It's hard to tell who possessed more stars: the blinking background on the stage behind the Concretes or the eyes of lucky KEXP members able to see the Swedish pop band perform at a private brunch at the Triple Door. Last weekend the heavily jazz-focused club opened their red velvet curtains and booth seating for a more rock-oriented crowd, showing the indie kids that Seattle does indeed possess an upscale music venue where you can watch bands from private, candlelit tables as waiters swing by to take your drink orders (in other words, a club you can hit in heels and not pay for it later). Joanna Newsome performed there earlier in the week, showing the club is slowly opening up to a new audience, a trend I hope it'll capitalize on more in the future. This particular Concretes performance was a thank-you for everyone who gave money during KEXP's most recent pledge drive, and whatever sum they donated had to be worth it--the nine-piece band was resplendent with a horn section, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, and my date Kathleen Wilson's favorite instrument, the glockenspiel, among the more typical instruments--and the venue's classy vibe and pristine sound system made the afternoon even better. With frontwoman Victoria Bergsman crooning like Hope Sandoval off the codeine, the songs seemed to float on rarefied air--the track "New Friend" especially took on a life of its own, as Bergsman addressed the awkwardly sad moment of calling an ex-lover only to have his "new friend" answer the phone with appropriate delicacy and apprehension in her voice.

Speaking of friends, ex-Seattlite Mark Lanegan had plenty of them in the house when he was set to play the Showbox last week. Unfortunately, though, the former Screaming Trees frontman didn't show up, despite his backing band being present and ready to play. The excuse that the gravelly-throated singer had "food poisoning" was given to the expectant crowd (who had paid $18 hoping to see him play), but stomach upset was a difficult concept to swallow for most of his fans. And opener Nick Oliveri (who was kicked out of Queens of the Stone Age for doing too many drugs--which, given that band's reputation for setting the standard for copious use, is hard to fathom) did nothing to cheer up the mood. Watching the former bassist for what was one of the great powerhouse rock acts of the last couple years (we'll see what they are now when that new record comes out) attempt to stay in a spotlight armed with only an acoustic guitar was definitely one of those avert-the-eyes--and ears--moments. Luckily, the Icarus Line were also on the bill. One of my top five bands of 2004, the L.A. group crashed through My Bloody Valentine via the Stooges smarminess with incredible style. And although the early, older crowd didn't seem to be ready for such a loud rock show--or the awkward stall when the drummer broke a kick-drum petal--the Icarus guys put on a bombastic, headliner-worthy performance that evening that almost compensated for Lanegan's absence. The Showbox announced Lanegan might return in a couple months to make up for his no-show--I'm not holding my breath, but let's hope so.

CD release of the week: Listening to Murdock, there's no qualifying the rock 'n' roll concept with any flowery, frivolous tags. On Amplification (Local Cannery), the band evokes the early-'80s Sunset Strip, when club walls were wheatpasted with Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe posters. The Seattle band possesses an unwavering devotion to classic hard rock--or, as we all really know it, butt rock--with Aerosmith's bawdy swagger and ZZ Top's strut (Amplification's bonus track is a live cover of Top's "Tush"). Murdock's lyrics tend to cling too closely to the tattered and true (booze, babes, bravado, and "fucking shit up"), but frontman Alex Karchevsky has a howl that's equal parts Bon Scott and Vince Neil, and his yells take off like a jet airplane. The production by Jack Endino leaves Murdock's sound as clean as sweat-drenched music can get, while the band's rock hooks leave flesh wounds--the guitar work could razor the coiffed 'dos off bland pop metal and their rhythm section pummels deep into your drawers. They'll be strutting their stuff Saturday, October 23, at a CD-release party at Graceland with Electric Frankenstein, The Nasty On, and the Insurgence.

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