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THURSDAY 2.17
Cowboy Mouth - People love this band! I'm not sure whom, or why, but their live shows are, according to their PR staff, akin to a "religious experience." As a lapsed Catholic, I can only assume they mean that in a good way. The band's latest release, Easy, is actually a re-mastered and re-sequenced version of a 2000 release that disappeared when their label imploded. Buckhead Saloon (Schacht)

Tift Merritt - If it seems like a long way from her duets with John Howie and the Two Dollar Pistols to her soulful, George Drakoulias-produced, Grammy nominated new record, Tambourine, that's only because the rest of the country has finally caught up. See our story in this issue. The Hotel Lights open. Visulite Theatre (Schacht)

FRIDAY 2.18
Jason Scavone and The Noises Ten / Evoka - Scavone and company have an innate knack for constructing pristine pop numbers oft-laden with piano and influenced by better 70s rockers. The new recording, It All Belongs, is draped in cohesive, literate rock songs./ Evoka are one of the more hip alterna-rock outfits and hail from Winston-Salem, a band where the frontman is as intriguing as the Brit-influenced patchwork of moody rock. The delivery live on stage is further proof of their imminent blast into stardom. Iconic are also on the bill. Visulite Theatre (Shukla)

The Nighthawks - For 25 years, The Nighthawks have performed...and performed...and performed. The DC-based road warriors usually play close to 300 club dates a year, all chockfull of the rocka-blues-soul-billy concoction which regulars still flock to like a 50-cent draft. Harpist Mark Wenner is still in charge, and the sound is as confident, unique and catchy as it ever was. Truth be told, when I think of the Double Door Inn, I think of these guys as something like the touring house band. There's not a whit of pretension, they run their band like a well-oiled machine, and they're guaranteed to put a smile on your face (or some sweat, at bare minimum). Double Door Inn (Davis)

Voodoo Glow Skulls / Streetlight Manifesto - The "Ska Is Dead 2" tour is on the road with this trio of ska brethren. Voodoo Glow Skulls are legends in the realm of punk-ska lunacy and even crank out Spanish songs when the mood suits the evening. Six-man New Jersey band Streetlight Manifesto grew out of two similar late-90s groups, One Cool Guy and Catch-22, and they are veterans of the East Coast scene. St. Louis's MU330 have been kicking up a pop-ska storm for the last decade with a slew of releases on Asian Man Records. Don't write that obit for the brassy and effervescent genre of Ska just yet. Tremont Music Hall (Shukla)

SATURDAY 2.19
J-Rocc - Considered by many one of the pre-eminent club DJs in the world, J-Rocc, the "president" and founding member of the influential Beat Junkies, is a crate digger of the first order, spinning and scratching jazz and soul and funk in a manner that'll make your head spin along with his twin silver decks. See our story in this issue. The Room (Davis)

Los Amigos Invisibles - The Latin Grammy perennials, not satisfied with merely bringing their acid-washed funk and salsa mash to the masses, have recently done loads of remix work for artists as diverse as the Beastie Boys, Basement Jaxx and Fantastic Plastic Machine. Still touring on 2003's Venezuelan Zinga Son, the band doesn't necessarily need to record anew to stay relevant: shows (and indeed, songs), are never played the same way twice. This show also celebrates the launch of primerafila, Charlotte's first Spanish language arts, culture and entertainment magazine. With La Ra. Visulite Theatre (Davis)

Tracks Party - Featuring local dreamscapers Etheric, who will be debuting new material from their upcoming CD, this "other side of the tracks" show also includes regional acts Morrison Poe (Raleigh) and Confliction (Myrtle Beach). The triple-header starts early for the first 50 people through the door with a gig flyer:they'll receive a free CD from any of the three bands. And what would that entail? Well, MP bill themselves as a cross between Linkin Park and Garbage, though mercifully more the latter than former. Confliction plays it straightahead, hard, fast and loud. Personally, I say go for the locals'. Amos' Southend (Schacht)

Wayne Robbins and the Hellsayers - Sporting a new album, The Lonesome Sea, as well as a crack backing band that includes Brian Landrum (Black Eyed Dog) and Jonas Cole, Asheville's Robbins appears to be an artist to watch. Robbins has a lot of Neil Young's spirit in his lyrical forays and vocal delivery (perhaps too much on occasion), but there's a freshness here that suggests someone just popped the top on a nice little second career. Recommended. The Evening Muse (Davis)

SUNDAY 2.20
Lucy Kaplansky - Kaplansky's latest, 2004's The Red Thread, celebrates the adoption of her daughter while also chronicling her proximity to the 9/11 tragedy, and includes covers by such artists as Bill Morrissey, James McMurtry, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, and the late Dave Carter. Embracing a mix of rock, pop, folk and country, it represents her most ambitious record yet, building on the popularity of her previous release, Every Single Day, voted Best Pop Album of 2002 by the Association for Independent Music. A rare treat to see her in such an intimate setting. The Evening Muse (Schacht)

MONDAY 2.21
Wilco - Wilco coverage has reached saturation levels in the last few years - magazine articles galore, books, documentaries - but one thing cannot be denied: they're among the very best rock bands working in America or anywhere else, consistently pushing their vision without thought to record sales or fan outcry. Weird thing is, it's pretty much sold like hotcakes. See our story in this issue. Ovens Auditorium (Davis)

WEDNESDAY 2.23
Ann Rabson - Rabson has been playing and singing the blues since, whoa, 1962! She's a member of the rollicking female blues combo Saffire - the Uppity Blues Women and also performs solo and with various other bands. Her new record, In a Family Way, hits the racks this week and is a fine example of someone so comfortable in their environs as to make the music sound like unfettered breathing. The Evening Muse (Shukla)

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