Critic's Choice for the week of December 11-17, 2002 

This week it's not all about bEASTfest -- but it's mostly about bEASTfest.

LATIN

Friday's concert at La Peña is an interesting cross-section of hip-hop and Latino folk. Ismael and Vicente Duran, a Chilean father and son, fuse each other's influences -- Ismael has performed with icons like Violetta Parra, and son Vicente was raised in hip-hop world of Detroit. The two represent voices from different generations, delivering messages of social and political activism. 510-849-2568. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela).

CLASSICAL

The American Recorder Orchestra of the West performs a concert of classical, Christmas, and Hebraic music as a benefit this Sunday afternoon at Oakland's Zion Lutheran Church. Flute and recorder player and teacher Eileen Hadidian, founder of the Hausmusik concert series as well as Healing Muses -- a project that supports patients and staff in hospitals, hospices, and homes -- is healing from breast cancer. 510-527-4849. (Jason Serinus)

bEASTfest PICKS

Thursday, December 12

The Oakland Metro (201 Broadway, Oakland, 9 p.m., 21+, $7):

The debut solo disc by Blevin Blectum (formerly one-half of Blectum from Blechdom, currently one-third of Sagan) comprises music meant to accompany films by Ryan Junell. That record, Talon Slalom, continued Blectum's kooktronic trajectory, hacking and rewiring funk, soul, and pop to create a dozen different sonic worlds. Tonight's program is all about sex, as perceived by Blectum, Junell, Gravy Train!!!, Bitesize, and performance artist Erica Sodos. (Stefanie Kalem)

Thursday, December 12

Rooster's Roadhouse (1700 Clement, Alameda, 9 p.m., all ages, $6):

Have you ever wondered what the folks who work at Amoeba in Berkeley do when they're not dreaming up funny things to say to customers (like, "Which Bob Marley poster are you looking for? Lemme guess: The one with the big joint?!")? If so, then this is your big night out. Tonight's entertainment focuses on the experimental, improv side of the Amoeba population. There's the avant-rock O-Type (who can frequently be heard scoring the films at the Pacific Fine Arts' "Salon" nights), the chaotic and noise-oriented musique concrète of French Radio (reel-to-reel machines! turntables!), and the large-ensemble improvisations of the Why? Because, whose eclectic instrumentation, organic sound textures, dreamlike tonalities, and engaging rhythms stretch out texturally, aiming to reveal a musical landscape somewhere between ambient rock and electronic jazz. Rooster's house band Bass Line Dada also performs, and Justin Katz is the night's emcee. (S.K.)

Thursday, December 12

The Stork Club (2330 Telegraph Ave, Oakland. 9 p.m., 21+, $6:

The highest (or at least, strangest) point in tonight's "dark and loud" bill should come somewhere during The Mass' set. The death-jazz quartet makes sounds surreal and assaultive like a war, or at least like one in a movie. Weighty-fisted riffs, a screaming drummer, a skreeking sax, and a bass player on loan from art punks From Monument to Masses give way to bebop interludes (that's when Bob Hope comes to entertain, or the acid kicks in in the foxhole), and each song is like a dozen in one. Replicator, One Step Shift, Royal Dutch, and Ryan Jencks also appear, and Argus MacWargus serves as tonight's emcee. (S.K.)

Saturday, December 14

21 Grand (449B 23rd Street, Oakland, 9 p.m., all ages, $7):

True to its name, the pickPocket Ensemble lifts inspiration from all manner of folk musicians, from festive klezmer to Parisian bal musette. The quartet -- violin, accordion, guitar, and double-bass -- then shuffles in jazz, swing, and rock, to create a more modern, stirring musical cocktail. Oakland's Spore Attic are a hilariopsychedelipop duo on the acoustic Ween tip. Also on the bill: People's Bizarre, Glass Bead Game, and periodic freak-outs from the Oakland Playhouse Improv Troupe. Emceed by Daniel Ari. (S.K.)

Saturday, December 14

Blake's on Telegraph (2367 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, 9 p.m., 21+, $7):

In the '90s, Oakland's Odessa Chen used to front the band Troia. Nowadays she travels along the same lines as Shannon Wright and Chan Marshall, showcasing her breathy vulnerability over graceful, almost classical finger-picked guitar. Chen recently opened up for Mark Eitzel, and her solo full-length debut is due out in February. Mills College grad Kristi Martel is a more voluble belter, cross-pollinating Ani DiFranco's social politics and Rickie Lee Jones' jazzisms with her four-octave range and elastic piano skills. The Naked Barbies, Ramona the Pest, and Vanessa Lowe also perform. (S.K.)

Saturday, December 14

The Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 9 p.m., 21+, $7):

Todd Novak's musical meanderings have taken him all across this nation, rubbing shoulders and strings with Alejandro Escovedo (back in his Rank 'n' File days), Doug Schramm, Kevin Salem, Syd Straw, and a half-dozen other obscure luminaries. Nowadays he calls Berkeley home, and has since late 2001 led a quintet called the Cowlicks, who have in common with their namesake a natural adherence to curve and bounce. And like the waves in the Duke Boys' hair, the Cowlicks are just good ol' boys, wouldn't change if they could, wrangling the slide guitar and mandolin like, erm, five modern-day Robin Hoods. The Moore Brothers, also appearing tonight, are simplicity personified, armed with no more than an acoustic guitar and enough harmonies -- the brotherly kind that spoon and shimmer -- to make your eyes water. Garth Steel Klippert and Boatclub also perform. (S.K.)

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