Critic's Choice for the week of January 10-16, 2007 

Muppet shows, honky-tonk, and a rare old Neurosis.

Horns on Top

If Queens of the Stone Age added funky horns to their arsenal of stoney riffage, it might sound something like Oakland's Top Brown. The band — which touts its "outlandish stage attire, rock-'n'-rollier-than-thou attitude, and a devoted following of middle-aged women" in a press release — plays its first show in nearly a year with the Dead Hensons, who reimagine Muppet Show and Sesame Street tunes. At the Uptown Saturday, January 13. 9 p.m., $5. UptownNightclub.com (Kathleen Richards)

Indie-weave

In September 2006, four forward-thinking Bay Area bands got together to form Thread Productions. Besides releasing their music, Thread also books shows and pushes these bands — and others like them — as the new wave of local indie-rock talent. So far, the collaboration appears to be paying off. Silian Rail, Tartufi, Birds & Batteries, and Low Red Land — the founders of Thread — are being heralded by critics and fans alike. See for yourself at the El Rio in SF when they play one of four Thread shows in January. Saturday, January 13. 9 p.m., $8. ElRioSF.com (K.R.)

This is Basque country

Musica Pacifica, one of our finest Bay Area early music instrumental ensembles (Judith Linsenberg, recorder; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; David Morris, cello and viola da gamba; Charles Sherman, harpsichord), augmented by famed guest lutenist and guitarist Stephen Stubbs and harpist Maxine Eilander, has now set its sights on Spain and beyond. This week in Berkeley's First Congregational Church, the group juxtaposes folk music of Spain, the Spanish New World, and North Africa with folklike pieces by Vivaldi, Corelli, and Rameau. Expect world-class musicianship Saturday, January 13. 8 p.m., $25-$10. SFEMS.org (Jason Victor Serinus)

Neurosis Returns

More than twenty years after its formation, San Francisco's Neurosis returns for the release of its tenth album, recently recorded with Steve Albini. "The sounds emanating from the rehearsal room are frighteningly strange and not very nice," the band promises on its Web site. Fans will get a rare chance to hear some of that new material live, plus songs from six other Neurosis albums, when the band plays with Red Sparowes and Grails at the Great American Music Hall in SF. Sunday, January 14. 9 p.m., $17. MusicHallSF.com (K.R.)

Hot Cajun

The hottest Cajun and zydeco bands play the all-ages Ashkenaz in Berkeley every Tuesday night, but this Saturday the best Cajun-zydeco band in the land, Louisiana's wild-man fiddler Michael Doucet and his group Beausoleil, take over for a night of the hottest two-steps and waltzes, with some blues and rock tossed in. For novices, there's a dance lesson at 8 p.m. The beloved Grammy-winning group helped popularize their music worldwide in the 1980s. Through touring, film soundtracks, and radio and television appearances, they have amassed a truckload of awards. And they love to make their annual local stop at Ashkenaz, their favorite dance hall in these parts. Saturday, January 13. 9 p.m., $20 ($18 in advance) Ashkenaz.com (Larry Kelp)

Rowdy Bluegrass

If you're still hung over from New Year's Eve — and it does happen — this alt.country triple bill will blow the dust out of the old attic and leave space for all the junk you're gonna store there in '07. Local fave Poor Man's Whisky plays bluegrass with a rock 'n' roll energy, and blew folks away at this year's Hardly Strictly Festival with its ferocious energy. Austin's country-rock band Mother Truckers deliver the goods with blazing guitars and the blue-collar soul of chanteuse Teal Collins, daughter of DJ Al "Jazzbeaux" Collins. Four Year Bender is another local band using bluegrass as a jumping-off point for its own peculiar brand of rowdy, booze-soaked mayhem. Friday, January 12 at Slim's in SF. 9 p.m., $12. Slims-SF.com (j. poet)

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