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Usher, Nas, Faith Evans, Mr. Cheeks
Pepsi Arena, Thursday

With a new desire to maintain symmetry, we’re sandwiching this page with Pepsi Arena shows. The first of which is hiphop heartthrob Usher—playing the arena tonight (Thursday)—aka Usher Raymond, who was discovered by LaFace Records as a wee 14-year-old gospel singer in Atlanta. The boy’s eponymous 1994 debut found P Diddy (they knew him as Puff Daddy in those days), as coproducer, and the album’s single, “Think of You,” went gold. Usher’s second release, My Way, came out just after he graduated high school, and the graduate cowrote the majority of the songs in an attempt to prove his maturity, recruiting Puffmeister yet again, as well as Babyface and Jermaine Dupri to help produce. The resulting disc hit the ground running, and the single “You Make Me Wanna” propelled Usher to the R&B hotlist—he even made it to the top of the pop charts with that one. Usher then performed a reverse-J. Lo when he starred in the 1998 horror spoof The Faculty and the 1999 urban high school drama Light It Up, and he’s had some other releases since, the latest being last year’s moody release 8701. Joining Usher will be Nas, Faith Evans and Mr. Cheeks (June 20, 7:30 PM, $45.75, $40.75, 476-1000)

Valentine’s, Thursday

Harlow may not have won VH1’s Bands on the Run, but their two-month stint on the hit TV show has helped spread their hard-rock sound. The four-piece female group are in the middle of an extensive cross-country tour, and recently released an album produced by Foo Fighter guitarist Pat Smear. But the members of Harlow had already lived the rock & roll lifestyle before VH1 found them. Lead singer Amanda Rootes played in the English band Fluffy, and shared the stage with the likes of the Sex Pistols, Marilyn Manson and the Foo Fighters. Bassist Chimene Gonzalez also has an impressive music résumé, playing in L.A. band the Penny Dreadfuls and having been on bills with Weezer and Korn. Rounding out the group with Rebecca Gibb and Melody Patron, Harlow play a mix of metal, hard rock and punk, and admit to being equally inspired by Kiss and Black Sabbath. Tonight, the quartet will play an 18-and-over show at Valentine’s, with Audrey’s Stone opening. (June 20, 8 PM, $10, 432-6572)

Greg Trooper, Michael Eck
Valentine’s, Friday

Writing about Straight Down Rain, Greg Trooper’s fifth and most recent album, Playboy magazine reports that the New Jersey native “deserves about 12 times the attention he’s received. He knows how to play country against rock and position the pressures of adulthood against the longing for adolescent freedom.” High praise, but, given Trooper’s background, unsurprising. Trooper spent his high school years hanging out in the clubs of Manhattan, catching as many musical acts as he could: Merle Haggard, Artie and Happy Traum, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen—anyone and everyone he could get in to see. After dropping out, he headed down to Austin, Texas, where he continued to partake liberally of the musical offerings, soaking up Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker and the like. Then it was back to NYC (guess what he did there), and, after securing a publishing deal, down to Nashville, where he quickly earned the high regard of residents such as Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. Look what you can do with a GED. Opening for Trooper will be Michael Eck. (June 21, 7:30 PM, $8, 432-6572)

Nickelback, Jerry Cantrell
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saturday

Nickelback, Nickel Creek, Nickel Bag—it’s hard to keep ’em all straight. But we believe the ones that the kids go nuts for are Nickelback. They’re the ones without the mandolin. And, they’re from Canada. Still confused? They sing that “How You Remind Me” song that’s all over the mainstream-rock airwaves. Joining Nickelback at SPAC on Saturday is ex-Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell—whose metal-grunge roots we old geezers have a better grasp on. Cantrell formed AIC with vocalist Layne Staley, and the band battled internal strife and Staley’s addiction throughout their career. While AIC were still a somewhat going concern, Cantrell recorded his first solo album, 1998’s Boggy Depot, and sounded the death knell for his longtime band. Boggy Depot included AIC members Mike Inez (bass) and Sean Kinney (drums), and AIC producer Toby Wright, which sorta confirmed the band’s end. Cantrell toured with Van Halen in support of the release; since then he’s been generally quiet, with the exception of assisting with an AIC box set and a greatest-hits album, until this week’s Roadrunner Records release, Degradation Trip. Nickelback and Cantrell will perform a pavilion-only show (June 22, 7:30 PM, $35, $25, 476-1000)

Korn, Puddle of Mudd, Deadsy
Pepsi Arena, Sunday

One of the most popular bands to emerge during the post-grunge era, Korn, will make a stop in Albany on Sunday to play the Pepsi Arena. Korn got their start in 1993 in Huntington Beach, Calif., when longtime friends and guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch returned to their hometown of Bakersfield and stumbled upon vocalist Jonathan Davis fronting the local band Sexart. Davis, whose day job was as a coroner’s assistant, was asked to join the band—which also included former Bakersfield inhabitants Reginald “Fieldy Snuts” Arvizu (bass) and drummer David Silveria. In 1994, the band released their self-titled debut album, which was ignored by critics but adored by fans who related to the quintet’s fierce music and cathartic lyrics. The album went platinum almost two years after its release. Korn are now touring in support of their new album, Untouchables, their fifth to date. Also on the bill are Puddle of Mudd and Deadsy. (June 23, 7:30 PM, $38.50, $28.50, 476-1000)

also noted

Guitar great and Alabama getaway Dickey Betts will play with his band, Great Southern, tonight (Thursday) as part of the Alive at Five Concert Series; House Project will open (5 PM, free, 434-2032). . . . The George Boone Blues Band will play a gig at Savannah’s tomorrow (Friday) before heading out for a nine-state tour that will tie up the band until early July (10 PM, $5, 426-9647). . . . There’s gonna be a rumble on Friday. It seems the Fuze Box was double booked or some such thing, and the show Crabapple’s Don Bazley has been pimping as his going-away party (Bazley’s leaving us for Ithaca soon, and the show on Friday was to be his last), which included Hungry Jack, seemed to fall to the wayside as Todd Pasternack’s new outfit, Marlow, and the Dayjobs shimmied their way onto that night’s booking. But there will be peace in the valley again, as all four bands booked on Friday will take the Fuze Box stage (apparently), and that means Crabapple, Marlow and the Dayjobs will all fight, er, perform (What time? Who knows. How much? Got Me. 432-4472). . . . Six Feet Under, Skinless, Sworn Enemy, Bad Luck, 13 Riot Extravaganza will all play Saratoga Winners on Saturday (7:30 doors, $15 door, $13 advance, 783-1010). . . . The Wait and the Bomb Site Boys will play upstairs at Valentine’s on Saturday; sludge-rockers Small Axe will be downstairs (up: 9 PM, $7; down: 9 PM, $5; 432-6572). . . . The Staziaks will play Artie’s Lansingburgh Station on Saturday, with a Staziak spinoff band, Mime Choir, opening. Helmed by Staziak bassist Scott Dorrance, who is the songwriter-guitarist role in Mime Choir, the group also includes Staziaks drummer George Lipscomb (who will stick to drumming), Charlie Morris (guitar) and Dave Dean (bass), and plays original tunes in the Cheap Trick, Bad Company vein. Also on the bill is Erin Harkes (9 PM, $3, 238-2788). . . . Bedroom folk artists P.G. Six are back, this time at Caffe Lena, and will play a show on Sunday with backroom folk locals the Kamikaze Hearts (7 PM, $5, 583-0022).

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