Critic’s Choice for the week of September 28-October 5, 2005

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.


What’s really cool about listening to East Oakland’s hip-hop hunk du jour –the infamously funky-minded Keak da Sneak — is that you can tell he just really loves words. Not in an SAT way, but in a sensual way: Keak revels in the sound, shape, and heft of his own rhymes, taking obvious pleasure in the gruffness and percussiveness of Bay area slang. Ergo, the following gem, from that ubiquitous “Super Hyphy” song: Somethinwentoffinmyhandonmystrap
. He performs at Saturday’s “Bay Area Saving Ourselves” Hip-Hop and Jazz Extravaganza, alongside such other local rap kahunas as Too $hort, San Quinn, and B-Legit, plus an all-star jazz lineup that features Bobby Hutcherson, Nicholas Payton, John Handy, John Santos & the Machete Ensemble, Mingus Amungus, and the R&B trio Tony Toni Toné. The show kicks off at noon at Oakland’s Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. Tickets are $25, and all proceeds benefit the NAACP Katrina Disaster Relief Fund. (Rachel Swan)


The Kissers, originally from Madison, Wisconsin, play a frenzied half- acoustic, half-electric brand of Celtic folk rock with pointedly working-class lyrics and a ferocious musical attack. Their latest self-released CD, Good Fight, is a stirring call to action, a bright spark of emerald light perfect for the dark days we’re living through. Tonight at the Plough and Stars Pub in SF. $5, 9 p.m. 415-751-1122, (j. poet)


Not to be confused with his guitarist brother Sekou Diabate, the great Guinean singer Sekouba “Bambino” Diabate makes his Ashkenaz debut Saturday with his current band, performing some of the hottest songs from his award-winning solo CDs of recent years, including “Sinkian,” which topped Europe’s world music chart in 2002. The brothers gained fame in the ’70s in Guinea’s greatest band, Bembeya Jazz, with its trendsetting mix of dance rhythms and electric guitars. For three decades since then, Sekouba has been one of West Africa’s most renowned singers. $20, 9:30 p.m., 510-525-5054. (Larry Kelp)


Casual is easily the really-realest member of the Hieroglyphics clan — not in the baller or badass gangsta sense of “real,” but in the sense of being a human being rather than a total celebrity. On weekends you can find him rocking West Oakland warehouse “jam sessions” with members of Youth Movement Records or shooting hoops with the neighborhood kids at DJ Backside’s “Blockyard” barbecues. Plus his new album, Smash Rockwell, is one of the hottest things to come out of Oakland this year: grimier than the usual Hiero fare, and laced up with one of those go-dumb-on-the-yellow-bus-style “Town” songs. Check the emcee out Thursday at Club Mighty, where he commemorates his album release with special guests. $10, 10 p.m. (R.S.)

free country music

The fifth annual edition of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival blows into Golden Gate Park’s Speedway Meadow Saturday and Sunday for an ear-pleasing orgy of all things bluegrass, country,, mainstream country, old-time country, country folk … you get the idea. Go to for answers to FAQs and a complete list of the fifty-odd acts that’ll fill the festival’s five stages. Saturday highlights include Joan Baez, Rodney Crowell, and Los Super Seven; Sunday you’ll get Rosanne Cash, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Free. (j.p.)


Why I Commissioned Dr. Atomic, a free talk by San Francisco Opera general director Pamela Rosenberg, prepares us for the international operatic event of the season, the company’s Saturday world premiere of Berkeley-based Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams’ opera Dr. Atomic. With libretto by the visionary Peter Sellars, Dr. Atomic relies in part on recently declassified secret documents to address the issues surrounding the pivotal event of the 20th century: the detonation of the first atomic bomb. Do not miss this opera, nor this discussion of it in the Central Reading Room of the Berkeley Public Library. Free, 8 p.m. 510-981-6241. (Jason Victor Serinus)


All year, John Santos & the Machete Ensemble have been leaving a trail of dust with smoking shows celebrating twenty years of, well, smoking. For Santos — recently Latin Grammy-nominated for Para Ellos, an album with his traditional Coro Folklorico Kindembo — the sellout shows are proof of an increasingly appreciative following. Tuesday at Yoshi’s, the Ensemble hosts a CD release party for its appropriately titled new record, 20th Anniversary. 8 & 10 p.m., $10-$16. 510-238-9200 or (Jesse “Chuy” Varela)


The emcee known as Ladybug Mecca was easily the creamiest spy in the Digable Planets camp. Militant yet sexy, her little-girl whisper was as fresh as the Art Blakey and Curtis Mayfield samples the group used to zoom to the top of the hip-hop jazz field back in 1993. Indeed, as she saluted in the DP’s biggest hit, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” She innovates after sweeter cat naps whether name-dropping bell hooks or promising to hit ya with a nickel bag. Don’t call it a comeback, but not only does Lady Mec have a brand-new solo album out (Trip the Light Fantastic), but a DP greatest hits set (The Creamy Spy Chronicles) comes out next week. In the meantime, pay your respects to this hip-hop queen Friday night when she appears with Breakestra, Steve Spacek, Mr. French as Steven, and DJ Sake One at the DNA Lounge. Tickets $15 upfront, $18 at the door. (Eric K. Arnold)


Few things in this world are more enticing than proud-black-woman hip-hop, but proud-black-woman rock definitely comes close. Enter Sistas in the Pit, the new, funky bitter-chick outfit that combines the talents of soul singer Kofy Brown (who holds down bass duties), guitarist and DJ Anita “Pa” Lofton, and drummer Ieela Grant. They perform Sunday at Berkeley’s La Peña along with local feminist artists Invincible, Tru Bloo, Tré Vasquez, Piper, Climbing Poetry, and Maria Poblet. Commemorating the release of a new compilation The We That Sets Us Free, this concert kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and costs $10-$25, sliding scale. Proceeds benefit Justice Now, an organization that supports women prisoners. (R.S.)


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