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July 18-24, 2007

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Music Picks

Sonic Youth, Midsummer Mozart, Music@Menlo, Schola Cantorum, Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Ryan Adams and American Idols Live


Sonic Youth: THE LAST TWENTY years of rock & roll owes quite a debt to Sonic Youth. Influencing the early grunge scene highlighted by bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney, as well as impacting the later indie-pop movement, the East Coast quartet's contributions to modern rock are unquestionable. All the glitz and glam that characterized the '80s hair band era came crashing down thanks to the avant-garde rock explorations by bands like Sonic Youth, and frankly, I couldn't be more appreciative. Forever paying tribute to the bizarre world of pop culture and postmodern equivocation, Sonic Youth represents all the weirdness and unconventionality we West Coasters hold sacred. Longtime fans take note—Thursday's performance features an entire set devoted to the band's classic 1988 album, Daydream Nation, so get ready to relive the glory days of '80s indie-noise. Opening is Robedoor and psychedelic rockers Pocahaunted. (Garrett Wheeler) Sonic Youth performs on Thursday (July 19) at 8pm at Berkeley Community Theatre, 1930 Allson Way, Berkeley. Tickets are $35. (408.998.TIXS)

Fest Flavor: HARD ON the heels of the Carmel Bach Festival, two more classical blowouts start this weekend. First up is Midsummer Mozart, now in its 33rd season. The festival, the brainchild of maestro George Cleve, cleaves strictly to the playbook of the boy genius, Wolfgang Amadeus—no comparative programming here.

The festival peregrinates about the Bay Area. The relevant concerts take place July 19 at 7:30pm at St. Joseph Cathedral Basilica in San Jose, and July 26 at 7:30pm at Mission Santa Clara. The July 19 program highlights Divertimento for Oboe, Two Horns and Strings, the Piano Concerto no. 22 (with guest artists Janina Fialkowska), the Bassoon Concerto in B-flat Major (with Rufus Olivier) and Symphony no. 34 in C major. The second program encompasses March in D Major, Serenade for Orchestra in D Major (Haffner), two arias with soprano Elspeth Franks and the Mass in C Major (Coronation), with the Cantabile Chorale. Tickets run from $30 to $60; call 415.627.9145 for details.

Now in its fifth year, Music@Menlo takes a decidedly different approach, looking to expose listeners to a wide range of classical chamber music, often pairing seemingly disparate composers in order to reveal hidden connections. The programming, by founders and performers David Finckel and Wu Han, Includes big-theme titles like "Homage," linking Schnittke, Ravel, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky; or "Sounds of Nature," which rambles from Biber's 1669 Baroque Sonata ... representativa to Saint-Saëns' 1922 Carnival of the Animals all the way to George Crumb's 1971 Vox balaenae (Voice of the Whale). The festival is a smorgasbord, with 12 concerts and a variety of related events over the course of three weeks at different venues: Stent Family Hall at Menlo School, Martin Family Hall in Atherton, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Palo Alto. Tickets are $10–$78; see www.Musicatmenlo.org for all the details.

For those not ready to tackle a festival, Schola Cantorum's Summer Sings series comes to a close with Fauré's Requiem and Vivaldi's Gloria. The gimmick here is that the audience is invited (indeed expected) to provide the vocals. It takes plays July 23 at 7:30pm at Los Altos United Methodist Church, 625 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos. Bryan Baker of the Masterwokrs Chorale conducts; tickets are $15.

The Stanford Symphony Orchestra presents its Summer Quarter Concert (don't these students get a break?) on July 21 at 8pm at Dinkelspiel Auditorium on campus. The evening's selections are by Elgar, Barber, Reinhold Gliere and Dvorák (Symphony no. 8). Also Dvorák-centric, the Redwood Symphony's Pops Concert ups the ante with Dvorák's Symphony no. 9, plus Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto no. 3 (with Aaron Requiro) and folk songs by Copland. This show goes off July 21 at 8pm at Canada College Main Theatre, 4200 Farm Hill Blvd., Redwood City; call 650.366.6872 for ticket info. (Michael S. Gant)

Ryan Adams: RYAN ADAMS IS one of the most polarizing figures currently making popular music. To some, he's an immense talent fixated on squandering his potential; to others, an overrated pretty boy with severe drug problems. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Adams waxed positively lyrical about his drug intake, which is approaching legendary proportions. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely Adams will crash and burn in the manner of rock's greatest self-destructors. The hit-and-miss quality of his work, whipped out between public wrestling matches with his demons, is more Steve Earle than Gram Parsons and Kurt Cobain. And just like Earle back in the early '90s, Adams may be on the path to a career rebirth, cleaning up his act and releasing Easy Tiger, the best work he's done in years. If Adams is on the comeback trail, this is a promising start. (Paul Davis) Ryan Adams performs on Saturday (July 21) at 9pm at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, $21–$25, 831.423.1336; on Monday (July 23) at 8pm at Herbst Theatre, Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street, San Francisco, $39.50, 408.998.TIXS; and on Tuesday (July 24) at 8pm at Berkeley Community Theatre, 1930 Allston Way, Berkeley, $25–$35, 408.998.TIXS.

American Idols Live: WITH MORE THAN 15 American Idol alumnae having produced records in the six years since the show began, many of which spawned No. 1 singles, it's safe to say the American Idol franchise will continue far into the future. This year's Top 10, including winner Jordin Sparks and runner-up Blake Lewis, dance all over the HP Pavilion stage on Tuesday with copious group covers featured on the show and solos from Sparks and Lewis. This season's contestants were a bit on the weak side, with no Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson in sight, but Sparks has enough pop diva potential to make a name for herself, so long as she isn't solely spoon-fed saccharine-sweet ballads. Lewis isn't the strongest vocalist, but compared with today's pop stars—Good Charlotte, Nickelback, Linkin Park (stop me if you've heard this one before)—he'll surely be able to hold his own on the national stage; hell, the boy was friends with Maroon 5 and Sir Mix-a-Lot prior to Idol, so he had ins long before America voted in approval of his beat boxing skeelz. This year's top two are joined by fellow contestants Sanjaya Malakar (for president, '08), Gina Glocksen, Phil Stacey, Melinda Doolittle, Chris Sligh, Chris Richardson, Haley Scarnato and LaKisha Jones. (Claire Taylor) American Idols Live perform on Tuesday (July 24) at 7pm at HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose. Tickets are $39.50– $72.50. (408.998.TIXS)


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