Busdriver, Dark Time Sunshine, Katie Kate, Night Fox, DJ Swerveone
(Neumos) LA's Busdriver is a one-of-a-kind rap eccentric. Blessed with a mercurial, radio-voice-over delivery, absurdist humor, and a predilection for polysyllabic verbiage, he can be exhausting and confusing to listen to. But at his best ("Avantcore," with its ingenious sample of Can's "Turtles Have Short Legs," most of RoadKillOvercoat and The Weather), Busdriver presents flurries of lyrical gems over quirky productions that'll have you simultaneously nodding and shaking your head. Dark Time Sunshine—Seattle MC Cape Cowen (aka Onry Ozzborn) and Chicago producer Zavala—create hiphop that embraces the paradox of their name. Cape Cowen drops downcast declarations over Zavala's cautiously optimistic soundscapes and blunted funk rhythms. A rough-hewn ambiguity rules Dark Time Sunshine's intriguing kingdom of sound. DAVE SEGAL See also My Philosophy.
Snow Bud and the Flower People, Remedios the Beauty, Green Handshake, Keith Cook
(Funhouse) You've gotta have old-fashioned, Monster Squad–style Wolfman 'nads to name a song "Bong Hit," especially if you go the full distance by starting the song with a bubbling sound effect and ensuring the lyrics are entirely about doing hits from a bong ("Bong hit/It's the shit") without even making the most perfunctory gestures toward a high-minded metaphor or two. But Snow Bud and the Flower People have 'nads to spare; they're as subtle as a Cheech and Chong movie, but they back up all the weed talk by being a super-solid garage-rock psychedelic band. They're like Reverend Horton Heat's younger stoner brother, barreling out of the garage to bring weed and hot licks to the people. PAUL CONSTANT
Milkplant, Sone, Ctrl_Alt_Dlt, T. Shade
(Re-bar) See Data Breaker.
Mark Farina, SunTzu Sound
(Neumos) See Data Breaker.
Social Distortion, Lucero, Chuck Ragan
See It's a Hit.
NighTraiN, Watch It Sparkle, Tax & Leisure Corporation, Koko and the Sweetmeats
(Sunset) Sloppy Seattle garage-rock trio Watch It Sparkle really don't care if their guitars are out of tune. They don't care if the drumming is slightly off or if their two-minute-or-under songs are something you've already heard before—several times over—since, like, the '70s. Watch It Sparkle just want to make you dance, goddamnit, dance! The drumming is simple but hard, the tambourine is everywhere, and the vocals are spastic and full of sighs, howls, and hiccups, so during tonight's show you can flail, stumble, and be totally trashed, but still look totally cool. MEGAN SELING
Flexions, M. Women
(Rendezvous) Flexions at Rendezvous = witnessing one of Seattle's greatest bands in seriously intimate quarters. So when Flexions are musical legends and headlining the Paramount in 2016, you can tell your loved ones that you saw them in a tiny box of a venue before 55 people. Yeah. But for now, you can luxuriate up close with Flexions' exotic, noirish, psychedelic dub sojourns, as drummer Tyler Swan (Truckasauras, Foscil, Linda and Ron's Dad) adds crucial rhythmic ballast to the already alluring sound that guitarist Devin Welch and bassist/ keyboardist/melodica player Robin Stein established on their debut release, Leisure Time. Fellow locals M. Women nicely complement Flexions with spiky and fuzzy rock of understated melodiousness. DAVE SEGAL
Dancing on the Valentine VI: Strange-love (Depeche Mode tribute night)
(Crocodile) If you think Valentine's Day is more of a black celebration than a cause for one, you're in luck. This year's Dancing on the Valentine—an annual fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society—is a tribute to Depeche Mode. Bring your broken heart to the Croc, because those blasphemous rumors are true: Local luminaries such as Brent Amaker, Lesli Wood, Animals at Night, and Jupe Jupe will be performing all your favorite DM hits to help shake the disease that almost took founder Jenny George's life as a teenager. You can enjoy the silence any day of the year, but everything counts when a good cause is involved. BARBARA MITCHELL
Santiago & Bushido
(Fred Wildlife Refuge) See Data Breaker.
Social Distortion, the Aggrolites, Chuck Ragan
(Showbox Sodo) See It's a Hit.
(Neumos) See Stranger Suggests.
The Spinning Whips, People Eating People, C-Leb, Pony Time
(Comet) Bassist Luke Beetham of the drum-and-bass duo Pony Time seemingly cannot write a melody that fails to worm its way well into your brain and stay there for days. The 10 songs on the band's debut, Can Drink 100 Wine Coolers (now out on Don't Stop Believin' Records), are a testament to the man's ability to make your ass move. I'd really like to hear what this duo could do if they added a guitar player or two. GRANT BRISSEY See also Sound Check.
The Radio Dept., Young Prisms, U.S.F.
(Crocodile) The stylistic traits that San Francisco–based foursome Young Prisms have adopted on their just-released full-length, Friends for Now, are merely subtle variations of everything Deerhunter have done over the last three years. Young Prisms' atmospheric rock is pretty, for sure, cast in hazy, dreamy layers of fog and darkness, with meandering vocals coated in reverb, rendering the lyrics indecipherable. But their music lacks a "signature sound." There are no rigid dynamics to these even-keeled shoegaze songs. There is nothing on which to really focus your attention, with little instrumental tension and minimal buildup. Which is a shame, because their music is actually quite pleasant. It just seems better for background ambience than for attentive listening. Or maybe I just need to get more stoned. TRAVIS RITTER
Cake, Throw Me the Statue, Locust, King City
(Moore) You may have forgotten about Cake. When they made their eccentric-boogie entrance in the mid-1990s, they were most notable for their regular use of the trumpet and smarter-than-the-average-bear lyrics—which were quietly witty and told better stories than the bands that surrounded them on alterna-college-radio playlists. Otherwise, they didn't stand out too radically from the pack. But as the years passed and the mayflies of the 1990s fell, Cake kept making records, sticking to their sonic guns: boogie-rock rhythm, half-spoken/half-sung lyrics, that distinctive trumpet, and singer John McCrea's gently acerbic attitude. After seven years away from the studio, Cake have released Showroom of Compassion, which they initially promised would be a departure from their past sound. It isn't, really (except for the first-time inclusion of piano in the mix), but it's still good, smart fun. Maybe it's time to rediscover—or just plain old discover—one of the better bands to come out of the mid-1990s. BRENDAN KILEY
Finntroll, Ensiferum, Rotten Sound, Barren Earth, Deathmocracy, Phlegethon
(El Corazón) Here we have a classic example of the inexplicably overbooked heavy-metal bill. Six bands? C'mon! Granted, five of the bands hail from Finland, so the excessive lineup can be chalked up to a geographic showcase of sorts. But the true crime is that this evening of predominantly hybridized death metal buries its best act in the middle of the bill. Rotten Sound's furious blast beats, bulldozer breakdowns, and razor-sharp transitions make them one of the strongest contemporary grindcore bands on the planet. No disrespect to Finntroll's... um... unique fusion of Scandinavian polka and death metal or Ensiferum's Viking-metal Bathory worship, but Rotten Sound's tornado of sound would be better matched with the punishing speed and low-tuned crunch of grind greats like Pig Destroyer or Brutal Truth. BRIAN COOK
Naomi Punk, Idle Times
(Cairo) Reclusive noise-punks Naomi Punk keep things simple and loud. This usually means they take one incredibly catchy chord progression, wash it in a swimming pool of distortion and reverb, and repeat it, sometimes with a verse, sometimes not. Ghostly vocals, which are often just "Ooooo-uuuu-oooo-ooooos," ride under the surface of the din. In other words, bliss through volume. Tonight is the release for the band's CLS EP, which I haven't heard, but I'm betting that both the show and the release will hasten my tinnitus. GRANT BRISSEY
Social Distortion, Lucero, Chuck Ragan
(Showbox Sodo) See It's a Hit.
Geist & the Sacred Ensemble, Mangled Bohemians, Saint Siren
(Comet) Portland duo Mangled Bohemians play a mellow brand of psychedelia that expertly balances languidness and eeriness—think Spacemen 3's "Call the Doctor." It can be viewed as a kind of fluid, shivery freak folk that provides an escape valve into another dimension where time and responsibilities aren't crushing you into urgent activity; you can sense that Mangled Bohemians' music offers a portal to the infinite. Seattle's Geist & the Sacred Ensemble ramble with more fire and propulsion, while also maintaining a deep appreciation for the pagan-folk vibe of The Wicker Man soundtrack. You'd think a group called Geist & the Sacred Ensemble would have trouble living up to that lofty name, but these guys radiate serious intensity and sublimity onstage. DAVE SEGAL
Eluveitie, 3 Inches of Blood, Holy Grail, System Divide
(El Corazón) Screw Valentine's Day, it's time to get nerdy. Tonight, legions of hobbit-loving metal heads will gallop toward El Corazón to witness a spectacle of high-fantasy proportions. Orc-slaying, Judas Priest–worshipping masters 3 Inches of Blood are so openly inspired by The Lord of the Rings that they deserve their own genre. Tolkiencore, anyone? How about folk metal? Truth be told, there's actually a huge movement behind the latter, and that's exactly where Switzerland's Eluveitie fall on the musical map. Incorporating instruments such as hurdy-gurdy, bodhran, and mandola, this eight-piece touring force brings true pagan folklore to the masses, one bagpipe solo at a time. KEVIN DIERS
Austra, Sports, Tumble Dry, DJ FITS
(Crocodile) The pulsing house of Canadian arpeggio overlappers Austra has an undeniably wintry vibe. Katie Stelmanis's vocals are frostbitten and bewitching (shades of Fever Ray with the weirdness dialed way down), and the trio's melodic touches are as ascetic as their beats are booming. They'll provide a seasonally diametric contrast to the evening's more jubilant local openers, Sports and Tumble Dry, who revel in a shameless, shimmy-inspiring ethos. Sports' remix of Toro Y Moi's stellar "Still Sound" cleverly saps that track of its disco coquettishness and replaces it with calculated IDM precision. Tumble Dry have a significantly schmaltzy take on electro pop, with songs like "SXYMTN" that juxtapose chirping synth flutters, ribbiting funk bass, and cornball lyrics ("I'm the river, you're the fountain/About to climb a sexy mountain"). Bring your carabiner. JASON BAXTER
Gang of Four, Hollerado
(Showbox Sodo) Sometimes, Lady Gaga is too cerebral and refined to give you what you need. You just want to fucking dance to some sleazy dumb shit before you pass out, and Ke$ha just wants to give that to you (one of her songs is even titled "Sleazy" for ease of identification). Ke$ha is as willfully stupid and proud of it as a Hot New Country singer, but on her it works. She's got the snarl, the beats, and the sly sense of humor (did Toby fucking Keith ever work the word "bougie" into any of his common-man rhetoric?). The chorus of "Sleazy" says it all: "Rat-a-tat-tat on your dum-dum drum/The beat's so phat gonna make me come." Yeah, I can get behind that, whatever it means. PAUL CONSTANT
Murder by Death, the Builders and the Butchers, Damion Suomi & the Minor Prophets
(Tractor) If you fear that Portlanders the Builders and the Butchers are just another Decemberists offshoot (and how couldn't you if you've ever seen a promo shot of the band), do yourself a favor and check out their latest, Dead Reckoning, in order to dispel that assumption. The Builders and the Butchers' drums hit harder and their lyrics are darker. (See, for instance, the chorus to "Rotten to the Core": "Did you know/The whole world is rotten to the core?") What's more, frontman Ryan Sollee's vocals aren't as nasally as Colin Meloy's, and, generally, the whole thing comes off a lot less cloying. GRANT BRISSEY