Fall weather is officially here, and let's be real: This whole sky-gets-dark-at-5:30 stuff seems to provoke more staying home and sipping hot chocolate than going out. But are you really going to let so much great live music pass you by? No, you are not.
Here are our top picks for Bay Area music this week.
Saturday, Nov. 7: The Last King of England with Rags at Sgraffito Gallery. Sacha Alessandro Marcello Berardinelli Galvagna may possess five names, but his vision is a singular one: on his latest album, recorded under the moniker the Last King of England, he conjures a dreamy, hazy world of swirling electronics and a low baritone, not unlike Canadian duo Majical Cloudz. Fans of Joy Division who've maybe gotten a little older and less jittery, take note. Christina Stanley and Rags open the show. Details here.
Saturday, Nov. 7: Lila Downs at Davies Symphony Hall. Lila Downs is an Oaxacan-born singer of Mexican rancheros and a spirited carrier of the Mesoamerican tradition; every time I hear her gorgeously sing "Penas del Alma," my skin tingles. Raised in America by a Scottish-American father, Downs sung jazz in Philadelphia and, for a few years, actually followed the Grateful Dead around the country. Now, of course, she's distanced herself from those days, and her live shows attract a joyful, varied crowd -- the last time I saw her, the aisles flooded with dancing by the show's end. At Davies, she performs three shows in one day (at 11am, 2pm and 8pm) in honor of Dia de los Muertos. Details here.
Saturday, Nov. 7: Cappella SF at Mission Dolores. Ragnar Bohlin, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, debuted Cappella SF earlier this year with a mission of exploring the wide breadth of the choral repertoire -- medieval to modern, secular to sacred. Now, Bohlin's exploring another mission: healing the environment. In a program titled 'Songs for the Earth: Music and Reflections on Protecting Nature,' the choir sings pieces inspired by nature (by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Veljo Tormis, Claudio Monteverdi and others) alongside spoken-word reflections inside Mission Dolores' nearly 100-year-old basilica. The evening is a partnership with Food & Water Watch. Details here.
Saturday, Nov. 7 - Monday, Nov. 9: 'Surround Sound' at the Santa Rosa Symphony. Escaping the confines of the stage is usually the province of noise-rock acts like Lightning Bolt, overzealous stagediving rappers like Tyler, the Creator, or award-show special-effects stars like Pink. A symphony orchestra rarely gets the thrill. In their performance of György Kurtág's Quasi una Fantasia, members of the Santa Rosa Symphony dispatch themselves around the main hall of the Green Music Center, surrounding the audience (and pianist Pedja Muzijevic) in a live replication of the Quadraphonic LP era. Schumann's Piano Concerto and Brahms' Symphony No. 1 round out the program. Details here.
Tuesday, Nov. 10: Kendrick Lamar at the Fox Theater. There I sat, in the Detroit airport on spotty wi-fi, refreshing the ticket page over and over again as I felt my hopes drain out of me... and I wasn't alone. Ticket demand for this relatively intimate show with Kendrick Lamar crashed servers and crushed dreams, which is why you're looking at almost $200 for floor seats on Stubhub. Lamar -- raised in Compton and mentored by that city's biggest success story, Dr. Dre -- rides into Oakland on a wave of increasing impact from this year's sprawling album To Pimp a Butterfly, and in this mini-tour he focuses on the album's cuts with a live backing band. The show's sold out, but we list it here because it may just be worth the headaches of the secondhand market. Details here.
Thursday, Nov. 12: 'Celebrating the Clarinet' at Grace Cathedral. Clarinetist Don Byron has performed a wide range of music -- including that of Lester Young's trio with Nat "King" Cole, the cartoon music of electronic pioneer Raymond Scott, and even hip-hop court jester Biz Markie. Now, he rounds out an all-star lineup at Grace Cathedral focusing on the clarinet, a horn less embraced in jazz than, say, the saxophone or trumpet. Taking advantage of the church's natural acoustic delay, Byron is joined by Anat Cohen, Todd Marcus and David Murray in what's sure to be an adventurous program. Details here.