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The explosion of funk-punk bands in the past year or so has clogged the indie ranks with armies of copycats and carpetbaggers--even Gang of Four, who arguably invented the sound more than 25 years ago, have reunited. It would be a shame, though, if the Watchers were casually lumped in with the Johnny-come-latelies; front man Michael Guarrine has been trying to jump-start the genre since the mid-90s with local outfits Assembly Line People Program and the Hex. After the Watchers' 2003 debut, To the Rooftops, Jamie Levinson joined the group on drums and Damien Thompson came in as a percussionist, and last fall the new lineup recorded an EP, The Dunes Phase (Gern Blandsten). A whir of acid wit backed by punchy grooves, motorik beats, and danceable rhythm accents, the new songs are more worldly and politically charged than To the Rooftops, but the band's touchstones--Can, the Pop Group, Ethiopiques comps--are just as evident. The Watchers celebrate the release of The Dunes Phase at this show before heading off for a series of dates backing no-wave kingpin James Chance. The Lonesome Organist opens; the Eternals' Damon Locks and Wayne Montana, and "Kevin From Mannequin Man (the Mayor)" DJ. Thu 3/24, 9 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton, 773-486-2700, $5.

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