Critic’s Choice for the week of April 14-20, 2004

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


Reggae, in Berkeley? Yes, mon. For the past two years DJ Smoky and his crew have steadily built their Sunday Kings of Kings DJ night at the Shattuck Down Low Lounge into one of the best places to hear dancehall, roots, and dub in the entire bay, with guest selectas and the occasional live act. The KOK two-year anniversary promises to be a bashment blowout, with a live performance from conscious deejay Determine (“Kettle Drum”) and a star-studded list of supas on the wheels of steel, including Papa Joe, Lustre Kings, DJ De, Mr. E, Rolo 1-3, Jah Yzer, Irie Dole, Doogie, and I-Vier. Blaze, fire blaze, fe real! $5-$7, 510-548-1159. (Eric K. Arnold)


For loyal East Bay-ites, most big-shot concert spectacles require hauling off to the big sheds in Concord or Mountain View — or at least trudging across the Bay Bridge. Not so with David Bowie, who descends on Berkeley in all his shape-shifting, legend-forming, continued-modern-rock-relevance-seeking glory with a pair of shows at Berkeley Community Theatre this weekend to support his latest disc, Reality. Of course, both the Friday and Saturday night shows are sold out, so we recommend showing up well before the 8 p.m. start time and loudly singing “Little China Girl” until someone lets you in. That’s how he met Iman, after all. (Rob Harvilla)


For much of the ’90s, Nerissa and Katryna Nields fronted the criminally underrated folk/pop band the Nields, which featured the songwriting talents of Nerissa and the amazingly vulnerable vocals of sister Katryna. Two years ago, they began performing as a duo, with their winning combination of sibling harmonies and fancy guitar-picking intact. Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. $17.50-$18.50. or 510-548-1761. (j. poet)


The Bad Plus has garnered press for its unique takes on rock classics like “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But make no mistake: While they may push the limits of what an acoustic trio has been, these guys are jazzmen to the core. That’s why they belong at Yoshi’s, where they wrap up a two-night stand tonight. The close quarters of Bay Area’s best jazz club will better suit them than the Fillmore, the last Bay Area venue they played. And “Iron Man” will never sound better. 8 p.m. ($14) and 10 p.m. ($7), 510-238-9200. (Michael Gowan)


It’s taken a mere 284 years, but Alessandro Scarlatti’s beautiful Vespers for St. Cecilia (the Patron Saint of Music) is finally receiving its North American “live recording” premiere. With the vocal showpiece’s formerly “lost” portions lovingly restored, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale (under McGegan and Lamott) accompany such radiant soloists as sopranos Dominique Labelle and Susanne Rydén in Berkeley’s First Congregational Church. $29-$60. Saturday at 8, Sunday at 7:30. 415-392-4400 or (Jason Victor Bellecci-Serinus)


Most interviews with Greg Dulli these days tend to focus on how big a jerkoff he is — the former Afghan Whigs mastermind gleefully describes himself as a cocky, bombastic, womanizin’ frontman extraordinaire. But let us not ignore the man’s tunes: Blackberry Belle, the sophomore effort from Dulli’s newly convened Twilight Singers, is fantastic and melodramatic alt-rock for all those still mourning the beloved Whigs. For those outta town for the Singers’ Thanksgiving weekend show, they’re at the Great American Music Hall Saturday night. Go and be womanized. $15, 8 p.m. 415-885-0750. (R.H.)


True to form in its 26-year musical journey, ROVA continues to draw big crowds and serious reviews in the rest of the world while being nearly ignored at home. But the vibe at Berkeley’s tiny nonprofit Jazz House is so perfect that after an inspired appearance a couple of months back, the Bay Area’s oldest improvising saxophone quartet returns for a two-night stand of mostly new compositions on Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. in the hard-to-find club at 3192 Adeline Street, just south of Ashby BART. Admission is $10-$15 donation. 415-846-9432. (Larry Kelp)


Wayne Shorter once blew with Jaco, Zawinul, and the rest of the Weather Report band at the Oakland Coliseum in a bill with Gil Scott-Heron and Earth, Wind & Fire. From his days with Blakey, Miles, and WR, Shorter has shuffled between the notes and beats with a creative fire that still burns brightly, as his last two albums — Footprints Live and Alegria — prove. Shorter performs at the Masonic Auditorium in SF on Saturday night as part of the SFJAZZ Spring Season along with top-notch pianist Brad Mehldau. 8 p.m. $25-$60. 415-788-7353. (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)


Beth Custer defines the word “eclectic”; she composes music for the Joe Goode Performance Group and writes soundtracks for film and TV (including the theme for Independent View on KQED). Saturday night she’ll be fronting her Beth Custer Ensemble, a snappy outfit that combines jazz, funk, Latin, trip-hop and world music at 8 p.m. at the Jazz House in Berkeley. $10-$20 sliding scale. 510-655-9755. (j.p.)


420 means many things to many people. Whether you know it as a police code, an after-school group of stoners, or the number of molecules in THC (the active ingredient in cannabis), it’s taken on a special meaning to those who like to get lifted. And what better place to celebrate 4/20 itself than the heart of the Oaksterdam district? Tuesday’s 420 Fest at the Oakland Box boast a lineup that’s anything but bammer: Hosted by T-Kash of the Coup and KPFA, the event features live performances from Vision Walker, Felonious, Nonamenko, and Eskapo, covering all the bases from hip-hop to funk to jazz to punk. In addition, drum ‘n’ bass and house DJs will play the 420 Lounge, Miss Oaksterdam 2004 will be crowned, and a free buffet will be available, should the munchies become overwhelming. $25-$30. 510-451-1932. (E.K.A.)


Not another one? Yes, the powerhouse son band Cubanismo has canceled its May 7 Cal Performances show at UCB. The procurement of visas for Cuban artists is a bear these days. But if you dig son (aka Cubanismo), you have to hear German Donatien. A gifted Cubano singer-songwriter, he has an amazing repertoire of traditional Afro-Cuban music that will transport you to the swaying palms of Old Havana. He performs at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley this Friday with his group Palenque. 8:30 p.m., $10. 510-849-2568. (J.C.V.)

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