Critic’s Choice for the week of October 8-14, 2003

A soulful cat returns to the bag, a polka punk visits from Los Angeles, rabble rockers bash Bush, and a couple of couples sing in opposite directions. Check it out.


Okay, the cat’s out of the bag. Once she was our special Bay Area secret, but if you happened to be watching CSI: Miami last week, you would have heard Goapele‘s “Closer” in the background, so it’s fair to say the entire freakin’ nation is aware of the neo-soul/jazz/R&B songstress now. But it’s all good, right? And it only gets better on Tuesday, when Goapele and her band, the Heat, make their Yoshi’s debut, playing songs from her debut album Even Closer, and maybe even a few surprises. 510-238-9200. (Eric K. Arnold)


In the early 1960s, Cannibal and the Headhunters scored a hit with “Land of 1000 Dances” and established East Los Angeles as a hotbed of raza rock. Now from the land of Los Lobos comes Ollin, a talented folk-rock combo led by the Stratocaster-blaster Scott Rodarte. Renowned for punk polkas, Ollin hits La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley this Friday along with Raigambre from Sacramento. 510-849-2568. (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)


It was a wise man (and a lot of cliché-loving parrots) who said that those who do not pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it. Well, it looks like somebody wasn’t paying attention, because ten years after Rock Against Reagan, the rabble-rousing music community has been inspired to act again. As part of the international resistance event Bands Against Bush, such Bay Area notables as Boots Riley (the Coup), From Monument to Masses, Wobbly, Restiform Bodies, Boyjazz, and many more will attempt to get their musical points across Saturday at Potrero del Sol Park (Potrero St. south of 25th) in SF. The show starts at noon; visit for more info. (Stefanie Kalem)


You can describe SF’s Mates of State in one word: Awwwwwww. The anti-Fleetwood Mac, this husband-wife indie rock duo charms ice-hearted hipsters with cute-couple theatrics while it blows away cynical critics with quirky, coyly complicated keyboard-and-drums jams. The two’s latest disc, Team Boo, is psychotically peppy without being remotely annoying: the meanest feat of all. See ’em at Bottom of the Hill Thursday and Friday. 415-621-4455. (Rob Harvilla)


Then there’s the real indie rock Fleetwood Mac: the failed marriage of sardonic frontman Sam Coomes and explosive Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss beats at the bitter heart of Quasi, a beloved duo with one mind-numbingly fantastic record (1998’s Featuring “Birds”) and a string of decent, increasingly bluesier releases since, the latest being the Ashcroft-baiting Hot Shit! At Bottom of the Hill on Tuesday. 415-621-4455. (R.H.)


Sidelined briefly during clogger/banjo player Evie Ladin’s pregnancy, the Bay Area’s best all-woman old-time string band is back. The Stairwell Sisters return Friday to the Freight & Salvage, harmonizing and picking on mountain music of such past and living masters as the Stanley Brothers, Hazel & Alice, and fiddler Tommy Jarrell. They’ll play tunes from their debut CD as well as new old favorites. Alongside Ladin, this lively quintet features two members of the Crooked Jades (Dobro guitarist and banjo player Lisa Berman, and fiddler Stephanie Prausnitz), bassist Martha Hawthorne, and guitarist Sue Sandlin. 510-548-1761. (Larry Kelp)


The release of a new album from John Santos & the Machete Ensemble is always a reason for celebration. Their last album SF Bay was nominated for a Grammy in the Latin Jazz category, and their latest, Brazos Abiertos (Open Arms), appears just as promising. Tonight the renowned percussionist and bandleader unveils this refreshing new repertoire at Yoshi’s in Oakland with an all-star cast featuring the legendary timbales player Orestes Vilato. 510-238-9200. Santos also presents a lecture and demonstration on Latin jazz Sunday at Berkeley’s Jazzschool. 510-845-5373. (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)


He grew up on the crime side, The New York Times side, staying alive was no jive. Things got no better. He wore the same damn ‘Lo sweater. His life was rough and tough like leather — until he got with a sick, tight clique and went all-out. His name is Raekwon, and his slang-laced contribution to the Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” established the Clan as nuttin’ ta fuck with, for real. No matter what else Raekwon does in life (he has since branched out into acting), he’ll always be remembered for that illmatic verse, and for his classic 1995 LP Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, which remains many folks’ favorite Wu-banger of all time. The rapper also known as the Chef will be at Slim’s on Sunday, along with Def Jux recording artist C-Rayz Walz and Icewater, Inc. , representing lovely. 415-522-0333. (E.K.A.)


Zé Manel started his career playing drums in Super Mama Djombo, Guinea-Bissau’s most popular band. He launched his solo career in the ’80s with an album so scathing in its political content that the government banned his live performances. He left in voluntary exile, eventually settling in Oakland, Manel delivers his messages in a smooth tenor reminiscent of Bob Marley, while his predominantly acoustic music rides the tranquil rhythm of Guinea-Bissau and his bluesy guitar drops subtle hints of reggae and jazz into the mix. Saturday at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. 510-525-5054. (j. poet)


Called “a complete genius” by Laurie Anderson, “Blue” Gene Tyranny once delivered “the most inspired piano performance” Village Voice critic Kyle Gann ever heard. With over fifty compositions to his credit, the former Mills College instructor returns for a Tuesday night concert at the Berkeley Arts Festival Gallery, playing selections from his new album Lovely Music and others in memory of Bay Area composer Phil Harmonic. 510-665-9496. (Jason Victor Serinus)


The SF Funk Festival — the world’s only such event of its kind — is back for its third cosmic slop-filled year. And glory be to Bootzilla, the lineup has more heat than a red-hot mama from Louisiana. The funk begins to flow Wednesday at the Elbo Room, when local jazz-funksters Top Four Flights and crate-digger supreme DJ Cool Chris hold forth. Take a pause for the cause and return refreshed for Friday’s Great American Music Hall showcase, when Oakland’s funk-rock-jazz masters the Headhunters prove they’ve still got the groove, even without Herbie. Saturday, legendary party-rocker Grandmaster Flash headlines DJ Night at Mission Rock, plus DJs Riddm, Andrew Jervis, Greyboy, Zeph, Ren, Motion Potion, and Michael Erickson, spinning breakbeats until the daybreak. Come get your hardcore jollies on, until all your goodies are gone. (E.K.A.)


Bill Staines reckons he’s traveled over a million miles on a never-ending tour of one-nighters, making him a real troubadour. Although his songs have been covered by Nanci Griffith and Jerry Jeff Walker and he has just released his 23rd album, he remains almost unknown outside of folk music circles. A worthy successor to Woody Guthrie, Staines creates beautifully melodic songs about the real lives of real people are full of understanding and compassion. Monday at the Freight & Salvage. 510-548-1761. (j.p.)

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