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Fathers of invention, from Zappa to Radiohead 

Wednesday, Jun 21 2006
In the nearly 10 years (gasp!) since they had their watershed release OK Computer and officially became The Most Important Band in the World, Radiohead has created the requisite "reactionary weird album" (2000's Kid A), the "we're still weird, better get used to it album" (2001's Amnesiac), and, of course, the "return to form album" (2003's Hail to the Thief). So what's next for the much-imitated, rarely duplicated Oxford quintet, currently working on its seventh studio platter? In the past, the band has made a point of previewing its in-progress material out on the road, but typically only for European fans — this mini U.S. jaunt marks the first time it's giving Americans a taste of what's to come. Thus, you should expect the band to devote half of the set to new tunes, although don't look for frontman Thom Yorke to perform songs from his upcoming solo debut, The Eraser — he's keen to keep that stuff separate. Fresh tracks, cool light show ... what could possibly be more grand (and Important) than checking out Radiohead on Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24, at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley at 7:30 p.m. Visit for more info.— Michael Alan Goldberg

One of the more polarizing cult pop music figures to emerge in the last 50 years, the late composer and guitar genius Frank Zappa has been dismissed by countless critics for his frequently crude humor, complex, odd-metered songs, and esoteric six-string gymnastics. Not surprisingly, it's this very collision of lowbrow humor and high-minded experimentation that has endeared Zappa to legions of fans and musical disciples. Twisting together disparate strands of dissonant modern classical — he long claimed atonal maverick Edgar Varèse as a prime inspiration — 1950s rock and doo-wop, and wailing, proto-jazz fusion, Zappa matched his unique musical DNA with an irreverent mix of subversive satire, social commentary, and unabashedly ribald comedy. Plenty of tribute bands around the world make a respectable living paying homage to the rock great, but the Zappa Plays Zappa Tour marks the first time the deceased maestro's guitar-shredding heir Dweezil mounts a show exclusively performing the classic '70s-era material of his father onstage. Hear this crack ensemble featuring such important Zappa alumni as singer/saxophonist Napoleon Murphy Brock, powerhouse drummer Terry Bozzio, and original "stunt guitarist" Steve Vai when the tour rolls into the Warfield on Saturday, June 24, at 8 p.m. Admission is $39.50-$48.50. Visit for more info.— Dave Pehling

With an extra "e" tacked onto its title for good measure, Seattle's Thee Emergency is ready to set your garage-rock pilot flame ablaze — or at least hold a big candle to its predecessors, the BellRays and the Go. Fronted by the barrel-throated Dita Vox, the band comprises '60s Motor City music fanatics who chant loudly, charge forward restlessly, and corral the necessary energy to carbonate bloozy rock into something contagiously bubbly. Detroit kingpin Jim Diamond produced the group's newly released debut, Can You Dig It — and the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Thee Emergency performs on Saturday, June 24, at the Knockout. Call 550-6994 for time, price. — Jennifer Maerz

The defining moment at a live Neko Case show is when you're weeping for the overwhelming beauty of the stories this crazy "country noir" singer tells — and for the power of her voice as it swoops and dives through the space above the crowd. You're hoping no one will see you wiping your eyes as the song (probably "Dirty Knife" from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood) ends, when all of a sudden, either Case or a conspiratorial bandmate — often backup singer Kelly Hogan — tells the funniest, nastiest joke you've ever heard, and you start laughing. This is heaven: giggling through your tears, flung from one emotional extreme to the other by the redheaded torch singer. Animal sex, bizarre violence, Kanye West — everything is fair game for Case and her ill-mannered, wildly talented entourage. Neko Case plays Sunday, June 25, through Wednesday, June 28, at Bimbo's at 8 p.m. Admission is $22; call 474-0365 or visit for more info. — Hiya Swanhuyser


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