Critic's Choice for the week of April 26-May 2, 2006 

Sartorial Latin excellence, hospitable hardcore, and earnest sexy dudes.


At his late-'80s and early-'90s peak, dancehall veteran Cutty Ranks was the only Jamaican reggae rapper who could counter the onslaught of then-reigning Shabba Ranks (no relation). Armed with both red-hot lyrics and an imposing character, the man called both "the Butcher" and "the Stopper" made it fun to dance to his boasts about shocking rival artists to death with electric chains. Cutty's classics still get dancefloors going; find out yourself when he headlines a special Saturday anniversary edition of the reggae party King of Kings at the Shattuck Down Low in Berkeley, along with selectas Smoke-One, Jah Warrior Shelter, Rocker-T, Lone Star Sound, Rascue, Binghi Ghost, and Young Fyah. $15-$20, doors 8 p.m. (Eric K. Arnold)


The New Century Chamber Orchestra bids farewell to its New York-bound music director and concertmaster, Krista Bennion Feeney, with an enticing concert this Thursday evening. Held in the spacious acoustics of Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church, the program features the world premiere of Derek Bermel's Soul Garden (with Kurt Rhode on solo viola), Beethoven's Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95 in an orchestration by Gustav Mahler, and Lekeu's Les Fleurs Pâles du Souvenir performed in collaboration with the Young People's Chamber Orchestra of Santa Rosa. $14-$42; 8 p.m. or 415-392-4400. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Local acoustic heroes the Earl Brothers generate plenty of electricity, even without plugging in. Their dark, hard-hitting songs of drinking and heartbreak have been dubbed "hillbilly gothic," an apt title for tunes driven by their sharp ensemble work and wailing four-part harmonies. The band's new self-produced disc, Troubles to Blame, has been a best-seller on CDBaby's country chart since its release. Sunday at the Hotel Utah in SF. $7, 9 p.m. 415-546-6300 or (j. poet)


For Burt Hashiguchi and his poppy post-hardcore outfit Cast of Thousands, the stamina to play the same clubs with the same bands year after year has more to do with a sense of community and love for the music than the overwhelming desire to ride the struggling Bay Area musician merry-go-round for eternity. And if you're not chasing after the implausible but not impossible major label contract, isn't that what you're left with? Whether the band is grinding it out at the local skate park or helping to organize some event to support local and/or Asian American musicians, without these hard-working types, the local scene would be even less hospitable. Luckily, they'll have the support via the heavy pop hooks of the Plus Ones and Mike Park's acoustic-turned-electric songwriting when they play at Berkeley's Starry Plough Friday night. $8, 9:30 p.m., all-ages. 510-841-2082 or (Kathleen Richards)


The house band in the early days of Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center, the Chilean quintet Grupo Raiz helped introduce Latin American nueva cancíon (new song) — with its sociopolitical lyrics combined with Andean and folk instruments — to North America, and even performed with Pete Seeger. The members reunite every few years when the cause is right, with old favorites and thrilling new songs mixed with Andean instrumentals featuring masterfully played charangas and panpipes. Saturday at La Peña, Grupo Raiz performs at a fund-raiser for the La Peña Community Chorus' summer tour of Peru. The music and the cause are excellent, but get tickets in advance, because these rare reunions sell out. $22 advance, $24 at door. 8 p.m. 510-849-2568 or (Larry Kelp)


San Francisco's Floating Goat tends to get lumped in with a lot of "stoner rock" bands (Acid King, Men of Porn, High on Fire, etc.), which seem to have less and less relevance to the slow and hazy sludge of the long-gone Man's Ruin era that truly captured the essence of the term. Instead, Floating Goat mines that midtempo dirty drudgery coupled with some higher-octane metal solos, suitable mainly for headbanging with PBR in hand. Maybe none of those headbanging folks would notice, but perhaps these bands could take note from the label-obsessed indie and hip-hop scenes and come up with a more suitable catchphrase to describe their music. How about post-stonercore? With Centaurs of Divine Disco, Lowski, and Soul Broker Saturday at Time Out in Concord. $7, 9 p.m. (K.R.)


Pirate Cat Radio 87.9 FM emerges from the shadows to commemorate ten years of FCC-dodging. Celebrate (and benefit) conscientious objection while enjoying a roster of rare artists including the Insaints — resurrected SF shock-punks who once raged at Gilman with Green Day and Rancid — and Los Angeles' Deep Eynde, who merge deathrock with classic California punk. Show some East Bay pride by cheering extra loud for Dr. Frank, frontman for the Mr. T Experience, another of Berkeley's excellent punk bands from the early-'90s scene. Opening up are the Graves Brothers Deluxe, with entertainment by Barney the Theremin Wizard and spoken word courtesy of Lynn Breedlove. Friday night at Annie's Social Club. $10 donation, 9 p.m. (Nate Seltenrich)


Since his arrival to the Bay Area five years ago, Heriberto "Tito" Gonzalez has done pretty well for himself. Playing traditional son montuno with his band Son de Cuba, the Havana-born tres guitar player, singer, and bandleader packs dancehalls playing music greatly inspired by the legendary Arsenio Rodriguez. If you want to sweat, swing, and yell "Viva Cuba," Tito will take you there, stylishly dressed in his trademark fedora and patent-leather shoes. Friday night at La Peña. $12, 9 p.m. 510-849-2568 or (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


The members of Thriving Ivory say they're from Berkeley, but one look at these blazer-wearing, Diesel-jean-modeling, bed-headed boys, and it's clear that they indeed may be from another planet, but it's not Berkeley. Two years ago, the band (whose members are actually from Pleasanton, Oakland, Moraga, San Jose, and Southern California) opened for Hootie & the Blowfish at the Fillmore. They also got requests at Live 105, their hit single is a song dedicated to the "Heroes of 9/11," and they look like they were born in the '80s ... the late '80s. "Angels on the Moon" is an emotional Train-type rock ballad, the focal point of which is Clayton Stroope's crooning that sounds like a mixture of extreme shivering and being squeezed at the same time. As he sings in earnest, Don't wake me 'cause I'm dreaming/Of angels on the moon/Where everyone you know/Doesn't leave too soon, you can almost see the young girls swooning in the audience. See what they hype is about when they play at the Uptown Saturday night with American Drag. $10, 8:30 p.m. (K.R.)


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