Critic's Choice for the week of September 22-28, 2004 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

OUTLAW COUNTRY, Americana, and AAA all owe a big debt to Willie Nelson, who helped make all of those genres viable. Recent hand surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome may have slowed his picking, but the timeless, golden voice -- one of the most recognizable and influential in American music -- is still there, and his longtime band never plays a wrong note. Bluesy Americana diva Lucinda Williams, a legend in her own right, opens a show that may be the finest evening of country music in the East Bay this year. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. $39.50-$75. 510-642-9988. (j. poet)


Gram Rabbit blows into town from the high desert of Joshua Tree, California, with the band's debut album, Music to Start a Cult to, a strange mixture of lo-fi production, spaghetti-Western twang, and psychedelic Americana. Frontwoman Jesika von Rabbit has a unique voice both vocally and poetically, dwelling in the shadows where murder ballads, religious confusion, and primitive country impulses dance to their own skewed rhythms. Sacramento garage heroes Low Flying Owls complete the bill. Tonight at SF's Hemlock Tavern. $7. 415-923-0923 or (j.p.)


If most rustic, literary singer-songwriter fare strikes you as bland and reductive, give Jim White a whirl -- he has a creepy, gothic lyrical touch and a full sonic palette that even wanders into hip-hop or electronic territory eventually. He might just do for what David Byrne did for world music -- make it cool and contemporary again. He'll spin selections from his latest, Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See, Saturday night at SF's Great American Music Hall. $15, 9 p.m. 415-885-0750 or (Rob Harvilla)


One of those good ideas -- putting rootsy dance music into a regional park -- has turned into one of our cheapest and best fall festivals, as Fremont's Ardenwood Historic Farm hosts its eighth annual Cajun/Zydeco Festival on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The outdoor setting among the trees and fields -- plus the inspired lineup of the Bay Area's top acts -- makes for fine family fare. Edward Poullard joins Motordude Zydeco, Andre Thierry leads his Zydeco Magic Band, Queen Ida returns, T-Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers feature Mary Jane Ardoin Broussard, and Mark St. Mary performs. Tickets are $12; kids under ten get in free. Attractions include farm animals and the historic farmhouse, plus train rides, dance lessons, and Louisiana cuisine. At the junction of I-880 and Highway 84, just east of the Dumbarton Bridge. 510-636-1684. (Larry Kelp)


Rarely, if ever, has the fusion of world music and urban soul been rendered as exquisitely as on Zap Mama's new album, Ancestry in Progress. The singer infuses her diaspora-centric music with a kooky sensuality, energetic creativity, and some truly amazing vocal harmonies and rhythmic arrangements. But the best part, as far as you're concerned, is that she's even better live. Last time she was in town at Bimbo's 365 Club, she blew co-headliners Les Nubians off the stage with a jaw-dropping set featuring several improvised, free-form vocal jams. This time -- tonight at the Fillmore -- who knows what'll happen? Betcha one thing, though: It's gonna be hot. 7 p.m., $27.50. 415-356-6000 or (Eric K. Arnold)


Of all the melodramatic indie-pop troubadours currently roaming God's green earth, Rilo Kiley might be the most melodramatic, the catchiest, & the most adventurous, as the band's fine new album More Adventurous would attest. Find out when the tart tongues of singers Jenny Lewis & Blake Sennet unfurl Thurs. night at Bimbo's in SF. $16, 8 p.m. 415-474-0365 or (R.H.)


The sixteen musicians of Salzburg Chamber Soloists journey to Berkeley's Hertz Hall this Sunday to open Cal Performances' Chamber Music series. In addition to Mozart's Serenade in C Minor and Dvorak's Serenade for String Orchestra in E Major, the acclaimed ensemble's Bay Area debut features Mozart Competition prize winning violinist Lena Neubauer performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in D Minor. $48, 3 p.m. 510-642-9988. (Jason Victor Serinus)


If you like Kruder & Dorfmeister, Thievery Corporation, or Fila Brazilia, you probably don't need to be told about dZihan and Kamien, the Viennese duo who've been heating up the scene with their ultra-contemporary downtempo beats, which mix live instrumentation, Middle Eastern melodies, turntablism, sampled sounds, and blissful vocals. D and K are touring in support of their new record, Live in Vienna (which features a 22-piece orchestra), and though it'll just be them this time, that's more than enough to pack the house and fill you with an overwhelming urge to shake that groove thang on the dance floor. Thurs. at Mighty in SF, plus opener Gavin Hardkiss. $10-$15; 415-241-2500 (x105) or (E.K.A.)


On the recent Live at Yoshi's release from poet-musician Avotcja and her group Modupue, there's a piece called "Talkin' About la Musica/El Guateque de Coto" that displays the powerhouse playing of Chilean pianist Coto Pincheira, who this Saturday night makes a rare appearance as a leader at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. A onetime Cuban resident who studied with Chucho Valdes, Coto will be joined by percussionist David Frazier, a veteran of the East Bay rumba and funk scenes. Cuban percussionist Oscar Valdes Jr., the son of Irakere singer-percussionist Oscar Sr., is their expected special guest. $12-$18, 8 p.m. 510-845-5373 or (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)


Before hair metal arrived and put an emphasis on overly attractive lead singers in bands who could barely play, Y&T was the shit. A Bay Area institution led by lead guitarist Dave Meniketti, the band fit perfectly between Journey and Metallica in the local hard rock pantheon, serving as opening act for the former, while the latter opened for them. And before gutting their sound in an attempt to appease commercial-minded A&R men, the Y&T boys were known for a mix of mind-bending melodicism and rowdy riffage, scoring fan favorites and FM radio staples like "Hungry for Rock," "Black Tiger," "Mean Streak," "Rescue Me," and one of the all-time great power ballads, "Forever." It's the band's thirtieth anniversary this year, and to commemorate, Meniketti and the boys will be in full leather, denim, and spandex regalia Friday night at Tommy T's; AC/DC tribute band Powerage opens. $25, 8 p.m. (E.K.A.)


Digital Underground's 1990 tune "Freaks of the Industry" has proven to be a hip-hop classic with more shelf life than a Tupperware container filled with nuclear waste. C'mon, you know the words: We're the freaks of the industry/My man Money B and my mellow Shock G. But DU's legacy is much deeper than that. In addition to authoring the dancefloor magnet "The Humpty Dance" and social commentary-oriented tunes like "The Same Song" and "No Nose Job," these Sons of the P introduced both Humpty Hump and Tupac Shakur to the music world. They're still adding on to their history: Bandleader and Humpty alter ego Shock G has a new solo album coming out that's already earning early word-of-mouth platitudes. With a pair of shows this week -- Thursday at the SF's DNA Lounge ( and Saturday at Concord's Tommy T's ( -- Digital lovers will have two chances to doowhutchalike. Remember, there'll be no barging in and there'll be no dissing. (E.K.A.) lso


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