Live Music Round Up: Friday, May 22

Firstly, today is the first day of Northwest Folklife Festival, which begins at 11 a.m. every day this weekend. It is free, but they suggest a donation of $10 per day . And it's worth it: even if they were charging $10 per day, that $10 would get you in to whole smorgasbord of different performances of music and dance from all over the world. Plus, I'm excited to report that Folklife finally upgraded their website, so you will no longer have to download those annoyingly small pdf documents and can simply view the schedule on the site itself.

John Vanderslice will make an appearance at Easy Street Records (Queen Anne) at 7 p.m. this evening (it's all ages, as all in-stores are) to promote his new release on Dead Oceans, Romanian Names; if you haven't heard it yet, here's Paige Richmond's take on the album. A couple of people I've talked to-- including a commenter on this blog-- mentioned that they didn't know he had a new album coming out. Well, he does, and I think it's awesome.

Apparently, Andy Rourke of the Smiths is DJing at the Lo-Fi tonight.

Mike Watt and the Missingmen (pictured), At the Spine at the Crocodile, 8 p.m., $13

With a pedigree that includes the Minutemen and fIREHOSE, not to mention Banyan and latter-day membership in the Stooges, Mike Watt's current output is, of course, bound to be measured against his towering credibility. As always, however, Watt's new music as the leader of his trio the Missingmen comes off with an unassailable lack of pretense. Gloriously ratty and loose, the Missingmen incorporate everything you'd expect from Watt -- remnants of the most inventive aspects of classic rock as they get strained through a punk filter -- but proceed to toss them out the window in favor of just having fun.

With so many musicians, their determination to maintain their underground aesthetics ultimately turns them into unwitting victims of their own integrity, their earnestness reduced to posturing over time. Watt, on the other hand, has avoided selling out and stuck to his guns, but has also managed to look perfectly natural in the process. In the end, his sense of ease rewards the listener by invigorating the music. SABY REYES-KULKARNI

Lucero, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears at Tractor Tavern, 9 p.m., $17

Lucero's sweat-equity work ethic has been widely chronicled -- since their inception in the late '90s, the Memphis quintet has released five studio albums, relentlessly toured the country, started a record label and served as the subject of director Aaron Goldman's tour documentary, Dreaming In America. And 2009 is shaping up to be another big year. ollowing January's release of frontman Ben Nichol's solo EP, Lucero will release a new full-length on Universal later this summer. The record, Nichols promises, will combine Memphis music history with the band's trademark tough-as-nails rock and roll feel. Diehard fans and music critics alike have been touting the band as Memphis' answer to Bruce Springsteen for years now. The comparison isn't a stretch -- Nichols' rasping vocals and sprawling melodies seem as centralized on Tennessee's heartland as Springsteen's did on Jersey. And yet, the band's favorite themes -- sweet hometown girls, late nights on the road, tempering loneliness and heartache with a bottle of whisky -- speak to people all over America, not just Southerners. ERIN THOMPSON

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