Critic's Choice for the week of July 20-26, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


Rocker-T is best known as the frontman of Skadanks, the legendary late '80s-early '90s NYC ska-reggae-hip-hop outfit, and for his bongworthy grassroots solo dancehall material. But did you know that he's one of the wickedest local selectas as well? His regular Friday night gig at Luka's Taproom often yields a treasure trove of crate-dug nuggets from dancehall's prolific and creative heyday a decade ago, when Sean Paul had yet to be a household name. In a typical evening, you might hear recent stuff by Sean-a P., Elephant Man, and I-Wayne, smoothly blended with oldies-but-still-goodies by Supercat, Red Foxx, Buju Banton (circa "Batty Rider"), Shaggy and Rayvon, Capleton, Dirtsman, and others. And what's really cool is, thanks to the high ceilings in the dancing room, the bass really reverberates, making it even easier to shake yuh bam bam. $5-$10 at the door. (Eric K. Arnold)


Cuban singer and guitarist German Donatien is the mastermind behind Palenque, a multicultural group dedicated to preserving son montuno, the folkloric music that provides the building block for today's salsa scene. The band is all-acoustic, but its driving rhythms -- coupled with Donatien's affecting vocals -- are guaranteed to stimulate your feet and your soul. Tonight at Yoshi's, 8 ($12) and 10 p.m. ($8). 510-238-9200 or (j. poet)


All over England, it seems, there are laboratories attempting to genetically commingle the Strokes and the Libertines (which is sort of like getting Bob Dylan to shag Jakob). The latest Frankenrock monster is the Cribs, three brothers from Wakefield who lay down familiar chugga-chugga rhythms, snotty lyrics, and come-slither vocals. Funny thing, though: The band totally rules, making the kind of driving, sweaty postpunk pub rock that breeds glorious hangovers. Opening for Kaiser Chiefs and Brendan Benson at the Fillmore on Monday. $20, 8 p.m. 415-346-6000 or (Dan Strachota)


It's a familiar scene for folks who've attended freestyle battles at Tourettes Without Regrets or True Skool's "Mama Said Knock You Out": You want to go home but can't, as you're spellbound watching local kingpins Thesaurus and Subverse battle emcee Infinite and the ghostly, blunt-addled Orukusaki. It's happening again, but the stakes are high this time, so imagine your average battle's bone-rattling suspense ratcheted up to the tenth power when twenty emcees battle each other tonight at the First Annual Freestyle Olympics Preliminary Round 1, which kicks off at 9 p.m. at SF's Elbo Room. $8. (Rachel Swan)


If your conception of Sacramento was based exclusively on the raps of T-Nutty, you'd think our state capital was a Cali-style Beirut run by boastful, AK-toting outlaws and slappable hoes, and that Rittles and shit like Kibbles 'n Bits was the regional cuisine. Tuesday, the emcee and some of his brethren -- such Sac-Town turf bosses as AK, BeGee, Crucial Point, and First Degree the D.E. -- regale the Berkeley collegiate backpacker clientele at Blake's on Telegraph with Sactown Invades Da Bay!, an evening of teeth-chattering beats, metaphors for the paper chase, and lines that rhyme with fillable killable. $12, 9:30 p.m. (R.S.)


North America's only Summer Mozart Festival continues at Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church Sunday night, when George Cleve conducts pianist Seymour Lipkin and a host of soloists in a mouthwatering whopper of a concert that includes Mo's Piano Concerto in B Flat Major, the Great Mass in C Minor, and soprano Christina Major joining in for the great concert aria Ch'io mi scordi di te? $28-$48, 7 p.m. 415-627-9145. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Long a favorite of jazz lovers, saxophonist Bobby Watson continues to rake in awards and accolades while going almost unnoticed by the trendier pop-jazz world. As the director of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Watson developed a tone and approach to bebop that translated into his own style in his later band, Horizon. Bearing the recently released CD Horizon Reassembled, Watson brings his reconstituted group (drummer Victor Lewis, trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Edward Simon, and bassist Dwayne Burno) to energize Yoshi's Thursday through Sunday. Expect upbeat, often sizzling bebop of the highest order, along with some of the most gorgeous ballads in instrumental music. 8 and 10 p.m. nightly (2 and 8 p.m. Sunday). $14-$20. 510-238-9200 or (Larry Kelp)


Assane and Ousseynou Kouyate, twin brothers from Senegal, relocated to the East Bay last year and put together Djialy Kunda Kouyate, a troupe that combines the rich folkloric songs and dances of their native country with their own compositions. Their blend of acoustic and electric instruments -- along with a high voltage stage presence -- has already made 'em a favorite on the international circuit. Saturday at Berkeley's Ashkenaz. $13, 9 p.m. (j.p.)


It's an odd title for Saturday night's Oaklandish event, but Divrscity promises a raising of both the collective conscious and the roof, with hip-hop emcees, spoken word poets, live bands, visual artists, and DJs coming together organically. Feast your eyes on live visual art by urban expressionists Refa One, the DPI Collective, and Charlie Alan Kraft, as well as a photographic exhibit of "captured rhythms" by Vincent Moyco. Your ears are in for a treat too, with music spanning the gamut from dub reggae to hip-hop to punk courtesy of Kungfu Vampire, Drunken Starfighter, Dymez, Lifted, A Brother Named George, and more, plus a spoken word open mic hosted by Goodwil of the Pacific Art Collective. That ain't all: Divinity spins the beats and breaks, and a raucous, improvised freestyle rap session is also planned. Best of all, this minifestival is hella cheap -- tickets are only ten bones. 8 p.m. (E.K.A.)


It's hard to find humanity in most porn soundtracks, which are usually the stuff of some broke-ass, would-be producer clicking a few buttons on ProTools and thusly raising a monotonous, profoundly unerotic drone or clankety Kenny G cheesefest. So when local composer Shannon Mariemont put together a band of heady experimental musicians to reenvision soundtracks for porn flicks, she became, for all intents and purposes, the genre's Mahler or Verdi. Catch PornOrchestra Saturday night at the Fourth Annual Edgetone Music Summit, also featuring Big City Orchestra, Tri-Corner Tent Show, and a large ensemble conducted by Moe! Staiano. The show kicks off at 8:30 p.m. at the Oakland Metro. $10. (R.S.)


Two of the Bay Area's hottest Latin Alternative bands get together for a CD release blowout Friday night: Siembra is the latest from bawdy Latin rockers Orixa, while Santero's Arawaks & Maroons vibrates with positive messages and a hip reggae vibe. At the Elbo Room in SF. $8, 9 p.m. 415-552-7788. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)



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