnny B's on March 12.

When he's not playing stand-up bass in Hank Williams III's band, Joe tours incessantly, stopping in every dive and watering hole along the way. He truly lives the Hank Williams Sr. gig-to-gig lifestyle.

His fearsome act consists of him beating an old guitar and pounding a single drum with his foot. His songs are about lonely, desperate people with too much liquor, too many guns meant for too many enemies.

And even though he looks like an Orc from the "Lord of the Rings" movies, Joe is actually a really nice dude from Missouri. I spoke with him once after a show and found him to be one of the few down-to-earth musicians around.

Duke vs. North Carolina

Not really a local show, but Southern Oregon's Golden Child from South Medford High School, Kyle Singler, will step into the national spotlight Feb. 6 for this brutal rivalry.

Being a Big 10 guy, I never gave the Tobacco Road bloodbath much thought, but I am excited to see our local boy at Duke take on the mighty Tar Heels of North Carolina.

We'll be watching, Kyle. No pressure, buddy. What's that you feel? Just the hopes and dreams of Southern Oregon resting on your shoulders.

No worries, you'll do fine. Hey, it's only a game ...

Devil Makes Three

It's a damn shame that Devil Makes Three is only coming as close as Grants Pass, but weather permitting, you should make the drive to The Rogue Theatre on Jan. 5.

I resisted this band at first. I heard too many good things about it around Ashland. And that doesn't bode well for someone of my musical tastes.

This changed after catching one of this trio's shows last year. Their gigs are high energy, but nothing compares with the crowd's energy. If you didn't think it was possible to sustain injury at a bluegrass show, a Devil Makes Three show will prove you wrong.

I still don't know if I like their music. But when you've suffered as many dead crowds in this area as I have, anything that gets people moving is a welcome change.

If you know about any more quality shows coming up, shoot me an e-mail. Until then, this is the Night Crawler wishing you a safe and happy New Year.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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