Critic's Choice for the week of June 14-20, 2006 

Birth-canal punk, cool shoegazing, and actual griots.

Comic Rock

Sound of Urchin dwells in the same realm as Ween and Tenacious D — it has actually opened for both — in that it's often perceived as a joke rock band. But as Ween proved through mastery of myriad genres, a sense of humor hardly denotes lackluster skills. Sound of Urchin shares labels, hometowns, and even a mentor with Ween, and stylistically it'll appeal to the same crowd. Suffice to say it's a definite trip. And now three quality releases deep, the band has proven itself much more than just a group of stoners with guitars. Sunday night at Oakland's Stork Club, support comes from Crescent Moon, another member of the extended Ween family. $5, 9 p.m., (Nate Seltenrich)

Irish Folk Solos

Born in Maine, singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves began singing on the streets in Ireland, won the Kerrville Folk Festival's new folk competition in 1992, and now calls Austin home. He fits in well because of the depth and maturity of his songs that build on the breakthroughs of earlier folk, country, and blues greats. His road-worn voice adds to the sense that there's perhaps too much wisdom in his music for him to become as popular as some of his contemporaries. With a new CD, Unsung, Cleaves visits the Freight & Salvage on Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets $17.50 advance, $18.50 door; (Larry Kelp)

Scottish Fiddle Duos

In the midst of San Francisco Symphony's intriguing June festival, some of the orchestra's finest players will spend Sunday afternoon slumming in Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church with Chamber Music Sundaes. The last offering in this fine series includes Richard Strauss' Sonata for Violin and Piano, Scottish Fiddle Duos, and Fauré's Quartet for Piano and Strings in G minor. $9-$21; 3:15 p.m. 415-584-5946 or (Jason Victor Serinus)

Glam-Punk Moms

Having mom drop off the kids at Gilman is one thing. Having mom play the show at Gilman is another. Of course, members of Oakland's glam-punk band Placenta aren't exactly your typical soccer moms. Songs like "Too Much Woman" and "Single Mom" exhibit their fondness for cheesy, early-'80s guitar licks, and sing-along lyrics like this chorus, Single mom! What the fuck went wrong?! They may not be mistresses of their instruments, but can you really afford to miss a band whose singer has been known to dress up as a giant shiny pink vagina? No, you can't. Gape at them Friday, June 16 at 924 Gilman. $5, 8 p.m. (Kathleen Richards)

Local Indie Shoes

Sometimes it's not apparent that there is a "scene" until someone comes in and tags it as such. To that extent, Roger Anderson of Halycon High has formed a community Web site, Cool Waves, for Bay Area shoegazer and indie bands. To date, it's churning up some of the most refreshing rock material around — albeit rock that can be droning washes of noise of the Cure/Joy Division/My Bloody Valentine-obsessed variety. The site's two-day festival features Foxtail Somersault on Friday, June 16, and Tomihira on Saturday, June 17, at the House of Shields in SF. $5, 10 p.m. (K.R.)

Robotic Nuptials

He has aerobicized. He has reenacted the Ten Commandments. He has been the reluctant leader of a mariachi band. And through it all, JBOT has endured the emotional torture inflicted by his robotic band, forced to play the type of music that only a robotic band can play: funky death metal. Or something like that. This time around, Captured! by Robots is embracing love. JBOT is an ordained minister, and he's marrying couples. He'll play his own versions of wedding favorites, but couples must provide their own cake. Witnesses will be on hand at Bottom of the Hill in SF on Friday, June 16. $10, 10 p.m. (K.R.)

World-Class Folk

Senegalese superstar Baaba Maal took African folk to an internationally recognized level of prominence. He has been known to blend both acoustic and electronic textures into a sound influenced by both Wolof tradition and Islamic muezzin-style chant-singing, and after a flirtation with pop crossover in the '90s, he's returned to the more organic style which first enraptured his fans. Live, he's practically the eighth wonder of the world, a musical version of the Discovery Channel, whose band Daande Leol — which includes longtime collaborator and actual griot Mansour Seck — delivers a master-level exhibition of authentic African music. Check him out Friday, June 16 at the Masonic Auditorium in an SFJazz-sponsored event. $25-$70. (Eric K. Arnold)

Fancy Finger-Picking

Steve Taylor-Ramirez, one half of the well-known Cowpokes for Peace, plays a solo gig featuring his fancy picking, weathered vocals, and low-key charisma. Taylor-Ramirez will play two sets showcasing his own socially conscious originals and a grab bag full of Mexican folk and pop songs that jump from the hits of Ritchie Valens to the modern ranchera classics of Jose Alfredo Jimenez. Thursday, June 15th at La Peña. $10 general, $8 students, 8 p.m. (j. poet)


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