Critic's Choice for the week of October 26-November 2, 2004 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


In the past, conventional wisdom held that East Bay folks trekked out to SF to get their Halloween celebration on. Of course, now that the annual Castro street party has become more bloated than Shelob from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you're gonna want to rethink that option. With the actual All Hallows' Eve falling on a Sunday this year, there are lots of pre-Halloween bashes to attend right here in the EB. Go see 'em all? Why not -- might as well get the most use you can out of your costume this year. Start it off Thursday night at Jupiter, when the outdoor DJ party Beatdown turns the reins over to the appropriately-named Witches Brew Collective. Friday afternoon, appease your inner fallen angel with the Satan Trio, also at Jupiter. That night, you might find yourself going the punk rock route at 924 Gilman with Tommy Lasorda, the Ovens, Unit Breed, Destroy Everything, and the Abi Yo Yos. Or you could be zydeco-ing like a headless horseman at Alameda's Eagles Hall to the sounds of the Zydeco Flames. Keep it Cajun the following evening at Ashkenaz, when the Aux Cajunals and special guest Keith Terry mix Creole blues and Southern dance tunes into their bayou gumbo. Or you can opt to shake a leg and tap a clog at the Starry Plough, when the Stairwell Sisters and Squirelley Stringband team up for an evening of old-time fun and square dance sessions. If that's not ghoulish enough for yer Saturday night, raise the (Grateful) Dead at the Englander with Dead Guise and Carpetshag. If that's not evil enough for you, instead go to Rooster's Roadhouse, where you'll howl, scream, and bark at the moon to its all-metal showcase with Children of the Damned, Hangar 18, Hail Satan, and Brewtallica. You have two options on Sunday: Attend Dia de los Muertos in the Fruitvale district, or sleep in all day and nurse your hangover. Then head to the Jazzschool for a special Halloween afternoon event: a performance by the Susan Muscarella Trio. You'll be home in time to hand out rotten apples and moldy Twinkies to the trick-or-treaters later in the evening, then bop over to Blake's for its "Unplugged" Halloween show, featuring fourteen bands, including headliner WorldWide Sickness. And if you still haven't had your fill of Halloween decadence, there's always the Castro, which will be crazy, loud, and out of control until the dawn breaks. (Eric K. Arnold)


The Handsome Family has created a unique niche by blending the funereal bass vocals of husband Brett Sparks -- singer, composer, and player of almost every stringed instrument -- with the literary and often unrhyming lyrics of wife Rennie Sparks, who also plays autoharp and banjo. They bring their measured and deeply evocative songs to town Sunday at SF's Great American Music Hall. $15, 9 p.m. 415-478-2277 or (j. poet)


Phil Ochs died 28 years ago, but his '60s folk songs sound equally topical today: "Draft Dodger Rag," "I Ain't Marching Anymore," "There But for Fortune," "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends," "The Power and the Glory," "Cops of the World," "The War Is Over," "Too Many Martyrs." Friend and biggest rival Bob Dylan said, "I just can't keep up with Phil, and he's getting better and better." Thus, Berkeley's Freight & Salvage presents Phil Ochs Song Night, hosted by his sister Sonny Ochs, Sunday at 8 p.m. Lineup: Ochs' Greenwich Village buddy Eric Andersen, Kim & Reggie Harris, and Boston's Greg Greenway, Tom Prasada-Rao, Pat Humphries with Sandy O, David Roth, and John Flynn. $17.50-$18.50. 510-548-1761 or (Larry Kelp)


The 22nd annual San Francisco Jazz Festival presents a night with Grammy-winning pianist Michel Camilo this Friday at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater. The first half of the show features an unbridled Camilo in a solo setting, while the second showcases his new trio of Charles Flores (bass) and Cliff Almond (drums). The Dominican-born child prodigy is now one of the most influential pianists of his generation. An exciting and sensitive player, he brings a unique blend of classical, jazz, and Caribbean influences. Latin jazz at its best! $24-$38, 8 p.m. 415-776-1999. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Musica Pacifica, one of our finest early-music ensembles, returns to Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church Saturday under the auspices of the San Francisco Early Music Society. Augmented by virtuoso bassoonist Michael McCraw, the group plays such rarely heard works as Telemann's Double Concerto for recorder, bassoon, and strings and Vivaldi's Bassoon Concerto. Other works by Vivaldi, Sammartini (for Judith Linsenberg's soprano recorder), and Handel round out the program. $10 (students) to $25, 8 p.m. 510-528-1725. (Jason Victor Serinus)


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