Critic's Choice for the week of July 26-August 1, 2006 

Latin fanatics, airborne punk, and wide-open-space country.

Afrobeat Marathon

A trip to the motherland is not in your immediate future, but you can still journey there in spirit when the Afrofunk Festival takes over the Independent in SF for three shows. Thursday night's jumpoff features coheadliners Jujuba and Albino, backed by DJ Cheb I Sabbah. Friday night, Prince Diabate, Aphrodesia, and Goddess of Funk hold down the (extended) grooves. Saturday's finale should be juju-infused as well, with Sila & the Afrofunk Experience, Afrobeat Down, and DJ Emmanuel Nado. Proceeds go to humanitarian causes in Africa. Thursday-Saturday, July 27-29. $17. 9 p.m. IndependentSF.com (Eric K. Arnold)

Drugs, jail, & country

Texas songwriter Micah P. Hinson has a backstory worthy of a film noir. He was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, led astray by the widow of a rock star who got him hooked on drugs, spent time in jail, and was broke and homeless at nineteen. Throughout his tribulations, he kept composing the dark, dense tunes that he now delivers with minimal guitar strumming and a cracked baritone that sounds as if it's a breath away from a nervous breakdown. Pedro the Lion's David Bazan completes the bill. Thursday, July 27 at the Bottom of the Hill in SF. $10. 9 p.m. BottomoftheHill.com (j. poet)

30 years of punk experience

Influenced by the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks mix '50s-feeling rock 'n' roll with tales of teenage love into two-minute songs that are catchy as all hell. Featured in the upcoming documentary Punk's Not Dead, they play in support of their new album, Flat-Pack Philosophy, with the Strays and Lola Ray at Mezzanine in SF on Thursday, July 27. $20. 9 p.m. MezzanineSF.com (Kathleen Richards)

Bluegrass intentions

How many bluegrass bands can boast a Buddhist monk on guitar and a fiddler who studied on a NEA grant with Cajun legend Dewey Balfa? Bluegrass Intentions is an occasional Bay Area supergroup quintet that plays original songs and traditional fare pulled from an array of American roots styles (blues, country, old-time, Cajun, rock). Expect that high-lonesome and often brightly happy bluegrass sound, as featured on the band's CD Older Than Dirt. Friday, July 28, at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. $17.50 advance/$18.50 doors. 8 p.m. TheFreight.org (Larry Kelp)

Por los fanaticos

A Latin rocker's dream, Paris-born Oscar Tramor metamorphosed into the singer-songwriter Manu Chao in the 1980s. Coming into his own with the band Mano Negra, he fueled the group with songs full of provocative lyrics about love, life, and politics. His 1998 debut album Clandestino with the Radio Bemba Sound System contained "Welcome to Tijuana," one of the genre's all-time classics. A pioneer of the Latin alternative movement, Manu hasn't performed here for years, so this show is a must-see for fanaticos del roc en español. Friday, July 28 at the UC Berkeley Greek Theatre. $29.50. 7:30 p.m. APEConcerts.com (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

Wide-Open Space-Country

Alabama transplants Nathan "Nabob" Shineywater and Rachael "Rabob" Hughes live out in the woods of Northern California to get in touch with their "indigenous" roots. Their band Brightblack Morning Light's new album just came out on Interpol's label Matador. Expect something slow, country, lonesome, and wholly refreshing. With Daniel Higgs and Mariee Sioux at the Starry Plough in Berkeley on Saturday, July 29. $8. 9:30 p.m. StarryPloughPub.com (K.R.)

Summer School-O-Rock

Paul Green formed the hit-movie-famous School of Rock, and this week, Paul Green's School of Rock All-Stars will show us just how cool it is. The thirteen-to-seventeen-year-olds (among the best from the school's twenty nationwide branches) embark upon a 23-city national tour. Beats mowing lawns all summer. Sunday, July 30 at the Cafe du Nord in SF. $12. 3:30 p.m. CafeduNord.com (Nate Seltenrich)

Opera Face-off

Oakland Lyric Opera presents tenor Douglas Bryson and baritone Leland Morine in Italian Holiday, a reservations-requested soirée Sunday, July 30, with tea and refreshments at Oakland's Chapel of the Chimes. At the same time, San Francisco Opera presents a free concert in Stern Grove with the voluminous mezzo Stephanie Blythe and mellifluous young tenor Lawrence Brownlee. Church or bridge traffic? You pick. Oakland: $18; 2 p.m. vs. SFO: free; 2 p.m. OaklandLyricOpera.org. vs. SFOpera.com (Jason Victor Serinus)

Phallic metal

Goblin Cock's video for "Stumped" is pretty genius. The members — led by Pinback's Rob Crow (aka Lord Phallus) — play in a smoke-filled cave and on a seaside cliff in Grim Reaper cloaks, make a visit to a comic-book store (still in cloaks), then get chased by a psycho softball jock. For metalheads, the video conjures up all-too-familiar memories. For nonmetalheads, Goblin Cock is a one-way ticket to admitting that metal really is cool. With Boyjazz at Mezzanine on Monday, July 31. $6.66. 9 p.m. MezzanineSF.com (K.R.)

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