Critic's Choice for the week of April 2-8, 2003 

Spine-chilling folk singers, break-dancing masters, African music for kids, and Irish pleasure spiked with pain.


Grammy nominees Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin have been heavy hitters on the local folk scene for decades, Americana stars before the term was coined. Both are excellent singers, and they pepper their sparkling instrumental work with spine-chilling harmonies that take listeners back to the earliest days of American folk music. Saturday at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. 510-548-1761 (j. poet)


Headspins! Aerials! 1990s! Centipedes! Uprocking! Footwork! Freezes! All the pathos, drama, and gravity-defying gyrations of a world-class breaking competition, and more are in store at the B-Boy Masters Pro-Am, which comes to San Francisco this Saturday like a freight train covered in 3-D Wild Style graffiti. Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee Zulu Gremlin will be on hand to oversee the proceedings, cohosted by the Bay Area's legendary boogaloo squad Medea Sirkus, and featuring dance performances by Breakbeat Assassins, Style Elements, and Medea Sirkus. The competition, held at City Nights (715 Harrison, S.F.) starts at 1 p.m. and goes until 8. Then, head on down to Kelly's Mission Rock (817 China Basin at 3rd St) for the official after-party at the Blueprint -- sure to be off the chain. A screening of the b-boy documentary The Freshest Kids happens at 9 p.m., followed by live performances by Cali Agents, Noble House, Lunar Heights, Phame the Funky Bolivian, and Roc Roo; a breaking exhibition by the Pro-Am All-Stars; plus four rooms of superstar DJs playing hip-hop, dancehall, rare grooves, breakbeats, and club-bangers. Word. (Eric K. Arnold)


Baba Ken Okulolo (Kotoja, West African Highlife Band) and the Nigerian Brothers lay down a lilting acoustic groove that investigates the folk music and high-life songs of their youth with melodious voices, intricate picking, and low-key drumming. This presentation for children weaves together folk tales and music for a glimpse of day-to-day life of an African village circa 1960. Sunday at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. 510-525-5054. (j. poet)


Flogging Molly infuses Irish folk music with a fuel-injected rush of post-punk fury that pushes their sound to the razor's edge of pleasure and pain with Dennis Casey's electric guitar writing a new book of ethno-thrash. Coheadliners the Supersuckers apply the same unbridled energy to country music for a mind-numbing dose of Cash-meets-Clash energy, marked by a healthy dose of gutter humor. Friday and Saturday at Slim's in San Francisco. 415-255-0333. (j. poet)


Award-winning and Grammy-nominated Berkeley composer, bandleader, and drummer Anthony Brown's innovative Asian-American Octet is the jazz-club version of his amazing Asian-American Orchestra, bringing Asian, African, and Latin elements and instruments into the standard jazz lineup, with inspired results. For its Sunday afternoon concert in the intimate Jazzschool, the Octet mixes original compositions with fresh arrangements of works by bebop giant Thelonious Monk. 510-845-5373. (Larry Kelp)


Japan's veneration for J.S. Bach moves West on Sunday night when Bach Collegium Japan, the lauded period instrument ensemble comprising 40 instrumentalists, 6 soloists, and 24 vocalists makes their Cal Performances Bay Area debut in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. Conducted by founder Masaaki Suzuki, who is currently recording Bach's complete cantatas, the ensemble performs Bach's great St. Matthew Passion. 510-642-9988. (Jason Serinus)


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