Critic's Choice for the week of December 29, 2004-January 4. 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

GUMBO CELEBRATIONS

Berkeley's Mal Sharpe has made a career of helping people get some fun out of life, from his '60s man-on-the-street escapades to his voice's ubiquity in funny commercials for an array of products that wouldn't be nearly so interesting without Sharpe's wit. Then there's his lively Sunday night jazz show on KCSM. Less lucrative is his musical career as a trad jazz trombonist and bandleader, first of Big Money in Dixieland, which evolved into Big Money in Jazz. Now, after a long run in San Francisco, Sharpe's dance-oriented Big Money in Gumbo makes its East Bay debut tonight at Berkeley's all-ages Ashkenaz, with music ready-made for holiday celebrations: New Orleans jazz and R&B peppered with hot instrumental soloists, swinging horns, and a singer adept at everything from "Sheik of Araby" to "Iko Iko." $9, 8 p.m., 510-525-5054. (Larry Kelp)

A QUANNUM NEW YEAR'S

Yes, the big NYE is an intimidating date to fill on the ol' social calendar, so allow us to simplify it for you -- hustle to SF's Cow Palace for Planet New Year, a ridiculously enormous multimedia extravaganza featuring almost every DJ who has ever set foot in the area, not to mention Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, and Lateef proffering inventive hip-hop as crisp, bubbly, and inspiring as a few glasses of 2005-inaugurating champagne. Any year that starts with LB's "Callin' Out" cannot possibly turn out badly. $40-$50, doors 7 p.m. CoolWorld.com/PNY2005 (Rob Harvilla)

CLASSICAL

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra provides an alternative to New Year's Eve oblivion with its Berkeley First Congregational Church program. The price couldn't be better for works by Boccherini, Harold Meltzer, and Mozart: free. 8 p.m. 415-248-1640. (Jason Victor Serinus)

METAL

It's hard to resist the temptation to make myriad references to the Bon Scott-era tunes that make AC/DShe, the all-woman AC/DC tribute band, such a hoot, but regardless, if you want to start off your New Year with a jolt of mindless headbanger energy, these five ladies are guaranteed to deliver. Gator Alley and the Stanleys complete the bill. Friday (New Year's Eve!) at Slim's in San Francisco. $20-$25, 9 p.m. 415-522-0333 or Slims-SF.com (j. poet)

FUNK ROCK

The production work Don Was has done for Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones made him a national name, but he makes his best music with his quirky, soulful dance band Was (Not Was). With all the original members in tow (including vocal sensation Sweetpea Atkinson), the band will be in San Francisco to "Walk the Dinosaur" Thursday night at Slim's. $30, 8 p.m. 415-522-0333 or Slims-SF.com (j.p.)

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