Critic's Choice for the week of December 13-19, 2006 

Asshole Axl, Angel Newsom, and Brian Kenney Fresno, "That's who!"

Harping Goddess

She started off as an underage kid sneaking into clubs to play tambourine and sing backup vocals for San Francisco's the Pleased. Today, the Pleased's singer Noah Georgeson is the opener for Joanna Newsom, whose magical, classically influenced harp plucking and childlike charm has turned her into an unlikely indie superstar. Newsom plays in support of her recently released album, Ys, with Noah Georgeson on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, December 18, 19, and 20 at the Great American Music Hall at 8 p.m. All shows sold out. $19. MusicHallSF.com (Kathleen Richards)

Assholicus Legendarus

A few things you need to know about Guns N' Roses: They still haven't released Chinese Democracy, the new stuff actually isn't all that bad, and at a concert in Cleveland last month, lead singer Axl Rose abruptly booted supporting act Eagles of Death Metal from the tour for garnering boos from sections of the crowd early in their set. Opening instead for GNR at the Oakland Arena on Friday night will be fellow hair-metallers Sebastian Bach and goth pinups the Suicide Girls. December 15. 8 p.m. $39.50-$77.50, parking adds $20. Ticketmaster.com (Nate Seltenrich)

Stoney Xmas

Only the Central Valley could produce a comedic stoner finger-tapping a 12-string Warr guitar. Brian Kenney Fresno's one-man show has been going strong since the '90s, thanks to such gems as "That's Who," (an ode to premier Swedish '80s guitar shredder Yngwie "Fucking" Malmsteen) played on a toy guitar and accompanied by audience applause. Genius. See Fresno when he plays with Lopsided Space Kart and Carneyball Johnson on Sunday, December 17 at 12Galaxies at 9 p.m. $5. 12Galaxies.com (K.R.)

Murder Ballads

Oakland's Moore Brothers are known for their ethereal harmonies and mordant, almost surrealist songwriting. The brothers blend folk, pop, and lo-fi indie rock into a gothic hootenanny marked by unforgettable melodies and inscrutable lyrics. Both grew up playing in rock bands, but as a duo they've carved out an acoustic niche that defies categorization. Thom Moore's latest CD, Chicken on a Raft, collects American murder ballads recorded with singer Tommy Carns. The Brothers open for the Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave. Saturday, December 16. 9 p.m., $20. MusicHallSF.com (j.poet)

Virtuosic World Fusion

Always busy with new projects, the Beth Custer Ensemble closes 2006 with a Sunday concert drawn from various recent projects by the Bay Area clarinetist, composer, singer, and bandleader. The Ensemble will select from Custer CDs including the more political and rock-oriented Respect as a Religion, the chamber ensemble work Bernal Heights Suite, and her score for the DVD release of the Russian silent-film satire My Grandmother. Whatever she does, Custer is refreshingly creative, and her band is inspired by the music. Even when she does a solo bass clarinet improvisation, Custer is mesmerizing. Assistance provided by electric guitarist David James (from Spearhead and the Coup), keyboardist Graham Connah, drummer Jan Jackson and bassist Mark Calderon. Sunday, December 17. 8 p.m., $18.50/$19.50 door. TheFreight.org (Larry Kelp)

Sweden Meets LA

Swedish trio Kamprads most often sound like LA's Mellowdrone on their 2006 debut, Thoughts Never Released. Dark and slick drum beats and synths matched with the emo crooning of singer Skanfors even has the band admitting its own pretentiousness (they call themselves "prettopop," Swedish slang for "pretentious pop"). Still, there's room for showing off their Sigur Rós crush with the pretty acoustic guitar arpeggios on "All Bets Are Off." See them when they play with Charlie Marvin Kupferman Jr. at Mama Buzz on Thursday, December 14 at 6 p.m. Donations accepted. MamaBuzzCafe.com (K.R.)

Wintersongs

As it prepares for the national broadcast of the PBS TV special, Kitka and Davka in Concert: Old and New World Jewish Music (airing on KQED-TV in January), Kitka turns its attention to the holiday season. Sunday, December 17 at Oakland's First Unitarian Church, the women's vocal ensemble that specializes in Eastern European vocal music performs its seventh annual Wintersongs concert of songs and carols from more than a dozen Eastern European countries past and present. 7 p.m., $22, $25 door, $20 seniors and students. Kitka.org (Jason Victor Serinus)

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