The Short List: The Week's Recommended Shows

Lucero ~ Thursday, October 29Some styles of music just don't fit with storytelling. Others require it. For this group, made up of backstreet bards and barroom lyricists, narrative is so essential that the music might as well not exist without it. Lucero is keenly aware of the importance of character development and story arc in its particular vein of punk-fueled Americana. These are songs about frustration and heartache, glory and hope, from characters who take shape in the span of three minutes; they represent some of the best examples of how to tie form, function, and feeling together. Interweaving the grit and urgency of punk, the sounds and moods of country, and the lyrical mastery of a gifted storyteller, Lucero offers the kind of anthemic and ambitious music that results in greatness, the kind of music to turn to for the rest of your life. While the band clearly pays homage to a number of greats, Lucero's fresh approach makes its music much more than a simple reworking of influences (Springsteen, the Replacements, Uncle Tupelo). In other words, Lucero isn't feeding off a legacy, but becoming part of one. With Jack Oblivian, John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $16. NICHOLAS HALLThe Henry Clay People ~ Thursday, October 29Named for a 19th-century secretary of state, clearly inspired by Pavement and other quirky '90s commodities early on, the Southern California–formed Henry Clay People have since broadened their horizons to include sunny '60s hooks and a sort of slacker twang. Now based in L.A., the increasingly solid quintet released last year's For Cheap or for Free on the in-house label of L.A.'s popular Aquarium Drunkard blog, and was recently handpicked by headliners The Airborne Toxic Event to tour with them this fall. That's quite a break for a band that's been toiling in obscurity and self-releasing cryptically titled albums for most of the past decade. As comeuppance goes, then, it's a satisfying development. Armed with crunchy nuggets like "This Ain't a Scene" and "You Can Be Timeless," The Henry Clay People are looking more and more like L.A.'s answer to Blitzen Trapper, combining classic rock and indie with woolly aplomb. With Red Cortez. Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., 652-0444. 8 p.m. $18 adv./$20 DOS. DOUG WALLENAndre Nickatina ~ Friday, October 30Though inextricably linked to his pal, the late, legendary Mac Dre, Andre Nickatina, the rapper formerly known as Dre Dog, is very much his own man. Sure, he rides lo-fi beats with that peculiar Bay Area bounce in delivery a la Mac. And sure, Nickatina raps about the hustler's code in albums with titles such as Daiquiri Factory: Cocaine Raps, Vol. 2 (which makes Ghostface Killah's Fishscale sound like it's drying out on the boat deck). But Nickatina has his own style, as is obvious to anyone who listens to his collaboration with Mac on 2008's A Tale of Two Andres. Nickatina is a true West Coast underground champ—he's never broken out into the mainstream—with the catalogue and years in the game to back it up. Studio Seven, 110 S. Horton St., 286-1312. 8 p.m. $27 adv./$30 DOS. All ages. KEVIN CAPPEsperanza Spalding ~ Friday, October 30 through Sunday, November 1Upright bassist Esperanza Spalding's take on jazz brims with Latin rhythms, smooth soul, and polished pop songwriting while gracefully sidestepping the many dangerous clichés that tend to plague other artists who tread the same ground. Spalding's distinct, reedy voice works in her favor, and her high pitch brings the rest of the music a measure of harmonic contrast that instantly sets her work apart. She knows how to use that voice, too, maneuvering her way around a choice phrase like an expert. And, much as she does with her choice of genres, Spalding avoids clichés in her lyrics, turning out agile verses that would easily ensnare other singers. "They say if you die in a dream, you die in real life/Well, I just died in your arms, lost in your eyes" is but one example of the way Spalding can concoct sparkling, unexpected poetry out of otherwise banal ingredients. While her presentation is perfect for conservative-minded jazz listeners, Spalding's creative ingenuity and overall spark should also appeal to fans of more impressionistic fare. Meanwhile, the fat grooves that result from her dynamic bass/drum interplay certainly don't hurt, either. Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave., 441-9729. 7:30 & 10 p.m. $25.50. All ages. SABY REYES-KULKARNIGlenn or Glennda? ~ Saturday, October 31Who doesn't love screaming Misfits lyrics on Halloween night? "I turned into a martian...woah-oh-OH!" "Kennedy's shattered head hits concrete...run Jackie run." And everyone's favorite: "I got something to say...I raped your mother today!" Whether they intended to or not, the Misfits wrote the soundtrack for every PBR-sloshed kegger thrown by punk rockers on October 31, and what better way to celebrate that than a Misfits cover band? Formed by local favorite Bill Bullock, Glenn or Glennda? is Misfits covers done right. Not only do they rage, but they keep the Misfits spirit alive by adding a twist: Each member dresses like the opposite sex. Get it? Glenn or Glennda? Danzig would be proud. With Dead Vampires, Event Staph, Poop Attack. Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave. N., 374-8400. 9:30 p.m. $6. BRIAN J. BARRBlues Control ~ Sunday, November 1Russ Waterhouse and Lea Cho are Blues Control, a Queens, New York, duo that makes a righteous racket with guitars, organs, tape loops, drones, and beats. Capable of creating pristine grooves or bottom-of-the-bong sludge, Blues Control veers from psych- and acid rock to garage rock to noise punk to quasi–jazz fusion to hypnotic trip-hop. The shifts are fascinating on record and even more exhilarating and engrossing onstage, where the pair are known to improvise madly. They've opened for everyone from Animal Collective to Fucked Up to Bill Callahan, which makes no sense and perfect sense all at once—you'll understand better when you catch them live. And you'll definitely want to catch them live. With Little Claw, Brother Raven. Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave. N., 374-8400. 9:30 p.m. $7. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERGWilliam Elliott Whitmore ~ Sunday, November 1When people talk about someone having "an old soul,"they're talking about people like William Elliott Whitmore. Though barely into his fourth decade, Whitmore's music sounds as if it should be issuing from the mind and mouth of someone at least twice as old. His songs chronicle lives of hard-fought survival, both practical and spiritual, usually accompanied by nothing more than sparse banjo or guitar. Tales of woe are Whitmore's element, sung in a gravelly, pained voice that sounds steeped in whiskey and brimstone. It's Whitmore's strongest asset, lending a visceral credibility to material that would make most musicians his age seem like impostors trying to fill their grandfather's boots, penning songs about lives they haven't had time to live. When Whitmore sings about run-ins with "Johnny Law," it's not a brash young man fighting against authority, it's a pained, resigned stoic airing his grievances. Resignation and hope are never far apart in Whitmore's lexicon, demonstrated most starkly on his latest, Animals in the Dark. The album keeps most of Whitmore's hallmarks, simply adding a bit of backbone to a set that includes calls to action alongside his usual cries of outrage. With Hoots and Hellmouth, Shelby Earl. Tractor Tavern, 513 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. NICHOLAS HALLLanghorne Slim ~ Monday, November 2Langhorne Slim's latest effort, Be Set Free, isn't exactly a departure from the self-titled record that preceded it; in many ways, it's Langhorne Slim, part deux. The biggest difference between the two isn't the music—both feature Slim's signature folky twang—but their themes. While the earlier album was all about falling in love, Be Set Free describes the hardship of leaving, then coming back home to, that love. Recorded while the ever-transient Slim resided in Portland, Be Set Free gets additional Northwest flavor from the production skills of the Decemberists' Chris Funk and Emerald City luminary Tucker Martine. And while Slim's records are always good, what makes me sing his praises—what sets him apart and makes him someone you look forward to seeing time and again—is his inspired live show. A natural-born roadhouse revivalist, Slim's sexy Southern singalongs combine the best of what hootenanny and honky-tonk have to offer. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8 p.m. $8 adv./$10 DOS. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSARMickey Avalon ~ Monday, November 2It's easy to buy that Mickey Avalon is a former heroin junkie and prostitute. The rapper is notorious for lewd lyrics meditating on sex and drugs—subjects he's an expert on thanks to his upbringing in Hollywood.What is hard to buy is that Avalon rarely listens to hip-hop. He loves country music, Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams especially. But the disconnect isn't at all evident on hook- and beat-heavy tracks like "My Dick" and "Jane Fonda." Avalon excels at crafting grossly offensive rhymes, and his teasing drawl is appropriate for delivering such raunchy content. Then again, the inflection might just be a result of all the tequila he drinks—and soaks the crowd with—during live shows. With Beardo, Ke$ha. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 7 p.m. $19.50 adv./$25 DOS. All ages. ERIKA HOBARTmúm ~ Tuesday, November 3Icelandic folktronica collective múm has undergone a marked transformation since losing their creepy-kid-sounding lead singers three years ago. Absent those eerie vocals, múm's music has a more relaxed, almost pastoral sound, as on their latest full-length, Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know. The standard electronic touches are fused with ukuleles, weeping cellos, violins, and occasionally a parakeet singing along in the background. Some of the old, weird, cultish overtones remain, though; vocals are layered in unison, in one song chanting "You are so beautiful to us/We want to lock you in our house/We want to eat you with a spoon." But the most interesting detail in múm's melancholic new music is its undertow of political unrest—the record was written last year against the backdrop of Iceland's devastating financial collapse and subsequent civil dissent. "The Smell of Today Is Sweet Like Breastmilk in the Wind" is particularly suggestive—despite the hyperactive cowbell throughout, it's essentially a mournful requiem for "this fleeting world of our fathers, eternal world of our mothers," ultimately concluding that "words are only lies." With Sin Fang Bous. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $16 adv./$18 DOS. All ages. E. THOMPSONRegina Spektor ~ Tuesday, November 3Listening to Regina Spektor is very much like listening to a precocious child—incredibly endearing but also a little annoying. The Soviet-born, New York–bred songstress crams her piano-pop melodies with eccentric lyrics and vocal techniques. Her fifth studio album, Far, is no exception. On it, Spektor sings about finding a wallet with as much passion as she does about the power of God. But it's when she loosens up that she really shines. The album's standout track, "Dance Anthem of the '80s," is an infectious B-52s-inspired gem on which she chirps "I'm walking through the city like a drunk, but not/With my slip showing a little, like a drunk, but not." It's lovely instances like these that save Spektor when she gets too brainy for her own good. Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 877-STG-4TIX. 8 p.m. $27.50–$35. ERIKA HOBARTSteve Martin ~ Tuesday, November 3In his fine memoir Born Standing Up, Steve Martin writes at length about the total lack of interest he has in performing stand-up ever again. He hung up his comic hat in 1980, and has spent the past three decades dabbling in everything from acting to film directing to humor writing to...banjoing. While Martin's interest in the banjo may come as a surprise to some, it's actually nothing new; not only was it a fixture of his stand-up routine in the '70s, but he's been picking ever since his teenage friend and neighbor John McEuen, who would go on to form the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, showed him how. Over the past 10 years, Martin has kept pace alongside righteous banjo legends Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck, and even recorded The Crow, an album of his own tunes. Like everything else he's done, his songs are sophisticated, imaginative, and warm. With the Steep Canyon Rangers. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., 800-982-ARTS. 7:30 p.m. $55–$75. All ages. BRIAN J. BARR

 
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