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Ben Folds
Skidmore College Sports Center Gym, Thursday

The wiseass bard of suburban angst returns tonight (Thursday) for a show in the Skidmore College gym. A gym? Imagine it as a weird prom night for the proudly disaffected. It will be Folds, his piano, his arsenal of catchy, melodic tunes—and his devoted fans, who worship him as a god. A wiseass god. (This is the best adjective for Folds, as in he is the “wiseass Billy Joel” or the “wiseass Elton John.”) This brief tour, according to Folds, is just a quick one before he begins recording his next album. So, in addition to Ben Folds Five faves, novelty tunes and covers, expect a couple of brand new songs. A Folds solo show is something to see: He plays the audience with as much artistry as he tickles those ivories. Opening will be Tegan and Sara, a sister act (with band) who pledge that their music will be “punkier, poppier and louder.” (April 17, 8 PM, $20, $15 Skidmore students, 580-5000)

Unearth, Last Call, deadEFFECT, Since the Flood
Valentine’s, Saturday

You’ve got to love the cumulative effect of a metal-hardcore show: Somehow it takes on the tone of a church bell ringing out ominously over a sleepy town. Ask not, it threatens. The Unearth show is no exception. Unearth, Last Call, deadEFFECT (formerly Cut-Throat) and Since the Flood all could be the scene titles of a first-rate zombie movie. But the headliners, a quintet out of the Bay State, promise a happy ending: According to their press release, “their themes are not ones of destruction, hatred or ill will towards their fellow man. Instead, Unearth focuses on uplifting and hope-inspiring subjects; drawing upon their collective experiences, morals and beliefs for inspiration.” So, we’re guessing that the hero—after a lengthy night of zombie butt-kicking—gets the girl. (April 19, 8 PM, $10, 432-6572)

The Larkin Lounge, Saturday

And then there was one: Where once Granian were a band, now Granian is a man. The band, Granian, were a quartet formed in 1995 and named after a rearrangement of guitarist and singer-songwriter Garen Gueyikian’s first name. (The band were originally Grane, but another band out of Pittsburgh called themselves “Grain” and they complained. So, they . . . it’s complicated . . . you don’t want to know.) The rest of the band members have split, and Gueyikian is the whole show. His earnest, hook-based tunes have earned some critical plaudits, as well as guest-performing shots on various Lifetime and WB network programs. His most recent album, Live Sessions, is a good representation of what his live show likely will be: impassioned singing and aggressive acoustic guitar playing. It’ll be at the Larkin on Saturday. Jon Freeland and Steve Campbell are also on the bill. (April 19, 8 PM, $5, 463-5225)

Kenny Rankin
The Van Dyck, Friday
Caffe Lena, Saturday

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Kenny Rankin traces his musical epiphany to a somewhat unlikely source: his fourth-grade teacher, Miss Isabel Pringle. It seems that his rendition of “O Holy Night” in a school Christmas play moved Miss Pringle to enthuse, “Kenneth, that was lovely!” Next thing you know, the boy born and raised in New York City’s Washington Heights is playing guitar on Bob Dylan’s seminal 1965 album, Bringing It All Back Home. A few steps came in between, of course, such as a contract with Decca Records while Rankin was still a teenager that culminated in a handful of well-received singles. In the ensuing years, Rankin has established himself among a handful of the world’s premier jazz-infused stylists, performers and songwriters (such icons as Peggy Lee and Mel Torme have recorded his songs). His latest release, A Song for You, is a genre-bending ride through jazz, pop, show tunes, soul and blues. He’ll bring music from A Song for You and much more to the Van Dyck (Friday) and Caffe Lena (Saturday). The Caffe Lena concert is part of a special weekend that will also celebrate a passion of the venue’s founder, Scrabble. Professional players from across the nation will gather on Saturday and Sunday to compete in the First Annual Lena Spencer Memorial Scrabble Tournament. (The Van Dyck: April 18, 7 and 9:30 PM, $16, 381-1111; Caffe Lena: April 19, 6:30 and 9:30 PM, $25, $23 advance, 583-0022)


The Sea and Cake, the Circulatory System
Pearl Street Nightclub, Northampton, Mass., Monday

Monday’s show at Pearl Street is less a double bill of two big-deal indie-rock bands than it is a pairing of two loci of indie-rock greatness, two small galaxies briefly in synchronous orbit and suddenly visible to the naked eye simultaneously. The Sea and Cake—whose latest release, One Bedroom, is being called “their most elegant” yet—boast Sam Prekop and Eric Claridge (formerly of Shrimp Boat), Archer Prekop (ex-Coctails) and John McIntire (Tortoise), a veritable supergroup of the experimental/post-rock world. And the Circulatory System contain a slew of psychedelic-performance-art wunderkinds loosely affiliated in the Elephant 6 collective (think Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, etc.). This is a whole lot of indie in one convenient bite-sized package. (April 21, 8:30 PM, $12.50, 413-584-0610)

 also noted
Local multimedia and vocal artist Nicole Peyrafitte will collaborate with area jazz-guitar hero George Muscatello in an improv performance tonight (Thursday) at the New Age Cabaret—a new performance space in the northern (near Nipper) confines of downtown Albany. Poet Pierre Joris will take part in a few pieces (8 PM, $5, 436-3465). . . . Post-alternative metal band Cold will play Northern Lights tonight, with Depswa, From Zero and Sofa Kings also on the bill (7:30 PM doors, $14, $12 advance, 371-0012). . . . Acoustic Trauma, Lotus, Sirsy, the Velmas and the Suggestions will all participate in the Most Original Band Contest hosted by the Channel (103.1) tonight at Valentine’s (8 PM, free, 432-6572). . . . Area heavy hitters To Hell and Back will play a show at Valentine’s tomorrow (Friday) with New York City’s Feast—whom The Village Voice describe as a cross between Black Sabbath and Bikini Kill (10 PM, $5, 432-6572). . . . Also Friday, experimental cellist Gideon Freudmann will play Mother’s Wine Emporium on the RPI campus (8 PM; $7, $3 students, kids and seniors, free to RPI students; 276-8585). . . . Guitar mystic Mitch Elrod has a new ensemble, CountrySoulHouse. The lineup is Mike Hotter (of knotworking fame) on lead guitar, Bob Buckley (of Kamikaze Hearts fame) on bass, Steve Candelin on drums (he’s played with tons of great area bands, including other Elrod-fronted bands), and, obviously, Elrod—who says of his newest ensemble, “These guys are some of the best players I’ve come across. . . . They interpret my music in a most beautiful fashion, and I feel strongly about this new batch of songs.” You can see what he’s talking about on Saturday at the Ale House in Troy (10 PM, $4, 272-9740). . . . Another Troy venue, Daisy Baker’s, will be the place for some serious grooving on Saturday when local jam ensemble Raisinhead perform (10 PM, 266-9200). . . . Pink Floyd tribute band the Machine will play a scaled-down version of their spectacle (less watts and lights) at the Van Dyck on Saturday (7 and 9:30 PM, $20, 381-1111). . . . Folk legends and Prairie Home Companion regulars Jay Ungar and Molly Mason will play Hubbard Hall in Cambridge on Saturday; Ungar’s Grammy-winning composition “Ashokan Farewell,” and the pair’s performance of it, reached into living rooms across the country when the song was featured in Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War (8 PM; $20, $17 members, $10 students; 677-2495). . . . In their never-ending quest for better candy, the sugar-loving pop stars Kitty Little are heading out on tour again, and they’ll kick it off at Valentine’s on Tuesday. Fellow local popsters the Kiss Ups, acoustic indie-rock-bluegrass local heroes the Kamikaze Hearts and Honor Society, playing their very last show, will join in (7:30 PM, $5, 432-6572). . . . Kyler England, Winner of the 2002 North Carolina Songwriters Competition, will play the Larkin on Tuesday, with Carolyn Brown opening (8 PM, $5, 463-5225).

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