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Rock the Mic Tour
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Thursday,

This isn’t just the biggest hiphop show of the summer, it’s the biggest hiphop show seen in these parts, well, probably ever. 50 Cent, whose recent string of hits and I’m-harder-than-you (and you and you) gangsta persona have made him man of the moment, is joined by Jay Z, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes and Fabolous. Currently lending his street cred to Beyoncé, Jay Z has been the most consistently successful (and critically praised) rapper of the last half-dozen years. Enough time has finally passed that he can even be forgiven for putting that insidious song from Annie (“Hard Knock Life”) back into public consciousness. Missy Elliot, queen of the Dirty South, treats sex as if it’s both funny and fun; it will be interesting to see if she can translate the outer-space weirdness of her videos to a live performance. Busta Rhymes has been making movies (Narc) and hanging with celebs like Mariah and Space Ghost of late, but, judging from reviews of his recent performances, he just might steal the show. (June 26, 7 PM, $50-$28, 476-1000)

The Dixie Chicks
Pepsi Arena, Friday

The unpredictable, and some- what outspoken country-bluegrass trio the Dixie Chicks will hit the Pepsi tomorrow (Friday), and we can’t help but like these women more with each passing faux pas. They’ve incensed many in the country-music community, but have become huge despite that. Even one of their fan Web sites is run by a man who felt the need to include the disclaimer that he unequivocally disagrees with their anti-Bush statements. The thing about the Chicks is that they can really play a kickass bluegrass tune—and lead vocalist Natalie Maines, who keeps putting that darling little foot in her mouth, sure can sing. With their latest, Home, the Chicks keep it real and keep it country—rather than veering into that crappy pop-country world inhabited by Shania Twain—although we can do without another cover of “Landslide.” And here’s a little tidbit that leads us to believe that these girls are a bit off: They each have small chicken feet tattooed onto their own feet with each career milestone—No. 1 singles, No. 1 albums, gold and platinum albums. They’ve got nine such tattoos thus far. (June 27, 8 PM, $35, $45, $65, 476-1000)

Old Songs Festival of Traditional Music & Dance
Altamont Fairgrounds, Friday-Sunday

It’s the 23rd year for the Old Songs Festival, and this year’s event, happening this weekend, is as full of family fun as ever. It’s three days of outdoor frolicking amid the sounds of more than 100 performers, and the goings-on of 120 workshops, interactive sessions and hands-on events—not to mention food and instrument vendors and a juried craft show. And the music is plentiful. This year’s event has a British folk-rock bent, with the mothers of the genre, Fairport Convention—they’ve been working it since ’67, albeit with varying members—performing. Original member Richard Thompson has been known to hop back on stage with them from time to time, so keep your eyes peeled. Another folk- rocker from across the pond, Little Johnny England, will perform. There will also be performances by scads of others, playing folk, roots, blues, Celtic and world music—from around the world, for that matter. Le Vent du Nord from Quebec, Fode Sissoko Trio from Senegal and Australian balladist Danny Spooner are among those who traveled far. For a list of musicians and a schedule of workshops, go to (June 27-29, prices and times vary according to concerts and workshops, 765-2815)

James Keepnews
RPI Chapel + Cultural Center, Friday

You’d be hard-pressed to name a medium James Keepnews hasn’t worked or at least dabbled in. Keepnews—former Albany resident, WRPI host and Metroland scribe, and an alumnus of the iEAR program at Rensselaer—is a crafty musician who plays electric guitar, saxophone, synthesizers and assorted other electronic gadgets, and also is a composer, writer, actor, multimedia artist and all-around Renaissance man of experimentation and improvisation. You might remember Keepnews from his Albany days, playing with the likes of Sylvia Beach, Vorticists, Brown Cuts Neighbors and Lick the President; tomorrow (Friday), he’ll return to show us where his more recent excursions into “electro-acoustic improvisation” have taken him. And he’ll have help, in the persons of multi-instrumentalist-vocalist Mitch Elrod, drummer Michael Lopez, reed player Will Zwink, and DJ J-Swift, each of whom will join Keepnews for a duet before they conclude with some full-ensemble improv. Words such as “intricate,” “excursion” and “dreamscape” pop up regularly in reviews; and just in case you had any doubt as to what Keepnews’ hyper-creative brain is capable of, note this: He still holds the record for the longest sentence ever to appear in Metroland. (June 27, 8 PM, $5, $3 students, 274-7793)

The Kissers, Kiwi, Kitty Little, the Kiss Ups
Valentine’s, Sunday

These bands have more in common than the letters “ki” that begin each group’s name. Much, much more. All four bands utilize at least one instrument with some form of keyboard. (Now that’s a theme show.) This was a bit of a problem for keys-less local popsters Kitty Little, but they’re bringing in a ringer from New York (Shazam 2000) to tickle the Casio. No problem for headliners the Kissers, however. The Madison, Wis.-based septet have a featured accordionist to flesh out their Pogues-style Irish pub sound. A Midwestern phenom, the Kissers have won a number of newsweekly polls as “best pub band.” Also on the bill are Long Island’s Kiwi, a drum-bass-synth combo, and the Kiss Ups, two “spastic, swooning frontmen” (says their bio) who play bass and drums. And, yes, they’ll have a guest keyboardist, too—according to Kitty Little’s Matto, this will be somebody’s mom. (June 29, 7 PM, $5, 432-6572)

Lisa Germano
Hudson River Theater, Monday

Behind every great man, they say, is a supremely talented sidewoman who really ought to get a whole lot more respect for her own compositions. OK, they don’t really say that; but when you consider that Lisa Germano has hired out her talents, providing studio/live support on a whole slew of instruments for the likes of John Mellencamp, Neil Finn, Giant Sand, Eels and David Bowie, among others, they just might as well. Because Germano’s own albums are top-notch. Since her 1991 debut, On the Way Down From the Moon Palace, she’s consistently turned out ambitious records of soul-baring melancholy. The latest, lullaby for liquid pig, is an examination of dangerous temptations, spiritual exhaustion and the self-deception of the addict. It’s been described as “accompaniment to a damaged, secret monologue, spoken and sung in a world that’s more hallucination than reality,” and “beautifully tragic.” On Monday, Germano will bring the pig to the Hudson River Theater. The Blood Group will open. (June 30, 9 PM, $15, 822-8189)

 also noted
An area favorite industrial band is late and lamented no more. The Clay People have re-formed and are returning to the stage—it’s all the same members as when we saw them last, with the exception of the addition of Stabbing Westward keyboardist Walter Flakus—and they’ll play tonight (Thursday) at Valentine’s; Acumen Nation and F-Timmi will open. Meanwhile, the downstairs stage at Valentine’s will offer a similar musical pounding, with Sixer, Razors Never Die and “South Florida’s hardest working rock band,” Pivot, who are touring the East Coast behind their release Where the Debris Meets the Sea (up: 7:30 PM, $10; down: 8 PM, $5; 432-6572). . . . It’s Mardi Gras Night at Albany’s Riverfront Park when C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band play the Alive at Five tonight; local funksters Jocamo will open (5 PM, free, 434-2032). . . . NYC-based jazz drummer Darren Lyons, who’s been through with his outfit Darren Lyons Group, brings his jazz quartet to town for a few area shows, fresh on the heels of their recent recording, New Reflection. Along with Lyons, the quartet’s vibraphonist, Nick Mancini (also a founding member of SoulLive), and guitarist, Chad McLoughlin, are from the Capital Region. They’ll play their jazz and fusion gems at the Colony Café in Woodstock tonight (Thursday, 8 PM, $7, 845-679-5342) and Justin’s in Albany tomorrow (Friday, 10 PM, $3, 436-7008). . . . Wynton Marsalis and the acclaimed Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra will perform “Rhythm Is Our Business” at Tanglewood Friday (8:30 PM, $16-$90, 617-637-1600). . . . Rockabilly heartthrob Johnny Rabb and Los Straitjackets guitar maestro Eddie Angel will play a whole evening of Beatles tunes at Savannah’s on Friday, so come prepared with requests (10 PM, $10, 426-9647). . . . Area power-pop trio the Day Jobs will hold their long-awaited record-release party at Valentine’s on Saturday [see Listen Here, page 42, for further details]. . . . Nostalgic crooner Leon Redbone will perform at Troy’s Revolution Hall on Saturday (9 PM, $22, $20 advance, 273-2337). . . . Canadian rockers Finger Eleven—you may remember them when they went by Rainbow Butt Monkey (we kid you not)—who became a household name with their ’98 hit single “Quicksand,” will play Valentine’s on Wednesday. Echo 7, Double Drive and Billy Talent are also on the bill (8 PM, $12, $10 advance, 432-6572).

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