It seems unreal to me that it's been 15 years since Geffen Records released the album that famously evicted Michael Jackson from his comfortable Billboard seat, put the nail in the hair-metal coffin, and set off a cultural earthquake that eventually both blessed and scarred Seattle. While the loss of Kurt Cobain remains a sore spot for me and both KNDD and KISW have retained Nirvana in heavy rotation, I've often been surprised by how much they are missing from typical music-community dialogue—it's almost like it's uncool to admit that you are still a fan of the band, simply because of their reverberating impact on this city. However, when I posted about the anniversary of Nevermind's release on Line Out last weekend, it was heartening to see how many people still hold that record in high regard, including Stranger contributor Eric Grandy (AKA DJ Fucking in the Streets), who described revisiting the record recently. "I had all but forgotten what an electrifying record it still is," said Grandy. "But within minutes I was drumming on tables and feeling like a illicitly drunk kid again." While In Utero will always be my favorite and the cool kids will always say they were into Bleach long before the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video aired on MTV, it's worth remembering what a goddamn miracle that song was when it came out. Whether we cop to it or not, it's a piece of art that will always be an energy source for local bands trying to find their voice.

One local band who have clearly found their voice is the Lights. Diamonds and Dirt, their sophomore release, is a positively arresting post-punk record that capitalizes on all the strengths exhibited on their 2004 debut (a simple, potent rhythm section and frontman Craig Chambers's dry, distinctive phrasing), and was perfectly captured by freakishly talented producer/multi-instrumentalist Erik Blood. "We didn't really spend too much time recording," says drummer P. J. Rogalski when I ask him about their studio time with Blood. "We try to maintain a pretty raw, live sound. I think this record retains that feel a little more than the first. I know that the last thing we wanted to do was to make the same record again, but we also didn't want to make an easy, balls-to-the-wall rock record either. Everything was just kind of clicking at the point of recording." You have two opportunities to catch the Lights this week: first on Thursday, September 28, with Man Man and Fleet Foxes at Neumo's, and Saturday, September 30, at the Blue Moon with Worms and the Moondoggies.

Though they are still a work in progress, the Beautiful Mothers have earned themselves a place in my ones-to-watch file with their sexually charged, riff-riddled rock. The Beautiful Mothers veer just enough from classic, 4/4 punk structures to end up sounding both pleasingly familiar and potentially progressive. They'll be at the Funhouse on Thursday, September 28, with Steel Tigers of Death and Hot Knives.

The Funhouse calendar pretty much rules this week. Saturday, September 30, will undoubtedly be epically entertaining and sporadically disturbing, when the club throws its first annual "Festival of Freaks." There will be two stages and over 10 bands playing, including Sexually Active Corpse, the Fuzzy Knuckle Jamboree, Petals Like Bricks, and the delightful deviance of the Kingbeast Sideshow, featuring those crazy kids you may have seen stapling dollar bills to themselves outside of last month's HUMP! screenings. Also on the agenda are light-bulb eating, fire breathing, and too many more freakazoids and acts of oddness to mention here. Complete schedule details can be found at www.myspace.com/funhousefreakfest.

Speaking of freakazoids, one of the most adorable oddballs about town is Joe Markevich, frontman for Lillydale and all-around nice guy. Markevich recently made himself a T-shirt that says "Benatard," a shameless acknowledgment of his love of Pat Benatar. Look for him screaming like a little girl at the Emerald Queen Casino on Friday, September 29, when the Queen of Heartbreakers hits the stage.

I'd be right there next to him, but I'm off to New York for a wedding and to catch the Hold Steady at Irving Plaza. Rocka Rolla won't be running next week, but I'll post a full report about that show on Line Out when I return.

hlevin@thestranger.com