Critic's Choice for the week of July 11-17, 2007 

Alien pop-punk, Berkeley High vibes, and Long Island's finest.

Folk Swing

Fiddler and singer-songwriter Rani Arbo and her trio Daisy Mayhem play an eclectic mix of folk, roots, swing, world, bluegrass, and other American and international styles with a bright, bouncy flair. The band ranges through the entire history of acoustic music with a sparkling, high energy show marked by breathtaking musicianship and plenty of between-song high-jinks. Thursday, July 12, at the Freight & Salvage. 8 p.m., $18.50/$19.50. TheFreight.org (j. poet)

Hit Her with Your Best Shot

Was there ever a more underappreciated talent to come out of Long Island? Yeah, Pat Benatar sold scads of albums and was a regular presence on MTV in the early-to-mid-'80s, but did she ever get the kind of critical props for someone who blazed a trail for women in rock? Well, with the rerelease of seminal albums like Crimes of Passion, In the Heat of the Night and Precious Time last year, expect the sets she and hubby and guitar god Neil Giraldo will be serving up to go deep into a canon that still reverberates in classic rock formats to this day. Sunday, July 15 at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. 7:30 p.m., $45-$65. MountainWinery.com (Dave Gil de Rubio)

Animated Rock

Since 2000, the Oakland-based Phenomenauts have stuffed high-energy pop-punk and rockabilly in a campy sci-fi package. The band's five members don homemade spacesuits and wield futuristic props, placing as much emphasis on theatrics as on melodies. When Oakland pop-rock band Maldroid formed last year, it took a few cues from its astral friends. Maldroid's trademark brown suits rarely come off, and its obsession with robots fuels a recurring artistic motif. Its live show is a giddy, goofy spectacle that's heavy on hooks and eye candy. Put the two together at Ashkenaz on Friday the 13th, along with fellow local acts the Struts and the Del Lames, and you have a guaranteed sensory overload. 8:30 p.m., $10-$12. Ashkenaz.com (Nate Seltenrich)

Past and Present

The Ariel String Quartet may not be a household name, but the quality of its playing — its members play in a variety of regional orchestras — has earned it the highest commissioning grant awarded by Chamber Music America. Often performing under the auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento, the quartet drops into Berkeley's Giorgi Gallery on Claremont Avenue this Friday to perform music by Haydn, Dvoràk, and the East Bay's prolific Clark Suprynowicz. 8:00 p.m., $15/$12. Tickets: 510-848-1228 or GiorgiGallery.com (Jason Victor Serinus)

Not in Kansas Anymore

Vibraphonist Ben Adams says he entered the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music as an underdog, and made up for it by shedding for up to twelve hours a day — he'd stay in the practice rooms long after everyone else had left, wait for the security guard to walk by, and then jam until 2 or 3 a.m. It paid off. Now based in Berkeley, Adams has recorded three albums as a bandleader. His most recent effort (projected for August release) stars the woefully underappreciated free-jazz trombonist Grachan Moncur III, a Blue Note exile who never really got his due. Adams is by no means a traditionalist; in blog entries he cites John McLaughlin, Warren G, and the bleak Midwestern landscape as early influences, compares Wynton Marsalis' oeuvre to "a musical strip mall" (ouch!), and offered his riposte to jazz critics who just don't get it. He performs at the Bay Street Beat Arts & Music Festival in Emeryville on Sunday, July 15, with a quintet he's training to behave more like a trio — i.e., with that same "responsiveness," "looseness," and "creativity." Personnel include Mitch Marcus on tenor, Darren Johnson on trumpet, Fred Randolph on bass, and Eric Garland on drums. The free show starts at 1:45 p.m. BenAdamsMusic.com (Rachel Swan)

The Other Hieroglyphic

Thanks to big festivals (High Sierra and Monterey Jazz) footing the travel bill, last year saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and pianist Peter Apfelbaum brought his New York Hieroglyphics big band to Berkeley twice. This time around the Berkeley High grad — who pioneered jazz improv and African rhythms in the '70s and '80s and has worked with the likes of Don Cherry, Trey Anastasio, and Harry Belafonte — is playing in a more intimate sextet of mostly former bandmates on Monday at the Freight & Salvage. The group features Jeff Cressman and daughter Natalie on trombones, guitarist Will Bernard, drummer Deszon X. Claiborne, and bassist Patrice Blanchard, playing music that is always fresh, stimulating, and often challenging. 8 p.m., $18.50/$19.50. TheFreight.org (Larry Kelp)

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