Critic’s Choice for the week of June 29-July 5, 2005

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


Coming up in Oakland in the ’70s, Otis Goodnight built his jazz chops as a youngster playing ragtime and pop tunes on the piano. In high school he forayed into rock and ska with his garage band, the Chill Factor, which became a blueprint for the funk-fusion outfit, which Otis named after himself. Decked out with multiple horns, drums, and bass, this band features the vocal chops of local R&B chanteuse Althea Battle. Otis Goodnight performs Saturday at People’s Park in Berkeley as part of the East Bay Funkhop Freedom Fest, with a lineup that includes the incredibly funkadelic Raw Deluxe and Ten G Bob. The show starts at 11:30 a.m. and costs nothing, though donations will be accepted for Berkeley High School’s music program. (Rachel Swan)


Three spirited Floridian scruffs named the Grabass Charlestons have released an album, Ask Mark Twain, that deserves to storm critics’ lists by year’s end. But they’re not cute enough, their reference points (Replacements, Crimpshrine, Leatherface) aren’t currently hipster-approved, and, um, then there’s that suicidal band name. Undaunted, the GCs play with the Soviettes and Toys That Kill Friday night at Albany’s Ivy Room. $7. (Andrew Marcus)


Born in Congo but raised in Los Angeles, Ricardo Lemvo had a dream to create a fusion of Congolese and Cuban rumba, a dream that came true with his band Makina Loca. His sound today combines the hard percussive edge of Caribbean music — salsa, bomba, and merengue — with the lilting sway of the Congo. Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s in Jack London Square. $15-$20, $5 for kids at the Sunday matinee. 510-239-9200 or (j. poet)


Right now the hottest underground hip-hop weekly in the bay is Variable Unit‘s Scout, which happens at the Red Devil Lounge (1695 Polk St., SF) Wednesday nights at 9 p.m., and has showcased such artists as DJ Quest, Each the beatboxer, Foreign Legion, and dub-influenced scratch guitarist the Genie. This week’s lineup features Felonious: One Love Hip Hop, the funk-steeped hip-hop group fronted by local freestyle kingpin Infinite, who has built up a rep for creaming other emcees at True Skool’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” battles. Dublin, El-Rock, Ho Flow, and Phame will also perform at this week’s show, which will be hosted by special guest MC Zealous. (R.S.)


What with July 4 and all that, the best shows in town remain a BART ride away. Friday and Saturday, San Francisco Opera‘s evening productions of The Queen of Spades and Cosi fan tutte (both with great casts), and Sunday’s matinee of The Pearl Fishers (featuring dazzling sets and tenor Charles Castronovo, he of the handsome voice and equally handsome chest) are hands-down first choices. $28-$180 or standing room, 415-864-3330 or (Jason Victor Serinus)


Grandmaster Melle Mel should make everybody’s Top Ten MCs list, maybe even Top Three. This Hall of Famer is not just an old-school legend, he’s a hip-hop icon whose rhymes encompassed an impressive range of topics, in addition to being a fashion leader who flamboyantly rocked leather, furs, and denim with wildstyle flair. Expect him to be in tip-top shape (Rrrr-ough!) Friday night when he headlines the Legendz of Hip Hop tour, also featuring — are you ready for this? — Scorpio (the Furious Five), Kurtis Blow (“The Breaks”), Big Daddy Kane (“Ain’t No Half Steppin'”), and Dana Dane (“Dana Dane with Fame”). If that wasn’t stupid fresh enough for you, local faves Rico Pabon and the Soul Snatcherz open up, and the entire gig will be recorded for posterity for a DVD. Make sure your face is in the place — SF’s Space 550, that is — by getting advance tickets online at (Eric K. Arnold)


Billy C. Farlow‘s “Buddy Holly meets Elvis on speed” persona played a big part in the success of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, the group that introduced a generation of hippies to honky-tonk music. His barely contained mania remains unabated to this day. Blues guitar great Rich Kirch, who spent thirteen years playing with John Lee Hooker, opens Saturday at Albany’s Ivy Room. $7, 10 p.m. 510-524-9220 or (j.p.)


If your name is Chuy Gomez, the world of sassy hip-hop radio personalities is your oyster. Clocking barely four hours of sleep a night, Gomez has been waking the Bay Area up for more than a decade with his morning show on KMEL. His giggly, bubbly personality recalls an era when listeners could actually meet their favorite waxslingers at the neighborhood carwash and KMEL DJs could use a marketing phrase like “The People’s Station” without flinching. Gomez performs this Saturday at @Seventeenth in Oakland with Digital Underground’s own DJ Fuze, whose credits include such immortal club-bangers as “Freaks of the Industry.” $20, 9 p.m. or 510-433-0577. (R.S.)

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