The Short List: This Week’s Recommended Shows

Woody Guthrie Tribute Night ~ Wednesday, July 15Any true Washingtonian knows that folksinger Woody Guthrie is an indelible part of state history. Nearly 70 years ago, Guthrie was recruited by the Department of the Interior to write songs about the Columbia River and promote the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam, a massive Depression-era project in eastern Washington. The most lasting result was "Roll On, Columbia, Roll On," now the state's official folk song. Any Woody Guthrie tribute night in Seattle, then, has to include an official cover of this song, which proudly describes the scenic nature of eastern Washington and boasts of the progress the new dam will provide state residents. The most likely Seattle singer to take on that challenge is Nancy K. Dillon. She's a little more country and a little more rock-and-roll than Guthrie, but she sings about the same subjects. She tries to find a sense of place in her songs, as in "Crossing 66," which compares the expanse of a great highway to the rambling nature of a river. Dillon is connected to her subject matter, the same way Guthrie felt the waves of the Columbia with every note. Conor Byrne, 5140 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-3640. 9 p.m. PAIGE RICHMONDMagic Slim & the Teardrops ~ Friday, July 17Unlike a lot of blues artists creeping into their 60s and 70s, Magic Slim records on a fairly consistent basis. Since 2000, the Windy City juke-joint icon has dropped a half-dozen or so full-lengths, including 2008's Midnight Blues. Though he's no spring chicken, the album proves Slim still possesses a more-than-hearty appetite for hard-swinging electric blues. You'd have to, to cover the Hound Dog Taylor standard "Give Me Back My Wig." Over a greasy, dirty, nasty slide guitar, Magic Slim howls at his lady, "Give me back my wig/Honey now let your head go bald/Give me back my wig/Honey now let your head go bald." Personally speaking, I would never date a no-good, misbehaving bald chick, but hey, different strokes for different folks, right? Triple Door, 216 Union St. 838-4333. 8 p.m. $16 adv./$20 DOS. All ages. JUSTIN F. FARRARThe Metal Shakespeare Company ~ Friday, July 17It's easy to dismiss the Metal Shakespeare Company as one big joke. There's something inherently hilarious about four 20-something dudes from Portland who dress in Shakespearean costumes and set the Bard's greatest soliloquies to Iron Maiden–style metal. In the band's most recent music video (for "To Bleed or Not to Bleed," their musical version of Hamlet's famous speech to the departed Yorick in Act 3, Scene 1), a character is transformed into a donkey as lead singer Lord Simms serenades a skull and drummer William Sly throws up devil horns between beats. But despite all the kitsch, it's clear that the Metal Shakespeare Company is striving for authenticity. Aside from occasionally beefing up the chorus ("To be or not to be/Who are we that is the question/Matters not, to bleed or not to bleed/For we are metal!"), the songs are written to keep Shakespeare's original language and words intact. Even the band's MySpace page is written in Old English. And for Bard-haters, the MSC is totally, undeniably metal: clean keyboard solos, super-fast guitar riffs, and Lord Simms' Sebastian Bach–style voice would rocketh mightily even without Shakespeare's words. With the Valkyries, Brewtal Thirst. Blue Moon Tavern, 712 N.E. 45th St., 633-6267. 10 p.m. $5. PAIGE RICHMONDA-Trak ~ Saturday, July 18"When I was 13, I took my bar mitzvah money and bought myself some turntables and a mixer. I practiced for about 18 hours a day. Then I came out of my basement, packed my lunch, and won a bunch of world championships. Joy!" writes Montreal jock A-Trak on his MySpace bio. We'll forgive dude his "my first Fisher-Price DJ set" origins, boringly similar to all others, because his music is effin' bangin'. No laptop jock he, the turntablist can crate-dig and spin with the best of 'em, and his hip-hop flavored electronic music (usually with rap vocals laid over techno beats) have won him such famous fans as Kanye West (whom A-Trak toured with) and club junkie DJ AM. Despite that Seattle doesn't have a proper, true-blue club for him to rock in, he's coming anyway as part of his "10,000LB Hamburger" tour. With Rye Rye, Treasure Fingers, the Dowlz, & OK Dave. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8005. 8 p.m. $13 adv. KEVIN CAPPLaura Veirs ~ Saturday, July 18I first happened upon the phenomenal Portland-via-Seattle-via-Colorado songwriter Laura Veirs maybe four years ago, after she'd already released a couple of albums. But 2005's dreamy, quirky, occasionally orchestral-poppy, sometimes biting Year of Meteors grabbed me and didn't let go of my ears (or my CD player) for ages. Her voice struck me: Neither breathy-sweet and sensual nor cracked and desperate, hers is a dry, husky delivery, one that at first encounter seemed a bit glacial. Yet as the album progressed, a gamut of feelings punctured that curtain of detachment. And her lyrics, often referencing the natural world, were remarkable: vivid imagery and the music of language tumbling together in stunning bits of poetry. Veirs' 2007 follow-up, Saltbreakers, was equally alluring, bringing her even more national acclaim, and this impressive recent track record makes me especially excited to hear her forthcoming seventh full-length, July Flame. Veirs hasn't announced a release date yet, but for this show she's assembled an all-new quintet (who'll be bringing strings, balalaika, and exotic percussion to augment the usual guitar-centric setup), and she's promising lots of brand-new material to go with the old tunes that remain as arresting as the first time they burrowed into my head. With the Old Believers, Cataldo. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $15 adv. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERGThe Weakerthans ~ Saturday, July 18The Weakerthans have a legacy of shock and surprise. It all started with Propagandhi, John Samson's original musical vehicle.  That band's take on political punk was a slap in the face, choosing blunt force, both lyrically and musically, as their primary means of communication.  When Samson split from the band, eventually forming the Weakerthans, the new band was just as shocking for its relative lack of gruffness.  The Weakerthans still have a bit of punk edge, but round it out with a focus on melody and subtlety, neither of which ever featured heavily in the Propagandhi fake book. Combining hooky indie pop with a penchant for socially minded folk, the Weakerthans look more to the personal than the political, using songcraft as a means of exploring the human condition on a microcosmic scale.  People, rather than policies, are the focus here, and the music mirrors that more-sentimental notion, finding itself as much in silence as in sound. With Jason Collett. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $15 adv. All ages. NICHOLAS HALLLos Lobos ~ Sunday, July 19What's the purpose of music? I don't think anyone will argue when I suggest that its ultimate function is entertainment, right? That being the case, I challenge you to find a band that's been more consistently pleasurable than Los Lobos. Of course, this is probably not a matter of choice for the band. Aside from a single brush with commercial success (appearing in the film La Bamba), Los Lobos has not been able to kick up its heels and lean back on its reputation. Thus each record and live show is practically a joy from beginning to end. But at the same time they aren't eager-to-please lapdogs—they're confident in their abilities and as a result have nothing to prove, which lends their amalgam of rock, Tex-Mex, blues, R&B, and traditional Spanish and Mexican music a vibe of total effortlessness. They are possibly the greatest working band in America—meaning that you could ask them to do anything and the chances would be high they'd pull it off with ease. You only wish you could afford them for your wedding reception. Woodland Park Zoo, 601 N. 59th St. 6 p.m. $22. All ages. BRIAN J. BARRNo Doubt ~ Sunday, July 19With the first plaintive verses of 1995's "Just a Girl," Gwen Stefani and No Doubt ushered in a new era of enticingly flagrant girl power. So sorry, Katy Perry and Lady GaGa—those in-your-face poses? The boudoir-meets-couture outfits? It's all been done before, and better, by Stefani, the only woman who could make bindis, blue hair, and braces trendy. It's been five years since No Doubt last played together—a hiatus in which Stefani produced two solo albums and two babies—but now Gwen and the boys are back on the road. The tour precedes a new album that will be released in 2010, which has the band dressed in all white, a la A Clockwork Orange, playing fan favorites from the reggae and dance pop of their later albums and quite a bit from the ska-reviving Tragic Kingdom, including their iconic "Don't Speak." These are good people, too—much of the tour proceeds will go to charity. With Paramore. White River Amphitheatre, 40601 Auburn-Enumclaw Rd. 7:30 p.m. $10–$80. All ages. ERIN THOMPSONHar Mar Superstar ~ Monday, July 20Who better to anchor a leg of Lebowski Fest dates than Har Mar Superstar? The bubblegum R&B persona of Sean Na Na's Sean Tillmann, Har Mar has spent the decade as a career slacker whose sardonic ease of delivery has given him way more appeal than his lewd white-boy shtick should ever have had. Gyrating his doughy torso and heaping his songs with whipped falsetto, he memorably hones in on recent cultural experiences like drunk-dialing, as well as older ones like, um, Hypercolor. He's also managed to show up Spank Rock on the Neon Neon single "Trick for Treat," and produce a sidesplitting series of Web videos. Next up? Har Mar's got a fourth album due in October, which should prove whether the prolonged, if loving, gag is finally wearing thin or becoming close to indestructible. With this guy, it could easily go either way. With Jeff "The Dude" Dowd. Fremont Outdoor Cinema, 3501 Phinney Ave. N. 6 p.m. $20. DOUG WALLENBedouin Soundclash ~ Tuesday, July 21"Have ska, will travel" could be a working motto for a lot of bands these days, but not Bedouin Soundclash. Sure, the Canadian dub-ska trio has managed to land slots on tours with Warped, Ben Harper, and most recently No Doubt. But unlike so many latter-day ska groups, Bedouin Soundclash puts its music where its mouth is—which is to say the band lays down thick ska grooves and textures as fresh as they are convincing. The band—which for the most part consists of guitar, bass, and drums, and often features special guests, including seasoned reggae singer Vernon Buckley of the Maytones—plays with the formidable precision of veterans in just about every department. Grooves, tones, songs, etc., all come together to cast a kind of musical spell over whatever given venue the band sets up shop for the night. They make it look easy. And genuine. With Root Beer. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8005. 8 p.m. $13 adv./$15 DOS. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

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