Visqueen's Rachel Flotard slam-dunked the Three Imaginary Girls' riotous Buttrock vs. New Wave Christmas party last week. She belted out Boston's "Rock and Roll Band" as if born to duet with Brad Delp. Let's hope the charismatic Flotard will continues a frontwoman, though, despite last week's big news from the Visqueen camp. In a note to the Visqueen mailing list, Flotard confirmed the sad reality that bassist Kim Warnick is retiring from music "and the aches of being in a traveling band." The former Fastback's decision to split was met with bittersweet farewells from the band (which will surely be echoed by her many fans), as Flotard continued, "Kim is the kid that makes you laugh when the teacher says 'one more peep and you're out of here.' She is the bullet in my zirconium gun and Ben's most handsome dance partner. She is magic, she is a motherf*cker, and if the three of us have learned anything from our awesome time together it's that rock is a feeling you have between players and the love you amplify for those around you." At press time, details on Visqueen's upcoming itinerary were still being worked out, so check their site (www.visqueenonline.com) to see what's been decided about upcoming tours with Neko Case and Shonen Knife. Ronnie Barnett from the Muffs will fill in this week for their shows with the Presidents.

I spoke to Warnick last weekend, and she called her decision to step away from music "one of the best I've ever made." "I can't say I haven't had the most fun on earth playing music," she added, having done just that for more years than many of her Cha Cha patrons have been alive (that's 26, for anyone counting). "I've gotten to do things I've dreamed about. I got to play in Istanbul with Pearl Jam. And I love Ben and Rachel to death, but I just don't want to be gone anymore. I don't know what I want to do but I want to be here and not have to worry about being evicted every time I go on tour. I can't live like that. And I hate going to practice. There's a lot more I need in life and I won't get it sitting around waiting for the soundman.

"Seeing [Guided by Voices frontman] Robert Pollard might have had something to do with it," she continued. "I don't know, but the seed was planted... there's so much more out there that I want to find. I want to go back and really see the places I've been on tour. Shows were always fun, but Joan Jett said it the best: she said it's 23 hours of sheer boredom and then you hope for that one hour that's a blast onstage. I want 24 hours that are a blast."

For all the Warnick admirers worried they'll be left in the cold, the bassist joked, "Well, they can pick up the Fastbacks albums or come see me at work at the Cha Cha." And, she noted, her departure was at least announced in high style--with a plug on 107.7 The End. "My brother told me he heard about it on the radio," she said. "I just want to know where the news landed, though. Was it between, like, Nickelback and Courtney Love? I need to know."

Another band that doesn't feature Warnick as a bassist, Slayer, is coming to town this week and all you Kerry King fans better practice more than your air guitar. The legendary metal shredder will be at the U-District's 2nd Time Around Records December 9 at 6:00 p.m. for an autograph session and a "guitar challenge" involving replicating his riffs, so bone up now, guys.

And if it feels like déjà vu, well, it is. Graceland is shutting its doors this winter for part two of the renovations the club began last year. The venue will be closed for all of January, according to booker Dana Sims, who says changes include an improved green room, better lighting, a higher ceiling on the stage, and more booths in the lounge. Whether those bathrooms will ever have enough toilet paper still remains to be seen.

CD release of the week: Point Line Plane. This Portland duo has long been a favorite in the underground synth-punk scene. Tonight marks the release of their latest CD, Smoke Signals, on noted no-wave/ avant label Skin Graft. The record is a dynamic, sinister mix of stuttered electronics, droning melodies creeping through insistent warning beeps, and verge-of-a-breakdown vocals. Live, the two-piece is just as intense, with songs building into a heavy collapse of mind-frying chunks of white noise or drifting on airy clouds of vocoder-directed dreamscapes. They play here December 10 at the Sunset with A-Frames and Factums, two great local art-punk acts.

And no Live Wire next week.... I'm in New York as you read this, so both the column and I are taking an issue off.

jennifer@thestranger.com

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