Critic's Choice for the week of February 22-28, 2006 

Righteous blarney, stylish emcees, and reggae for the yoof.

SARDONIC SYRUPY HOTTIES

On the Castrati's otherwise pretty tame MySpace page, the band includes a rather drawn-out and colorful description of what the hell a castrati actually is. Uh, yeah. So obviously these guys aren't lacking in the reflexive-irony department (always a good thing for an indie garage band), and they've got some gorgeously hazy guitar lines and sweet, syrupy choruses to boot. To top it all off, what a bunch of hotties. The Castrati perform Friday night at Blake's on Telegraph with Mr. Loveless, Set Off, Finding Mercury, and the North Star Session. $10, 9 p.m. BlakesonTelegraph.com (Rachel Swan)

REGGAE FOR THE YOOF

Let it be known that Asheba, the Bay Area's best singer-songwriter of Caribbean children's songs, luhs the kids. Actually, the Trinidad-born, Oakland-based artist may be the only person of such distinction in the local kids'-music racket, but while we've enjoyed his performances for years at such venues as La Peña, Ashkenaz, and various libraries and schools, he's no longer our own best-kept secret. Yes, the world now knows about Asheba due to his tune "Reggae Lullaby," featured on Putumayo's new Reggae Playground CD, the latest volume in their series of children's music from around the world (visit PutumayoKids.com for more info). Celebrate the album's release with Asheba Saturday, when the Reggae Playground national tour comes to the Oakland Zoo. Shows (free with zoo admission) at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. 510-632-9525 or OaklandZoo.org (Eric K. Arnold)

DERANGED AXEMEN

Buckethead is among the elite class of guitarists who can shred the competition to sad little bits without so much as dropping a pick. His technical skills rival those of modern virtuosos like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Adrian Belew, yet he slays them with his creative range. Over a fifteen-year career he's tackled everything from electronica to metal to the ongoing Guns N' Roses debacle with the confidence of a studio pro and the innovation of a true nutjob. What's more, he wears an upside-down KFC bucket atop his willowy brown curls, and won't be seen without his creepy white mask. Local beatboxing master Kid Beyond opens Saturday night at SF's Great American Music Hall. $20, 9 p.m. GAMH.com (Nate Seltenrich)

DELIGHTED CUBANO

In the late '90s a hot musical wind blew in from Havana called timba, a genre fusing Cuban songo with funk, hip-hop, and delighted dancers. Bands like Los Van Van, Bamboleo, and Charanga Habanera defined the beat- and brass-heavy genre. Thursday at the Independent in SF, the Cuban Timba All Stars, a mighty aggregation of veteran musicians and singers who performed with top names in Cuba but now reside in Miami, roll through for refreshing contemporary Caribbean sounds from a US-prohibited fountain of culture. $25, 9 p.m. TheIndependentSF.com (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

STYLISH EMCEES

Considering his recent sartorial choices, it seems underground rapper Planet Asia finally came to grips with something Mike Jones, Rakim, and Mr. T have already known for a long time: Few women can resist the transfixing qualities of gold chains. Why, Mr. Asia, let me bask in your reflected light. Yes, obviously, you are the realest. Hence, the aptly-named Gold Chain Music Tour, starring Pa and a string of other top-caliber hip-hop cats, including Casual, Rasco, Flii Stylz, and DJ E-Rock ... hell, there's even a Cali Agent reunion performance to look forward to. The show goes down Thursday night at Slim's; you'll wanna get suited and booted for this one. $20, 9 p.m. Slims-SF.com (R.S.)

VOCAL GREATNESS

American Bach Soloists shift their focus to their fine chorus this month as Jeffrey Thomas explores the Great English Choral Tradition. We trust there'll be no cows chewing their cuds in Berkeley's First Congo Saturday nigh as ABS performs Vaughan Williams' a cappella Mass in G Minor, as well as music by Tomkins, Tallis, Elgar, and Howells accompanied by a consort of viols. $18-$40, 8 p.m. 415-621-7900. (Jason Victor Serinus)

RIGHTEOUS BLARNEY

For anyone into Irish music, Patrick Street is as good as it gets. The quartet has outlived most other all-star groups, mixing vibrant jigs and reels with songs both traditional and original, brought to vivid life by the eloquent singer Andy Irvine. Irvine also brings in a sense of music as a force for justice and change, with the occasional Woody Guthrie ballad to prove his point. His bouzouki playing meshes with acclaimed fiddler Kevin Burke, along with guitarist Ged Foley and the more recently added multi-instrumentalist John Carty. Sunday at 8 p.m. at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. $22.50-$24.50. 510-548-1761 or TheFreight.org (Larry Kelp)

BLUES AND SOUL

Robert Cray should need no introduction to Bay Area fans; his incendiary gigs in Blake's basement club helped launch his career. The legend's warm vocals, sharp guitar playing, and proclivity to season his music with Memphis soul, simmering old-school R&B, and a taste of rock (while remaining a true bluesman) has introduced several generations to one of America's most important traditions. Chocolate Genius -- aka Marc Anthony Thompson, another genre-bending soul man -- opens the show tonight at SF's Great American Music Hall. $35, 8 p.m. GAMH.com (j. poet)

GOOFY SAD-SACKS

Got a thing for cheerless, deliciously sentimental indie crooners? Goh Nakamura is a hot ticket for you. Modeling himself after such beloved sad sacks as John Cusack and willowy-voiced Clientele frontman Alasdair Maclean, this Berklee College alum has a vast arsenal of sweet, reedy guitar lines and goofy hard-luck stories, most of which you can sum up with a single Clientele lyric: I can't seem to make you mine. He performs Thursday at Commotion, an art opening and release party for SF organization Kearny Street Workshop's new compilation 7 Years of APAture. Other performers include Ee and the salty East Bay punk diva Golda Supernova. Free and all ages; 6:30 p.m. KearnyStreet.org (R.S.)

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