THURSDAY 12/14

THE PLACES, WOW & FLUTTER, TRACKER

(Meow Meow) So everybody's all up in arms about Portland band Norfolk & Western. People are writing coffee shop paeans about them, they're dumping their boyfriends because of them, they're getting "Norfolk" tattooed on their forearms. Don't get me wrong--it's all for good reason--but like, you guys should check out Tracker, too. They're N&W's FILMguerrero labelmates, and have a similar aesthetic: lolling, time-lapse country that's warm like a pride of clouds drifting across a horizon. Go and get dreamy (and save space on your shoulder blades for a Tracker brand). JULIANNE SHEPHERD

STARLIGHT MINTS, ALL THE WAY DOWN, GARMONBOZIA

(Pine Street Theater) These days, it's hard to play nudgy, H.R. Pufnstuff-type acid rock without also sounding woefully contrived and nostalgic. That's why the Starlight Mints are such a pleasant surprise. Even though they possess all the musical characteristics that most often turn into trappings--goofy vocal effects, lyrics like "your brain, my congestion," a string section and, of course, incessant Flaming Lips comparisons--the Starlight Mints are exactly what they purport to be: good, trippy fun. JS

STARTER KIT, WOKE UP FALLING, HUTCH HARRIS

(Satyricon) Forlorn indie rock bands... will there ever be enough of them? I suppose the answer is no, because each band is sad and ponderous about a different girl or issue or whatever--but sometimes they all seem the same. Starter Kit is one of those bands with heavy vocals backed by some guitar strums and drum bangs, which isn't my shtick, maybe it's yours. Woke Up Falling is an out-on-the-open-road band, like they noodle out a soundtrack to a car ride to Vegas, and should be a fun time live for sure. Hutch Harris comes from the "now playing" bands Urban Legends and The Minders, and the extinct group Haeleh. KATIE SHIMER


FRIDAY 12/15

ATARI 2600 TOURNAMENT NIGHT STARRING ROCK AND ROLL ADVENTURE KIDS, THE NEW CARISSA, ADRIAN ORANGE

(Meow Meow) Adrian Orange (sometimes known as I Am Not a Human) is our resident Ben Lee character--a charming 15-year-old painting, singing boy genius--only, he's not annoying, and he'll still be talented after he grows up. He's also Portland's youngest scenester, appearing at every hip all-ages show he can, and always looking super in floppy hair, anorak, and oxfords. His songs are dreamy and scratchy-voiced acoustic gems. Relive your teen years and challenge him to Pong--he's got the advantage of fresh hand-eye coordination, but you actually remember when it first came out, you old hag. (It may end up a draw.) JS

DOKKEN, SNAKE RIVER CONSPIRACY

(Pine Street Theater) Not to be written off as just another installment in the "Why can't it be the '80s?" concert series, Dokken actually deserves some of your respect. Of course, one of the most appealing aspects of Dokken is that their name rhymes with "Rockin' with..." and there, at least, the cheese factor can hardly be denied. If you're attending these semi-ironic butt-rock nostalgia shows, this one will probably be the best, as Dokken still possesses many redeeming qualities: the endless screaming solo on "Paris Is Burning," for instance. Or Don Dokken's pristinely androgynous metal falsetto. That song they did for A Nightmare on Elm Street Part Three, "Dream Warriors." And if you still have any doubts, listen to their 2000-released live album, with material from a recent show. Though Don's voice sounds a bit tired, for a bunch of guys who've been doing it since the late '70s, they still know how to tear the shit out of a cheese-metal riff. JS

ZONY MASH, SEX MOB

(Berbati's Pan) In the world of contemporary jazz, the full-time group is becoming less and less common, with musicians taking part in so-called projects as opposed to long-term collaborations. It's nothing short of a dream come true, then, that Wayne Horvitz's Zony Mash has managed to stick together for a handful of years and release three pretty excellent albums. A combination of avant improvisation and Louisiana groove (they took their name from a Meters song, after all), Zony Mash are anything but the poor man's Medeski, Martin and Wood. Horvitz's B-3 playing is always distinctive, while guitarist Tim Young has recently moved into genius territory, sounding like no one else on the scene. Opening act Sex Mob is the greatest avant-garde jazz bar band in the world, period. Featuring Steven Bernstein on slide trumpet, Briggan Krauss on alto, and the stunning rhythm section of Kenny Wolleson (drums) and Tony Scherr (bass), the Mob rip into originals and covers with a dirty groove that's like seeing Rudy Ray Moore perform at the Knitting Factory. MURRAY CIZON


SATURDAY 12/16

CAPTAIN VS. CREW, COWBOY, ISOBELLE

(Meow Meow) THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE IS IN SECRET CODE FOR INDIE POP FANS: Portland Pop List: Cowboy, yes! Tiny Telephone. YoYo. Omnibus. Track Star. Handclaps. Boy-girl twee. Heavenly. The Chills. THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE IS IN ENGLISH FOR LAYPEOPLE: Cowboy is a fun and charming band from Chico, California. They incorporate cute, nasally vocals with equally cute subject matter, like tattoos and mathematics. However, they don't substitute novelty for rocking out, which they will do on occasion with the assistance of numerous guitar pedals. They also possess much greater guitar aptitude and complexity than the average pop band. There is potential that their performance will be really excellent, but I don't want to vouch entirely for them since every time I see a pop band these days, their singers are 85 percent tone-deaf (see: Steward, Girlboygirl, Aislers Set). Captain vs. Crew are, of course, our local orange shirt-donning superheroes, playing twitchy punk rock with riffs that can't sit still and exuding a goodly amount of energy. Giddyup! JS

BENEFIT FOR DISJECTA STARRING HELIO SEQUENCE, MAN OF THE YEAR, THE PRIDS

(Disjecta) Man of the Year and The Helio Sequence are sooo perfect for the holidays. They're both all happy and smiley, just like elves, and Christmas parties, and presents and eggnog. They're also a great relief from the extreme irritation and negativity one might feel during this overly crowded, cold, sniffly, dark, and expensive time of the year. It's sort of trip pop music, Man of the Year being a little more straightforward and Brit-sounding, while the Helio Sequence is more wacked out and electronic. Portland's beloved Prids will also be performing and dazzling with their wicked synthesizer rock. The whole shebang is a benefit for the new venue Disjecta, so think of the show as a both a charitable donation and a gift to yourself. KS

DZIHAN & KAMIEN

(Tiger Bar) From their Viennese home base, dexterous duo Dzihan (that's Gee-hahn) & Kamien create a groovy little global goulash of sounds, drawing on their own homelands (Sarajevo and Switzerland, respectively) as well as deep Western basslines, exotic Middle Eastern instrumentation, and their adopted city's downtempo beatmongering. On recent release Freaks & Icons, it's as if someone dropped fellow Viennese remix kings Kruder & Dorfmeister down into a sun-baked Turkish bazaar, then, between serious sessions on the hookah pipe, scooted them off to the local gym for funk aerobics. Groundbreaking? Not exactly, but smartly referenced, smoothly produced, and absolutely enjoyable. LEAH GREENBLATT

IMPROV FEST STARRING THE COSMOS GROUP, BRAILLE STARS, JACKIE-O MOTHERFUCKER, BEDS

(Medicine Hat) Mixing the tougher gristle of rock with the looser dexterity of jazz, several Portland bands prove the local improv scene is alive and well. The guitar and drum duo Braille Star veer towards a more melodic sound, whereas the drum and horn duo Beds are much less so. The three-member Cosmos Group cranks up volume and energy, and Jackie-O Motherfucker, with however many musicians and variety of instruments, sprawl further into the avant-freeform wilderness. Whiny jazz purists and dunder-headed conventional rock fans might not be able to pull their heads far enough out of their asses to appreciate these groups. For the rest of us, this will be a chance to see that combining these two genres can generate something much better than your typical ear-candy fusion. ROLF SEMPREBON

SCARED OF CHAKA, SELBY TIGERS, CUTTHROATS 9, DIESTO

(Satyricon) A double headliner of pop punk, with Scared of Chaka as the more drink-beer/stumble-into-garage/thrash-fast-on-guitars kind, and Selby Tigers as the adorable-snarl/frizzy-quick-and-fun/this-is-what-we-do-when-we're-not-skateboarding kind. JS

JOHN LEE HOOKER, CURTIS SALGADO BAND, LLOYD JONES

(Roseland) Raised near the birthplace of Robert Johnson in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, John Lee Hooker has gone on to become a legend himself. Since 1943, the now-octogenarian musician has been making records and performing. Hooker has not let up in his 57-year career, garnering every accolade imaginable and a legion of devoted superstar disciples. His most recent release, The Best of Friends, takes songs from his last decade's output, from 1989's The Healer to 1997's Don't Look Back featuring Ry Cooder, Robert Cray, Ben Harper, Booker T. Jones, and the requisite slavish appearances of Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, and Van Morrison. Despite the potentially treacly duets with some of the celebrities, Hooker turns in his trademark blues and boogie. Like artists as diverse as Ray Charles and Rosemary Clooney, John Lee Hooker continues to challenge the vernacular of his genre and reinterpret his material. That is impressive at any age. NATE LIPPENS


SUNDAY 12/17

DIGITAL UNDERGROUND, PHAT SIDY SMOKEHOUSE, DJ CHILL

(Pine Street Theater) You know that hip hop dance, the one where there's a girl sticking out her booty and a guy behind her is faux-slapping her ass? If there was ever a time to execute that move with the utmost smutty panache, it was during a Digital Underground song. Their funky chorus of smooth rappers and hotly bumping beats practically requires it. Most famous for their excellently slapstick "The Humpty Dance," with immortal lines like, "You look like MC Hammer on crack, Humpty," and "Yeah, I called you fat, look at me, I'm skinny. That never stopped me from gettin' busy," the Underground took everything that was over the top about P-Funk and made it more streamlined and clever. So get out on that floor and shake your big ass--Shake it! Shake it! This is your chance to do the Hump! JS

"HOLIDAY SPIRIT" STARRING THE PORTLAND GAY MEN'S CHORUS

(Kaul Auditorium, Reed College) Jesus Christ, is this a joke? Gay men singing about holiday cheer?! I liked it better when gay people were oppressed, so they weren't forced into assimilating the cheesiest aspects of straight culture (like Christmas carols and stupid ties with pictures of Santa on them. Yikes!). KATIA DUNN

MEG LEE CHIN, CRUSH VIOLET, RELOAD

(Satyricon) This self-described "social malcontent" from London actually auditioned for Garbage before Butch Vig decided Shirley Manson would better fit the role of chanteuse. It's probably for the best, because Meg Lee Chin's smoldering techno-rock aggression and in-your-face delivery seem pretty far away from Manson's chilly allure. Chin sang with Pigface, the Chicago-based industrial outfit, before she released her solo debut, Piece & Love, last year. And the near-anarchy of the Pigface tour served as a perfect incubator for Chin's fierce energy. Her chaotic live show proves girls kick ass, even without a guitar in hand. DAVID SLATTON


MONDAY 12/18

ELLIOTT SMITH ACOUSTIC, NO.2, M. WARD

(Crystal Ballroom) CANCELLED DUE TO ILLNESS Yes, kids, rock stars get sick, too. This is a drag since we were all looking forward to Elliott sans band. Instead of mourning a missed opportunity, however, think of it as an opening door. Now you can refund your ticket, use the money to buy a bottle of NyQuil, stay home and listen to Either/Or. Or, you can hang onto your ticket for when Elliott recovers and comes back, hopefully without his band again (and while we're at it, without the horrible Los Angeles people who over-produced his last album and stripped him of his beautiful, quivering intimacy). JS


TUESDAY 12/19

RECLINERLAND, WOW & FLUTTER, BLANKET MUSIC, JEFF LONDON

(Medicine Hat) Wow and Flutter is so darn lovely, I can't get enough. I saw them recently with Rainer Maria and Versus and they rocked my life, even with the accidental destruction of their slide projector and the annoying negativity of my cohort. (See, he's in the band Joan of Arc, and they're friends with Rainer Maria, and I said, "I think Wow and Flutter is awesome, even better than Rainer Maria," which for some reason made him pouty and ultra-defensive. Men are such flipping crybabies!) Anyhow, their music is guitar-driven and dark, with floaty, subdued vocals, and shimmery cymbals. Check them out, their live show is simply fabu, plus you can pick up all their CDs from the merch guy for a super-deal. Reclinerland is Mike Johnson on Vicodin and Blanket Music is Sunday afternoon creative time music, reminiscent of the VU. KS


WEDNESDAY 12/20

JINGLE BELL HOP! STARRING DAVID COOLEY AND THE HARD SWING BAND

(Crystal) A holiday fundraiser for Portland Boys and Girls Club, this swingin' blues/bluesy swing night is for the people, man. In fact, there's even a contest for best holiday-themed costume. What I want to know is, how are you supposed to do all your swing and jump tricks if you're wearing a felt Christmas tree on your head? Instead, maybe you can attach ornaments to your pantyhose or something. JS


GOING TO SEATTLE?

Thurs 12/14: Megadeth, Gruntruck, Hell's Belles (Paramount); Green Day, Papa Roach, Moby, Fuel, Eve 6 (Key Arena)

Fri 12/15: Living Daylights, Rockin' Teenage Combo (OK Hotel)

Sat 12/16: Silkworm, Kinski, Popstar Assassins (Crocodile); The Squirrels, Four-Hour Ramona (Tractor Tavern); Sex Mob, Zony Mash (Rainbow)

Sun 12/17: Mandy Moore, Third Eye Blind, Pink, Mya (Stadium Exhibition Center)

For more info, visit www.thestranger.com