Critic's Choice for the week of November 12-18, 2003 

The Rat Pack resurrected, slick pants electronica, Mexican ska-punk, and attacking guitars from Mississippi.


Don't be bummed if you were too young to live through the original Rat Pack era, when Frank, Sammy, Dean, and the boys were sultans of the Strip, and nobody worried about anything too deep as long as the martinis were flowing. Now you can satiate your nostalgic cravings Saturday at the Conga Lounge, when Oakland's newest tiki bar goes Vegas. In addition to a live performance by the Atomic Lounge Lizards, Sin City-themed drink specials will be poured all night as Vega$-oriented movies play in the background. There's no cover, which means more cocktails for you (and more cash left over to tip your waitstaff). 510-463-2861. (Eric K. Arnold)


That's what they're calling it, folks. Fans of ambient downtempo electronica and coy pants-related humor are advised to hightail it down the Parkway Theater Sunday night for splendid performances from t. vs. T and DJ Pie. A contest to award "the slickest pair of slacks in the crowd" is also in the works. But leave your babies at home, parents: That's Monday. 510-814-2400. (Rob Harvilla)


The annual Hecho en Califas Festival at Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center is an important gauge for the cultural trends and tastes of young Latinos in California. A cool example is Noche De SKAtemoc, a musical offering Friday night at La Peña featuring ska-punk bands Tokadiscos (Mexico), Firme (Los Angeles) and, representing the Bay Area, the head-knocking, horn-driven party band La Plebe. Those guys have played all the best mosh pits from here to Tijuana -- you can also check out their debut CD, Conquista 21, on their own Desarme Records. or 510-849-2568. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Although its members now live around the country, the mostly instrumental Tin Hat Trio was born here in the East Bay, and its unique style is comfortable in the world music scene here. Putting labels on the group's music is difficult at best, although at heart the band plays acoustic music rooted in jazz, tango, Eastern European rhythms, country and Western, folk, klezmer, rock, and the avant-garde. Drawing from three CDs of original material (each with one guest vocal by, respectively, Mike Patton, Tom Waits, and Willie Nelson), the group makes music as warmly familiar as it is dreamily exotic; the band returns to its old stomping ground, Berkeley's Freight & Salvage, Thursday night. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)


KUSF's Beatsauce has long been a Bay Area hip-hop institution. For ten years, DJs J-Boogie, Raw B, and Wisdom have been holding down the airwaves, making sure that beats 'n' rhymes aficionados have an alternative to the soulless corporate programming of Wild 94 and KMEL. Over that span, their guests have included everyone from Black Star to Jurassic 5, and they've also helped support local acts such as Hieroglyphics, Rasco, and Live Human. Celebrating the release of their new collection of freestyles, Beatsauce Greatest Spits, Saturday at Milk (1840 Haight), SF's hippest new hip-hop spidot. Special guest artists will be in the house, so anything can happen and probably will. For more info, try (E.K.A.)


Dan Bern's self-titled debut heralds the arrival of a brilliantly original voice, and if commercial radio were more adventurous, he'd already be a major star. Bern's surrealistic blend of folk, punk, and rock -- coupled with his solid band, unrestrained vocals, and amazing verbal dexterity -- make his performances a celebration of American roots music in all its unpredictable ferocity. Sunday and Monday at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)


Saturday night is your final opportunity to hear the great soprano Emma Kirby -- for years a leading voice in early music -- singing Vivaldi with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Led by Nicholas McGegan, the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church program of virtuosic works from eighteenth-century Italian masters also includes the fabulous violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock playing Tartini, plus orchestral works by Durante, Manfredini, and Corelli. 415-392-4400. (Jason Victor Serinus)


There's no Confederate flag-waving involved in the North Mississippi Allstars' shtick. Still, the band's double-guitar attack and obvious love for bottleneck-laced chord progressions are more than a little reminiscent of the Allman Brothers and Skynyrd at their '70s peak. The Allstars' third album, Polaris, shows why these four good ol' boys represent the vanguard of a Southern revival spreading faster than you can say "Freedom Rock." Bluesier than a layoff notice, they generate a powerful, electric sound; catch these ramblin' men when they saunter into the Fillmore on Saturday night. If you're lucky, you'll hear the ghost of Duane Allman singing harmony. 415-346-6000. (E.K.A.)


Multi-instrumental wizard Deke Dickerson is one of the most versatile roots-rockers on the scene, a walking, talking, picking encyclopedia of country surf, rockabilly, old-time R&B, and just about any other pre-CD genre you'd care to mention. With the able support of his Ecco-Fonics, Deke'll blaze through sets stuffed with worthwhile obscurities and his own darkly humorous compositions Friday at Albany's Ivy Room. 510-524-9220. (j.p.)


Via his Jazz Messengers band, drummer Art Blakey mentored a profound cast of jazz instrumentalists who went on to become innovators and leaders in the field. This week at Yoshi's, pianist Cedar Walton pilots an outstanding combo of Blakey alumni, including trombonist Curtis Fuller, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, and alto saxophonist Bobby Watson. Expect classics from the Jazz Messengers songbook like "Ugetsu," "Bolivia," and "Mosaic." (J.C.V.)


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