Critic's Choice for the week of March 23-29, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

DJ ROYALTY

A lineup of hot local party-rockers and wax masters -- if not outright wax royalty -- convenes Saturday night at DNA Lounge for True Skool's Big Payback, projected to be one of the crunkest parties in the Bay Area. Sashay and boogie down to hip-hop, reggaeton, and funky flashback beats provided by Digital Underground's DJ Fuze, Zeph, Sake 1, Raw B, Joe Quixx, Teeko, Namane, and the Coup's own Pam the Funkstress. True Skool keeps the underground spirit alive with affordable $5 ticket prices all night. 10 p.m. 415-626-1409. (Rachel Swan)

BOLD JAZZ

John Coltrane's five-sax 1965 monstrosity Ascension alienated more fans than it won, but now it's inspiring the most adventurous concert in the SF Jazz Festival's spring season honoring Coltrane's legacy. Sunday's fortieth-anniversary Ascension performance is led by ROVA Saxophone Quartet and a large group of friends under the name Orkestrova, featuring violinists, guitarists (including new Wilco member Nels Cline), drummers, and keyboard/electronics wizards. SF's Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 7 p.m., $20-$36. Cline will also give a lecture-demo on the connection between rock and jazz Saturday at 3 p.m. at SF's Dance Mission Theater. $10-$15. 415-776-1999 or SFJazz.org (Larry Kelp)

SOUL PUNK

You've probably got a read on the Bellrays by now: Motown soul with bare-knuckled punk rock attitude, or, as Jello Biafra put it, "At last! Picture Tina Turner or Aretha Franklin fronting a garage band." Armed with a live show that will pick you up, flip you over, and relieve you of any loose change, the 'Rays hit Slim's in SF Sunday night to pimp their latest Alternative Tentacles release, The Red, White, and Black. $11-$13, 8 p.m. Slims-SF.com (Rob Harvilla)

SHAPESHIFTING POP

If you've been desperately searching the concert listings for the return of dios, that Next Big Thing band that mixes catchy melodies with dreamy grooves and modern vibes, you'll need to revise your search to dios malos. It seems lawsuits have forced the band to change its name, though the song remains the same. Check out one of Southern California's coolest bands at Cafe du Nord in SF Friday and Saturday, opening for Pretty Girls Make Graves. $10, 9 p.m. both nights. 415-861-5016 or CafeduNord.com (Michael Gowan)

CLASSICAL

Cal Performances scores with a duo-piano recital by two of our finest keyboard artists, Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman. In addition to Schumann's Six Canonic tudes, Debussy's En Blanc et Noir, and Ravel's Rhapsodie Espagnole and La Valse, Saturday night's Zellerbach Hall performance offers the rare opportunity to hear Stravinsky's four-hand arrangement of The Rite of Spring. $34-$62, 8 p.m. 510-642-9988. (Jason Victor Serinus)

NO-WAVE BLUES

The Kills' murky sound -- driven by two distorted electric guitars, a cheap drum machine, and their boy vs. girl nihilistic attitude -- has echoes of both R.L. Burnside and New York's feral No Wave movement. The measured tempos create relentless tension with no release, while the lyrics bring us face to face with life's more unpleasant realities. They play tonight (Wednesday) at the Independent in SF. The Sights and Elephone open. $12-$14, 8 p.m. 415-771-1421 or TheIndependentSF.com (j. poet)

IMPROPER DANCING

Atlanta's Forty-Fives have spent seven years rocking dive bars and releasing perfect party records, but they always seem to get caught in the middle: too groovy for the punks, too scruffy for the retro rulebook, too girl-oogling for alt-country sensibilities, and no press clipping "hook" for the A&R men. Ignore the lack of hype -- it only makes for a fine night out with better dancing. They're opening for Shonen Knife Saturday night at Slim's in SF. $16-$18, 9 p.m. Slims-SF.com (Eric Davidson)

HIP-HOP CINEMA

Part of hip-hop's role in popular culture is to poach old canonical forms and tweak them to tell new stories and create new sounds. Thus, DJ Spooky's new pastiche work, Rebirth of a Nation, which recasts and transforms D.W. Griffith's unabashedly racist Civil War epic about how the Ku Klux Klan saved the South from pillaging freed slaves. In his counternarrative, Spooky culls images from Griffith's film, "remixes" them on three screens, and sets them to an original score. Rebirth screens at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in SF this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. $24-$35. 415-978-ARTS (R.S.)

ARTY POP

Take drugs? No? Wish you did? Curious as to what it feels like? Listening to Outside Closer, the latest from UK experimental pop conglomerate Hood, gives you some idea: dreamy, kaleidoscopic art rock that evokes that fifteen-second interval between sleeping and waking when you have no clue what the hell is going on, but nonetheless enjoy the sensation immensely. It's beautiful. Trust us. And Oakland opener From Monument to Masses is earth-destroyingly awesome. Trust on that too. Friday at Bottom of the Hill in SF. $10, 10 p.m. BottomoftheHill.com (R.H.)

JAZZ CROONERS

Opie Bellas' latest album Faces (Bella Blue) defines the warm, affectionate jazz crooner with seasoned finesse who plays up her abilities as "a singer from the Old School," as she calls herself. Tuesday, Bellas makes her debut at Yoshi's with David Udolf (piano), Brad Buethe (guitar), Chris Amberger (bass), and Wally Schnalle (drums) for a belated CD release party. $10, 8 and 10 p.m. 510-238-9200 or Yoshis.com (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

AFRICAN RUMBA

Orchestra Baobab has been around since 1970, when its inventive blending of Senegalese folk music, Cuban rhythms, and other West African elements turned the crew into one of Senegal's top bands. A reissue of OB's 1982 album, Pirate's Choice, became a worldwide hit in 2000 and led to the band's reincarnation. Baobab's mix of Congolese soukous, Senegalese rumba, R&B horn charts, and the rock-influenced twin guitars of Latfi Benjeloum and Barthelemy Attisso retains its kick even after 35 years. There's a Saturday 3 p.m. family matinee ($5-$15) preceding the 8 p.m. main event ($24-$43) at SF's Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. 415-788-7353 or SFJazz.org (j.p.)

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