Critic’s Choice for the week of August 9-15, 2006

Grungy rock, big Latin jazz, and lo-fi multitasking.

Humble Rock

San Francisco quartet Birdmonster wants to rock you. Not indie-rock you, or post-rock you — just good old-fashioned boogie-woogie. Major-label offers have followed the three-year-old band’s reputation for a smiling live show, lots of Live 105 radio buzz, and a key South by Southwest appearance. But the four college graduates passed on corporate royalties of thirty cents per album in favor of a $6 per sale indie deal with spinART, which is currently pressing six thousand copies of Birdmonster’s debut No Midnight for an August 29 release. Midnight employs rock’s classic Crayola colors (overdriven ’52 issue Fender Telecaster, thrift-store bass, and a small drum kit) to paint rough-edged yet evocative still-lifes of twentysomething existence. I see empty pint glasses, sneakers dangling from power lines, and the occasional full-throated make-out session. Others see dollar signs followed by lots of commas and zeros. Help launch the album and wish the hunks luck on their 35-stop national tour Saturday, August 12 at the Oakland Metro. 8 p.m., $8. (David Downs)

Sympathy for the Devil’s Music

This week in lovely Union City, the Seventh Annual BandFest will charge nothing while raising money for the Recording Academy’s MusiCares program to assist injured, addicted, and otherwise messed-up musicians. (No, Whitney, you cannot reapply.) Organizer and Mystic Rage frontman Pete Schaaphok says the free fest promises twelve live acts, belly dancers, comedians, and free parking to anyone willing to venture that far south of Oakland for music. Saturday, August 12 from 10 a.m. at the Charles F. Kennedy Community Park Amphitheater. (D2)

Mozart Rules

Festival Opera’s new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, opening this week at the Dean Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, marks the intriguing debut of conductor Michael Morgan as operatic stage director. The four-production run also features baritone Brian Leerhuber, slated for his San Francisco Opera debut in November, as the heartless seducer. Kirk Eichelberger plays his manservant Leporello, major stage soprano Kristin Clayton is Donna Anna, and, curiously, mezzo Layna Chianakas takes on the soprano role of the quasihysterical Donna Elvira. After stumbling in Tosca, let’s hope the company can do Mozart’s genius proud. Saturday, August 12, 8 p.m. $35-$100. (Jason Victor Serinus)

Joyous Latin Jazz

Veteran Latin jazz percussionist and bandleader Pete Escovedo made a wise business move when he relocated to Southern California. Born in Pittsburg and raised in West Oakland, he now sports two bands at each end of the state, so he can work San Francisco on a Friday and San Fernando on a Sunday. His appeal is built on a dedication to quality Latin jazz based on the NYC Afro-Latino sounds he heard as a teen. Stories abound of him and his brother Coke jumping onstage at Sweet’s Ballroom in Oakland to jam with the likes of Tito Puente. The Escovedo Brothers Band put Pete in the spotlight as a lead vocalist renowned for singing bolero love songs. From there, the Latin rock powerhouse Azteca and collaborations with his daughter Sheila continue his legacy that at age seventy is still going strong. Thursday, August 10 through Sunday, August 13. 8 and 10 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. $20. (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)

Lo-Fi Multitasker

Consider the furiousness of Rachel Goldstar‘s creative output: As a solo artist, she crafts studies in wistful shoe-gaze pop with electronic sensibilities. But the Austin-based, classically trained musician also deejays, plays in Experimental Aircraft, has a studio project called Eau Claire with Ohio-based Jessica Baliff, recorded vocals for England’s Monster Movie, and designs her own clothing. Goldstar performs at Blake’s this week with local notables Tomihira, Foxtail Somersault, Halcyon High, and Leeland Edwards. Wednesday, August 16 at 9 p.m. $8. (Kathleen Richards)

Karmic Reunion

When bassist Matt Harris and guitarist Mike Drake left San Diego pop band Overwhelming Colorfast in the ’90s, founder Bob Reed called it quits. Harris and Drake went on to become San Francisco’s Beatles-inspired outfit Oranger, and recently Reed joined their ranks. For at least one night, he will once again take center stage with Harris, Drake, and Reed’s brother, drummer Dan Reed, to relive Overwhelming Colorfast’s raucous, guitar-driven pop. They play on Thursday, August 10 at 12 Galaxies in SF with Cheetah Speed and Nostalgic. 9 p.m., $8. (K.R.)

Pregnant Rock

Oakland’s Truxton builds contemplative, powerful indie rock anchored by singer Johannes Armentrout’s emotionally pregnant voice. Having gone through several member changes since the last decade, Truxton recently recorded three new songs with Tim Green at Louder Studios, the band’s first material since its 2003 self-titled debut on Substandard. When they play at the Uptown, expect Who-like guitar slinging from guitarist Jeremy Hainline. Truxton opens for Songs for Snakes at the Uptown on Thursday, August 10 at 9 p.m. $5. (K.R.)

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