Live Music

High On Fire, Mogwai, Weasel Walter, Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog, Mono, In Grenada, Death Vessel, Vivian Girls, Motorhead, Rachael Yamagata, Meat Puppets

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Mogwai (photo by Steve Gullick)

Mogwai + Fuck Buttons

Fri., Sept. 19, 8pm. $20. Starlight Ballroom, 460 N. Ninth St. 215.769.1530.

I used to have a friend who was fairly soft-spoken, and whenever he'd get agitated it was always super entertaining because he'd murmur very quietly to himself for several minutes. You'd watch as his face got redder and redder, and then suddenly he'd explode in a violent, screaming rage for a little while. And then he'd calm down. It was pretty goddamn awesome. Mogwai is kind of like that. Be sure to get there early for Fuck Buttons. As one of the Mogwai guys (lovingly) wrote of them recently, "Some guy shouting into a children's toy while another mentally ill person screams monkey noises into a cheap effects pedal just isn't enjoyable unless you've been fed a heroic dose of hallucinogenic drugs." (Michael Alan Goldberg)

Meat Puppets

Sun., Sept. 21, 7pm. $22-$24. With Built to Spill. Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.LIVE.

As sad as Kurt Cobain's suicide was, it was perhaps most tragic of all for Cris and Curt Kirkwood. The brothers catapulted to fame after taping MTV Unplugged with Nirvana, and the performance was aired ad nauseam after Cobain shot himself less than six months later. Blessed by grunge's god-king, "Lake of Fire" even found radio airplay. That year's legitimately catchy Too High to Die was the band's high point. Now, after two breakups and reformations, the brothers just can't seem to regrasp that fleeting fame. Heartbreaking for them; don't cry for Frances Bean. She'll be fine off Dad's royalty checks. (Jeffrey Barg)

High on Fire

Wed., Sept. 17, 6pm. $24. With Opeth + Nachtmystium. Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.LIVE.

Oakland metalmeisters High on Fire have barely been off the road since dropping their fourth disc, Death Is This Communion, last September. Considering the trio was already way locked into the new tunes when they came through town a year ago right on the heels of the album's release, all that touring suggests an even tighter, better showing this time around, if that's even possible. As I wrote about that show in these pages last year, "[Frontman] Matt Pike don't need no friggin' Necronomicon--just hand High on Fire's shirtless sorcerer a guitar ... and he can raise the dead with his mega-volume shredding and wraithlike shrieks and howls." Still true, and then some. (M.A.G.)

Rachael Yamagata

Wed., Sept. 24, 9pm. $15. With Kevin Devine. Johnny Brenda's, 1201 Frankford Ave. 866.468.7619.

Forget what you know about chicks playing pianos. Watching Rachael Yamagata pound away at keys and pout into the microphone feels like sitting in on a private salon up in the Hollywood Hills, chalice of red wine atop the piano, lamps covered in white sheets, and you sitting cross-legged on a blond-wood floor, with each passing song developing a stronger intellectual crush on the singing siren. Yamagata's minor chords and husky alto bring you down into the muck with her, but once you're down there, she lets you lurk around her subconscious of heartbreak and melancholy. (J.B.)

Weasel Walter

Thurs., Sept. 18, 8pm. Free. Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St.

Want proof that punk, metal, free jazz and modern concert music are all deeply interwoven? Weasel Walter makes the case by getting up in the morning. Once a Chicago mainstay, the multi-instrumentalist and former Flying Luttenbachers honcho is now in the Bay Area, relentlessly expanding his palette and his list of collaborators. Browse YouTube and you'll find him assaulting eardrums while wearing eye black and ammo belts over a collared shirt and tie. He's likely to play it more cerebral in this trio engagement with trumpeter Peter Evans (Mostly Other People Do the Killing) and guitarist Mary Halvorson (Anthony Braxton, People). (David R. Adler)

On Mono

Fri., Sept. 19, 9pm. $8. With the Defog, Soft Targets, the Private Sea + Steve Goldberg and the Arch Enemies. North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar St. 215.787.0488.

On Mono's raga-minded drone on the song "Anthem" is a funny thing, taking a straightforward approach to a style usually marked by opaqueness. "Siren's Call," also from the Turn Out the Lights EP, is more shoegaze-y and glistens with creepy organ but is also anchored by an emotionless baritone that's as much Jim Morrison as Lou Reed. The potential trouble with such a monochromatic band is that songs start to blur into a single marathon jam. Thankfully, low squeals of distortion and intertwined sitar and mandolin emerge like mile markers along the way, not so much shedding light as letting us know these guys aren't simply coasting. (Doug Wallen)

Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog

Sat., Sept. 20, 9pm. $12. International House, 3701 Chestnut St. 215.895.6535.

Think of all the ground Ribot has covered since his '80s emergence: unbridled skronk-jazz with Rootless Cosmopolitans, warped Afro-Latin dance rhythms with Los Cubanos Postizos, Albert Ayler tributes with Spiritual Unity, restless and innovative summits with Don Byron, John Zorn and many more. Yet the downtown guitar experimenter has always had his tuneful session-man side--check him out on Rain Dogs by Tom Waits and "Raising Sand" by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. It all comes together in the hip, rocking polyglot sound of Ceramic Dog, a trio featuring Ribot with electric bassist Shahzad Ismaily (Two Foot Yard, Pure Horsehair) and drummer Ches Smith (Secret Chiefs 3). (D.R.A.)

Death Vessel 

Thurs., Sept. 18, 9pm. With Micah Blue Smaldone + Peasant. Johnny Brenda's, 1201 Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684.

Dude sings like a lady. Think Viking berserker corpse rock performed by the brittle-boned Olsen sister they kept locked in the attic because she looks like a Skeletor wearing a Cher wig. Close your eyes while you listen and you picture a pretty little girl in a pink frock hopping and skipping off to school with her pet doggie. Open them and you projectile vomit with horror. Apart from that one trick, Death Vessel is just another one of the tens of thousands of the useless acoustic guitar-strumming whiner/songwriters who plague our planet with their dreadful overbaked lyrics and pitiful caterwauling. But what a trick. Girl. Ghoul. Girl. Ghoul. Terrific fun. (Steven Wells)

In Grenada

Wed., Sept. 24, 9pm. $8. With the Swimmers + the Armchairs. Silk City, 435 Spring Garden St. 215.592.8838.

Just to get it out of the way, yes, In Grenada sounds a hell of a lot like the Arcade Fire. There's the same shaky-voiced desperation and reverb-draped drama to Jesse Leyh's delivery, though his tunes are often scaled back to a lilting, folky (or even country) core. The local project is barely a year old, taking root after Leyh left the promising Movable Type, and In Grenada's live shows have been infrequent while he and his bandmates presumably chip away at a proper album. That makes this midweek appearance a suitable progress report because there's a dreamy catchiness to Leyh's tunes that can't and won't be denied. (D.W.)

Vivian Girls 

Sun., Sept. 21, 8pm. With FNU Ronnies + Black Time. Danger Danger Gallery, 5013 Baltimore Ave.

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1. Benny said... on Sep 17, 2008 at 08:34AM

“Re: Motorhead: Neil, I guess I'll start the shitstorm of flak you are going to get about the "'haven't made a good album since 1980" remark.. Look, I know this pick was assigned to you and you aren't a real fan, that much is glaringly obvious; But wow, an uninformed jab at Motorhead like that only confirms you know nothing of their work outside of the "hit" Ace Of Spades..You are an indie rock guy at best and a metal poser at's okay..just fess up about it.. Oh, and if you want to redeem yourself..go get yourself a copies of the following "decent" Motorhead records. 'Iron Fist', 'Bomber', 'Overkill', and 'Rock n' Roll' Theres so many more...But these albums are a good jump off point for a beginner. See you at the show! (Ha!!! Yeah, right!!)”


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