Critic's Choice for the week of February 21-27, 2007 

This week: Jewish rappers, Viennese piano virtuosos, and legendary reggae stars.

Defense Spending

People who buy greater Los Angeles' Cold War Kids also buy the Shins, Yo La Tengo, and TV on The Radio. They also bought all the cheapo tickets to this week's show at the Great American Music Hall, goddammit. These Spin Artists of the Year command all of $13 per show for their four-star guitar-and-hooks formula, and the market has responded. Their latest, Robbers and Cowards, continues to move units by pleasing the folks who like Sonic Youth, Bloc Party, and at least the theory behind the Strokes. Try to get in at the door by saying you're from Fullerton. Friday, February 23. 8 p.m., $15 (sold out). (D2)

Dirty Workout

We have now entered the realm where "big in Japan" has been replaced by "big on MySpace." But this time, the latter tag has given real cachet to complete no-names. Jewish Hollywood rapper Mickey Avalon is one such beneficiary. A mix of JT LeRoy and Too $hort, Avalon found a hit with the stoney workout track "Jane Fonda," which was featured on HBO's Entourage. He has landed appearances on Tom Green's and Jimmy Kimmel's shows, and upcoming gigs with DJ AM and Travis Barker. Catch him at 330 Ritch in SF on Thursday, February 22. 10 p.m., $10/$12. (Kathleen Richards)

Beethoven for Piano

Veteran Viennese piano virtuoso Rudolph Buchbinder returns to Hertz Hall Sunday afternoon to continue his Cal Performances multiseason traversal of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. As he has done in more than thirty cities across the world, Buchbinder now tackles works from Beethoven's early period in Vienna. Sunday, February 25. 3 p.m., $42. (Jason Victor Serinus)

Legendary Reggae

If you've noticed an upsurge in hot reggae shows lately, that's because of a new phenomenon, Global Irie Warming, in which tropical vibes come to chilly climates such as Northern California this winter. Actually, there are numerous factors — tour schedules, Bob Marley's recent birthday, etc. — but who really cares what the real reason is, as long as you get to get your one-drop on? Permission to go natty will be granted at the annual Ragga Muffins Festival, which brings a bevy of reggae legends to the SF Civic. Bunny Wailer, Steel Pulse, the Gladiators, Culture, and Eek-a-Mouse will all be in the house, along with roots revivalists Morgan Heritage and Midnite and local folks Luna Angel and Wisdom. Saturday, February 24. 3 p.m., $39.50. (Eric K. Arnold)

If You Can't Beat 'Em ...

At first glance, the 50 Guitar Orchestra sounds like a potentially horrific nightmare. Sure enough, their Web site (featuring a photo of all fifty smiling members) posits: "Are you ready for us?" Instead, the orchestra resembles a college co-op jam band: happy-feeling singer-songwriter acoustic pop, with a healthy stable of backup singers. The band began soliciting for members in January, promising "low commitment, high fun," and already plays its first gig — sure to be a logistical spectacle — at the Hotel Utah. With Diamond Jim, Dreamboat Where Are U?, the Gun and Doll Show, the Simple Things, and Mother's Little Helper on Friday, February 23. 9 p.m., $7. (K.R.)

Quadruple Axe Samba Attack

Brazilian singer Luciana Souza teams up with the classical-pop Los Angeles Guitar Quartet Thursday at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, which means fine Brazilian jazz and sambas as well as classical music. Souza is San Francisco Performances' current artist-in-residence, and usually performs with her jazz group or with just one guitarist. This time, she pairs up with various members of the LAGQ as well as the full quartet on selections from Spanish composer Manuel de Falla's ballet El Amor Brujo, as well as songs by composers including Jobim and Golijov. The Guitar Quartet also performs some of Copland's "Latin American Sketches." Thursday, February 22. 8 p.m., $26/$39. (Larry Kelp)

Get a Comb

When the Catholic Comb played the underground lair Blakes recently, silly string laced the barely pubescent audience, young couples made out in the corner, and a gaggle of giggling girls snapped photos of themselves for their MySpace sites. Despite the band's attempts at conjuring the sullen Cure vibe (fog machines, asymmetric hair, lots of black clothing), the kids that clamber to their shows seem to treat the affair like the High School Prom Gone Wild. And that's pretty damn entertaining. The Concord band plays with Idyllists, Veil Veil Vanish, Amestory, and the Bloody Heads at the Stork Club on Saturday, February 24. 9 p.m., $5. (K.R.)


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