Critic's Choice for the week of November 29-December 5, 2006 

Bach, pop, and a Trail of Dead leading to a Stadium of Rock.

Licentious Pop

Oakland's Hot Toddies consist of four gals whose licentious originals cross the emancipated words of Erica Jong with the ebullient sounds of Go Sailor and Nikki & the Corvettes. Whether scratching a libidinous itch or shaking it up with their new dance, the Motorscooter, the Toddies top their guitar-bass-drums-and-keyboards sound with harmonies that are pure bubblegum sunshine. They'll be working Friday, December 1 at 9 p.m. at the Hotel Utah, and Saturday, December 2 at 9 p.m. at Beckett's Irish Pub. and (Eli Messinger)

Grand Guitar-Rock

The grand ambitions of ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have been both a hindrance and a help to these Austin, Texans. The band tapped into emotional bursts of stadium-worthy guitar rock on Source Tags & Codes, but overreached and fell flat on its follow-up, Worlds Apart. Its newest effort, So Divided, appears to try and reconcile the two visions: churning energy conveyed by nontraditional rock instrumentation, like piano and ... accordion? Singer Conrad Keeley once called ... Trail of Dead one of the best live bands of the times. That may be stretching it, but considering the alternatives, we're willing to believe him. With the Blood Brothers, Celebration, and Brothers & Sisters on Tuesday, December 5 at the Fillmore in SF. 8 p.m., $20. (Kathleen Richards)

Walking Balkan

Bay Area's beloved Balkan band Anoush puts in a final concert on Saturday at Ashkenaz. The ensemble of dedicated musicians has long kept alive the folk rhythms and dances of Macedonia, the Balkans, Greece, and the Romany people of Eastern Europe. Now that Anoush's various members are involved in other projects and lives, they come together one last time to celebrate their past with voices, violin, accordion, and indigenous instruments. Sharing the evening is the Bay's busiest Balkan brass band, Brass Menazeri, all preceded by a Balkan dance lesson at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. 9 p.m. $13 ($11 students). (Larry Kelp)

Butt-Shakin' Grooves

Days are getting shorter and colder, so this is the perfect time to warm up with the butt-shaking grooves of Bay Area trio Chow Nasty. Like a twisted '60s soul dance party mixed with raucous blues-rock, Chow Nasty has rightfully caught the ears of bands like Eagles of Death Metal and festivals like Noise Pop. Catch the band when it plays the Uptown on Friday, December 1 with the Dead Hensons and Kid Show Hits. 10 p.m., $5. (K.R.)

Unpolished Indie

Bay Area favorites Moggs (who actually hail from Petaluma) have rightly drawn praise from fans and critics alike with their 2005 debut, The White Belt Is Not Enough. Credit the boy-girl duo's angular, unpolished indie rock in the vein of Blonde Redhead, Autolux, and maybe a softer unwound. "TakeTakeTake" could have easily been local single of the year. Catch them at the Hemlock Tavern on Friday, December 1 with Ferocious Eagle and the Weird Weeds. 9:30 p.m., $7. (K.R.)

Noir Cowboy

Tom Russell grew up in California and developed his singular voice during his long tenure with Oakland's HighTone label. Russell is a sparse picker, and his literary tales of the dark side of the American dream are delivered in a voice that can moan like a dusty wind blowing down a deserted highway or growl like an angry drunk trying to bum enough change for a bottle of cheap wine. He was Americana before the genre was invented, and his country roots continue to make him one of its finest practitioners. Thursday, November 30, at 8 p.m. $20.50 advance, $21.50 door. (j. poet)

Back to Bach

For the first time in its history, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra presents an entire performance of J.S. Bach's delightful if lengthy Christmas Oratorio. Saturday night's stint in Berkeley's First Congregational Church, conducted by Nicholas McGegan, features a fine lineup of soloists, including the internationally renowned soprano Susanne Rydén and two California debuts, Canadian mezzo Elizabeth Turnbull (winner of the Met's National Council auditions) and American tenor Thomas Cooley. Saturday, December 7. 7:30 p.m., $29-$67. (Jason Victor Serinus)


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