Critic's Choice for the week of February 8-14, 2006 

Celtic splendidness, wicked dubmasters, and hyphy femmes fatales.


There's nothing quite so romantic as watching a bunch of anemic gothic art kids play ghoulish garage doo-wop tunes, twiddle knobs on their samplers, or peck on their laptop computers. Sound like a hot ticket to you? Tuesday (aka Valentine's Day), treat your sweetie to an avant-garde dissonant noise showcase featuring Diatric Puds and the Blobettes, the Bran Pos, Earwicker, Power Circus, Froth Fingers, and Spider Compass. Aptly dubbed the Valentine's Day Massacre, it kicks off around 8 p.m. at Oakland's 21 Grand, and costs $5-$10. (Rachel Swan)


Dub began as a reggae subgenre, but its basic principles -- deconstructing riddims, isolating instruments, and making the space between the notes as important as the notes themselves -- have transcended reggae and become ubiquitous to contemporary pop music. Dub also sounds really fuckin' cool, and Thursday night, Bay Areans have the opportunity to witness one of the wickedest dub engineers of all time, the legendary Scientist (who recently dropped a smokin' album, Dub 911, his first collection of all-new material in three years). He comes to the Independent as part of the Wild West Dub Tour, along with U-Roy (the Godfather of reggae toasters), the Fully Fullwood Band, Hawaiian Lyon, Mr. Beenie, and the Green Up Soundsystem. Let the reverberating echoes commence. $20, 9 p.m. (Eric K. Arnold)


Tracy Grammer's musical pairing with Dave Carter was just starting to get national attention when Carter died of a sudden heart attack in 2002. Grammer's warm, expressive voice and multi-instrumental prowess is now dedicated to keeping her former colleague's folk/Buddhist repertoire alive, but her own mythic Americana originals are just as compelling. Jim Henry supports on mandolin, dobro, and vocals Sunday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. $18.50 advance, $19.50 door. 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 (j. poet)


Saturday night at the Oakland Marriott Convention Center, Promociones Valdivia hosts a Mexican-style Valentine's Day dance with Conjunto Primavera, K-Paz de la Sierra, Jesse Morales, and La Nobleza de Aguililla. Superstars of the norteña/romantica genre, Conjunto Primavera hails from Chihuahua and played squeezebox folk ballads until polishing its sound by adding slow, silky love songs. The band is now one of the biggest names in Mexican regional music; its latest album, Algo de Mi, features extraordinary lead vocalist Tony Melendez. $30, 7:30 p.m. 510-595-5599. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Across thirteen years and eight records, Newfoundland's Great Big Sea has converted the traditional folk songs and stories of its homeland into modern Celtic rock. The band's latest, last year's The Hard and the Easy, offers more fine songs about fishing and seafaring. Lovers of the ocean and classic folk harmonies alike shan't be disappointed when the band runs through two sets -- one acoustic and one electric -- Tuesday night at Bimbo's 365 Club in SF. $25, 8 p.m. (Nate Seltenrich)


Any time the gender politics in hip-hop start getting you down, try channeling the spirit of DJ BackSide. Cute, tarty, and raspy-voiced, this 24-year-old East Oakland native garnered fame hosting a late-night show on KMEL and pioneering the Saturday Blockyard barbecues at Moses Music -- but that's just the tip of the iceberg. With the force of her personality, BackSide eventually rose to become the unofficial queen of the hyphy crowd. Check out the First Lady of East Bay turf rap Friday night at SF's DNA Lounge, where she'll perform at the True Skool's Big Payback: Ladies First DJ showcase, which also stars the Coup's Pam the Funkstress, Neta of Knowmadic DJs, and more. $5, 10 p.m. (R.S.)


Creator of the Machete Ensemble and a spiritual force who has inspired everyone he's made music with, East Bay Latin percussionist and educator John Santos leads a quartet in Berkeley's intimate Jazzschool concert room Friday night. With the great timbales master Orestes Vilato (formerly of the Santana band), pianist Marco Diaz, and bassist Saul Sierra, Santos will blend jazz, Cuban, and African roots as a foundation for fiery group interplay and improvisation. $10, 8 p.m. 510-845-5373 or (Larry Kelp)


Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená blew away some audience members at her San Francisco Performances recital debut last year. Get another look at her with Cal Performances Sunday night at Zellerbach Hall, when Kozenà sings Rameau and Gluck with the famed Les Violons du Roy chamber orchestra, conducted by Bernard Labadie. $32-$56, 7 p.m. 510-642-9988. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Look, some of us just really hate Valentine's Day, okay? But some people take their contempt a little too far. Exhibit A: the Pre-Valentine's Wifebeaters Ball. Kind of, um, scary. There's little in that name to indicate it's actually gonna be a bitchin' rockabilly showcase starring the Hellbillies, PBF Street Gang, and Thee Merry Widows. Not exactly a candle-lit dinner for two, but maybe the music will be peppy enough to bring you out of your Valentine's funk. Or maybe the Hellbillies will beat it out of you. Sunday night at SF's Studio Z. $12, 9 p.m. (R.S.)


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