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Your guide to D.C.'s live music scene

Music Snob's Weekly Picks



    Famous Showdowns Between Outlaws and the Law

    This week isn't quite as busy as the past couple, but look for a show any night and you'll find it. And it peaks with the still youthful quintessential alt-country L.A. punk band X, still playing strong after three decades.

    Grizzly Bear, Monday at Nightclub 9:30 ...Grizzly Bear is a soft-noise band playing folk songs. The first album, "Horn Of Plenty," sounds like the bedroom project it largely was. It is melancholic and minimalist but created with a host of instruments and noisemakers. "Yellow House" was cleaner, fuller and more ambitious in sound, and it's also sweeter and was one of the best records of 2006. I expect good things from their brand new release. This is one of the most beautiful combos around these days. With Here We Go Magic.

     White Rabbits, Tuesday at the Rock and Roll Hotel ...White Rabbits is another dance rock band, but really, they aren't like all the rest. There are elements of post-punk in the sextet's sound, of course, but what's really striking is the unique way they play with reggae, calypso and ska for a big, almost dancehall sound. And in an effort to leave no roots uncovered, there's a bit of a honky tonk feel at times. And you will leave humming those memorable hooks.

    Cracker, Wednesday at the State Theatre ... You know Cracker, but you may not know Cracker lately. After the demise of the wildly inventive and genre-smashing alt-rock band Camper Van Beethoven, David Lowery started Cracker in the early '90s and quickly scored a college hit with "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" from their self-titled debut and major hits with "Low" and "Get Off This" from their second record, "Kerosene Hat," a year later. Compared to Camper, Cracker was a surprisingly straight forward and rootsy trad-rock and alt-pop band, adept at the three-chord rockers; lazy, slacker tunes; and charming ballads alike. But after "Kerosene Hat," the band pretty much disappeared from the airwaves as they returned to their musical idiosyncrasies. They consistently release solid rock records -- even after Lowery reconvened Camper -- up to its seventh full-length, "Greenland." A new album, "Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey," was released in May.

    Love Is All, Thursday at Black Cat Backstage ... Of all the pop artists from the Swedish Invasion, Love Is All may be my favorite. I can't say this band is better than Peter Bjorn and John -- it's even hard for me to definitively say PB&J is not my favorite Swedish pop band -- but Love Is All is more of a rock band. Their quirky pop compositions are played with art punk energy and noise. This is the garage entry in their country's pop rock scene.

    The Business, Flatfoot 56 and the Mostly Dead, Thursday at DC9 ... The Business were among the leaders of England's late-'70s Oi! movement. Coming a bit after post-punk and a bit before new wave, The Business was a harder version of the country's punk but still composed anthemic songs. Chicago's brotherly Flatfoot 56 are carrying the Pogues' torch in much the same manner as the Dropkick Murphys. Though the Dropkicks are Merriweather big these days, all the Dropkick heads I know preach Flatfoot to me, and from what I've heard, I gotta believe 'em. Their Celtic rock is catchier and less reliant old timey sounds in both their punk and their folk. Local post-hardcore nostalgists The Mostly Dead have a sound that crosses mid-'80s Dischord with San Diego punk. When singer Zak's bro played guitar last time I saw them, he brought his metal background to the mix, giving the band a tougher, heavier style. With the Reticents.

    X, Friday at Nightclub 9:30 ... X is one of the greatest bands from L.A.'s late-'70s punk scene and the first to fully embrace country and roots music. When they started, they were a perfect picture of L.A.'s punk scene, but they quickly evolved. From the beginning, they had a rockabilly flavor thanks to guitarist Billy Zoom. Bassist John Doe would quickly become smitten with classic country (and a little bit of acting). Their first four LPs -- the last of which came in 1983 -- really are their only essential ones, but their growth and changing sound helped change what punk was and what it could be. Thirty years on, they're still a great live act with few razor sharp strums, rattling beats (still D.J. Bonebrake on the kit) and rumbling bottom. Singer Exene Cervenka seems to show the most age live. She doesn't seem to have the energy anymore, but she's still got the voice. And the band still sounds young. With Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts.

    John Prine and Steve Earle, Friday at the Wolf Trap ... This is a terrific lineup for fans of roots music, particularly folk and country. John Prine is a product of Chicago's '60s folk scene, but he can't be pigeonholed. While folk music may be his bread and butter, he always challenged his peers by adding elements of rock or country and even recording rockabilly records. Though his albums never have been commercially successful, they have been acclaimed and earned an ever-growing cult following, and many stars that shine brighter have borrowed his words for their own recordings. Similarly, Steve Earle's always been sort of an outlaw of country music. Like Prine, Earle is a tremendous singer-songwriter, and though country seems to be his home, he, also like Prine (even more so), embraced rock. As such, he never really was embraced by either side. At his singer-songwriterest and with just acoustic guitar, he's got a bit of folkie in him, but he's at his best as a roots rocker. But Earle may be even better known for his politics. Regardless of the sound or style, Earle's always writing and singing protest songs. His latest album is "Townes" -- fifteen covers of songs penned by his teen years role model and constant inspiration, Townes Van Zandt.

    Dean & Britta, Friday at the Black Cat ... Stage 3 of Dean Wareham's career is Dean and Britta. Seems his relationship and collaboration with Britta Phillips, Luna's last bassist, may have led to the demise of that band, much as the relationship of Damon and Naomi is often credited with the end of Wareham's first critically acclaimed group, Galaxie 500. At least Wareham is still making records and performing for the legions of Luna fans, and that's what this show is, methadone for Luna addicts. Together, Phillips and Wareham have put out a host of strong originals and covers, Wareham has always had a knack for picking and executing terrific covers, and strayed away from Luna's heroin pop sound as much as that band strayed from the dreamy slowcore of Galaxie 500. Don't expect the show to rock like a Luna show, but do expect some of that shoegazer-meets-Lou Reed guitar and a lot of atmosphere. And Phillips' sultry vocals are an excellent counterpoint to Wareham's dejected slacker tenor.

    Disappears, Sunday at DC9 ... This new Chicago underground supergroup has a foot in roots rock, but that's filtered through the past three decades or so of punk, noise, no-wave, post rock and the like. Disappears features members of glammy garage rockers The Ponys, jangly and jammy post-rockers Boas, and hardcore math rockers 90 Day Men. Elements of all those bands are evident in Disappears.