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Mexican six-string superheroes Rodrigo y Gabriela 

Wednesday, Feb 6 2008

Berkeley resident Sean Smith and the U.K.'s James Blackshaw are part of the underground acoustic guitar network, descending stylistically from American iconoclast John Fahey. Like Fahey, Smith and Blackshaw mostly perform unaccompanied, have tremendous technique that serves the music instead of the ego, and are influenced by the breadth of traditional American music but aren't limited by it. Indian raga, classical music, and skate-punk are just as likely to shade their approaches as ace string-benders Fahey and Robbie Basho. Individually, Smith leans more toward American folk and blues while Blackshaw favors the mod-minimalism of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Having both artists on the same bill will be an event — moreover, Smith will have a band at this CD release for his disc Eternal on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Café du Nord at 9 p.m. Admission is $10; call 861-5016 or visit for more info. — Mark Keresman

Mexican six-string slingers Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero are superheroes. Their powers come from channeling the attitude of thrash metal into blazing acoustic instrumentals that make old-school fusion gods such as Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin seem like mere wankers. Drawing on numerous styles, from flamenco to Latin jazz to hard rock (their take on Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is a YouTube classic at 1.5 million views), Rodrigo y Gabriela have rewritten the guitar-duo handbook. Their singular sound — equal parts speed, groove, melody, and irrepressible energy — has raised the bar for guitar heroes in the 21st century. See them live on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Warfield at 8 p.m. Admission is $35; call 567-2060 or visit for more info. — Sam Prestianni

Toronto-based band Holy Fuck conjures throbbing improvised grooves out of bass, drums, and two tables' worth of junkyard instruments (keyboards, secondhand effects pedals, and a 35mm film synchronizer, to name a few). The band has been pushing the boundaries of electro-inspired dance-rock since its start in 2004. Live, Holy Fuck offers ecstatic performances of the pulsating electronica heard on its recent sophomore album, LP. The group's mind-warping energy should nicely prime fans of headlining Welsh experimentalists Super Furry Animals. Lead singer Gruff Rhys could have stayed focused on his solo career after the acclaim surrounding his 2007 effort Candylion, but instead he returned to the Super Furry fold for its latest exploration of addictive, progressive power-pop, Hey Venus! Dive into lysergic sounds when these two acts share the stage on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Great American Music Hall at 8 p.m. Admission is $20; call 885-0750 or visit for more info. — Dave Pehling

The "curse" of aging hipsterdom is to witness sounds coming full circle. Take Pinback, essentially the duo of indie rock veterans Armistead "Zach" Smith and Rob Crow. Their last album, Autumn of the Seraphs, evoked memories of the Alan Parsons Project, Wish You Were Here–era Pink Floyd, and Ghost in the Machine–era Police, all of which the average music geek would not urinate upon were they ablaze. That being said, Autumn is Pinback's best release yet. Tracks like "Devil You Know" and "Off by 50" maintain a wiry edge, melodic sophistication, plaintive harmonies, and paranoid ambience. Hear for yourself when Pinback performs on Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Fillmore at 8 p.m. Admission is $25; call 346-6000 or visit for more info. — M.K.

Local jazz hero Debbie Poryes' new release, A Song in Jazz, doesn't break new ground as much as remind us why we keep treading here in the first place. She's a remarkable example of how far a piano trio can go: Her impressionistic introductions on jazz standards like "Alone Together" and "The Sweet and Lovely" conjure Debussy, and when she swings she can sound like Bill Evans with a bit more muscle. On the CD she's helped by bassist Bill Douglass, a regular with no less a piano trio authority than Marian McPartland, and former Ray Charles drummer David Rokeach, both of whom will join her for this special afternoon show. It isn't often we get to hear the real thing in action at such a high level, so mark your calendars for Sunday, Feb. 10, when Poryes performs at Berkeley Jazzschool at 4:30 p.m. Admission is $15; call 510-845-5373or visit for more info. — Ezra Gale

I have a weird soft spot for Los Amigos Invisibles, the self-consciously silly Latin dance outfit that mixes retro Tropicalia, cheeseball '70s disco, and cheeky-suave electronic funk into a cocktail sugared with heaping tablespoons of kitsch. In some ways, the Venezuelan Grammy nominees remind me of what those Beastie Boys' instrumental records might sound like if the latter were club Casanovas from Caracas instead of ex-punks from NYC. Less libidinous and more mellifluous, opening act Si*Sé translates its Latin dance heritage via ultra-chill trip-hop grooves and smooth-operator jazz-funk that may get your Sade senses tingling. In either case, lovers should get their lusty asses down to the Independent on Monday, Feb. 11, or Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m. Admission is $23; call 771-1422 or visit for more info. — John Graham


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