The Short List: The Week's Recommended Shows

Blackie, Chad VanGaalen, and the start of Earshot Jazz Fest.

Battles/Wednesday, October 12

Battles are one of those too-rare bands that are as dazzling to watch as to listen to. There's Jon Stanier's athletic drumming, with his trademark crash cymbal perched high off the ground like a flag planted atop whatever mountain the trio have most recently conquered; the tricky interweaving guitars and dual keyboards bounced back and forth by Ian Williams and Dave Konopka; and, most of all, the way it all coheres into some Rubik's cube–twisting rhythmic jams, as precise as anything from the band's storied "math rock" past but giving the illusion of a jam band in their grooves. For their lead singer–less album Gloss Drop, the trio have been playing along to smartly synched (and stuttered) video screens of the album's guest vocalists (Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo, Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino). It's a hell of a show. With Walls. Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 682-1414. 8 p.m. $19. All ages. ERIC GRANDY


The Drums/Wednesday, October 12

After releasing their popular self-titled debut last year and riding the hype of their ultra-peppy single, "Let's Go Surfing," things started to go south for the Drums. Their guitarist acrimoniously left the band, and lead singer Jonathan Pierce started telling media outlets that after "a lot of shouting matches," the band was close to breaking up altogether. Instead, they somehow stuck it out and recorded their second LP, the symbolically titled Portamento—an Italian musical term denoting the movement from one note to the next. The songs of Portamento swell with a range of turbulent emotions. The first single, the quick-moving, addictive "Money," sounds even perkier than "Surfing," but the second, "How It Ended," is more representative of the whole album—a bit downtrodden, like a sad reflection of an emotional upheaval. With Veronica Falls, io echo. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-4618. 8 p.m. $12. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Blackie/Thursday, October 13

When seasoned Seattle guitarist Gary Westlake asked super-vixen vocalist Dejha Colantuono (the pipes behind Ragazza and Rotten Apples) to join his Blondie tribute band, she agreed, with the caveat that the band be called "Blackie." As a petulant young punk-in-training, Colantuono stole a copy of Blondie's 1978 masterpiece Parallel Lines when she was 9, subsequently learning all the songs—and Harry's moves—backward and forward. "Deborah Harry has always been an inspiration to me," says the former Seattleite. "She was sexy as fuck without being overt, and the band covered the gamut of styles and genres fearlessly." Colantuono now lives in New York City, while Westlake and the other band members (including the Shins' Dave Hernandez) are bound to other bands here in Seattle, so it's a rare treat to have them all onstage together, one way or another. With the Pytons, DJ Cherry Canoe. Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., 324-8005. 9 p.m. $8. HANNAH LEVIN

Matt Badger & His Flock of Knives/Friday, October 14

As the drummer for Ravenna Woods, Matt Badger is usually tucked at the back of the stage, partly hidden by his instruments. The opposite is true for his new side project, curiously dubbed Matt Badger & His Flock of Knives. Badger has been writing solo material for years, influenced by familiar musicians like Elliott Smith, Sparklehorse, and Bob Dylan—"I just enjoy writing simple songs," he told me in a recent e-mail. None of the songs have been recorded yet, but YouTube's got some live performances up, showing Badger fronting a three-piece band, singing and strumming a light acoustic guitar—much more easygoing stuff than Ravenna Woods' tumbled and chaotic sounds. Or, as Badger puts it, "It's about as far from Ravenna Woods as Dylan is from Hendrix." With Pica Beats, Cumulus, Ole Tinder. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 322-9272. 9 p.m. $7. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Endangered Blood/Friday, October 14

With a name that would sound equally at home in the world of death metal, Endangered Blood is clearly not an ordinary jazz group. But fans of more traditional jazz shouldn't be worried—their music won't sonically rip your head off (at least not all the time). The group sound finds an interesting balance somewhere among rock, free jazz, and bebop. Drummer Jim Black sounds like grunge/alternative meets improvisation, with a distinctively trashy, clanky palette that drives the group and keeps the music dark without being oppressive. With bassist Trevor Dunn, the rhythm section here creates much of the texture, allowing saxophonist Chris Speed and multi-reed player Oscar Noriega freedom to go from poignant melodies to blistering solos as they please. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., 652-4255. 9 pm. $7–$14. All ages. BEN MORROW

Gang Gang Dance/Friday, October 14

At the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago this past summer, Gang Gang Dance were allotted about as much time to play as any middle-tier act—about an hour or so—but they only managed to cram, like, four songs into their set. That's because live, the band can stretch their already meandering electronic/percussion jams to epic lengths, led by singer Lizzi Bougatsos' witchy, funhouse-mirror vocals and by the considerable effort of the band's resident flag-waver/scarf-twirler/Bez-style vibesman. But if their songs run long, it's not because they do it locked into any one form; instead, the band's tracks morph from trippy house to new-age ambience to searing ersatz techno, never quite heading where you expect. With Prince Rama, Stephanie. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442. 8 p.m. $13. ERIC GRANDY

Hondo II/Friday, October 14

Long-standing West Seattle "cow-punk boogie" band Memphis Radio Kings is now Hondo II, a compact two-piece comprising singer/guitarist Charlie Beck and drummer Tony Leamer. Where MRK was earnestly in pursuit of a defining sound, Hondo II takes a more stripped-down approach. Keeping what works—up-tempo, effects-ridden pop-rock anthems—the band enlisted producer Graig Markel (Band of Horses, Nada Surf, Brent Amaker and The Rodeo) to steer their new EP Goodbye, Paraguay! toward clean and balanced tones, free of extraneous noodling but full of resonant guitar, some light-handed synth, and well-appointed harmonies accented with just a touch of distortion. With Dead Man, John & Kirsten (of the Black Crabs). Slim's Last Chance, 5606 First Ave. S. 762-7900. 9 p.m. $8. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

Mason Jennings/Friday, October 14

Mason Jennings and Jack Johnson are both mellow, acoustic-leaning folk singers born in Hawaii and fond of surfing. Jennings has opened for Johnson on occasion, and Johnson put out an album by Jennings on his record label. But if Johnson is the layer of mashed potatoes atop a shepherd's pie, then Jennings is the beef, peas, and carrots beneath. Jennings, unlike Johnson, renders compositions of considerable depth and melancholia. It's not for nothing that Jennings, who's based in Minnesota and whose latest album is named for it, was asked to cover Dylan on the soundtrack of I'm Not There. And he wouldn't be caught dead in a pair of JJ Casuals. With the Pines. Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 682-1414. 9 p.m. $19. All ages. MIKE SEELY

Chad VanGaalen/Friday, October 14

It's somehow fitting that a month full of ghosts and ghouls finds Calgary's Chad VanGaalen coming to town. His high-pitched warble has a pallid, haunted quality more genuinely bone-chilling than any face-painted, "No, seriously, our practice space is in a crypt" metal band could ever be. On his newest album (Diaper Island, my vote for 2011's Best Album Name), VanGaalen works in two dramatically different speeds. In his syrupy-slow, folky dirges, he sounds like a man on his deathbed making his final amends to the world; in his more raved-up numbers, he sounds possessed by fiery spirits, spewing apocalyptic prophesies from a sinking ship on fire. Watch any of VanGaalen's self-animated videos (featuring creepy but cute creatures melting into puddles and shape-shifting demons ripping one another's faces off), and you'll see that he lives in his own twisted, beautiful world that we're lucky to catch a glimpse of. With Gary War, Levi Fuller. Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. N.W., 784-4880. 10 p.m. $10 adv./$12 DOS. GREG FRANKLIN

The 2011 Earshot Jazz Festival/Friday, October 14–Sunday, November 6

Earshot's recognized by DownBeat magazine as "Seattle's most important jazz event," and it's hard to argue when it announces lineups like this year's, with no shortage of star power to draw audiences: world-class jazz artists like Brad Mehldau, Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, The Bad Plus, and others. But it also features international groups that probably wouldn't make it here otherwise, such as two exciting Dutch outfits, Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher and Eric Vloeimans' Gatecrash. And as always, there is a strong focus on local jazz, with performances from Elspeth Savani, Human Spirit (featuring Thomas Marriott, Mark Taylor, and Matt Jorgensen), Evan Flory-Barnes, a tribute to Jim Knapp, Hardcoretet, Chad McCullough, the Bill Anschell Trio, and many more. Various venues, BEN MORROW

Lower Lights Burning/Saturday, October 15

The sleepy hamlet of Shelton is a ways from Seattle's noisy urban jungle, but for the three members of the folk-rock group Lower Lights Burning, it's the hotbed of musical creativity they call home. Their breezy brand of folk recalls the sounds of a quieter life outside the city, with tender acoustic guitar, lonesome, echoey harmonica, and frontman Graydon Holden's soft, restrained vocals, which carry a gentleness that recalls Nick Drake or Damien Jurado. They'll celebrate the release of their new album Coming Back, which sounds at times like the wind whistling through evergreens. With Kris Doty, Hannah Williams. Columbia City Theater, 4916 Rainier Ave. S., 722-3009. 9 p.m. $7. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

Moonface/Saturday, October 15

Ever since Spencer Krug took a break from Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, he's been nothing if not forthcoming: The titles of his two releases as Moonface let you know exactly what to expect. Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums sounds like exactly that, and full-length Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped was created almost entirely from the titular instrument, although it's often tweaked to sound like the analog synths he's so fond of. What anchors Moonface to Krug's first two projects, though, are his unmistakable voice and his inscrutable lyrics, as he weaves strange tales over stranger organ experimentations. It'll be interesting to see how it all translates to the stage, but if it's even a fraction as good as Wolf Parade's live show, it's worth checking out. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-4618. 8 p.m. $15. ANDREW GOSPE

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