(Gordon Biersch) Yeah, it's located on the top floor of Seattle's snootiest mall, but you'll find the likes of Ken Stringfellow and Marc Olsen doing the acoustic thing at Gordon Biersch, as well as former Hazel frontman Pete Krebs, who returns tonight. As far as the crowd goes, it's becoming more tolerable (read: less Dockers-wearers) with each show, due to the growing amount of devoted fans getting over their shopping center phobia and heading down (or up, as it were) to this pleasant venue. -- Kathleen Wilson

(Trinity Western University, Langley, BC) Thank God (literally) that these days, folks like Damien Jurado and Pedro the Lion's Dave Bazan are creating music that transcends theological orientation and is just plain breathtakingly good. Both artists seem more comfortable communicating the struggle of figuring out how faith (when you can find it) translates into the everyday, than in preaching or offering absolutes. It's that sense of doubt and an ongoing search for truth that makes their music universal. -- Barbara Mitchell

FRIDAY 11/19

(Breakroom) Jazz-funk from all corners as Chicago's Isotope 217 team up with '80s skater god Tommy Guerrero. Guerrero is the surprise find of the show, as one might think that if a skateboarding champion turned to music, the result would be a variant of nose-picking Green Day punk. Not so with Mr. Guerrero, who is actually groovy as hell. -- Nathan Thornburgh

(Showbox) While I would like to believe that the relative prominence of such critically lauded artists as Death Cab for Cutie, the Murder City Devils, and Pedro the Lion proves that people actually pay attention to what this city's media have to say about local artists, the fact that a relatively-harmless-yet-completely-uninspired band like Red Velvet Relief continue to pull in such huge crowds seems to indicate otherwise. Your going-out money is better spent seeing genuine talent like Voyager One, the Melody Unit, Kinski, and Five Gears in Reverse. -- Barbara Mitchell

(University of Washington Hub Ballroom) With all due respect to Modest Mouse, does anyone else think someone at Epic was smoking crack when they decided to sign our local heroes? While the Mouse have a knack for delivering gorgeously textured, beautifully flawed gems (in other words, music that's tough to sell to the kiddies in Peoria), they're also a frustratingly inconsistent live band. Tonight's show should be worth checking out, however, if only to hear new material the band just finished recording for their major label debut. -- Barbara Mitchell

(The Old Firehouse in Redmond) This event is billed as a cancer benefit: If so, the organizers have done some unusual booking. Hope and optimism are the key words of cancer fundraising. But tonight's entertainment for the cancer-friendly includes the uniquely depressing Bugs in Amber. Their song "Solo Dance," with its downtime rhythms, Ween vocals, and Twin Peaks ambience, is enough to make even healthy people despair over their isolation and mortality. In, like, a good way. -- Nathan Thornburgh

(Showbox) Word has it that Left Hand Smoke owe their rise out of Owl 'n' Thistle obscurity to the fervent backing of the folks at Adult Alternative KMTT, "The Mountain." The station's Dean Carlson said, "We're getting a lot of requests, and not just from the band's friends." Ordinary Seattle bands have a hard time getting people they're not sleeping with to come to their shows, but Left Hand Smoke, by bringing a crowd to the Showbox, will prove that they're no ordinary band. Or maybe that they sleep with a lot of people. -- Nathan Thornburgh

(Crocodile) Face it: "Sex and Candy" ain't gonna happen again, and these days, one song a career does not make. -- Kathleen Wilson

(Sit & Spin) You can't keep a good band down, and despite not having attained the national attention they deserve, Richmond Fontaine continue to astound their loyal audience with the release of Lost Son (Cavity Search). Another collection of richly detailed short stories set to music, Lost Son gives rasped breath to all manner of bleak, shabby characters who again wander the familiar Northwest with singer/guitarist Willy Vlautin, searching for meaning and some kind of purpose for their sad existence. -- Kathleen Wilson


( Another adorable songstress with a breathy, evocative voice. They're practically a dime-a-dozen, but admit it: You just can't get enough. Dot is touring to promote Afterglow, her first solo album after the unfortunate demise of her last band, triphop-predecessor One Dove. It's a multi-hued album one reviewer dubbed a "mini-epic." But that reviewer also used the phrase "funky beats." -- Eric Morse

(Crocodile) Whew, the Tractor Tavern is SOOOO far away from Capitol Hill, and since simply everyone knows that The Stranger never leaves the Hill, boy oh boy are we ever relieved to see that the Trac has moved to the Croc tonight. We just adore Deke Dickerson's '50s swing-rock, and all the poodle skirts will be twirling early for the Souvenirs, whom we usually must road-trip out to Ballard to catch. -- Erin Franzman

(Showbox) A stripped-down cover of Hank Williams' "Move It Over" started George and his Destroyers off over 20 years ago, but it's MTV's incessant play of the video to "Bad to the Bone" that makes him vaguely familiar to survivors of the 1980s. -- Nathan Thornburgh

(Nation) DJ Vadim may hang his hat in Britain, but this former Soviet's bloc rockin' beats blatantly reflect the extravagant overcompensation that's resulted from Western influence. Vadim's latest, USSR: Life from the Other Side, features his usual complicated conglomerations of archival tape, ambient babbling, and arcane sound. Any remaining voids get plugged with fistfulls of contributors the likes of Moshunman, Iriscience, and Killer Kela. Almost coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's erasure, Vadim arrives for a live demonstration in the art of sonic redistribution, Kremlin style. -- Ernie Reidel

(Elysian) If you're looking for a night where music takes on actual texture, you've found it: from the not-quite-of-this-Earth sounds of Marc Olsen, to the definitely-out-in-the-stratosphere space rock of Voyager One. Even the limited libations served by the Elysian should be enough for achieving maximum appreciation of this evening's proceedings. Is it a full moon? -- Barbara Mitchell

(Fenix Underground) At Bumbershoot this year, these Siberian surf/rockabilly Elvis-schtick mongers had the whole crowd gyrating to surf beats, and pointing index fingers in the air along with "Closet Disco Dancer." Besides their entertaining banter, ear-to-ear smiles, neon hairdos, and ridiculous costumes, these guys do a remarkably smooth job of blending the disparate sounds of Ventures-inspired surf rock, Middle Eastern rhythms, '50s pop ballads, '80s rockabilly, balalaika folk tunes, and humorous, Russian-accented lyrics. -- Melody Moss

SUNDAY 11/21

(Breakroom) It's a sad fact that stoner music which sounds cool as fuck on CD often sounds dead-boring when the band performs it live. Bardo Pond is one of those bands, despite their hipster cache -- being a Matador band and all -- so don't let anyone tell you different. -- Kathleen Wilson

(Paramount) For decades, Bryan Ferry has delivered luscious, old-school Britpop, much better than you got from those younger, semi-French British sucklings weaned on Depeche Mode. Bryan Ferry was the son of a coal miner, and through his days with legendary Roxy Music, he's kept it real. His latest release, however, is a set of faithful covers of '30s and '40s crooner classics. It's about as legit as Tony Bennett cutting a beat box album, and the only people who should go to the Paramount are those who still remember what a cute ass Bryan Ferry had 20 years ago. -- Nathan Thornburgh

(Ballard Firehouse) A lot of people left the '60s with huge hangovers, but Canned Heat really got it bad. They were supposed to be big stars -- but it never came together, and founding member Alan Wilson overdosed in 1970. Since then it's been a slow deathwatch, leaving behind those who wonder why they never quite made it. My guess would be the name, which sounds too much like "Canned Meat." -- Nathan Thornburgh

MONDAY 11/22

(Paramount) Gregory Jacobs was a high school dropout, supposedly supporting himself on various misdemeanor offenses, before he turned it around and got a college degree in music. He then became Shock-G and started Digital Underground, but wouldn't find his fame until he put on a Groucho Marx nose and glasses and started stuttering when he rapped. As Humpty Hump, he sold a million records -- mostly to white kids -- and became an industry icon. Now Jacobs is almost 40 and sharing the stage with the dead-serious Jersey rappers who brought you the '90s' most incessant hiphop songs, "O.P.P." and "Hip Hop Hooray." -- Nathan Thornburgh


(Crocodile) All Time Quarterback is the solo side project of Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, who grew up wanting to play first base for the Mariners. So naturally I'm really upset that this project isn't called "All Star First Baseman." This will be the final show of an ATQ mini-tour: San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, so Ben promises each and every Stranger reader that most of the bugs will be worked out by the time he rolls into the Croc. -- Erin Franzman

(Jazz Alley) If you were christened Henry St. Clair Fredericks by your parents, you would probably re-name yourself after the home of the Raja, too. Although he started out as a standard-bearer for authentic Delta blues, Taj Mahal's world has expanded to include guitar, piano, harmonica, and Dobro, in every style from R&B to Zydeco. It is all held together by his stories and legendary stage presence, which means that Jazz Alley is finally offering something you just can't get at Bud's Records. -- Nathan Thornburgh

(Tractor) Take a dash of Earth, Wind & Fire-styled soul, ditch the costumes, add some modern pop/funk/jazz spice, top it all off with the household-name-caliber vocals of Whitney James (Plush Safe), and you have Cornucopia, a new, Seattle-based, 10-piece big band led by the ubiquitous trumpeter Chris Littlefield, who pens nearly all of the tunes. He's recruited some of our area's finest new-groove players, (such as all of SAMO, the live drum 'n' bass 700 Club house band led by John Wicks), so get on out for a good cause (People for Fair Trade) and a guaranteed good time. -- James Kirchmer


(Crocodile) I can't think of a better way to kick off the rainy season than going to see the melancholic, misanthropic, melodic musings of Vic Chesnutt and Mark Eitzel. Both artists excel at making feeling bad feel really, really good -- in the most cathartic, uplifting way possible. -- Barbara Mitchell

(Graceland) Seattle needs more melodic alternative pop about as much as Minnesotans need more crappy winter weather. But that's what everyone's in for, as the Hang Ups from Minneapolis get to taste our rainy hell, and we get to taste their musical pain. Actually, the buzz around the band is pretty decent. And they seem to like being rock stars, so we might as well get used to it -- it won't stop raining, and they won't stop singing. -- Nathan Thornburgh

(Tacoma Dome) Yeah, ZZ Top's new album sucks, but don't let that stop you from seeing them live. I checked 'em out on the High Voltage tour, and damn if they didn't ride a conveyor belt into a pretend electrical shack and re-emerge wearing burnt and tattered clothes after the shack exploded in an awesome pyrotechnic flash. Their guitars even smoked! All that and scantily-clad dancing girls, too. -- Kathleen Wilson

(Paramount) If easy listening jazz is Hell, then George Benson is a fallen angel. He spent his early career as a hard-cut bop guitarist, and his first recordings are known for their innovation and artistry. Unfortunately, somebody at Warner Brothers tempted him into easy listening records in the late '70s. Benson signed, made a zillion dollars with Breezin', and spent the next 10 years making the artless smooth jazz that is now synonymous with his name. They say Benson's coming back to his jazz roots these days, but he already signed with the devil, and there's no turning back. -- Nathan Thornburgh

( "To Whom It May Concern At Sub Pop: I understand that you're trying to recast yourselves as a 'rock' label, but how is it possible that you've released one of the most gorgeous albums of the year -- BY A LOCAL ARTIST, NO LESS -- with what would appear to be absolutely no hype, even in Seattle?" Think the best elements of Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins, and a poppier Portishead -- then go see this show. -- Barbara Mitchell

(Gordon Biersch) Here's a surprise: The woman who sounded the most like Jewel won the local Lilith Fair talent search. Loni Rose is that woman, and this will likely be her last performance at Gordon Biersch due to the shrunken britches she's rumored to have acquired since winning the prize. -- Kathleen Wilson

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