Even as our government becomes more Orwellian in its spying into the worlds of "suspicious citizens," you'd think a harmless band dude and his dog on a road tour would be the furthest worry from a cop's mind. But unfortunately for longtime Seattle musician Christopher Blue, taking your new pet out for a whiz can land you some serious jail time if you're caught in the wrong region. The Sensation Junkies frontman was recently in the midst of a solo tour through the Midwest with "Pocket," a stray he'd picked up on an L.A. date. Somewhere between Lawrence, Kansas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Blue pulled over to let Pocket take a piss (and have a smoke) by an unmarked field when a cop pulled up to investigate the situation. According to Blue, the officer was suspicious because Blue wasn't in a marked parking area, and cuffed him before searching his entire van. After finding "three-quarters of a pound of pure sweetgrass," the cop took Blue to the county jail and booked him on three felonies, with bail set at $10,000 (the bail was later reduced to $5,000). His dog was left in an "outdoor cage the size of a refrigerator box... surrounded by her own waste," and Blue was allowed to go after friends rallied his bail money. Now Blue could face up to four years' prison time or probation—he's retained a lawyer—and due to Blue's mounting legal costs, expect a benefit to help raise some cash on January 13 at the High Dive. In the meantime, every weed-smoking musician breathes a collective inhale for the day when pot will no longer mean prison time.

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If the last performance you caught at the Bus Stop was Tori Spelling's double Pilates/karaoke workout, it's time to return to the bar for a very different sort of live spectacle. Triumph of the Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death, ex-Murder City Devil Spencer Moody's experimental project with Corey Brewer, scalp songs down to their gray, brainy matter. They're an act focused on dissonance, giving inner ugliness amplification as static and unstable melodies gradually overwhelm any semblance of normalcy. I've written before about how this group can take time for listeners to digest, but if you're open to experimental collaborations, their Helpless EP is a rewarding listen. Watch them unravel the darkness live—with new drummer Dann Gallucci (ex-Murder City Devils, Modest Mouse)—to help keep away the post-Christmas comedowns on Monday, December 26. The performance will be followed by an all-Northwest DJ set for the Hill's tiniest dance floor.

Speaking of notable DJs, New Order/Joy Division fans would be wise to mark their calendars for Saturday, January 14, when Peter Hook brings his vinyl collection to Neumo's. He'll be spinning the steel wheels with local DJs Mamma Casserole and Philip Pickens, plus one lucky, as yet unannounced local band. Personally, I'm wondering if that band happens to bear the name Romance. I got handed a CD by these guys at one of a blur of holiday parties last week (or was it the week before? Only after the tree comes down do they even start to separate). Romance remind me of a faster Interpol as fronted by Peter Murphy. Their dry-vocal post punk preens for an era where art rockers swept listeners off their feet with walls of guitars and bass lines that could rip your chest wide open. Romance's eight-song debut, When Things Are Better, is already getting airplay on KEXP, especially the single "Paris Is Burning." Their goth-stained dance punk is damn catchy. Check them yourself at www.romancemusik.com.

Also on the local tip, this is the week for those too broke to spend money but too bored at home to stay in. Check for drink and door specials at selected venues hosting local shows for no entry fee. Neumo's and the Funhouse offer a selection of free shows between December 22 and 28, while Chop Suey's electronic Christmas with Jacob London is free before 10:00 p.m.

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New for 2006: Blood Brothers fans will be happy to know the band have settled back into town for a while to record the follow up to their fantastic Crimes release... And for those lamenting the loss of megaclub Medusa—where the likes of Tommy Lee was made DJ for the night—make way for Venom, a venue that promises 40,000 watts of sound and "party music all the time." recommended

jennifer@thestranger.com