Tonight: Steve Poltz at the Tractor, The New Pornographers at the Showbox

Ted Berberian
Steve Poltz, with Smile Smile. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 8 p.m. $12. If you only know veteran singer-songwriter Steve Poltz as the one who wrote Jewel's 1996 mega-hit "You Were Meant for Me" (which he calls "the song that sent my parents on an Alaskan cruise"), you'll be in for a very pleasant surprise tonight. For starters, his own rootsy pop songs - drawn from a lengthy catalog that stretches back to his early '90s indie-rock band the Rugburns - are witty, melodic wonders, though probably too quirky and clever to ever dominate mainstream radio. Then there's his voice, a compelling cross between Jeff Tweedy and David Lowery (Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven). And last but not least, there's his absolutely hysterical banter and storytelling, delivered like the best observational comedy you've ever heard, which alone is worth the price of admission. MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG

Click to download Steve Poltz' "Friendly Fire" from Chinese Vacation

The New Pornographers, with The Dodos, Imaad Wasif. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $25. Playing songs from their latest album, Together!

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