Critic's Choice for the week of October 22-28, 2003 

A big-time benefit, a hip-hop birthday, post-indie-rock ghoul-ash, and a fourth wave of ska. See for yourself.


Ladies and gentlemen, the Seventeenth Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert is not sold out yet. Sure, it's for a great cause -- Neil Young's Bridge School (, and this weekend's acoustic shows feature such quality acts as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Willie Nelson, and Wilco; a few acts of dubious merit (Pearl Jam, Counting Crows, Incubus, Dashboard Confessional); and some special mystery guests. So call 510-625-TIXS or visit or to purchase your tickets, which cost $48.75 for reserved seating and $38.75 for the G.A. lawn. Saturday's show starts at 5 p.m., Sunday's at 2 p.m. (Stefanie Kalem)


Everybody knows Bijan, the Persian/German homie from Oakland's Twomps neighborhood who's part of the Mad Idiot DJ/Promotions crew. Everybody who's anybody in the hip-hop scene, that is. And not just local fools, either -- we're talking national hook-up. Who else but Bijan could have the juice to have his birthday party this Friday (officially called Hip Hop 101) at Mission Rock, one of the finest large-capacity clubs in Frisco, and get De La Soul's Maseo, Shock G and Money B of Digital Underground, and Devin the Dude to perform, with Xzibit hosting? Big shit, as Bijan would say, especially since superstar DJs T-Ski, Sake 1, Mind Motion, Chuy Gomez, Rob Reyes, and Mr. E. will be playing knocks all night. For tickets, call 510-836-LUCK or 415-626-2882; (Eric K. Arnold)


You may know Lila Downs from her singing in the films Frida and Real Women Have Curves, but the Mexican-American singer-songwriter is a treasure, and she tackles everything from Woody Guthrie's folk music to Zapotec songs from Oaxaca. Tonight Downs performs along with Ulali, Annie Humphrey, and Sweethearts of Navajoland as part of a benefit concert for Oakland's Native American Health Center. At the Paramount Theatre, 510-535-4460. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


"I had to call you; my ears are bleeding," says musician David Immergluck from the studio -- he's a former member of the Monks of Doom, a Camper Van Beethoven side project that became its own monster, releasing five albums more than a decade ago. Apparently, the practice sessions for the reunion were going great. During the twilight of Camper, bandmates Immergluck, Greg Lisher, Victor Krummenacher, and Chris Pederson took an unholy love of Zappa, Beefheart, and the Residents and channeled it into a post-indie rock progressive ghoul-ash of redemptive noise. Yeah, that's the ticket. These shows are gonna be big. See the Monks perform at the Starry Plough Thursday night (510-841-2082) and Bottom of the Hill Friday (415-621-4455). (Katy St. Clair)


In 2002, the singer/songwriter team of Tracy Grammer and Dave Carter were on the verge of a national breakthrough, topping the national playlists of folk radio stations, when Carter died of a massive heart attack. Grammer, a talented multi-instrumentalist and fine singer, continues on alone, singing Carter's playfully mystical songs with Donny Wright on bass. Tuesday at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)


The San Francisco Early Music Society beckons to Berkeley's St. John's Presbyterian Church this Saturday night for a concert by Ensemble Mirable. Cellist Joanna Blendulf, harpsichordist Jung Hae Kim, and countertenor Jay White perform two pastoral cantatas by Giovanni Bononcini, Handel's greatest rival in London; you'll also get trio sonatas by Corelli and Turini, and a French suite by Gaspard Le Roux. 510-528-1725. (Jason Victor Serinus)


One of the most original saxophonists in a Bay Area jazz community already well-stocked with innovators, Persian-born Hafez Modirzadeh brings his all-star trio to Jazzschool Saturday night for two sets, one based on tunes Charlie Parker practiced in his youth, and the second based on Modirzadeh's own "chromodal" concept of music. Joined by bassist Marcus Shelby and drumming great Donald "Duck" Bailey, Modirzadeh combines his Persian roots with Afro-American jazz, something he has done previously working with the likes of Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Anthony Brown's Asian-American Orchestra. 510-845-5373. (Larry Kelp)


Ska is such fun music, it's not hard to see why it keeps coming back. We've already had at least three separate ska revivals since the original rude boy ravings of Prince Buster and the chilled instrumentals of the Skatalites hit turntables in the '60s: first the New Wave ska of the Specials, English Beat, and Madness; then the punk-ska of Operation Ivy and Fishbone; and, most recently, the pop-ska of No Doubt. The Slackers may well constitute the fourth wave -- their new album, Close My Eyes, is well-grounded in Trojan Records-esque aesthetics, with plenty of rollicking horn riffs, chinka-chink guitars, and soulful vocals. See them Friday at Ashkenaz with the Phenomenauts and Maxeen. 510-525-5054. (E.K.A.)


You've taken a chance on a group described as "currently the best band in Britain" approximately eight billion times. Quite often, the damn overhyped Brits have royally screwed you for your trouble. Will British Sea Power deliver the goods? Perhaps: The band's new The Decline of British Sea Power is an appealingly messy parfait of ooh-la-la Jeff Buckley atmospheric rock and surly bursts of guitar noise. Moody, intriguing stuff. Care to take a chance? At SF's Bottom of the Hill Tuesday night. 415-621-4455. (Rob Harvilla)


Born in Africa and raised in India, diva-in-the-making Rhian Benson is confounding expectations with her smooth, soulful vocals and eclectic musical style, variously described as soul jazz, hip-hop reggae, and world beat with an R&B flava. Her music combines all of the above, and the career of this singer, writer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist looks bright indeed. Friday through Sunday at Yoshi's in Jack London Square, Oakland. 510-238-9200 (j.p.)


"The dynamic Miss Faye Carol" has long described the Berkeley-based jazz-blues singer. From Pittsburg (our Pittsburg), she possesses a low, sensuous tenor voice coupled with an energetically sassy delivery and incredible power. Faye hosts a benefit with her Off the Hook Band -- featuring pianist Glen Pierson and percussionist Carolyn Brandy -- this Saturday at La Peña in Berkeley to raise funds to produce a new blues CD. 510-849-2568. (J.C.V.)

see also

For other musical events in this week's Express, see Rollerball (Artsbeat); Lovemakers, the Billy Nayer Show, and the Benefit Concert for the Womyn of Ciudad Juarez (Billboard); Strong Medicine Concert (Urban Experience); and Death Angel (Scenes).


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