Critic's Choice for the week of December 18-24, 2002 

Songs that would make Brian Wilson squeal, the Grateful Dead filtered through Celtic tradition, soulful Xmas tunes, and Handel's Messiah.

ROCK

Don't forget to head out to the Make-Out Room on Wednesday 18 to hear the harmonilicious pop of Fojimoto. This October, the Express' Chris Baty wrote that the members of this socially aware trio "write the kind of sunny melodies that would make Brian Wilson squeal if he were still up to doing that kind of thing." So pull on that bathrobe and fireman's hat and check it out. DeSoto Reds and Ponyboy also appear. 415-647-2888. (Stefanie Kalem)

CELTIC

All-star Celtic band Wake the Dead sings and plays as if the Grateful Dead had grown up in Ireland, melding traditional jigs and reels into such Dead fare as "The Other One" and "Liberty." The group makes merry on Thursday at Ashkenaz with spirited fiddles, bagpipes, and shimmering vocal harmonies. Singer-songwriter David Gans opens with his original songs and a Dead tune or two. 510-525-5054. (Larry Kelp)

HOLIDAY MUSIC

Join Bay Area jazz vocalist Clairdee on Christmas Eve at Yoshi's for the CD release party of her holiday album This Christmas. Featuring musical director Ken French on piano, the album is a collection of celebratory classics including "Merry Christmas, Baby," the perennial favorite penned by longtime Berkeley resident Charles Brown. From hip-hop grooves to Caribbean flavors, you'll love what Clairdee does to these musical stocking stuffers. 510-238-9200. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

With three major Bay Area arts organizations performing Handel's Messiah this season, thumbs point promisingly to American Bach Soloists' two San Francisco performances, Thursday night in Mission Dolores, Friday night in Grace Cathedral. Music Director Jeffrey Thomas has a wonderful way with this music, and he has in his stable excellent soloists, among them soprano Ellen Hargis and alto Jennifer Lane. 415-621-7900. (Jason Serinus)

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