Critic's Choice for the week of May 3-9, 2006 

Summertime grass dancing, the Doobies' brother, and monstrous birds.


Mellowdrone's slick, synth-tinged guitar rock fosters the kind of fanaticism that has driven more than a few fans to tattoo themselves with the band's insignia. Maybe because frontman Jonathan Bates, a guitar phenom and former Berklee College of Music student who released music on his own for years, suffers from an apparent hyperactive tendency to craft dramatic and layered ear candy. On its debut album, Box, Los Angeles-based Mellowdrone — now operating as a full band — continues to make indie rock dark and sexy, but with a subtle dose of Beck-like irreverence to make it easier to digest. Catch the band Wednesday at Cafe du Nord in SF, with Lola Ray. $7, 9 p.m. (Kathleen Richards)


If you haven't noticed, it's springtime, which means people are getting in mysterious accidents or "not feeling well." Another sure sign: UC Berkeley's free noon concerts in Lower Sproul Plaza. To mark the occasion, Pasadena's Ozma will play its sweet pop-"punk" to the flip-flop-wearing masses. With a whizzing keyboard and soft male-female cooing, Ozma's songs build upon the clever realization that the most infectious (and cruelest) pop melodies lie within pre-PlayStation video games. Catch them Friday before they charge you $13 to see them at Slim's in SF that night. Free, 12-1 p.m. Later that night at Slim's with Facing New York and the Plus Ones. 9 p.m. (K.R.)


Ancient Future is the world fusion project helmed by Matthew Montfort, master of the scalloped fretboard guitar (an instrument that combines qualities of the South Indian vina and steel string guitar). This incarnation of the constantly evolving group recently returned from a tour of India and includes Pandit Habib Khan on sitar and tabla player Arshad Syed. Thursday at the Freight. 8 p.m. $18.50 advance, $19.50 door. (j. poet)


Now that the Eagles of Death Metal have proven ridiculous rock can penetrate the mainstream, Oakland's Boyjazz (not to be confused with the fun bedroom rock of Boyskout) should have no problem getting Jack Black to make a cameo in one of its videos, too. With the members' unabashed un-rock look, Boyjazz sets guitars and drum machine ablaze with its debut album, In the City Tonight, released two years ago yet still vital. Of course, how much longer can the band continue to ride that fine line between mock rock and serious floor-shaking? When they enter into the heady realm of the Fucking Champs on a tour this summer, they may not have a choice anymore. Opening for Persephone's Bees, with Outline Kit on Saturday at the Uptown. $8, 9:30 p.m. (K.R.)


You claim to be savvy to the local music scene, but when your friends ask who's good around here, you drop yesterday's news — or worse, draw a blank. Playing at Oakland's Metro Opera House on Friday night are two up-and-coming Bay Area rock groups whose names you need to know if you plan to know anything at all, and whose music you'd be safe recommending to your pickiest pal. Street to Nowhere is the vehicle of Oakland's Dave Smallen, a singer-songwriter barely out of his twenties who sings, screams, and strums some of the most stirring folk and pop-punk you'll hear anywhere. Birdmonster is an earnest indie-rock quartet from San Francisco that's keen to loudly lead wherever you'll follow over a cobblestone path of punk, country, and post-hardcore. Friday night support comes from Oakland's Push to Talk and Broken Dolls and San Rafael's Two Seconds. $10, 7 p.m. (Nate Seltenrich)


Richmond-born harmonica ace Norton Buffalo is known as a blues or rock harmonica player, but his fans know he can play anything. Back in the '70s in his country-rock-swing band the Stampede he'd whip out his chromatic harmonica and make like a one-man orchestra. In the ever-popular Steve Miller Band (and playing and recording with friends including Bonnie Raitt and the Doobie Brothers), Buffalo got labeled one of rock's best. Over the past 25 years his occasional duo with guitarist Roy Rogers has been devoted mostly to the blues. Then there's his band the Knockouts, who play high-energy rock and blues. There's a lot more that Buffalo does, and he gets to that other stuff in an acoustic trio with his singer-guitarist wife Lisa Flores, and guitarist David Aguilar Friday at the Freight. $17.50 advance, $18.50 at the door. $8 p.m. (Larry Kelp)


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