Critic's Choice for the week of August 6-12, 2003 

Experimental music to grill by, folk that predates Dylan, Afro-beat from Congo, and bombastic stadium rock, among other acts.


They bring the grills. You bring stuff to barbecue on 'em. And around fifty Bay Area "multi-conceptual-deconstructed-creative-nonstandard-music" enthusiasts hop onstage to amaze and entertain you while you eat. The third annual Transbay Skronkathon BBQ goes down at the Jazz House (3192 Adeline, Berkeley) this Sunday, featuring everyone from guitars to laptops to turntables to the shakuhachi to the Che Guevara Memorial Marching (and Stationary) Accordion Band . No cover, but if you like what you hear, donate. 510-649-8744. (Rob Harvilla)


Sometimes bells and whistles aren't needed for an experience of lasting value. Take folk troubadours Mitch Greenhill & Mayne Smith, who rarely perform together, but when they do, it's without flash or gimmicks -- just that warmth one gets from two lifelong friends enjoying an extended musical conversation. Their careers date to the '60s, when Mitch sang on the Cambridge folk scene (his dad Manny was one of folk's major talent agents), while Mayne founded the Bay Area's first bluegrass band and has been one of the most beloved figures among fellow musicians in the local scene. Thursday at the Freight & Salvage, the two sing old favorites and their own songs, topical and personal, with some fancy guitar picking and just-right vocal harmonies. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)

Ramblin' Jack Elliott is another New York boy -- born in Brooklyn's Flatbush neighborhood -- who reinvented himself as a cowboy, tall tale-teller, and ramblin' ne'er-do-well. Friend to Woody Guthrie, mentor to Bob Dylan, Elliott is a giant in his own right, with an encyclopedic knowledge of American folk, blues, and cowboy songs. Saturday at Freight & Salvage. 510-548-1761 (j. poet)


Soukous is the pop music of the Congo region of West-Central Africa, whose bouncy, tribal rhythms could only have originated at the center of the jungle, smack dab in the middle of the equatorial region. Spiced with a hint of Cuban son and rumba, soukous sounds similar to (but not exactly like) highlife, mbalax, and other forms of Afro-pop, but it's just as effective as dance music. Hear it for yourself Friday at Ashkenaz, when the Soukous Stars, led by co-founders Lokasa Yabongo and Ngouma Lokito, bring their current band to what is becoming one of the best world music venues in the Golden State. 510-525-5054. (Eric K. Arnold)


Ah, the arena rock moment. Metallica's perfect arena rock moment is still "For Whom the Bell Tolls," a near-Wagnerian epic as bombastic an anthem as exists within the entire rock canon. It doesn't matter how clichéd and overbloated the onetime local thrashers-turned-international-superstar-heshers have become since their Ride the Lightning glory years. Even if you thought the band's new St. Anger should've been called St. Betty Ford, when the intro to "For Whom" hits, you'll know your calling, and you'll raise your lighter high in the sky as a crazed lunatic grin covers your face. That moment, and the anticipation of it, is the reason you'll trudge out to cold-ass Candlestick Park on Sunday for the Summer Sanitarium tour, also featuring Limp Bizkit (note: Frontman Fred Durst gets pissed if you pelt him with garbage), Linkin Park, the Deftones, and Mudvayne. 510-625-TIXS or (E.K.A.)


Chicago soul balladeer Jerry Butler is enshrined in oldies heaven for tunes like "For Your Precious Love," "Never Gonna Give You Up," and "Only the Strong Survive." An original member of the Impressions with Curtis Mayfield, the "Ice Man" is blessed with a warm gospel-inspired tenor voice and a smooth, cool delivery. In recent years, Butler has been hosting R&B specials for PBS, but he's still an appreciated world-class performer who appears this Friday through Sunday at Kimball's East in Emeryville. 510-658-2555. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


You'll get more relevant political discourse in one Strike Anywhere tune than in a solid hour of CNN. The Virginia-based melodic hardcore outfit specializes in short, staccato punk rock blasts with titles like "Laughter in a Police State," "Timebomb Generation," and "Question the Answer." It's pissed off but not preachy -- you can enjoy it with either righteous anger or complete delirious abandon. At Gilman Street Saturday night. 510-525-9926. (R.H.)


For the longest time, the Down Low Lounge on Wednesdays and Maiko's on Saturdays kept the dancefloor nailed down for the East Bay salsa scene. Now the opening of Club Montero's (1106 Solano Ave., Albany) offers salsa on Friday and Saturdays with excellent live bands like Julio Bravo, Charanson, Eric Rangel, Azabache , and others. DJs Carlito's Way and Jose Ruiz keep it percolating between sets, preceded by dance lessons before the show run by Joel and Sorcy., or 510-524-1270. (J.V.)


Thursday through Saturday, Oakland's 21 Grand presents its second Sight and Sound performance series, featuring collaborations and juxtapositions of music and media. Thursday brings PornOrchestra, featuring thirteen vocalists improvising to Joanie Blank's Faces of Ecstasy; Friday offers Gregory Cowley, the Overdub Club, Wetgate, and Maximillian w/Jason Stamberger; Saturday showcases yet more tempting acts. 510-444-7263. (Jason Victor Serinus)


The New York-born, Texas-based maverick known as Jerry Jeff Walker was before the term was coined, although he prefers to call it "gonzo country" or "country music from another country." His tall tales, inspired pickin,' and low-down humor have created a cult following fueled by his celebrated live performances. Wednesday and Thursday at the Great American Music Hall in S F. 415-885-0750. (j.p.)


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