I think the drunk in the balcony summed it up best when he stood facing the stage, raised two single-finger salutes, and bellowed, "Fuck you!" in a voice that could've bent the rafters. This midset feedback was for Craig Nicholls, frontman for the Vines, magnet for a media hungry for a wild card in the samely stacked decks of bland alterna-rock, and shaggy-haired second hand on the 15-minute clock rapidly clicking toward time's up. The Vines' performance last Tuesday contained a lot of bad ballads, most of which were sung off-key and in a garbled language only those toting bored-with-my-own-fame decoders could understand. The band was sleepwalking through the motions--especially when Nicholls "fucked up the equipment" by letting his guitar slide down his back and by wandering up to a drum kit and rattling it out of place (which took three attempts).

The band was definitely outshined by their openers, Jet, who I love even in all their "let's sell old-school rock 'n' roll to the car commercials" philosophy, because they put on a damn good show, they put out a damn good record, and they're mindless fun. Jet's performance got a different sort of response from a crowd, summed up by one beaming, sweaty teenager who told anyone who'd listen, "Yeah! I paid for that show." In the end, though, no variance in quality of showmanship or music could discourage the hardcore teenage groupies, who were pounding on both tour buses in the rain a good three hours after the lights went down.

As for me, I wandered over to the Showbox to witness Kenny Muhammad, the Human Orchestra. The bald New York beatboxing whiz created "multi-tracked" hiphop and techno songs using only his voice and body, slamming down layers of beat patterns so fast I looked to see if anyone was behind the curtain. But no, the man who beatboxed "Name That Tune" with Carson on TRL turned the production of beat-based music into an organic experience. I cornered Muhammad later to try to pry out his secrets, but the man simply said his skills were "a spiritual gift." Also stimulating that night was headliner Squarepusher who, despite coming off in interviews as a pointy-headed music geek, wove himself inside a web of strobe lights and white lasers, morphing into an entertaining mad scientist of schizoid IDM as he pounded away on a laboratory console of beat-busting equipment. Anyone who wasn't blinded after that show wasn't staring hard enough.

On Wednesday, David Bowie proved he's still spellbinding and stunning three decades after arriving from the outer reaches of psychedelic glam rock. Dressed in layers of velvety jackets and beaming a smile that looked bone white from even the far reaches of the ground floor, Bowie was a consummate showman even as he complained of being sick, playing hits like "Rebel Rebel," "Let's Dance," "The Man Who Sold the World" (a song ruined for me by Nirvana), and my favorite of the night, "All the Young Dudes," as well as a cover of the Pixies' "Cactus." Bowie moved with studied poise, really only stalling the mood when, after giving us what we wanted for an hour and a half, he slid into a set of the dreaded new stuff. All in all, definitely a winning show, capped by a vendor outside selling homemade Bowie shirts with "I fucked Mick Jagger" written across them.

Well they didn't fuck the Stones--although they probably listen to them--but the Familiars still recently made the news. Members of the Everett garage punk band were in the dailies when drummer John Pontrello and singer Jonathan Parks got lost on a hiking trail near Forks, Washington, the week of March 22. According to the Seattle Times, the pair was stranded for almost a week before being found by search-and-rescue groups on Sunday, March 28. I e-mailed guitarist Kevin Murphy about the situation and he wrote back that Pontrello and Parks were hiking for three days when they suddenly woke up in three inches of snow and couldn't find the trail out. "They were delusional and hallucinating, had only a poncho for shelter," he e-mailed, "[but] they weren't taking drugs, or being reckless, [it was] just a lot of bad luck with weather and circumstance." He added that the rescue was also the week of Pontrello's birthday: "The only funny thing that I realized during this ordeal was that a week before, [when] I asked John Pon if he was doing anything for his birthday, he said he was gonna keep it chill. Next thing we know John's getting airlifted by helicopter on his 18th birthday and churches from here to Texas are praying for the two lost hikers in Washington State." Check out the hiking heroes yourself when the Familiars play with the Holy Ghost Revival, the Lights, and the Jesus Chords at the Old Fire House on Friday, April 23.


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