The Short List: This Week’s Recommended Shows

Feral Children ~ Wednesday, July 29

Whoever made the call to pair Feral Children with See Me River is a quality human being with awfully good ears. As primal and spiritually satisfying local bills go, it doesn't get much better than this. Feral Children may be from Maple Valley, but they sound as if they operate from some gloriously macabre, punk-rock underworld where both Patti Smith and Vivaldi would feel comfortable. See Me River is the dark, folk-informed brainchild of Aviation Records owner/Cha Cha music booker Kerry Zettel, arguably one of the most talented songwriters this city has at the moment. As if that weren't enough, this is also the second-ever show for Brawley Banks, a new project—featuring Justin Schwartz and Joram Young from Cobra High and original Sunny Day Real Estate/Foo Fighters drummer William Goldsmith—that already has a huge, huge buzz surrounding it. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $7. HANNAH LEVIN

Starlight Mints ~ Wednesday, July 29

Every once in a great while, a band comes along that captures the essence of its time in an indescribable yet undeniable way. Oklahoma's Starlight Mints, who just put out the aptly-titled Change Remains (their fourth album) on Barsuk, somehow manage to encapsulate post-millennial rock in a way that won't sound dated in 20 years. On paper, Starlight Mints' bubbling blend of indie rock and chamber pop, with its flourishes of lounge, disco synths, horns, high-pitched vocals, and Beatlesque studio savvy, seems like a soup du jourconcocted for modern listening tastes. But the Mints display such a thoroughly original—and fun—approach to their work that they tap-dance right past the minefield of clichés that would otherwise pin them to the present like a glue trap. Long after today's trend-chasers have changed clothes to go after the next thing, Starlight Mints will still be relevant. With JP Inc., Silverteeth. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $12. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

Bowerbirds ~ Thursday, July 30

Signed to the tastemaking imprint Dead Oceans and touted with much enthusiasm by the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, the North Carolina trio Bowerbirds recently answered those early acts of faith with a striking second album, Upper Air. Much in the vein of its 2007 sleeper debut, Hymns for a Dark Horse, the new outing is a pristine collection of drowsy, shadowy folk-pop, lovingly delivered and exquisitely worded. Songwriter Phil Moore's singing voice is nearly identical to that of the Rosebuds' Ivan Howard, which makes some sense since both bands hail from Raleigh. Comparisons end there, however. Completed by accordionist Beth Tacular, pianist/violinist Mark Paulson, and drummer Matt Damron, Bowerbirds sound familiar, but not quite like any other band. Even when the songs are draped in stately layers, there's a fragile serenity and acute closeness that makes us feel as if they're right there, snuggled up against us. With Megafaun. Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333. 8 p.m. $12. All ages. DOUG WALLEN

Ditty Bops ~ Thursday, July 30

Think of the Ditty Bops as the house band for a hipster-idealized version of A Prairie Home Companion.With their blend of (pardon the phrase) "old-timey"music, youthful verve, and pseudo-tongue-in-cheek kitsch, the duo of Abby DeWald and Amanda Barrett is perfect for audiences simultaneously in love with the romance of yesteryear and the freedom and fancifulness of childhood.Listening to the Ditty Bops is a bit like being 80 and 8 at the same time. Borrowing from early vocal jazz, ragtime, bluegrass, and Western swing, the band focuses on tight harmonies and lively arrangements, with lyrical motifs that further solidify the music's old/young character, tackling complex and very adult themes with a firm sense of whimsy—a word which may describe the band better than any more bombastic elaboration.Further encouraging the carnival feel, DeWald and Barrett frequently incorporate elements of theatrical burlesque into their live performances, with puppets, elaborate costumes, and props. Formerly with Warner (one can imagine the Bops hosting a cartoon hoedown with Yakko, Wakko, and Dot), the band is now independent and delving into the world of art and literature, with a bit of a capricious twist. With Firs of Prey. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8:30 p.m. $16.50 adv./$20 DOS. NICHOLAS HALL

The Black Hollies ~ Friday, July 31

Not quite the evil version of the Hollies you might expect, New Jersey's the Black Hollies are nonetheless all too enamored with '60s garage, rock, and soul. The quartet spun off from the unlikely source of iconoclastic post-hardcore cadets Rye Coalition, whose former bassist, Justin Morey, plays guitar and sings lead in the Black Hollies alongside two of his former bandmates. There's a very careful feel to the band's output; on the video for their older single "Paisley Pattern Ground," every visual and sonic detail is a loving homage. Following in the steps of the albums Crimson Reflections and Casting Shadows, the band's new Softly Towards the Light comes out on Ernest Jenning in early October, armed with another sly single in "Gloomy Monday Morning." Inventiveness isn't high on the Black Hollies' list of priorities, but they know to usher some seedy psych decay into their otherwise tightly coiled, jangle-addled guitar pop. With Boss Martians, The Knast, Georgetown Orbits, and DJ Mamma. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 322-9272. 9 p.m. $6. DOUG WALLEN

Alejandro Escovedo ~ Friday, July 31

It's not for nothing that Texan-born rock-and-roll veteran Alejandro Escovedo is heralded as the consummate songwriter's songwriter. Much like John Hiatt and Richard Thompson, Escovedo possesses a Midas touch at welding memorable lyrics to catchy chord progressions and crafting them into hooks. As with all master craftsmen, however, Escovedo's work doesn't initially betray the great skill that went into making it. Moreover, on his latest albumReal Animal, Escovedo manages to write about his musical past without exploiting it or resorting to cheap rock myth–mongering. Yes, Escovedo opened for the last-ever Sex Pistols show with his first band the Nuns. Yes, he saw Sid and Nancy's bodies get carted out of the Chelsea Hotel. Yes, another of his old bands, Rank and File, was at the cutting edge of cowpunk and alt-country long before such terms came into vogue. But Escovedo does what so few others can by finding the humanity, wisdom, and songsin that pile of worn guitar cases and fading memories. When Escovedo looks back, he does so not as a caricature, but as an adult—a creature found all too rarely even among the most wrinkled rock and rollers. With Red Jacket Mine. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $20. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

StrutzFest '09 ~ Friday, July 31 and Saturday, August 1

Do you like classic-rock cover bands? Do you like them enough to camp out and endure two full days in the hot Skagit sun? If so, Strutzfest should be a veritable Woodstock. (OK, you don't have to camp, although there's financial incentive to do so.) The festival's Saturday night closer is Hell's Belles, Bremerton's popular and durable all-female AC/DC cover band—but that's just the icing on the cake. Before the Moneytalks, you'll be treated to acts covering Heart, ZZ Top, Neil Diamond, Jimi Hendrix, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as more all-encompassing outfits like the Beatniks, Magic Bus, Strutz, and the Davanos. The late guitarist Joe Shikany played in many of these bands, and died in a freak windstorm accident a couple weeks after performing in the inaugural Strutzfest last summer. This year's sweaty, beer-soaked meatfest will be dedicated to Shikany, widely regarded as one of the local bar-band scene's true princes. It's about the only type of homage Shikany would have wanted for himself. Whitehorse Mountain Amphitheater, 42501 SR 530, Darrington, 360-629-8027. $40–50. Opens 3:30 p.m. Fri. and 11:45 a.m. Sat. All ages. MIKE SEELY

Kenny Chesney ~ Saturday, August 1

I'm not from the country. I don't even like country. But there is something about Kenny Chesney that makes this city girl crumble every time. Maybe it's the way he sings about how sexy his "tractor" is. Or his ability to melt hearts with his crooner's voice and a single, twangy pluck of a guitar string. Or the way his music evokes lazy summer days even in the gloomiest Seattle weather. From "Summertime" to his reassuring "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems," Kenny embodies all that sunny goodness. While I much prefer my Air Force Ones to my cowboy boots, I sincerely hope to spend some time getting sunburnt and starry-eyed while Kenny proclaims "It's a sip of wine/It's summertime." Qwest Field, 800 Occidental Ave. S., 381-7555. 2 p.m. $20–$195. All ages. MALIA MAKOWICKI

Black Francis ~ Sunday, August 2

Whether you call him Frank Black, Charles Thompson IV, or the enduring moniker of Black Francis, the Pixies' main mouthpiece has always thrived on contradictions, and not just the quiet-loud-quiet thing. Aside from Pixies reunions and a crazy-prolific solo career this decade, the man recently joined his wife, Violet Clark, in the project Grand Duchy to fiddle with the very kind of slick '80s synth-pop the Pixies had always rebelled against. The resulting album, Petits Fours, is spiked with rascally gems like "Black Suit" and the Dandy Warhols–meets–Human League "Lovesick." That's not all. He produced Art Brut's punchy new Art Brut vs. Satan and an upcoming album from longtime song-slinger Pete Yorn. On top of that, and in light of the Pixies' pending Minotaur box set, Black Francis has made time for a few acoustic solo dates in the midst of a short Grand Duchy tour. Who knows what he'll play, and who cares? Just be there. With Josh Wong. Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333. 7:30 p.m. $25. All ages. DOUG WALLEN

Black Whales ~ Sunday, August 2

My first spin of Origins, the new release from Black Whales (Mt. Fuji Records), didn't do a lot for me, perhaps because I can't seem to surrender the idea that former Catheters drummer Davey Brozowski has forsaken the sonically punishing percussion that was that band's calling card for Black Whales' pretty, pastoral pop. However, upon further listens, Origins becomes an undeniably enjoyable piece of work. Frontman Alex Robert is simply a wicked good songwriter with a finely attuned ear for textural contrast, mixing honey-sweet harmonies with deeply reverberating, jangling guitars and a vocal presence reminiscent of Ted Leo's quieter moments. Also on this bill: The Final Spins are the quickly rising new band fronted by former Throw Me the Statue drummer Joe Syversen, whose solid team of players behind him includes Pica Beats drummer Colin Wolberg and Pearly Gates Music leader Zach Tillman. With Henry Clay People. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 5 p.m. $8 adv. HANNAH LEVIN

John Doe & the Sadies ~ Sunday, August 2

John Doe, of course, is the iconic singer/songwriter/bassist of long-running L.A. country-punks X. The Sadies are a not-quite-as-long-running but still equally excellent alt-country/indie-rock combo from Toronto. They've come together on the recently released album Country Club, a spirited honky-tonk collaboration that includes covers of Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, and Hank Williams tunes alongside a few originals. Tonight's gig should feature most if not all of that material, and maybe they'll sneak an X or Sadies tune or two into the set, too. "Keeping up with their fast songs," Doe replied when I recently asked him what's been the most interesting thing about playing with the Sadies. "I thought I was pretty bad-ass, but I'm not playing punk-rock bass, so I've gotta keep up with their stuff." With Jill Sobule.Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8 p.m. $20 adv./$23 DOS. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

The Blakes ~ Monday, August 3

It's fascinating to watch how an initially obvious influence on a band can slowly morph into something entirely their own. Case in point: the local boys who make up garage-pop outfit the Blakes and their clear affection for the Kinks. Much like Ray and Dave Davies, brothers Snow and Garnet Keim are gifted, volatile collaborators who possess both natural musical harmony and the requisite degree of ambitious self-confidence that it takes to excel at classic pop construction. While their earlier recordings were undeniably strong outings, the 13 songs on their forthcoming sophomore full-length, Souvenir, are dramatically more original and timeless in nature. They evoke that old-school Kinks sound, but with a dark streak that feels both Gothic and periodically operatic. They may still be dedicated followers of fashion, but the Blakes have finally found a style all their own. With U.S.E., Battle Hymns. The Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $5. HANNAH LEVIN

Trashcan Sinatras ~ Monday, August 3

Believe it or not, the Scottish indie-pop combo Trashcan Sinatras, who formed more than 20 years ago, never broke up—though as the title of their debut 1990 single "Obscurity Knocks" augured, they've been pretty M.I.A. here in the States since the early '90s. During their early Cake/I've Seen Everything heyday, the group's melodically rich, romantic, occasionally bittersweet guitar pop earned repeated comparisons to the Smiths, and not unfairly so—the loosely played six-strings and melodramatic croons were lifted straight from the Marr/Morrissey playbook. And their tunes slotted nicely next to the refined, semi-twee likes of the Housemartins and Aztec Camera, too. The usual lineup changes and label problems, coupled with the rise of grunge, pretty much did in the Trashcan Sinatras over here, and they've gone long stretches without performing live. But 2004's unexpectedly excellent, critically acclaimed Weightlifting generated renewed interest in the band's simple pop pleasures, and they're taking another stab at success with a big tour, reissues of the back catalog, and a brand-new studio album, In the Music, from which they're certain to draw heavily this evening. Triple Door, 216 Union St., 838-4333. 7:30 p.m. $16 adv./$18 DOS. All ages. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

 
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