Critic's Choice for the week of November 9-15, 2005 

Feminist escapism, dynamic dancehall, and frigid DJs.


Japanese hillbillies, dishwater-blond surf rockers, freaky folk crooners, and gaggles of chicks with two-toned hair will convene for this Saturday's Cowapunka! 2005 bash. Featuring the talents of Casey Just and the Psychophoniks (a stylish Texas rockabilly band that looks as if it snuck off the set of Blue Velvet), Toshio Hirano (a square-looking dude with an apparently heartbreaking yodel), Hiroshi Hasegawa's Poontang Wranglers (a group of lewd, self-effacing yuksters known for taking the stage in their underwear), the sardonically gloomy-and-doomy Ill Gotten Gainz, and plenty more, this fourteen-hour hoedown will benefit the West Memphis 3. Held at Thee Parkside in SF, the hoedown kicks off with movie screenings at noon, with live music thereafter. $3-$5 for the movies, $10 for all the bands. or (Rachel Swan)


Andy Bell, the voice of Erasure, is doing a low-rent tour of the States to promote his first solo album, Electric Blue. It's your chance to see another side of the guy who possess one of the most powerful voices in modern pop. He'll be spinning tunes and doing a meet and greet Thursday at Mezzanine in SF. $15, 9 p.m. 415-625-8880 or (j. poet)


Jamaican firebrand Anthony B. is a model of consistency, reliably pounding out hits since he first emerged in the mid-'90s. His tendency toward outspoken political commentary got his Vatican-bashing hit "Fire Pon Rome" banned by the Jamaican government from radio, to which he responded with "Fire Pon de Government." He also has turned Phil Collins melodies into poignant antigun anthems ("Gangstas Think Twice"), praised honest policemen ("Good Cop"), and, most recently, released a new album (My Hope) on a German label. As didactic as you think he'd be live, he's actually a charismatic, dynamic stage performer, which makes tonight's (Wednesday's) show at Slim's in SF (along with Soul Majestic) a must-see for reggae fans. $25, 9 p.m. (Eric K. Arnold)


Back in the mid-'90s (an era that remains hazy in our collective memory), DJ Icewater was virtually unknown -- just a really quiet, unassuming guy who'd stop by Massa's late-night hip-hop show on KALX occasionally, though the host had such a pottymouth he could barely keep a gig on noncommercial radio. Now, a decade later, Icewater is still grinding wax at local bars like the Golden Bull; Saturday night, head to Berkeley's Shattuck Down Low for Angel Magik, a stylish hip-hop and reggae party also featuring DJ brethren Engine Room and Jah Kno. $15, 9 p.m. (R.S.)


This weekend's Hecho en Califas (Made in California) festival at Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center highlights young Chicano/Latino musicians and spoken-word artists. Friday night, the Bay Area Caribbean groove band Carne Cruda (Raw Meat) celebrates its release party for the group's new disc, Spicy Sea Adventure. Puerto Rican folkloric group Casique y Congo and Latino funkateers Somos! round out the show. $10, 8 p.m., 510-849-2568 or (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Kitka, the Bay Area's world-class women's vocal ensemble that specializes in music from Eastern Europe, celebrates its 25th anniversary with its most enterprising vocal-theater project to date: The Rusalka Cycle: Songs Between the Worlds. Composed by Ukrainian Mariana Sadovska and directed by Ellen Sebastian Chang, the cycle focuses on the Rusalki, shape-shifting spirits of women who have died untimely, unnatural, or unjust deaths. Kitka spent years creating the project, including extensive research and performance in Ukraine. The four-performance world premiere starts Saturday evening ($20-$26, 8 p.m.) at Oakland's Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, with additional shows Sunday (2 p.m.) and Saturday and Sunday November 19 and 20. (Jason Victor Serinus)


There's something women's-studies-ish about Chicks on Speed, some kind of underlying feminist linchpin critiquing the position of women in pop culture. But it's not entirely clear, so don't trip if you don't get it -- the rest of us don't, either. And lofty social pretensions don't matter, anyway, because this Munich-based all-gal outfit is totally entertaining, with a housey, danceable sound tripped-out enough to foment intellectual enlightenment as well as pure escapism. See 'em Friday at the Independent with Kevin Blechdom and Planningtorock. $20, 9 p.m. (R.S.)

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