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The Hold Steady, Catfish Haven

Valentine’s, Thursday

If blog buzz and Pitchfork ratings are to be trusted, this is a big one. Indie tastemakers have deemed ex-Lifter Puller frontguy Craig Finn and the Hold Steady to be rock’s great hope going into ’07, on the strength of their latest record (and Vagrant debut), Boys and Girls in America. The Brooklyn band are clearly feeling Minnesota—revered Minneapolis bar bands like the Replacements and (early) Soul Asylum are but a few easy references, and Lifter Puller were, in fact, based there. But the kind of hipster love this group have been feeling is Williamsburg all the way. Opening tonight’s show are Catfish Haven, a Southern-fried blues (or blooze, if you will) trio whose debut full-length Tell Me was just released on the Secretly Canadian label, and Albany’s own Scientific Maps—our pick for Best Pop Band of 2006. (Dec. 14, 7 PM, $10, 17 New Scotland Ave., Albany, 432-6572)


Judy Collins with Albany Pro Musica

Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Friday

It’s become a holiday tradition for Judy Collins to play an annual seasonal show at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, and it’s also been tradition that the show has been sold out too quickly for us to write about it. This year, however, it looks like we can get this in under the wire. The beloved American folk songstress will perform songs of the season and selections from her four-decade-long career. Albany Pro Musica will join Collins for this special holiday concert. (Dec. 15, 8 PM, $25-$38, 30 2nd St., Troy, 273-0038)

Ramblin Jug Stompers CD release

Caffe Lena, Friday

It’s rarely a good idea for a bunch of older musicians to get together and try to recapture the glory of their youth. But when that glory was something known as the Star-Spangled Washboard Band, it makes perfect sense. The history of the SSWB dates back to 1971, which makes the Ramblin Jug Stompers unofficially one of our area’s longest-running acts—along with troubadour Michael Eck, three of the SSWB’s four original members are in the Stompers, and they adhere to the all-acoustic nature of their earliest performances. The Stompers’ debut CD, Crooked Songs, was recorded live at Caffe Lena in March 2006, when the band were still young and hungry. Now over a year into the new project, they’ll return to the Lena stage to celebrate the album’s release. (Dec. 15, 8 PM, $12, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022)

WEQX Nonconformal Ball

Revolution Hall, Saturday

Quirky paisley-clad alternative rockers OK Go seem to love the Capital Region as much as we love them. They’ve been around quite a lot recently—Tulip Fest, Northern Lights, and Revolution Hall, all within the last year. But hey, we’re not complaining. We knew they were something special when they burst onto the scene with the catchy hit and addictive music video “A Million Ways” last year, and we’re proud to announce to all of you who slept through the Grammy-nominations announcement that OK Go have been nominated for a Grammy for—no surprise here—Best Short Form Video for “Here It Goes Again.” The band will help us celebrate the season when they play WEQX’s annual bash, the Nonconformal Ball, this weekend. As Fast As, Pilot Speed and the Bangkok Five will open the show. (Dec. 16, 7 PM, $25 + two nonperishable food items, 425 River St., Troy, 274-0553)

Mallory O’Donnell

WAMC Performing Arts Studio, Saturday

Fresh-faced with an engaging smile, Mallory O’Donnell looks every inch the pretty young coed. But don’t underestimate her. The 18-year-old singer is still riding the buzz of approval following this year’s release of her debut album, Joy. Heralded by many a reviewer as a “born singer,” O’Donnell’s clear, unwavering voice and a style that has been described as alternately breezy and sultry, a pleasing blend of upbeat folk rock, and smooth, mellow blues with a bite. Check her out live when she performs at WAMC Saturday night. (Dec. 16, 8 PM, $15, 339 Central Ave., Albany, 465-5233 ext. 4).


Club Helsinki, Sunday

It’s time for the annual Hanukkah party at the Berkshires’ own little bit of Finland, Club Helsinki. There will be a special Hanukkah dinner menu—sorry, no details, but we assume it will be kosher—while, on the musical menu, there will be Golem. If you’ve never experienced terrific Klezmer-punkers Golem, this is as good an occasion as any. Led by charismatic frontwoman Annette Ezekiel, these New Yorkers delight and, occasionally, provoke audiences with a combination of excellent musicianship and in-your-face charm. Historical note: Ezekiel and vocalist Aaron Diskin evoke fond memories of the Sugarcubes’ zany stage duo, Einar and Bjork. (Yes, that Bjork.) The six-piece group tore it up at the Egg a while back opening for the Dresden Dolls; imagine what they’ll do in the cozy confines of Club Helsinki. If you had a Yiddish grandma, she would approve. (Dec. 17, 9 PM, $20, 284 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass., 413-528-3394)

Also Noted

Pick it up up! Ska the night away with the Toasters, Bombtown, and the Late Night Show tonight (Thursday) at Red Square (7:30 PM, $13, 465-0444). . . . Proctor’s Theatre presents the annual Melodies of Christmas concert tonight (Thursday) through Sunday; in addition to holiday standards from the Empire State Youth Orchestra and Youth Chorale, expect guest appearances from Professor “Louie” & the Crowmatix, among others. Proceeds benefit the Child Cancer Program at Albany Medical Center (7 PM Thu-Sat, 3 PM Sun, $25, 346-6204). . . . We built this city on rock and . . . oh, not that Starship—Cobra Starship, the band responsible for the Snakes on a Plane theme song “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It),” bring their improbable stab at an actual career to Valentine’s tomorrow (Friday); All Time Low, the Night Life and Moros Eros open (7:30 PM, $12, 432-6572). . . . It’s that time of year: Celebrate the holiday season with the one and only Leon Redbone at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. on Saturday (7 PM, $27, 413-584-0610). . . . Why not make it a weekend? Catch the soulful sounds of Ray LaMontagne, with guest Tristan Prettyman, at Northampton’s Calvin Theater on Sunday (8 PM, $24-$34, 413-584-1444).

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