Critic's Choice for the week of September 10-16, 2003 

BRITISH (AND BRIT-LOVING) INDIE POP
Though theTyde is frequently (and favorably) compared to Felt, after a summer of constant touring with the likes of the Pernice Brothers, the Los Angeles band has tightened mightily, crackling with an idiosyncratic pop verve all its own. Meanwhile, headliner the Clientele has such a signature vision that Suburban Light, its first full-length release stateside, sounded more like an album than the hodgepodge collection of singles it actually was. The band continues that trend on 2003's The Violet Hour -- thirteen mellow variations on the theme of gray London skies, Sundays spent in bed, and bittersweet ruminations on the past. The rhythm section's jazzy delicacy wraps you in a haze, while Alasdair MacLean's slightly nasal whisper and radiant "How does he play like that?" guitar spirits your heart away. Wear comfy shoes and prepare to sway in time when the bands hit Bottom of the Hill on Wednesday, September 17. Rogue Wave opens. 415-621-4455. (Stefanie Kalem)

LOSER FOLK
Gothic folkie Mary Gauthier's latest album, Fire and Filth, was named indie album of the year by The New York Times, making it a fitting follow-up to her dark debut Drag Queens in Limousines. Her sandpaper-and-honey vocals and sparse guitar work paint compelling portraits of America's loners, losers and boozers. Sunday at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. 510-548-1761. (j. poet)

HIP-HOP RENAISSANCE MAN
Danny Hoch could probably kick Eminem's ass, but that's not even the point. The actor, poet, and monologuist from New York has earned widespread acclaim for his solo shows Pot Melting, Some People, and Jails, Hospitals, and Hip-Hop, which revealed Hoch's gift for characterization that goes way beyond basic wigga angst. Hoch is also the founder of the annual Hip Hop Theatre Festival, which has taken drama to a whole 'nother level. He'll be the guest of honor at Second Sundays, the monthly spoken word and music event held by Youth Speaks. The event, which has recently changed venues from the still-shuttered Justice League to Studio Z, also features live hip-hop from Zion-I and DJ Sake 1 on the turntables. 415-252-7666. (Eric K. Arnold)

CLASSICAL
Philharmonia Baroque's delightful Nicholas McGegan launches another delicious season Saturday and Sunday with Handel's last oratorio, the rarely performed Jephtha. Never one to stint on soloists, the orchestra's team of seven includes the must-hear team of John Mark Ainsley, Christine Brandes, and Daniel Taylor. Berkeley's excellent First Congo acoustics enhance the pleasure of Handel's tale of constancy, battle, and sacrifice. 415-392-4400. (Jason Victor Serinus)

WORLD
To mark Chile's own September 11 (when a 1973 military coup assassinated President Salvador Allende and plunged the country into dictatorship), Chilean musicians come together Saturday at La Peña Cultural Center to sing and perform stirring songs from the nueva canción greats (including Violeta Parra and Victor Jara) and poems by Chile's Nobel Prize-winning poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. Singer Rafael Manriquez and Quique Cruz's new band Quijerema are featured, with musical friends joining in. 510-849-2568. (Larry Kelp)

LITERATE INDIE ROCK
Yes, Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson has entitled a song "Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)," and for that he should be punched in the face. But don't hate this Canadian quartet's latest disc, Reconstruction Site, because it's literary and high-minded -- it's also great, propulsive indie rock for very sensitive and very clever people. Furthermore, another clumsily titled song, "Plea from a Cat Named Virtue," would be the rock single of the year were America not completely devoid of justice. No matter; see these underrated library pop boys Monday and Tuesday at SF's Bottom of the Hill. 415-621-4455. (Rob Harvilla)

PERCUSSION PARTIES
Hey you with the still-new-looking djembe! Wanna catch some authentic ethnic drumming and off-the-hook percussion that you just can't see at the Sproul Plaza or the Ashby Flea Market drum circles? Sure you do, and that's why you'll be at the second installation of the Congo Solo Percussion Festival, happening this Sunday at the ODC Theater. With music from Senegal, Zaire, Brazil, India, Cuba, Haiti, and, yes, America, you get a lot of syncopation for your scrilla. Performers include local hero John Santos on bata, as well as Zak Diouf on sabar, Baba Duru on tablas, Gamo Da Paz on atabaque, Carlos Caro on congas and bongo, Zeke Nealy beating on boxes, cans, and buckets, and a special performance by the Na Manu Lani O Anuenue dance troupe, playing traditional instruments like the berimbau and ngoma. 415-863-9834. (E.K.A.)

ECLECTIC SALSA
East Coast salsa powerhouse Radio Mundial drops a bit of Puerto Rican bomba, New York rock, '60s soul, '70s funk, and roots reggae into their irresistible sound. Jean Shepard's cuatro and the socially conscious lyrics lend weight to the music's sharp social and spiritual quality. Tuesday at the Boom Boom Room in San Francisco. 866-666-8932. (j.p.)

GRUNGE (OLD)
Mudhoney probably endured the worst critical-popularity-to-commercial-success ratio of any grunge-era Seattle band, but hey: The band is still together, classic scuzz-rock documents like Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge have aged splendidly, and its latest, Since We've Become Translucent, was greeted warmly by the flannel faithful. We strongly suspect they'll tackle their Friday and Saturday night stands at Bottom of the Hill with white-hot intensity. Go. 415-621-4455. (R.H.) GRUNGE (NEW) But perhaps Mudhoney won't satisfy your lust for booze-soaked sonic intensity they way they once could; if so, check out Ohio upstarts Grafton, whose indie release Blind Horse Campaign is a howling ode to giant beer guts, gravel-chomping guitar rock histrionics, and pure ear-shattering volume. If amp size matters to you, these guys'll knock yer socks off. Tonight (Wednesday 10) at SF's Thee Parkside. 415-621-4455. (R.H.)

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