THURSDAY 5/23

FCS NORTH, PLASTIQ PHANTOM, SIENTIFIC AMERICAN
(Chop Suey) FCS North's wild freeform jazz always reminds me of DJ Spooky's late-'90s illbient experiments, while the fearless trio's expansive sound and lengthy voiceless numbers also evoke comparisons to Chicago's post-rock scene from many of my skeptical jazz-snob friends. But to anyone who's witnessed drummer Andy Sells' mind-bending sets, this all sounds like semantic wankery. With his snare alone Sells effortlessly creates a tapestry of white noise before easing into a swingin' beat behind Josh Warren's propulsive bass and Chad States' eerie electronic keys. Watching the organic mutation of one of FCS North's 13-minute live arrangements is simply amazing. Andy Rohrman, a.k.a. Sientific American, the producer of FCS North's 2000 self-titled debut, will open the show with his DJ set of abstract ambience and cool, downtempo sound collages. DAVID SLATTON

POISON THE WELL, GLASS JAW, RECOVER, VEX RED
(Graceland) Vex Red is the newest prodigy from Ross Robinson, the rock producer who's helped generate cash money for bands like Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Korn, and At the Drive-In. The hook with Vex, though, is that it's the first British act Robinson's taken on, although the band's sound is 1,000 percent American commercial radio alt-rock. Imagine Bush brooding over industrially shellacked nü-grunge, and you get the picture. Heavily emoted, heavily produced, and padded with lots of snap-out-the-lighter slow spots, Vex Red is the moody man's rock--the kind that tempers its stormy riffs with aching vocals and touches of lush instrumental darkness. JENNIFER MAERZ

THE LIGHTS
(Re-bar) In every way possible for a Seattle concert to be, Pho Bang! is an anomaly. It's a punk-rock vaudevillian cabaret hosted by a pair of drag queens, Ursula Android and Jackie Hell, who utterly reject the common diva stylings, eschewing beads, feathers, and Las Vegas mascara for a depressing mishmash of trashed geriatric rejects and clown makeup: a diva-freak style. Further, this is performance art, and it will make your skin crawl, but not from the knee-jerk, please-just-stop reaction normally induced by the stuff. While discomfort is a goal of the spectacle and you'll often chuckle uneasily, hiding in the dark bar thinking, "Man those guys dressed as women have got balls," it's alluring since it's grouped with fiendish comedy (e.g., "What sexual position makes the ugliest kids?" "I don't know, ask your parents."). The night includes a promising punk set from the Lights and should end with the crowd dancing on the stage to a DJ. JOSH UHLIR

JAY BENNETT & EDWARD BURCH, VIRGIL SHAW, THE BELIEVERS
(Tractor) Multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett departed Wilco after completion of its latest album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. He reunited with old friend and collaborator Edward Burch and together they have released a new album, The Palace at 4 a.m. (Part 1). It's just as majestic as its title suggests, in the vein of Elvis Costello's classic pop, with up-tempo melodies and assured and layered sound. It includes a couple of songs that didn't make it onto Wilco's Yankee ("Venus Stopped the Train" and "Shakin' Sugar"), offering the other half of the jigsaw to that album's sprawling experimental recording sessions. Seattle's the Believers open, and with their new album, Row, vocalist/guitarists Craig Aspen and Cynthia Frazzini offer a perfectly realized country album. They mix soulfulness and rawness for a sound that is authentic and their own. Over mandolin, fiddle, and exquisite pedal steel guitar Aspen's bluesy growl and Frazzini's silvery tone commingle and alternate lead vocals on songs that span country-folk and bluegrass with visceral impact. NATE LIPPENS


FRIDAY 5/24

MATES OF STATE, APPLESEED CAST, MIRAH
(Graceland) Who will steal your heart tonight? Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, whose adorable (yet never cloying), breathy voice should really earn her the title of "America's Sweetheart." Sigh. Packing a guitar, a ukulele, and the most darling gait, Mirah first became famous for singing sweetly about none other than strap-on dicks. (Of course! She appealed to the people; love of a good strap-on is something pretty much everyone can relate to.) On her newest record, Advisory Committee, her formidable talent for melody and lyrics gets even krunker with expert production from Phil Elvrum. Her Spaghetti Western break-up song, "Cold Cold Water," is like the theme song to Bonanza, complete with horse hooves clopping and Copland-style, cavernous melodies--smart and quirky as only an East Coaster-come-Olympian-come-East Coaster-or-wherever-the-hell-she-lives-now can be. She plays with the poppy poster couple for Wedded Bliss, Mates of State. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

GARBAGE, ABANDONED POOLS
(Moore) From the moment at dinner when I uttered the seemingly benign phrase, "I don't hate Garbage," I knew it was over for the both of us. Mr. Indie Pants reared up and snorted sanctimoniously about Garbage being the band made up of all those farty, old, major-label producers; I retorted that despite all that, Garbage frontwoman and showpiece Shirley Manson is a fucking knockout with unrelenting charisma. By then I'd seen the band live three times, twice at smaller venues and once in a large theater. I'd also witnessed Manson as she mingled charmingly at the Cha Cha on a night when members of her band and tourmates Girls Against Boys were in the bar, as were a few of Nick Caves' musical cohorts. Rather than hang with the superstars, she flirted with the few bold civilians who asked her silly questions, and complimented me on my sweater. Manson is a woman who knows her power as a performer and as a woman. For that, I could never dislike Garbage. KATHLEEN WILSON


SATURDAY 5/25

THE TYPING EXPLOSION, THE MICROPHONES, 33 FAINTING SPELLS, DEGENERATE ART ENSEMBLE, ELLEN FORNEY, THE BLOW
(Secluded Alley Works) See Stranger Suggests.

GRUNGE
(Doc Maynard's) Grunge is a cover band that pays tribute to the "Seattle Sound" by playing all your grunge favorites. Excellent! Now I can finally hear live versions of all my fave U-Men, Catbutt, Green River, and Blood Circus songs. DAN PAULUS

DUSTIN DIAMOND & HIS CIRCUS OF FREAKS, RICHARD CHEESE & LOUNGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
(Graceland) Dustin "Screech" Diamond is coming to town! I kid you not! And now that Graceland has made the show all-ages (thank you, Graceland!), everyone can partake in this insane night of Saved by the Bell, child-star madness. I don't know what Mr. Diamond has in store for his audience (for the love of God, I hope he's lost that nasally, nauseating "Screech" voice), but I'm sure it'll be a bizarre night of hilarity--or a really sad exhibit of how some things are just better off dead (I mean Dustin Diamond's career, not him). To top off the weirdness, Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine opens. That's the crazy lounge band that cheesifies some of today's hip-with-the-kids hits by re-writing them as bad lounge songs. Some examples: Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up," Nirvana's "Rape Me," and Blink 182's "What's My Age Again?" Tonight will be a sight to see, for sure. MEGAN SELING

THE ROTTEN APPLES, A MIDNITE CHOIR, TRACHTENBURG FAMILY SLIDESHOW PLAYERS
(Industrial Cafe) If you like Elastica or Joan Jett, then you should check out the Rotten Apples, whose lead singer combines the sneering come-ons of Justine Frischmann with Jett's defiance and ferocity. It's powerful, but still girly enough to be poppy--and like Elastica, there's a boy amongst all that roaring estrogen. The charming and hilarious Trachtenburg family features a powerhouse-in-the-making, pre-teen female drummer, pounding out a steady beat to her father's keyboard-driven performance pop slide show. KATHEEN WILSON

THE LAWNMOWERS, JOHN HYDE BAND
(Tractor) Hey, forget the stigma of the '80s and Asia! The Lawnmowers, a powerhouse pop phenomenon built brick by brick from the smoldering wreckage of Sister Psychic, Dodi, Sycophant, and the Ottoman Bigwigs, have more than enough small-town sweetness and arena swagger to rehabilitate the entire concept of "supergroups." Blame the catchy hooks buried in their genre-defying, swirling sound, but the Lawnmowers have the uncanny knack of sucking audiences out of their apathetic slouches and down to the front of the stage where they find themselves shaking their rumps and braying along with songs they've never heard before. With tunes this radio-ready, I predict it won't be long before everybody from Renton to Scranton will be humming along with their hits. TAMARA PARIS


SUNDAY 5/26

THE STYLISTICS, THE CHI-LITES, THE DELFONICS, HAROLD MELVIN AND THE BLUE NOTES, CUBA GOODING SR.
(Paramount) See Stranger Suggests.

THE BRONZE, SEVERHEAD
(Sit & Spin) The Bronze lay down the thick, heavy rock, charging through their metal-muscled sweats with the delicacy of a bull spearing a red flag--perfect for Sunday-night refusals to let the weekend go quietly. To make it even harder to wake up on Monday morning, Sit & Spin's now offering Sunday drink specials, where pitchers of Pabst are three bucks--so cheap you can drink a whole one yourself, although that's a lot of warm backwash at the bottom if you don't use a pint glass. JENNIFER MAERZ


MONDAY 5/27

THE CHARMING SNAKES, NEW LUCK TOY, DJ STERLING
(Graceland) See preview this issue.


TUESDAY 5/28

THE DISTILLERS, MEA CULPA, THE HOLLOWPOINTS
(Graceland) See preview this issue.

TRACK STAR, AUTOMATON, THE REVOLUTIONARY HYDRA
(Crocodile) It's impossible to say anything bad about Track Star. This SF band is just so gosh-darned nice. So pleasant. The songs are good, earnest, agreeable little numbers that amble along just fine, not too mopey or self-absorbed or sleepy but not too rocking or unsettling. You might find yourself humming a bit of a melody now and again. Or not. And that's kind of the problem. Track Star is like that sweet, polite boy you grew up with who your parents loved but you knew you were never going to date because he was too... safe. The girl from high school whose name you forgot but who you remember fondly because she was so kind. It's impossible not to like Track Star, but it's because there's nothing not to like. They're just plain fine. BARBARA MITCHELL


WEDNESDAY 5/29

BRITNEY SPEARS, NIKKA COSTA
(Tacoma Dome) Ever since the Colonel (Elvis Presley's manager) executed his famous get-rich-quick strategy--"find a white guy that sounds black"--the mainstream music industry has been cashing in on white versions of black performers. It doesn't hurt that the latest version happens to be a voluptuous teenage hottie who mixes girly innocence with slatternly knowledge, tapping both female and male fantasies. What's often overlooked, though, is that the latest version is also a talented singer who sneaks some attitude into her cookie-cutter (catchy!) pop songs. Eat your heart out Beyoncé, Britney is worth the price of admission. JOSH FEIT

J MASCIS, MIKE JOHNSON
(Tractor) Just as it hasn't for Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis, my grizzled 30s haven't lessened my ability to long for the things a teenager does. An increasingly eloquent vocabulary and a less romantic, more scientific vision of the world hasn't managed to obliterate the drive to tear things down or seek out passion in the wrong things, and wailing feedback and whiny singing à la Dinosaur Jr. still sound perfectly tuned to my ears that now, of course, know better. I hope Mascis remains the eternal malcontent standing in front of walls of Marshall stacks, and it's good to feel safe in the belief that he probably will. Tonight, however, Mascis will appear "acoustic." In our hearts he'll forever sound properly stacked. KATHLEEN WILSON

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