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"The Big Top," with Nina Hagen 

There was a time, not too long ago, when Nina Hagen ruled the club world. It was a brief, sporadic reign, fraught with band-personnel changes, maybe the occasional wild mood swing, or maybe with a simple frustration to stay true to her art while remaining relevant with an audience that fell in love with the East Berliner's freakazoid compressions of punk, funk and yes, opera, into dance-club moments that people should be writing books about by now. But alas, no; Hagen's career trajectory is about as jagged as her artistry, but is that such a big deal? She has, true to her early Frank Sinatra cover, done it "My Way." Her Edith Piaf-to-Patti Smith-to-Giorgio Moroder fusions had a method to their madness. The result was such classics as "African Reggae," "New York, New York," "Zarah," "Universal Radio" and the fabulous covers of Lena Lovich's "Lucky Number" and Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky." (So, yes, Peaches owes her a debt of gratitude.) In between deconstructing songs within songs --Êshe could take an aria and grind it into a growling mush in a matter of nanoseconds, mocking herself and the form all at once -- Hagen was also one of the first public proponents in the 1980s of animal rights and vivisection issues. Her most recent release, 2003's Big Band Explosion, featured swinging hits backed by the Leipzig Big Band. She's is set to release a new album, and it's always fun to see her live (her 1988 show at First Avenue in Minneapolis left me permanently scarred emotionally), but this one's a real red-letter date and not just because it's her New Orleans debut. New York promoter Daniel Nardicio, in sympathy for Hurricane Katrina victims, has fashioned a true East Village-style show for us, recruiting DJ Aaron Elvis, Scissor Sister tour DJ Sammy Jo and an assemblage known as New York City's Punk Rock GoGo All-Stars (which features gay porn stars Owen Hawk and Damon Demarco, but behave, OK?). Some proceeds benefit the New Orleans Musicians Clinic. Tickets $25 in advance, $30 the week of the event and at the door, $15 for just the after-party after 1:30 a.m. (In fact, wish her happy birthday, but don't ask her age; that's rude.) -- David Lee Simmons
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