POP TARTS PRESENTS AMERICAN IDOLS LIVE!
KeyArena, 305 N. Harrison St., 206-684-7100, at 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Aug. 26. $25-$45 adv.
They've dreamed of singing before arena-sized crowds since the age of 3! We've watched American Idol religiously and dialed in our favorite performers! And this week, the nine top American Idol 2 finalists and their audience of voters will finally have a chance to meet face-to-face! I was Clay-all-the-way from about halfway through the season, and I'm certainly not bitter with the way his career has exploded thus far (even though silky crooner Ruben Studdard was voted this year's Idol). That said, two key components that made the TV show a must-watch shall be missing from the concert. First, no judges' panel. To substitute, I'll look for a bemused dad surrounded by his 9-year-old daughter and her shrieking friends. Chances are, he drew the short stick for baby-sitting night and he'll have plenty of Simon-inspired one-liners. Second, the voting process that gave viewers a sense of both tension and ownership is replaced by a weighted set list that showcases individual performers in the order in which the finalists were voted off the show. We already know the outcome. Still, that does mean the show will get better as it goes on. Each of the top three finalistsKimberly Locke, Clay Aiken, and Studdardhas a great voice and a solid, professional stage presence. The deafening cheers from the finalists' younger fans will definitely help inject excitement into the live performances. The song selections will be very familiar interpretations of pop and R&B standards, so I might be tempted to sing along. And if that baby-sitting dad tells me, with a Simon sneer, that my voice sounds like a dying walrus, I'll tell him that's why I'm not a singerI just voted for one on TV. CHRIS LORRAINE
Showbox at 8 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 23. $29.50 adv.
Back when they were called 45s, Joe Jackson's "Stepping Out" was one of my first. I didn't understand much about the nuances of the song at the timeI was 11 and really had no business understanding such things, but it appealed to me on a general level. I liked the line where Jackson implored, "Electricity so fine/Look and dry your eyes." He was a tough guyor at least he certainly seemed to be when compared to my pint-size schoolmates in Mr. Jacot's fourth-grade class. But what's more, he was sensitive"Dry your eyes, baby," he told me. Even prepuberty, that kind of thing sounded pretty comforting. Then came other records and other singles, courtesy of my older brother. "Sunday Papers," "On the Radio," "Is She Really Going Out With Him?"these songs felt urgent as I lay alone in my lavender bedroom atop the rainbow-striped bedspread. Listening to the recent Joe Jackson Band Volume 4 (Rykodisc), I'm impressed by Jackson's ability to keep his pop songs real. Most of the aforementioned vintage tunes, recorded live in 2002, appear on the bonus disc, and the 11 new tracks definitely don't suck. Sure, the production feels cleanerat times it's almost aggressively spotless. And Jackson's latter-career ska leanings are still being leaned on. But Jackson's voice and his current band's arrangements have musclenot the flexed young-man muscle of the early '80s, but the kind that find new ways around old blocks. Pushing 50, Jackson now writes about dirty martinis, thugz, one-night stands, and bright gray. I may be pessimistic about pop careers that span numerous decades, but when the electricity is so fine, I'm willing to make exceptionsand while I'm at it, I think I'll dry my eyes. LAURA CASSIDY
Graceland at 8 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 23, with Kinski and the Turn-Ons. $8 adv.
Here's Dead Meadow's recipe for success: Float dreamy detached vocals over plutonium-heavy Sabbathoid riffs; then punctuate from time to time with guitar solos that recall everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Bevis Frond. Voilà! It's a simple idea, like punching a few holes in the side of a soda can to make a pipebut in the capable paws of guitarist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille, and drummer Stephen McCarty, it's a hell of a lot more effective. Shivering King and Others (Matador), the trio's third slab of solidified smoke, is a whole lot trickier than it sounds on paper, more like a soufflé than a makeshift smoking utensil. For one thing, the band is savvy enough to back off from the weapons-grade riffage from time to time and nip into a cornucopia of psychedelic delights; as a result, the album floats like a paisley butterfly and stings like a hornet. "Everything's Going On" drifts like stained-glass smoke over a small-town love-in in a way that recalls Spacemen 3 at their most focused. And the acoustic "Me and the Devil Blues" could easily provide the soundtrack for a sci-fi spaghetti Western daytime-TV sex epic. But it's when they hit the "heavy as fuck" button, as on album opener "I Love You Too," that Dead Meadow glow the brightest. And what's most surprising about the albumand the bandis that Simon's fiery, convoluted solos are far more than mere exercises in proficiency, to the extent that they're statements in the grand '60s guitar-hero tradition. Who'd've thunk? ROD SMITH
Graceland at 8 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 22, with Sgt. Major and Studfinder. $8 adv.
I have a confession of extreme prejudice to make. Not only have I known Pansy Division founder Jon Ginoli since he was straight, I've known him since he was 8. Even as a grade-schooler in Peoria, Ill., Ginoli was the kind of brazen little fuck who excelled at putting peers, parents, and teachers in their places with lines so perfectly wiseass that the only possible response was laughter. And by the time the future godpappy of queercore lurched into adolescence, he'd honed his fearlessness so thoroughly that he could fabricate a band (history, discography, interview) for a 'zine article or raid a friend's refrigerator with the nonchalant gusto of a wolverine working its way through a rabbit carcass. Ginoli was especially good at fridge assaultsto the extent that my parents still bitch about him. Frankly, I admire that in a man. Especially given the fact that Total Entertainment (Alternative Tentacles), Pansy Division's first album in half a decade, finds Ginoli's wiseacre ways raging unabated. Better still, while it's not exactly their Sgt. Pepper, the album does fudge a bit on the pact the band signed with the forces of pure pop-punk a decade ago. "He Whipped My Ass in Tennis, Then I Fucked His Ass in Bed" even wanders into bluegrass territory, complete with banjo and pedal steel. And "Alpine Skiing" finds Pansy Division radiating so much twisted '60s sass, I wish they'd make a video for itjust so I could send a copy to Mom and Dad. R.S.
Pansy Division also play an in-store at Easy Street Records, 20 Mercer St., 206-691-3279, Thursday, Aug. 21, at 6:30 p.m. Free.
JON AUER/KEN STRINGFELLOW
Sunset Tavern at 6 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 23. $7.
As devoted fans of Seattle power-pop diehards the Posies know, singer-songwriters Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have released nearly as much music since nominally dissolving the band in 1998 as they did during their years as a fully functioning outfit: a major-label best-of, a four-disc rarities box, and two live albums (one electric, one acoustic). And the two continue to back up Alex Chilton in Big Star when they're not producing other acts, serving as sidemen to rockers under- and over-ground (the Long Winters, R.E.M.), or making proper solo records. So the only listeners likely to be surprised by the appearance of Private Sides (Arena Rock), a new split EP featuring three songs each from Auer and Stringfellow, are those who remember the Posies' 1993 hit "Dream All Day" as a sugary grunge-era curio. (Or those who remember the stalker-chic jacket of Hall & Oates' Private Eyes, which is creepily re-created here.) The music's certainly not surprising: Auer demonstrates his persistent knack for glammed-up guitar-pop on "All U People," a sassy stomper with eerie synths, and "Beautiful," sadly not a cover of Clem Snide's cover of the Christina Aguilera tune but a giddy helping of "Solar Sister"-style harmonies. Stringfellow shows off his chamber-pop chops on the reverb-heavy "Don't Break the Silence" (with Jill Sobule on banjo) and a chiming, delicately detailed reading of British folkie Bridget St. John's "Ask Me No Questions." Power-popsters: Give 'em an inch, and they'll give you a milewith a smile. MIKAEL WOOD
THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES
Graceland at 7 p.m.
Mon., Aug. 25, with Hot Water Music and Cobra High. $10 adv.
Seattle's These Arms Are Snakes have been a band for barely a year. They've got just one EP under their collective belt, the just-released This Is Meant to Hurt You, on forward-looking heavy music standard-bearer Jade Tree. And the buzz about them is already louder than the band's distorted keyboard blasts. Pedigree has its privileges. Born from the demise of arty loudmouths Botch and absorbing members of Kill Sadie, Onalaska, and Nineironspitfire, These Arms Are Snakes give the players a chance to unleash their expansive, aggressive sound to a ready-made audience. The new EP reveals that said expansive, aggressive sound is still a work in progress. While the sonic density of lead-off track "Riding the Grape Dragon" is further proof that the keyboard is the best thing that's happened to Seattle post-hardcore in years, the rest of This Is Meant to Hurt You reveals a band of scene veterans trying to push past genre boundaries by propulsion alone. Imagine the Blood Brothers after they get tired of playing everything so fast and furious but before they crystallize their next big move. If you have a thing for watching an ambitious band's continued evolution, this is your show. C.L.