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The Kickovers, Third 2 None, Monkey Gone Mad
Northern Lights, Thursday

Fans of the mid-’90s punk-ska revival will certainly recognize the members of the Kickovers. The brainchild of former Mighty Mighty Bosstones guitarist Nate Albert, the Kickovers also feature Bosstones drummer Joe Sirois and ex-Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh (he was also in Juliana Hatfield’s band). Albert initially left the Bosstones to attend Brown University, but he continued to write songs while he studied. Unlike the ska sound the Bosstones helped popularize, Albert’s new songs were more pop-punk influenced. The guitarist recruited Welsh, Sirois, and axman Johnny Rioux to spread his new sound. The quartet recently released their first album, Osaka, and are in the midst of a headlining club tour. Tonight, the Kickovers will roll into Northern Lights with local openers Third 2 None and Monkey Gone Mad. (July 11, 7:30 PM doors, $10, $8 advance, 371-0012)

Ja Rule, Ashanti
Pepsi Arena, Friday

It was only a few months ago that we heard Ja Rule planned to ditch his burgeoning hiphop career for the silver screen: Rumor had it that he and Vin Diesel were going to costar in a Fast and the Furious sequel, and Rolling Stone wondered if Diesel and Rule would be “Hollywood’s next Dynamic Duo.” We wonder whatever happened to that rumor, because the artist—who’s behind such danceable megahits as “Always on Time” (featuring Ashanti) and “I’m Real” (featuring none other than J. Lo)— is now on tour. On Friday, he’ll hit the Pepsi with Ashanti, a young up-and-comer who probably owes much of her success to her “Always on Time” duet with Def Jam’s latest rap phenom. You say you don’t know the music of Ja Rule—nee Jeff Atkins—but you’d like to find out more? Check your DMX Ruff Ryder and Jay Z Rock-a-fella discs, because that’s where the young MC from Queens got his start. You can follow his trajectory from a neophyte backup presence on Jay Z’s “Can I Get a . . .” to the release of his debut album Venni, Vetti, Vecci to his collaborations with heavy hitters like Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot, J. Lo and even Metallica. These days you can even catch him playing occasional guest host of MTV’s Cribs. (July 12, 8 PM, $35.50, $38.50, 487-2000)

7th Annual Fleet Blues Festival
Empire State Plaza, Friday-Saturday

Jimmie Vaughan was one of the most successful blues-rockers of the ’70s and ’80s as guitarist of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Like his brother Stevie Ray, Vaughan bridges the blues and Southern rock and has earned Grammy nods in both genres. Since leaving the Thunderbirds in the late ’80s, Vaughan has pursued a solo career, and recorded Family Style with his brother before his death. Saturday, Vaughan will headline the Fleet Blues Festival at the Empire State Plaza, backed by former Fabulous Thunderbirds vocalist Lou Ann Barton. The festival features more than a dozen blues musicians on three stages, beginning Friday night with a battle of the bands. Local acts Blues Incorporated, Maynard Brothers, and Mark Emanatian & Folding Sky will vie for a chance to perform at Saturday’s festivities. Saturday’s show, which was to be co-headlined by rock pioneer Bo Diddley, who canceled due to health reasons, also features Kenny Neal, Sue Foley, A.C. Reed & the Sparkplugs and Shirley Johnson—all on the main stage. There are many other blues acts on a couple of different stages, so there’s more than enough to go around. (July 12: 7 PM; July 13: noon; free, 473-0559 or 877-659-4377)

Lucinda Williams, Chuck Prophet
Pines Theatre, Northampton, Mass., Tuesday

Rumor is that progressive-country femme fatale Emmylou Harris has claimed that Americana hottie Lucinda Williams could sing the chrome off a trailer hitch (whether this is a help or a hindrance, we’re not sure), and since the age of 12, Williams has been packing a wallop with her vocal virtuosity. From her first original album, Smithsonian/Folkways’ Happy Woman Blues (her very first, 1979’s Ramblin’, also on S/F, is all covers) to last year’s Essence, Williams has had the critics all in an uproar. Born in Louisiana to a poet (Miller Williams) and a piano-playing mother, Williams draws inspiration and knowledge from a deep well: The songstress traveled extensively around the country as a youth with her parents, and she’s had access to their friends, a creative and writerly bunch, for songwriting tips. Williams’ last two albums, the way critically acclaimed Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998) and Essence (2001), have won numerous awards (she’s got herself three Grammies) and catapulted the artist into an arena-crowd spotlight. Williams and opener Chuck Prophet, a male Americana hottie, will play the Pines Theatre in Northampton. (July 16, 7 PM, $45, $35, 800-THE-TICK)

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Antigone Rising
Empire State Plaza, Wednesday

You know her for her punky covers, even if you didn’t know they were covers: the big one, “I Love Rock & Roll,” which was originally a B-side by the Arrows; Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover”; and Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).” But you love her because she rocks harder than every bare-chested, goatee-wearing aggro-rock poseur jackass since 1980. Yes, you love her because Jett’s got mad cred—even if you didn’t know it. Joan Jett (born Joan Larkin) moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was 12; by 15 she was gigging on L.A.’s club circuit with the band who would become the Runaways (whose lineup also boasted Lita Ford and future Bangle Micki Steele). What were you doing at 15? And before you jump to the conclusion that the precocious rocker must necessarily have been the pawn of some slick svengali, take into consideration that Jett’s rep was such that she was asked to produce the first—and only—record by L.A’s quintessential junkie punk band, the Germs. Ask around: If Darby Crash wants you to produce, you’re the real deal. Antigone Rising opens. (July 17, 7 PM, free, 473-0559 or 877-659-4377)

also noted

Head downtown tonight (Thursday) with Gaelic Storm and Glengarry Boys at the Alive at Five (free, 5 PM, 434-2032). Then, also tonight, Rapper cum hardcore kid Vanilla Ice (he’s actually back to his rappin’ apparently) will be at Jillian’s; bring the Irish crowd—we’re looking to mix it up (8 PM, free, 432-1997). . . . Stick around down there tonight and head to Savannah’s for Clawdaddy, “our town’s newest quasi alt-country rock band,” featuring Mitch Elrod, Pete Sheehan, Sten Isachsen and Albie; Michael Eck will open the show (10 PM, 426-9647). . . . Valentine’s hosts an American Music Series tomorrow (Friday), with the College Farm, Chris Blackwell and Hogtown and the Coal Palace Kings providing the tunes (9 PM, $5, 432-6572). . . . Coming straight out of the hopping New York City rock & roll scene, the French Kicks (who have been opening for the Hives all over that town recently) will head over to Great Barrington’s Club Helsinki Friday (9 PM, $15, $12 advance, 413-528-3394). . . . Simon Screams will celebrate the release of their CD on Saturday at Valentine’s, with Emboda, Greatdayforup and SpineCar joining in the fun (8 PM, $10, 432-6572). . . . Equal Vision artists Coheed and Cambria will play Saratoga Winners on Saturday, with F-Timmi, Time in Malta, the Switched On and the Score also on the bill (8 PM, $12, $10 advance, 783-1010). . . . Manhattan Transfer founding member Laurel Massé will perform at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls on Saturday (7:30 PM, $45, 792-1761). . . . Rory Breaker, This Year’s Model, Sonny and Arrow Down Project will play Valentine’s on Sunday (8 PM, $7, 432-6572). . . . Melissa Etheridge plays SPAC on Sunday (7:30 PM, $82.50—really, this is not a typo—$32.50 lawn). . . . The Erftones will celebrate their CD release at Changing Spaces on Monday (see Listen Here, page 28, for information).

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