Critic's Choice for the week of December 14-December 20, 2005 

Honky Tonk Country, entrancing world fiestas, and choral yuletide joy.


Jim Morrison devotees might remain uneasy about this Doors resurgence, but if you're gonna replace the booming-voiced godlike frontman, the Cult's Ian Astbury ain't a bad pick, and at least they didn't orchestrate a hideous reality show INXS-style in the process. Whether you're awed or merely bemused, chances are Thursday's Riders on the Storm Doors revival hoedown at the Fillmore will be a hoot. $50, 8 p.m. (Rob Harvilla)


In hip-hop, it's difficult to open a space for tenderness without devolving into rap-ballad sentimentality (Twista proved this with his recent spate of mawkish songs about hitting it from the back). But the East Bay-raised emcee Mystic somehow manages to straddle the line between emotional outpour and cool self-possession. The artist's preoccupation with confronting the men who've wronged her -- from estranged lovers to her deceased father -- makes her rap-style both intimate and revealing, but she always sounds hard enough to be credible. Check her out this Friday at 2232 MLK, where she'll perform alongside artists from Youth Movement and BUMP Records. $10, 9 p.m., all-ages. (Rachel Swan)



Recently, bandleader Jai Uttal has been kirtan chanting from India to Brazil, so anytime he revives his magnificent Pagan Love Orchestra on his home turf, it's cause for celebration. Uttal does just that with Friday's holiday extravaganza at Ashkenaz, which will include black light and video projections for a multi-sensory experience. But it's Jai's music that's the real draw, as his large band mixes Indian trance music with world rhythms and the far-out jazz he played in Peter Apfelbaum's original Hieroglyphics Ensemble, plus world fusion from his own thirteen albums. "It should be fun," Uttal notes. A definite understatement. $15-$18, 9:30 p.m. 510-525-5054 or (Larry Kelp)


Formerly a dive bar-ish hangout primarily home to queer punkettes, Oakland's Golden Bull has expanded its parameters considerably. Live bands and DJs play 'most every night, and while there's still plenty of punk around, dancehall and hip-hop have also carved out niches. For example, the bimonthly Friday night showcase the Tiger Lounge, hosted by the All-Purpose DJs, Tru Justice and Lex. Not only do the two serve up everything from old-school bumps to hyphy slaps, but guest DJs and live acts add hella flavor. This week, Wu-Tang songstress Tekitha throws down, and super DJs Shania and Tim D help Lex and Tru do the damn thing. That's what's up. $5, 9 p.m. or so. (Eric K. Arnold)


From the outside, Epic Arts Studio may look like a typical South Berkeley garret, but the inside is amazing -- a candlelit salon with oil paintings covering the walls and low-backed divans where you can sit and discuss Shakespeare or world affairs. Come by the studio this Sunday and check out the experimental "chamber-pop" groups Monte Hatch and Floating World, whose members will regale you with improvised melodies, weird plot-twists, and unusual combinations of instruments (Floating World alone mixes bass, trumpet, clarinet, keyboard, drums, and violin). The doors open at 7 p.m. for this all-ages show, which asks a $5-$10 donation. (R.S.)


Moot Davis moved from New Jersey to Nashville to become a star, but it was LA-based Pete Anderson -- Dwight Yoakam's guitarist, and a maverick country music producer -- who first heard him and believed. Davis has a raw, powerful voice and the ability to write the kind of hard-hitting drinkin' and cheatin' songs that modern country mostly ignores. Moot and his Cool Deal Band (featuring Pete Anderson on guitar) play Berkeley's Starry Plough Saturday night. $8, 9:30. 510-841-2082 or (j. poet)


As much as we all love Mistah Fab's shaggy-dog stories about metros and chirpers or Keak da Sneak's penchant for name-checking every street corner in East Oakland, what really moves us is the immediacy of their beats -- all those booms, slaps, and scraping sounds assembled by rap titans like E-40, Trax, and E-A-Ski. Now, through nonprofit entrepreneurship programs like the DJ Project, high school students in East Oakland are learning to make their own beats, and garnering important technical skills at the same time. Come check out the next generation of hip-hop producers -- among them King Kirk, Lil' New York, Cali Casinova, Problem Child, and Sin -- tonight at Deep Roots Urban Teahouse. The show kicks off at 6 p.m. and costs nothing. (R.S.)


Although the secularists amongst us won't want to miss 21 Grand's Thursday night of improvisation with Larry Ochs, Fred Frith, and Scott Amendola ($10, 8 p.m., those wishing to bask in the Christmas spirit will head to San Francisco Choral Artists' Sunday afternoon Medieval Christmas tour at Oakland's St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Despite the deceptive title -- little if any medieval music is featured -- highlights include Britten's Ceremony of Carols with harp, world premieres from Maia Aprahamian and Henry Mollicone, and contemporary works by David Conte, Brian Holmes, the great Morten Lauridsen, and others. $25, $18 student/senior, $12 groups; 4 p.m. 415-979-5779. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Holly Near is a singer-songwriter, political activist, and indie label pioneer; her songs have become anthems for the counterculture with their heartfelt ability to link individual concerns with the Big Picture. Near performs with longtime pianist John Bucchino Sunday night at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage. $24.50-$25.50, 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or (j.p.)


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