Critic's Choice for the week of June 27-July 3, 2007 

Gruff Renaissance post-punks, joyous pop performance, and funky Afrobeat.

Amazing X-Man

Don't ever let anyone tell you John Doe doesn't epitomize cool. With his lanky frame, worn visage, and a renaissance man's approach to creativity that has found him getting his kicks as an actor, poet, and leader of the almighty punk band X, Doe effortlessly comes off as the kind of character guys and gals want to hang out with for radically different reasons. Sharp-eyed cinephiles will recognize him from roles in Boogie Nights, Georgia, and Road House, while music fans wax poetic over songs he had a hand in writing, such as "Los Angeles," "The World's a Mess: It's in My Kiss," and "See How We Are." Always at his best with female creative partners like X bandmate Exene Cervenka, Doe wisely recruits a gaggle of gals for his most recent outing, the recently released A Year in the Wilderness. Aided by the likes of Jill Sobule, Aimee Mann, Kathleen Edwards, and Cervenka (by way of the lyrics in the jangly "Darling Underdog"), Doe pours his gruff and weary vocals into this mix of introspective rockers and ethereal odes to lost love. Los Angeles-based y'allternative crew Dead Rock West pulls double duty as opening act and backup band. Wednesday, June 27 at 12 Galaxies in SF. 9 p.m., $10. (Dave Gil de Rubio)



With his band the Blasters, Dave Alvin helped create the genre today known as Americana with a blend of rockabilly, blues, honky-tonk, and boogie. Since leaving the Blasters, the two-time-Grammy-winning singer-songwriter has stayed true to his roots with music that alternates between the down-home acoustic sounds of folk and the blistering electric attack of the Blasters. Alvin's latest outing, West of the West, paid tribute to California songwriters from Merle Haggard to Kate Wolf. His pickup band includes Christy McWilson, fiddler Amy Farris, and local multi-instrumental whiz Nina Gerber. Thursday, June 28 at the Freight and Salvage. 8 p.m., $25.50 advance, $26.50 door. (j. poet)

Gay and Retro

The True Colors Tour is pop musical theater for lovers of polychrome glitter, an issue near and dear to GLBT communities across the nation. In an effort "to end discrimination and ... raise public awareness," '80s pop diva Cyndi Lauper teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign to launch the event. She headlines with her sunshiny message of empowerment and solidarity, while one-time no-wave disco queen Deborah Harry promises to bring her trademark silver-and-gold fantasy. Synth-pop iconoclasts Erasure will provide the pulsing beat of the rainbow groove, and finally — this is the act to see — 21st-century gender-benders Dresden Dolls will infuse the color purple (and black) into the tour's pretty picture with their post-apocalyptic cabaret. Comedian Margaret Cho emcees. Friday, June 29 at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre. 7 p.m., $40-$125. (Sam Prestianni)

Operatic Slumming

It's unreasonably quiet in East Bay classical land this week, but San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House is pulsing with the voice of Susan Graham, whose lead role in Gluck's ever-compelling Iphigénie en Tauride assures her a place amongst the greats. Now at its peak, her gorgeous voice resounds with passion and pain. Ideally partnered by Bo Skovhus, Paul Groves, Mark S. Doss, and supremely attentive conductor Patrick Summers, Graham astounds in Tobias Hoheisel's riveting presentation. All three productions in San Francisco Opera's spring season are gems; if I had to miss one, it would not be Gluck's masterpiece. Friday, June 29. 8 p.m., $40-$245. 415-864-3330 or (Jason Victor Serinus)

E-Rock Experiments

Richard Pinhas is an internationally acclaimed figure in experimental music, credited with leading Heldon, one of the first bands to mix electronic and rock music. The band, based in Pinhas' native France, recorded seven albums over just five years before disbanding in 1978. Although the group's influence was already well established, he proceeded to an on-again, off-again solo career that persists to this day, including last year's double-disc Metatron. Now 56, Pinhas is considered a cult hero in France and an esteemed pioneer among his scattered musical offspring. Yet he's never toured the West Coast before now. The Richard Pinhas Trio makes its debut Bay Area appearance at 21 Grand on Friday, June 29, with support from the Barry Cleveland Group. 8:30 p.m., $6-$10. (Nate Seltenrich)

Afrobeat Benefit

Its propulsive grooves often result in outbreaks of wild dancefloor mania, yet Afrobeat has always had a serious side. While its funky, orchestrated rhythms are designed to get your body in motion and keep it there, the genre's lyrics have always talked about struggle, spirit, and a belief that, as Fela Kuti once said, "music is the weapon." This weekend, fight back against the devastation of African civil war with the Afrobeat All Star Extravaganza, a benefit for the African Immigrant and Refugee Resource Center. The event, held at Cafe du Nord in SF and put together by DJ Jeremiah, aka "Mr. Worldbeat" — himself a former Liberian refugee — features the best in local African music: Baba Ken & Afro-Groove Connexion and Jujuba, plus sets by DJ Jeremiah and Immanuel Nado. Friday and Saturday, June 29 and 30. 8 p.m., $18-$20., (Eric K. Arnold)

Hyphenated American Me

Identity-affirming politics and message-oriented lyrics — about like, you know, coming up in the struggle — are the stock-in-trade of Asian-American hip-hop trio Rising Asterisk, who say their name pays homage to that cultural in-between space ascribed to everyone of hyphenated American ancestry. While the group's earnest, common-people lyrics aren't that different from the average backpacker outfit, its musicianship is quite stunning. Emcees Tantrum, Remshot, and D. Fusion have at their disposal a phenomenal one-man rhythm section supplied by DJ Psani. Their beats are commensurate with a lot of the stuff you'd hear from DJ Amp Live or Evidence of Dilated Peoples. Rising Asterisk headlines this Saturday's Asian Hip-Hop Summit at San Francisco's Space 180, which starts at 8 p.m. and also features P-Funk, Rob Star, Duma, DJ D-Strukt, DJ Jay Slim, Mush, Lil' Jordan, Viruss 44, Self-Axis, Dumfoundead, Power Struggle, Yellow Belly Bastids, and Lyra Flip, plus an open mic and emcee battle. $7, all-ages. (Rachel Swan)

World Jazz-Fusion

The Salvador Santana Band hits Berkeley's Ashkenaz with a fusion of conscious hip-hop, jazz, rock, Latin and world music. The keyboardist and singer son of Carlos Santana appeared on the Father's Day edition of CBS-TV's Saturday Early Show with his band, plus Dad sitting in on guitar. Sunday's show is a chance to see the band in the East Bay before it releases its debut CD in the fall; the group is playing the big festivals this summer, from Bonnaroo to High Sierra. The band features vocalist Quincy McCrary (from acclaimed Chicano-Afro-Cuban-rock-jazz-fusion outfit Quetzal), guitarist Woody Aplanalp (Lauryn Hill, Nels Cline, Wadada Leo Smith, Thomas Mapfumo), bassist Emerson Cardenas, drummer Tony Austin, and former Ozomatli saxophonist Jose "Crunchy" Espinoza. Sunday, July 1, 9 p.m. $8; all-ages. (Larry Kelp)


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