The Short List: This Week's Recommended Shows

Ra Ra Riot ~ Wednesday, February 25It's no fluke that Ra Ra Riot went from playing gigs around Syracuse University's campus to headlining a national tour in less than a year's time. The five-piece indie-rock band is an absolute joy to see live. Lead vocalist Wes Miles possesses a melancholy croon that drips with sincerity. And cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller manage to awkwardly dance—er, hop about—while playing their respective instruments. (Check out a YouTube clip of the band playing The Late Show with David Letterman and you'll see what I mean.) Since releasing their critically acclaimed debut LP The Rhumb Line (Barsuk Records) last year, Ra Ra Riot has become a beloved favorite on the indie circuit. Yet they still come off like a handful of eager (and slightly geeky) college kids rocking out to earn some beer money—which makes them all the more endearing. With Cut Off Your Hands, Telekinesis. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $12.50. All ages. ERIKA HOBARTRed Bull 45's ~ Thursday, February 26Part DJ competition and part history lesson, the Red Bull 45's pits four jocks against each other spinning only seven-inch 45-rpm records for a max of four minutes at a time. The goal is for each jock to match the beat of the previous performer so that, in theory, the music never dies; rather, the DJs feed off of, and build on, one another's methods. This is no easy task, especially in an era when many DJs rely on programs such as Serato Scratch Live to do most of the heavy lifting, like matching beats. Set to do battle are Seattle's Supreme La Rock and Jake One, Las Vegas' John Doe, and Spokane's James Pants, with special guest DJ Nu-Mark of Jurassic 5 on hand to spin, too. Trinity Nightclub, 111 Yesler Way, 447-4140. 9 p.m. Free. KEVIN CAPPEarth, Sir Richard Bishop, James Blackshaw ~ Thursday, February 26Ready for your guitar-induced hypnosis? U.K.-based James Blackshaw uses a 12-string Guild to create acoustic music that billows like sheets in the wind. Inspired by '60s acoustic revolutionaries from the Takoma label (John Fahey, Robbie Basho), Blackshaw's music sounds like a fluttering of quickly plucked notes, but it's also deceptively minimalist and mesmerizingly pretty. But where a Zen calm can be found amid Blackshaw's dazzling flourishes, Earth evokes Zen calm by playing almost nothing. Guitarist Dylan Carlson is proving himself a master of evoking Western desolation via his hollow-bodied electric. Like a gloomier Bill Frisell, Carlson plays solitary notes that seem to lift themselves up like ghosts from his fretboard and dissipate into thin air. Rounding out the bill is former Sun City Girl Sir Richard Bishop, who since about the turn of this century has been proving himself a master of acoustic idioms. By spending 30 minutes hunched over his instrument, Bishop can take audiences damn near anywhere he pleases—listening to him is like embarking on a kaleidoscopic globe-trot through his multiple styles, languages, and obsessions. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9 p.m. $12. BRIAN J. BARRJeff Lorber with Christian Scott and Kyle Eastwood ~ Thursday, February 26 through Sunday, March 1True, Jeff Lorber is responsible for introducing the world to the Seattle saxophonist who became known as Kenny G. But before the G-ster went solo and began to suffocate instrumental funk with the feather pillow of smooth jazz, Lorber and his Northwest fusion band were making smart, tight, grooving music that even managed to bring out the best in Kenneth Gorelick. In the 30 years since, Lorber has always remained a cut above his G-like brethren on KWJZ. Smooth jazz, the keyboardist told me recently, "is one of the few ways an instrumental artist can get their music heard. There's definitely some Muzak stuff. You toss your lot in with that and hope for some of the benefits." Tonight Lorber teams up with a couple of younger musicians who also play accessible, pulse-driven non-jazz that's got more intelligence than the usual smooth dreck: Christian Scott is a New Orleans–bred trumpeter with a gorgeous tone and deft ideas; Kyle Eastwood (son of Clint) is a bassist who goes for more of a round sound than the usual thumb-popping style. Playing tunes from all three leaders, this quintet should help you forgive Lorber for what he, inadvertently, has wrought. Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., 441-9729. 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., 7:30 p.m. Sun. $28.50. All ages. MARK D. FEFERKinski ~ Friday, February 27When you write about music in Seattle, Chris Martin is one of the best dudes to run into at shows. With his arms crossed and beer in hand, Martin will happily lean over and tell you everything he knows about whatever band happens to be onstage at the time, what new band in town is worth checking out, and what records he purchased recently. But his über-music-fan tangents often deflect attention from his own great band, Kinski. An instrumental four-piece, Kinski's mission is to marry pop and hard rock, emotion and experimentalism, but forever divorce repetition and boredom. One of the few bands that could play a riff over and over, Kinski delivers with that '70s hard-rock thrust, but allows it all to breathe by opening their songs up to psychedelic explorations. As they pummel their Sabbath-esque riffs with a machine-like intensity, the natural audience reaction is to bob heads and curl lips into extreme guitar-face. But when you least expect it, Martin & Co. switch gears on you by diffusing the air with hazy space-ambience. With AFCGT, Treetarantula. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 323-9853. 9 p.m. $7. BRIAN J. BARRBlue Horns ~ Friday, February 27When Blue Horns first appeared on the Portland scene more than a year ago, their songs were still rough around the edges. To some extent, that roughness was part of Blue Horns' aesthetic: Colin Howard plays jangly guitar riffs with a garage–meets–Southern rock tinge, while guitarist and vocalist Brian Park shouts energetic "1-2-3!"s between crooning warbly, poppy lyrics. But sometimes that lack of polish was too obvious, overshadowing the talent behind Blue Horns' music. A lot can change in a year, and the pop quartet has polished and tightened its sound. On songs like "Shotgun Wedding," Howard's jangle complements the rhythm of the drums and bass, creating a real foot-stomping beat. Park's warble is clearer; he now channels David Bowie and Iggy Pop, making the band's lyrics (such as "Asking the questions/That I want to hear/The truth is too hard" from "Let's Go Hunting") actually discernible. Now the band's roughness is clearly cultivated rather than accidental. Blue Horns has the punk aesthetic of 1970s pioneers Television, but the mass appeal of Bowie. What was once just a Portland band with promise is on its way to gaining a reputation in the Northwest scene. With Altspeak, Little Penguins. Café Venus/Mars Bar, 609 Eastlake Ave. E., 624-4516. 9 p.m. $6. PAIGE RICHMONDLozen ~ Saturday, February 28The methodically grinding audio assault of Tacoma duo Lozen isn't going to be understood by everyone. If you like it singable, fast, and hooky, they will pain your soul. In performance, these sexy sludge-rock bitches are like a slightly more metal, Xanaxed version of Sonic Youth a la Washing Machine, taking as long as they damn well please to play their magical, trudgingly strung-out jams for the damned. On their debut, Enemies Against Power, the tracks wander, drop off, feed back, and resurge in a driving display of musical prowess, without ever coming across as contrived or self-indulgent. That said, if they were to harness all that raw power and take it into the studio with the right producer, allowing themselves to be slightly tweaked and crafted, they would not only speak to a larger audience but could actually be commercially viable. Regardless, I can't wait to see what these ladies do next. With Mad Rad, Spirit of Radio, Josh Rizeberg. Jewelbox/Rendezvous, 2322 Second Ave., 441-5823. 10:30 p.m. $5. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSARA.A. Bondy ~ Saturday, February 28In a different lifetime, Auguste Arthur Bondy (under the name Scott Bondy) fronted Alabama's hard-rockin' Verbena, which of all the '90s Nirvana-bees might have been the best. Dave Grohl, who produced Verbena's 1999 album Into the Pink, once told CMJ magazine, "Dude, that guy is so fuckin' Kurt Cobain it's not even funny." Fortunately, Bondy didn't pull the plug on his life earlier this decade when Verbena disintegrated; instead, he unplugged the amps, changed his handle to A.A. Bondy, and completely reinvented himself as a brooding, acoustic-guitar-wielding indie-folk troubadour obsessed with God and the devil and Bob Dylan and neck harmonicas. There's no shortage of that kind of singer-songwriter in the world, but Bondy's go at it—as heard on his stark solo debut, American Hearts—comes off as natural, intimate, affecting, and sincere. From the sound of things, he's finally settled into his true self. With Fences, Widower.Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9:30 p.m. $8. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERGLoveLikeFire ~ Saturday, February 28There is something pleasantly familiar about San Fran popgazers LoveLikeFire's single "William." At first listen, I instantly thought: "Oh my God! The Yeah Yeah Yeahs just Asobi Seksued all over my Lush record!" Which in itself isn't a bad thing at all. Then I played the song about four more times. With each listen, I fell a little harder for teensy frontwoman Ann Yu's crazy-big vocals, the song's heavy dose of warm guitar wash, and its almost militant, ever-building rhythm section. LLF may not be reinventing female-fronted, pedal-heavy, melodic pop music, but their take on it is certainly well-executed. They're one of the most anticipated bands to play this year's SXSW, but you lucky Seattleites will get to see them first. With Pica Beats, the Purrs, the Globes. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 323-9853. 9 p.m. $6. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAREstelle ~ Monday, March 2The first time American audiences got a taste of Estelle, she was playing select shows last year opening for her label boss, R&B crooner John Legend. Most casual fans and music critics agreed she was kicking Legend's ass on a nightly basis with her funky British slang, couture looks, and four-star rapping/singing abilities. After releasing her debut disc, Shine, last year, she's won a handful of music awards, including a Grammy for Best Rap Collaboration for "American Boy" with Kanye West. Aside from Jody Watley, Sade, and Mel B (of Spice Girls fame), few black British female singers have gained as much headway in the American music market as Estelle. And considering that her "breakout year" was just a matter of months ago, she's still just getting started. Those who show up to her concert this week can expect to see one of the best double threats (rapping/singing) to emerge in contemporary music since Lauryn Hill. With Choklate. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 7 p.m. $22.50 adv./$25 DOS. All ages. JONATHAN CUNNINGHAMN.A.S.A. ~ Tuesday, March 3Not to be confused with our illustrious space program, N.A.S.A., aka North America/South America, represents the continent-crossing collaboration of L.A.'s Squeak E. Clean and Brazil's DJ Zegon. These skater jocks' debut disc, The Spirit of Apollo, crash-landed in stores February 17 with a polyglot sound and armada of guests. From David Byrne to Chuck D, Kool Keith to Tom Waits (and even a resurrected Ol' Dirty Bastard), N.A.S.A. skirts the troposphere and beyond with its fusion of hip-hop, New Wave, and other genres. Just check "People Tree," a fitful head-nodder featuring Byrne's haunting wail and Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) and Chali 2na (Jurassic 5) riding the beat. Or the Wu-Tang–like "Way Down," featuring (appropriately) RZA, Barbie Hatch, and John Frusciante. With Staxx Brothers. Nectar Lounge, 412 N. 36th St., 632-2020. 9 p.m. $10. KEVIN CAPPSwallow the Sun ~ Tuesday, March 3Like Soilwork, for whom they're opening, Swallow the Sun brings melody to death metal. But whereas those antiseptic headliners graft "Speed" Strid's ultra-clean choruses onto hard-rock verses, the atmospheric Swallow uses a virtual orchestra, tapping keyboard effects to supplement its doom-laden riffs with symphonic hooks. Hailing from Finland, Swallow the Sun reached #4 on its homeland's clearly adventurous singles chart with 2005's "Forgive Her...," a nine-minute murder ballad filtered through guttural vocals. Singer Mikko Kotamäki tranquilizes his growling-bear delivery in the group's more recent material, catchy, progressive fare that sounds optimistic though it's actually as gloomy as ever. Even the song "Hope" is a downer, plucking its title from the phrase "well of poisoned hope." The band's latest release contains a 34-minute track about star-crossed lovers and plague-carrying butterflies, pinning tragic deaths on one of nature's least frightening animals. Swallow the Sun can find the downside to anything, lyrically speaking, but live the group promises to make the most of its modest time allotment. With Soilwork, Darkane, Warbringer, Darkest Grace, De-KreP-iT. El Corazon, 109 Eastlake Ave., 381-3094. 7 p.m. $20 adv./$23 DOS. All ages. ANDREW MILLER

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