Critic's Choice for the week of July 3-9, 2002 

Reality-TV grads, punk-rock parody, funk-jazz fusion, and showstopping soul.

ROCK

At first, like most reality TV, VH1's Bands on the Run looked pretty darn stoop, but by the end of its season we were all hooked. And to top it all off, the "nice" band that played fair actually won: Flickerstick. Now, unfortunately, the band has to try and win over the audiences it's been promised. For a second-rate Matchbox Twenty, that may be hard to do, but let's all see what they've come up with, shall we? The band opens for the Cranberries this Wednesday at the Warfield. 415-775-7722. (Katy St. Clair)

The Nubs from SF are freakin' hilarious, poking fun at Angry Samoans-style snotty and immature punk rock with that delicate balance of actually loving the form as well. The song "Job," about not wantin' to get one, has been at the top of the KUSF playlist for weeks. The band performs with October Allied, One Step Shift, Uberkunst, John the Baker, and Dillweed at the Stork Club on Thursday. 510-444-6174. (K.S.)

JAZZ

Sparks promise to fly Wednesday and Thursday, as bassist Michael Zisman brings the brilliant Warne Marsh tenor saxophone disciple Mark Turner into Jazz at Pearl's. The first night also features monster guitarist Bruce Forman, and the second has Turner locking horns with the explosive alto saxophonist Andrew Speight. The great Akira Tana is on drums both evenings. 415-291-8255. (Lee Hildebrand)

Last year, Mal Sharpe and Big Money in Jazz were the perfect follow-up to the fireworks display at Jack London Square. In what is becoming an annual Yoshi's July 4 bash, the renowned man-on-the-street and host of the popular KCSM radio show Back on Basin Street brings in his trombone and fun-loving band for an evening of cakewalkin' New Orleans traditional Jazz. 510-238-9200. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

Berkeley pianist-singer Ellen Hoffman has inspired countless adults and kids who thought they couldn't sing. She helped launch the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Oakland Jazz Choir, and Berkeley Broadway Singers. Hoffman makes her first headline appearance at the Freight & Salvage on Friday, performing original compositions, the Beatles, Broadway, and beyond with a sextet that includes vocalist Anna de Leon, saxophonist-flutist Melecio Magdaluyo, and Hawaiian steel guitarist Patti Maxine. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)

Keyboardist Wayne Horvitz walks a line somewhere between the syncopated funk of the Meters and the space-age jazz of Sun Ra with Zony Mash. For the Seattle quartet's gig Monday at Yoshi's, however, he's switching from organ to piano for an evening of unplugged, sweetly melodic, often introspective sounds, mostly from his prolific, unpredictable pen. 510-238-9200. (L.H.)

BLUES & SOUL

Texas-born blues and soul singer Frankie Lee made his initial mark in the early 1960s with "Full-Time Lover," an answer to Little Johnny Taylor's "Part-Time Love" that was revived in the '80s by Stevie Ray Vaughan. A fervent, showstopping entertainer with a consistently imaginative repertoire, Lee appears Saturday night at Rountree's, recently opened in Berkeley on the site of the legendary Ruthie's Inn. 510-225-1445. (L.H.)

OPERA

The Merola Opera Program, named for San Francisco Opera's first general director, Gaetano Merola, has trained some of our finest operatic singers, coaches, and stage directors. At Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., you may experience one or more of opera's next greats performing Merola's contemporary interpretation of Puccini's La Bohème. 415-978-2787. (Jason Serinus)

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