This Week's Day-by-Day Picks 

The Berkeley band Carrier has become Golden Birds, and the sound has shifted slightly with the name. Where Carrier hefted a jazzy, crooked weight, Golden Birds fly more easily, augmenting the still-funky drums and Webster McBride's vocal tang with electronics and softer guitar textures. They play on their home turf, the house known as Fort Oregon (1911 Oregon St., Berkeley), with the dramatic, slow-burning trio John Guilt from NYC; the Bay Area's haunting Lonelyhearts; and Oakland singer-songwriter (and "honest voluptuary") Leyna Noel, whose girlish coo recalls Rose Melberg (the Softies, Tiger Trap, Go Sailor!) but whose musical palette swings from soaring ballads ("Exigency") to jerky rock numbers ("Cling Peaches") to sweet, soulful meditations ("Orphantine," "Solving It"). All-ages, 8 p.m., $3. -- Stefanie Kalem

Though the name Soul Line Dancing may seem a bit contradictory -- usually, if you've got soul, you don't need no line to dance in -- the point of this class at Berkeley Youth Alternatives is clear: to make getting fit fun for adults of any age. For just $2, you can get your chance every Thursday night to dance to soul, R&B, and hip-hop classics with a kind and attentive teacher. The ninety-minute classes start at 6:30 p.m. BYA can be found at 1255 Allston Way; call 510-845-9010 or visit for further details. -- Stefanie Kalem

You might think: "Why is an art gallery that's really a pinball parlor showing photographs of pinball parlors?" Good question, but it probably comes under the heading of "So Obvious It Makes Perfect Sense." Michael Schiess and his Lucky Ju Ju Pinball/Gallery have been well noted in the visual arts and communications sphere of the Bay Area recently -- Schiess shows what he likes, and he obviously likes pinball. So does photographer Linda Hanson, who habitually frequented pinball halls on a mission to capture the colorful glories of flippers and bumpers. Her photo exhibition, forthrightly titled Pinball, opens this evening with a reception at Lucky Ju Ju from 6 p.m. to midnight -- which happens to be the gallery's hours of operation, Fridays and Saturdays only. 713 E. Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Visit to see Hanson's work. -- Kelly Vance

After bassist and composer Matthew Sperry was accidentally killed in Emeryville two years ago while riding his bicycle to work, friends dedicated the Matthew Sperry Memorial Festival, which is mostly devoted to forward-looking and/or experimental music. The third and latest edition of the annual fest begins today, a four-day extravaganza of expressive music at Oakland's 21 Grand. Tonight (8 p.m.) is a tribute to composer and saxophonist Anthony Braxton by the sixty-piece (!) Triaxium West Large Ensemble. Then on Sunday, a series of small groups, including OrcheSperry, play Sperry's music. The festival continues on Monday and Tuesday, with live electronic performances by four groups and an appearance by Swedish musician and inventor Johannes Bergmark and his friends respectively. Admission is $6-$50, sliding scale. 416 25th St., Oakland. Info: -- Kelly Vance

Faster than you can say "Chili cook off in the parking lot!," fans of fire in the belly will come a-runnin' today for the Great Rotary Fourteenth Annual Chili Cook Off in Fremont. Who knows what mystery a bowl of brown holds for these foolish mortals? Who can explain the hazy heat of the habanero, the sizzling suspense of the scotch bonnet, the craziness for the capsicum? The all-day event (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), benefiting the Tri-Valley Rotary Clinic, Washington Wheels, and the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, appropriately takes place in the parking lot of the Saddle Rack, the East Bay's premier country and Western music venue (42011 Boscell Rd., Fremont). Some thirty varieties of chili, no doubt including Texas beanless and Cincinnati sweet, will be cooked out in the open, accompanied by live music from Saddle Rack house band Appaloosa. Ancillary events include kids' games, a firefighters' chili competition, and a hot rod show. BYOB -- bring your own Brioschi. $5 adults, kids under twelve free. Info: 510-732-6011. -- Kelly Vance

The best thing about belly dancing is that the bigger the belly, the better it is. But pregnant ladies' having an unfair advantage isn't the only reason to sign up for weekly Childbirth Preparation Through Belly Dance classes, starting tonight at the Nurture Center. Belly dancing is also called "birth dancing," and is one of the oldest known ways to get ready for the big day (or, yikes, days). Monday mornings from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., Zoe Weston teaches you how to tone up the muscles used during labor, get in touch with your feminine energy, and more. Plus, music and dance can relax both your body and mind, and a mellowed-out birth is a better birth in many ways. The cost for the seven-week workshop is $90 per person, and the Nurture Center is at 3399 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette. Advance registration required; call 925-283-1346, e-mail, or sign up at -- Stefanie Kalem

California is a very large and often very wild and unforgiving state. If you want to trek up and down it, camp out in it, or simply hike around a few square miles of it, you should understand one or two things before you go. That's where Paul Richins comes in. The author of Trekking California and other Mountaineers Books titles has the skinny on the finest backpacking trips the state has to offer -- the South Warner Wilderness, the Lost Coast, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Park, etc. -- and he shares his knowledge tonight at a slide lecture at REI Berkeley, 1338 San Pablo Ave., 510-527-4140. Find out about trip planning, choosing the right gear for the job, food, and the ever-important "lightening your load." The fun begins at 7 p.m. -- Kelly Vance


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