Critic's Choice for the week of September 21-27, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


East Bay mixtape-kingpin-turned-Jerry-Brown-detractor Balance is garnering fame both as a hot rap star and torchbearer for Oakland sideshows. Grimier than most backpackers but much better poised than your average hoo-rider or turf dispatcher, he's getting props from Nefertiti-headwrap girls and mobb scenesters alike. Saturday he'll headline a Mid-Day Jam Session at 2232 MLK, which also features the snarky East Oakland diva DJ Backside, plus Tytus Penn, Silence, Casual, Siqsteen Barz, and artists from Youth Movement Records. The show goes down from 2 to 6 p.m. and costs $5 for youth, or $10 for adults. (Rachel Swan)


Like many great bluesmen of the past, Otis Taylor uses the blues as a template for his own highly personal and politically charged music. On his latest Telarc outing, Below The Fold, he looks back to the time when white and black folk musicians shared the same repertoire and instrumentation to create music that's equal parts blues and old-time country. Despite his tendency to sing about life's darker side, Taylor in person is generous, gregarious, and full of good humor. Tonight at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at SF's Biscuits and Blues. $15 per show. 415-292-2583 or (j. poet)


If camp is a world of quotation marks -- "A lamp is a 'lamp,' a woman is a 'woman,'" as the late Susan Sontag would say -- then nothing on Earth is quite so campy as rhinoplasty, or a new pair of silicone boobs. Tuesday night, indulge your favorite plastic surgery fantasy at San Francisco's famed burlesque show, Trannyshack. Featuring the former Gong Show champion and Cockette emeritus Lulu, this week's revue will be filmed for the final scene of Marc Huestis' new indie film Lulu Gets a Facelift. Doors open at 10 p.m. at San Francisco's Stud Bar; $7. (R.S.)


The East Bay kingpins Los Cenzontles specialize in colorful concerts featuring regional Mexican music and dances. Friday at Berkeley's Julia Morgan Theatre, the troupe of musicians and singers shares the stage with its new one-hour film, Pasajero: A Journey of Time and Memory, a vivid documentary detailing the group's visit to the Mexican hometown of one of its teachers, accented by the Cenz' own inspired music. $10-$15, 8 p.m. 510-845-8542 or (Larry Kelp)


Mark Morris' insistence on live music for all Mark Morris Dance Group performances makes his next two weeks of Cal Performances programs a must. Thursday through Saturday in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, MMDG features Stravinsky's short Serenade for Piano in A, the West Coast premiere of Somebody's Coming to See Me Tonight danced to a medley of Stephen Foster songs (with soprano and baritone soloists), and the fabulous Rhymes with Silver, a Cal Performances commission to music by the late, great Lou Harrison. $30-$58, 8 p.m. 510-642-9988 or (Jason Victor Serinus)


Many people think art imitates life, but in DJ Afrika Bambaataa's world, life imitates The Matrix and Planet of the Apes. The much-vaunted "Amen-Ra" of hip-hop sees reality through a trash-culture filter; thus, his vernacular is steeped with references to grade-B movies, sci-fi superheroes, and video games. You can only imagine how that wild imagination translates on wax. Friday night Bambaataa kicks off the Love Parade electronic music festival with a night of dizzying live mixes, cutting hip-hop and electro-funk beats with seductive drum 'n' bass studio effects. The show starts at 10 p.m. at SF's DNA Lounge with a lineup that also includes J-Boogie, Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist, Teeko, Radio Active, and M3. $10-$15. (R.S.)


Julius Meléndez is a first-call East Bay trumpet player who has played with Santana, Conjunto Cespedes, and others. Saturday, he hosts a CD release party for his latest album, Passion & Romance, at Contra Costa College's Knox Center for Performing Arts in San Pablo. The double CD, a tribute to renowned Cuban composer Osvaldo Farrés, uses Julius' beautiful bell-like tone and slick interpretation skills to maximum artistic advantage. 7 p.m. 510-238-7800. (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Eric Bogle is probably Australia's best singer-songwriter. He has penned antiwar anthems such as "And the Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda'" and "The Green Fields of France," songs that have sadly maintained their relevance over the years. He also is a first-rate comedian who balances his poignant compositions with tunes and tales full of wit and whimsy. His longtime pal John Munro joins him on second guitar Saturday at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage. $18.50-$19.50, 8 p.m. 510-548-1761 or (j.p.)


Legendary sideman Maceo Parker is somewhat of a funk Yoda. After being immortalized by Godfather of Soul James Brown (who frequently called on his right-hand sax man to take him to the bridge), Parker went on to work with Parliament-Funkadelic, De La Soul, and many other artists in desperate need of a funkin' lesson. Parker's latest album, School's In, offers further instruction in both basic and advanced funk, and he'll be appearing at the Fillmore in SF Saturday night to show 'em how it's done. Request "The Grunt," "Sex Machine," or "Pass the Peas," if you please. $26.50, 9 p.m. (Eric K. Arnold)


Vastly underrated and unfairly maligned by jealous fat guys, '80s video pioneer Billy Idol has recently risen from the dead to once again rip shit up proper. Idol is responsible for the 1983 masterpiece, Rebel Yell, a weird, decadent feast of rock star depravity. On his latest record, Devil's Playground, he still retains his magnificent guttural vocals, while sidekick Steve Stevens wields his guitar like a deadly samurai. Check them out with Maroon 5 Sunday at Alice's Now & Zen Fest in Golden Gate Park. $35, 12 p.m. 415-831-2700. (Adam Bregman)


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