Critic’s Choice for the week of April 13 – 19, 2005

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


Despite two stellar albums, the Tarbox Ramblers have mostly been stay-at-home types, holding down a near-weekly gig in their metro Boston neighborhood. That is, until Robert Plant happened to drop by and, in classic storybook style, picked them up and deposited them into the opening slot of his tour. Now the Ramblers are finally busting a cross-country move on their own. If you need more than Plant’s recommendation that the terrifying Tarbox mix of gospel and blues is not to be missed, then your cynical soul ain’t worth saving. Saturday night at Berkeley’s Starry Plough with the Cowlicks. $7, 9 p.m. (Rob Trucks)


Like your jazz, uh, spirited? Maybe even a little on the tribal side? You owe it to yourself to be at Yoshi’s tonight for Bay Area percussionist Babatunde Lea‘s record release party for Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost, out on SF’s own Motema label. Lea continues to work the Afrocultural vein he has mined on previous releases, yet this might just be his strongest, tightest effort to date. Affixing progressive, occasionally abstract jazz into an underpinning of funky but refined African rhythms, Lea and band have created a deeply moving, deeply grooving affair that is anything but one-dimensional. Plus, you can’t go wrong — at least in these parts — with a song called “The Bay Area’s Afro-Latin Funky Shuffle.” Lea performs as part of a quintet at 8 and 10 p.m. $10-$16. 510-238-9200 or (Eric K. Arnold)


Sunnyside recording artist Luciana Souza is a gift from São Paulo to the jazz world. This Saturday, the critically acclaimed vocalist performs at the Herbst Theatre for SF Performances with Bruce Barth (piano), Clarence Penn (drums), and Scott Colley (bass). Based in NYC, Souza has recorded four albums fusing Brazilian song with jazz, and garnered two Grammy nominations. Her romanticism, coupled with a well-tempered vocal delivery, makes for an intimate acoustic experience when she sings. $25-$40, 8 p.m. 415-392-2545. (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)


Eric Bachmann — he of shambling alt.rock cult heroes Archers of Loaf — has since transformed into Crooked Fingers and taken up a new hobby: depressing the hell outta you. But once pegged as a slow, stark, Springsteenian purveyor of indie-folk death marches, Bachmann has spruced up his latest Fingers release, Dignity and Shame, widening the sonic palette (trumpets, steel guitar solos, happiness) and turning that frown slightly upside down. The hopeful melancholy of “Twilight Creeps” is a triumph in and of itself. Saturday night at SF’s Great American Music Hall. $13-$15, 9 p.m. (Rob Harvilla)


Though overpraised due in part to its ever-hep Washington, DC, scene connections, Dead Meadow does concoct an impressive wave of indie metal with kid-rough energy that belies the psychedelic pretensions. Tuesday night at Berkeley’s ordinarily quieter Starry Plough, the Meadow will be balanced by the charming Syd Barrett-style shamblings of Padova, Italy’s Jennifer Gentle, whose Sub Pop platter Valende is one of this year’s unexpected delights. Sic Alps and Outcrowd open. $8, doors 8:30 p.m. (Eric Davidson)


All-acoustic without a jug in sight, the South Austin Jug Band has been hailed as the avatar of Lone Star beatnik country and lumped in with Texas jam bands, but these high-energy musical maniacs are in a category all their own, serving up a loose amalgamation of bluegrass, honky-tonk, old-time country, folk, and blues presented with more than a little off-the-wall humor. Thursday at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage. $17.50-18.50, 8 p.m. or 510-548-1761. (j. poet)


A coproduction of Ashkenaz and KPFA-FM — two Berkeley nonprofits committed to world peace through music — Saturday’s benefit dance concert for Doctors without Borders features Congolese singer-guitarist Samba Ngo with his full band, joined during the show’s second half by didgeridoo master Stephen Kent. Ngo’s vibrant music updates the herbal-folk-healing music of his home village with electric instruments, dance beats, and charismatic personality. The 9:30 p.m. all-ages show at Ashkenaz will be the first time that Kent has joined the band, creating a somewhat different entity from his own groups like Trance Mission. $15-$25. 510-525-5054 or (Larry Kelp)


The sensual artistry of mezzo-soprano Susan Graham once again graces the Cal Performances season. Tonight in Zellerbach Auditorium, Graham and her adorable accompanist Malcolm Martineau present a much-anticipated recital that spotlights the mezzo, now at the height of her powers, performing Poulenc’s Quatre poèmes d’Apollinaire, Ravel’s Chansons madécasses, three movements from Berlioz’ perpetual Les Nuits d’té, a song by Jake Heggie, five songs by Charles Ives, and four songs from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn. $28-$48, 8 p.m. 510-642-9988. (Jason Victor Serinus)


Born in Venezuela and based in the international metropolis of NYC, Los Amigos Invisibles live in a ’70s time warp where the works of Chic, Sergio Mendes, George Clinton, and Silver Convention rule the airwaves. Their sound may be derivative, but you can’t beat the Amigos for mindless dancefloor high-jinks. Friday at Bimbo’s in SF. $18, 9 p.m. 415-474-0365 or (j.p.)


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