Critic’s Choice for the week of August 22-28, 2007

We recommend local cabaret operas, Wilco, Brave Combo, E.S.P. and Bobby Bradford, Tony Scherr, and Down Home Music's free bash.

Classic Rock Hipsters

Numerous indie-rock snobs have labeled Wilco‘s latest outing Sky Blue Sky “dadrock,” due to Jeff Tweedy’s decision to leave any experimental skronking on the bench. And while couplets like I do the dishes/I mow the lawn buttress the disdainful quip, the album is a return to Wilco’s Americana roots with a 1970s-era classic-rock sheen. Aspects bring to mind everything from Thin Lizzy on “Impossible Germany” courtesy of guitarist Nels Cline’s chiming solos to vintage Wings by way of Tweedy’s yearning rasp and a Wurlitzer that replicates bottom-heavy horn arrangements on “Hate It Here.” Ignore the detractors willing to decry Wilco’s alleged lack of progressiveness this time around and instead soak up the straightforward and richly recorded sounds Tweedy has chosen to create. Friday, August 24 at the Greek Theatre. 7:30 p.m., $39.50. — Dave Gil de Rubio

International Polka

The Grammy-winning Denton, Texas band known as Brave Combo was playing world music before there was a name for it. Its Doors cover “People Are Strange Polka” won the band street cred with new wave fans back in the day, and they continue to leave crowds slightly confused with an eclectic repertoire that includes zydeco, Tex-Mex, klezmer, cumbia, blues, and Latin music, to mention just a few of the styles the members mix and match into a psychotropic blend that’s all their own. Fans from Homer Simpson to Garrison Keillor praise them for their high-energy international jamborees. Friday, August 24 at Ashkenaz. 9:30 p.m., $12 advance, $15 door, $10 students. Info: 510-525-5054 and — j. poet

Tweaky Bebop

A recent performance by the Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans helped cement Black New World Gallery as one of the most animated listening spaces in Oakland — it’s just about the only place you can watch sophisticated free jazz and still hear vociferous props for every funky lick or imaginative solo. This fall, the gallery kicks off a new series with resident trio E.S.P. , featuring violinist India Cooke, drummer Kele Nitot, and bassist Kimara Dixon, who also plays acoustic piano and laptop, and functions kinda sorta as a bandleader (in the “collectivist” sense of the word). Saturday’s concert with trumpeter Bobby Bradford — a Mississippi-raised bebopper who played in Ornette Coleman’s ensemble during the 1950s — is the first in a series of collaborations with different jazz royalty. Bradford is one of those artists who finds beauty not just in melody lines but in the raw materials that make them — he could play one note a thousand times and always find some new way of tweaking it. He’ll grace the gallery (836 Pine St., West Oakland) Saturday, August 25. 8 p.m., $10-$12. Info: 510-597-1827 — Rachel Swan

Down Home Uptown

Good news in the gloomy world of record stores: The day after John Goddard sadly shutters his Village Music store in Mill Valley, El Cerrito’s venerable repository of American and world roots recordings, Down Home Music celebrates its move into the former Hear Music store on Berkeley’s upscale Fourth Street with a Sunday afternoon free outdoor music festival. The lineup performs across from the 1809 Fourth Street store, with bluegrass duo Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, folk-blues activist Barbara Dane, Cajun-blues team Eric & Suzy Thompson, Mexican band Los Cenzontles, Cajun-zydeco dance band Tri Tip Trio, and New Orleans R&B guitarist Johnny Harper. 12:30-5 p.m.. 510-525-2129. — Larry Kelp

Behind the Music

You’ve probably never heard of Tony Scherr, but your favorite artists sure have. One of New York City’s most in-demand session guitarists, he’s shared stage and studio with jazz outfits the Lounge Lizards and Sex Mob, sweet-voiced songstresses Norah Jones and Feist, and Americana icons Willie Nelson and Ani DiFranco. He also has fans in Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, whose Smells Like label just released Scherr’s solo debut Come Around, and Mother Hips frontman Tim Bluhme, who will be opening for Scherr Tuesday, August 28 at Cafe du Nord in SF. With Stevie Coyle. 9 p.m., $10. — Nate Seltenrich


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