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COHEED AND CAMBRIA 12/12, HOUSE OF BLUES The pleasure these guys offer isn't the quick fix of pop, for sure: their MO is to storm about in the DMZ between prog and metal, virtually daring the listener to challenge their claim on this difficult turf. (I wouldn't challenge it, though Neurosis might.) But their second album, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (Equal Vision), has sold some 50,000-plus copies in the two months it's been out, so there's definitely an audience for confrontational virtuosity and neoromantic cyberpunk lyrics. (In the CD booklet the words to a song that goes in part "Sever the limbs off his torso in sleep / And burn what remains" are followed by the disclaimer "These lyrics are part of a story and should not be taken literally." Don't try this at home.) LAST VEGAS 12/12, DOUBLE DOOR I really liked this hairy local band's 2001 debut--there was a fevered energy to it, a Motorhead engine under the sparkling glam hood. The only flaw was a tendency to push a little too hard. On their new follow-up, Lick 'Em & Leave 'Em (Get Hip), they ease up enough to prove they're an even more formidable glitter-boogie unit at cruising speed, with the hubris of early Aerosmith and competitive chops. This is a release party; High Plains Drifter and Bible of the Devil open. DEATH IN JUNE, CHANGES, DER BLUTHARSCH 12/13, EMPTY BOTTLE Better call ahead to make sure this one's still on. The faith-based activist group Center for New Community, which monitors far-right activity in the midwest, is calling for the Empty Bottle to cancel the show. They take exception to Death in June's controversial use of fascist imagery and choice of opening bands: Der Blutharsch, an Austrian group with a neo-Nazi following; and Changes, the "apocalyptic folk" band led by R.N. Taylor, a member of the 60s paramilitary group the Minutemen (not to be confused with the 80s punk band from Pedro) who's proposed giving the Pacific northwest to white separatists. Although at press time the Empty Bottle had decided not to cancel the show, it had removed the bands' names from its Web site, and a club spokesman said the CNC had been offered a table from which to disseminate info. JACKOPIERCE 12/13, SCHUBAS Jackopierce--named for its founders, Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce--built a following in the late 80s and 90s by touring, touring, touring, and then touring some more, opening for Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows, No Doubt, and Jewel, among countless others. After selling lots of independently released records to genuine grassroots fans hungry for the guy-next-door rock that subculture types insist no one really likes, they embarked on a typically disappointing major-label fling and then broke up. These two sold-out shows are the latest in a seemingly endless reunion tour; though at their peak they had a rhythm section, as an acoustic duo they began and as an acoustic duo they continue. STAR SPANGLES 12/13, BOTTOM LOUNGE Bands like New York's Star Spangles can find themselves in a bit of a bind: love of the classic punk sound is also usually love of the historical moment it defines. But the moment's long gone, and the sound isn't transgressive or radical anymore. So what do you do if you still love the sound? These guys aren't too worried about it: they got Richard Meltzer to write their bio and Daniel Rey (a fave of the Ramones) to produce Bazooka!!! (Capitol), which, though derivative, clunky, and leaden, is satisfying in its sheer familiarity, like mashed potatoes. CLASH CHRISTMAS 12/16, SCHUBAS John Slater, a lawyer for the county public guardian's office, was one of the six people who died in the October fire at the Cook County Administration Building. He was also a guitarist, and this show, part of an annual series of holiday benefits at Schubas, raises money in his name for the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, which runs day-care centers and preschools on the west side. London Calling, a Clash tribute act featuring a couple of Slater's former bandmates, will provide appropriate mourning/marching anthems, joined by guests including Jay Bennett, Kristin Shout, bluesman Dave Specter, Local H's Scott Lucas, and Reputation guitarist Sean Hulet. The other loss on everyone's mind, of course, will be that of Joe Strummer (just short of a year ago), whose posthumously released last album with the Mescaleros, Streetcore (Hellcat), is fantastic: an outsider's complex and nuanced love song to America, somehow both mordant and anthemic. Who else could do that so well (except maybe Jon Langford)? MATT DAVIS BENEFIT SHOW 12/16, FIRESIDE BOWL This Is the Way to Rule, Ten Grand's cockily named Southern Records debut (released in May), had a channeled intensity that lifted it above the usual run of anxious-guy punk, and I was looking forward to giving the band a nice write-up when they came through town again. It never happened, though: on August 10, at the beginning of a midwest tour, 26-year-old front man Matt Davis died of a seizure. December 16 was his birthday, and in commemoration the rest of the band is organizing shows in a dozen or so cities (including Lawrence, Berkeley, Des Moines, and the band's hometown, Iowa City), at venues where it played. The show here features Tight Phantomz, Jack O'Wilder & the Serrated Blades, the Sorns, and the Early Risers. All proceeds go to Davis's family. JOGGERS 12/18, EMPTY BOTTLE It's not easy to sum up what this Portland quartet is doing on its new Solid Guild (Startime International): the scuffling shrug beat of "I'm Not Convinced" doesn't play to the same seats as the more ecstatic incense and peppermints of "Loosen Up." That's a good thing--only a rare band can make each song seem like a world of its own, connected to the others by some small portal perhaps, but otherwise independent. All four Joggers sing, and sometimes they create a head-spinning echo chamber with their harmonies, pointing and counterpointing until you suspect you'd hear a different side of the story if you were sitting somewhere else in the room.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kimba Kuzas.

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