Critic's Choice for the week of December 7-December 13, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

Salacious Puppets

In kindergarten you learn not to judge a book by its cover, and in high school you learn not to judge a band by its name (after all, the idea of Pretty Ricky is a lot prettier than the reality). But you know, sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. Case in point: Bunny Numpkins & the Kill Blow Up Reaction. Bunny Numpkins is a hot, foxy female puppet ("who's had a lot of 'puppeteers,' if you know what I mean," e-mails her current handler, Derek Lindsay) featured at this Sunday's Festival of the Fans, billed as a twelve-act hoedown and musical homage to electric fans -- don't ask about the fan part). Anyone with the audacity to call herself Bunny Numpkins is definitely worth the price of admission. Festival of the Fans kicks off at 2 p.m. at the Stork Club, and costs $6, plus an extra buck or two for burgers and Tater Tots. (Rachel Swan)

Yuletide blasphemy

Okay, let's just say you're operating on a different moral compass than Charles Dickens: You can't really understand the mysterious, cloying "Christmas spirit" that infects the otherwise-sympathetic character of Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol. Maybe something about alcohol, amphetamines, and a few failed attempts at the Atkins diet would be a little more up your alley. Enter Velma Gutflesh, the star of Joe Hogan's play A Christmas Carol for Velma Gutflesh. Check out this blasphemous, not-so-redemptive vice-fest at San Francisco's Exit Theater Friday and Saturday. $15, 8:30 p.m.. (R.S.)

Ax Versatility

A versatile East Bay electric guitarist who's worked in groupings from the avant-garde to guitar jazz-rock quartet T.J. Kirk, John Schott brings his Dream Kitchen jazz trio to the Berkeley Public Library's Reading Room for a free concert Friday night. The band -- with Marc Bolin on tuba and trombone, and John Hanes on drums -- takes an approach as unusual as its instrumentation to jazz standards of the 1920s by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and others. 8 p.m. 510-981-6100. (Larry Kelp)

Villains We Love

All the cross-marketing hoopla around the MF Doom/DangerMouse/Adult Swim collab The Mouse and the Mask has attracted a new, nerdy demographic to the metal-faced-one's oeuvre, previously the province of blunt-dipping backpack rap aficionados and nostalgia-loving hip-hop heads still pining for '88. All you recent additions to the Doomsayer's lyrical jockstrap should by all means invest some quality listening time in previous (and, honestly, superior) albums like Vaudeville Villain, Madvillainy, Mm ... Food, and Operation: Doomsday. For an even more unadulterated MFin' experience, check out the illest villain live in concert, when the punchline king, master of the subtle yet deep pop-culture reference, brings his raspy, slightly-slurred flow to SF's Independent (along with Pigeon John and Willow the Gaslamp Killer) for two whole nights Thursday and Friday. In other words, good and just townspeople, prepare to meet thy Doom. Bwahahahahaha! $25, 9 p.m. each night. (Eric K. Arnold)

Lyrical Warfare

They say the Mac 10 (or the Tech 9, for that matter) is mightier than the sword, and if your mind's your 9, and your pen's your 10, then you're obviously someone who appreciates clever and innovative forms of weaponry, especially if they're delivered in rhyme. Enter the Saurus and Orukusaki, two reigning kings of True Skool's "Mama Said Knock You Out" and the famed variety show Tourettes Without Regrets. Add a lineup of half a dozen other emcees, beatboxers, and DJs, plus the infectious Marc Stretch -- Ghetto-opoly champion of the world -- and you get the Battle Royale of freestyles, aka SFMC Battle Round 6. It goes down this Friday at Elbo Room; $8-$10, 10 p.m. (R.S.)


Tommy Castro has been widely praised for his ability to blend traditional and modern blues into something all his own. Saturday night at Eli's Mile High Club, Keith Crossan's blazing sax -- and the blistering rhythm section of bassist Randy McDonald and drummer Chris Sandoval -- will compliment his stinging guitar and soulful vocals with their usual muscular grooves. $15, 8:30 p.m., They'll also appear at SF's Biscuits and Blues next Wednesday (December 14). $15-$20, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. (j.poet)


What would the holiday season be like without Chanticleer's annual Christmas concert? The pitch-perfect male a cappella ensemble returns to Berkeley's First Congregational Church Monday, a perfect setting for a sparkling evening that includes everything from Gregorian chant and Renaissance gems to traditional carols and a medley of spirituals arranged by music director Joseph Jennings. $25-$42, 8 p.m. 415-392-4400 or (Jason Victor Serinus)


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