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Northwest Folklife. Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., 684-7200. Music starts at 11 a.m., today through Monday. Free. The cool kids cringe, but every year hundreds

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Today/Tonight: Folklife Day One, The Minus 5 @ the Tractor, Gates of Slumber @ the Comet

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Northwest Folklife. Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., 684-7200. Music starts at 11 a.m., today through Monday. Free. The cool kids cringe, but every year hundreds of people still manage to have an awesome time at Folklife. And why not? Where else are you going to hear such a fantastically varied mix of global music, from West African beats to Celtic harp to Balkan brass to Ukranian Bandura? Tango, swing, contra, and square dance all get a turn on the floor (along with countless others). It's four straight days of uncynical entertainment. And if you must have your tastemaker-approved sounds, Vera is also plugged into the festival with a bunch of shows (Pufferfish, Ivan & Alyosha, etc.). Those who absolutely cannot abide drum circles should indeed stay away. Everyone else who loves music, stop on by. MARK D. FEFER

The Minus 5, with The Baseball Project, The Steve Wynn IV. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9 p.m. $12. One can only imagine spending a day in Scott McCaughey's technicolor brain; the man has spent close to 30 years exuding his infectious enthusiasm on stage with The Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M., Wilco, Robyn Hitchcock, and his current gig as frontman of the eclectic pop kaleidoscope that is the Minus 5. Past the famous associations (a record with Wilco as his backup band, having R.E.M.'s Peter Buck as his sideman), McCaughey's amped-up rave-ups, jittery pop jumpers and twangy, big sky heartbreakers show off an incredibly diverse take on the best facets of the pop spectrum, and have undeniably earned McCaughey his own well-deserved place in the spotlight. GREGORY FRANKLIN

Gates of Slumber, with Slough Feg, Audiwasska Travelers. Comet Tavern, 922 E. Pike St., 323-9853. 9 p.m. $8. Gates of Slumber is a prime example of the glorious ridiculousness inherent in most metal genres. Just one look at a Gates of Slumber album cover, replete with loin-clothed wariors and naked slave girls, and you know that what's in store won't have much in the way of subtlety. The music makes good on that promise, with ominously thundering bass and churning guitars, all held aloft by war-march cadences. It is epic in scope and in demeanor, with lyrics whose blood and iron bent combine with the thunderous sound in an infectious call to arms. Live, The Gates of Slumber just might be capable of raising an army. NICHOLAS HALL

 
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