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Drag the River
Valentine’s, Thursday

Colorado-based band Drag the River will soon release their new album, Chicken Demos. That makes four records in five years since their formation in 1999—not bad. Chad Price, the former frontman of All, got together with Armchair Martian’s Paul Rucker and Jon Snodgrass, the Nobody’s JJ Nobody and pedal steel guitarist Zach Boddicker to form the roots-rock setup they now have. If you can’t wait for the release of Chicken Demos and need to get your River fix now, you can obtain Chad’s and Jon’s recently recorded and released four-song vinyl-only effort, available on the Mars Motors Web site. Check them out live, though, when they stop by Valentine’s tonight to shake up the downstairs. Local rock outfit the DelMars will open the show. (May 6, 8 PM, $6, 432-6572)

Vital Remains
Valentine’s, Thursday

Consider the word “extreme.” The death-metal men in Vital Remains certainly have. In fact, they’ve done more than contemplate it, they’ve made it a battle cry. As they explain in their official biography, they do everything to the extreme, “be it through using their instruments as weapons of mass annihilation or through unrelenting, blasphemous lyrics that display their hatred of religion and all that it stands for.” By adding legendary Deicide vocalist Glen Benton to the mix, they’ve only reaffirmed their lack of affirmation. Joining Vital Remains in an evening of musical blood-and-thunder will be the Black Dahlia Murder, Cattle Decapitation and Rag Men, whose lineup features members from Madball, Hatebreed and Merauder. (May 6, 8 PM, $13, 432-6572)

The Magnetic Fields
Calvin Theater, Northampton, Mass., Friday

Stephin Merritt may be a nerd, but he’s a really lovable nerd. Merritt landed on most people’s radar with the ultra-ambitious and universally praised (for good reason) 69 Love Songs collection five years ago. Between then and now, he’s indulged his side-project jones (although it’s hard to tell which is actually the “main” project) with records by the kind-of-electro Future Bible Heroes, “gothic rock-bubblegum pop” band the Gothic Archies, and the alliteration-happy 6ths. But never fear, you fans of literate and melodic indie-pop, you: A brand-new Fields album, i—their first for the Nonesuch imprint—was released on Tuesday, and features 14 songs, all of which start with the letter “i.” Like we said, he’s a bit of a nerd. Northampton-based author Kelly Link presumably will read from her work to open the show. (May 7,8 PM, $23, 413-584-1444)

Ben Jelen
Northern Lights, Saturday

There’s another fresh-faced, young singer-songwriter type coming down the pike every time we turn around, it seems. They’re getting pretty hard to keep track of, honestly—“Dawson’s Creek music” has become an accurate assessment of an entire genre of undistinguishable pop-rock. Take this as you will: Ben Jelen (pronounced “YEL-len”) is the male Vanessa Carlton, his edgeless piano ballads drenched in syrupy strings and shiny, top-40-minded production. That said, he must have something special going on, as Maverick records head honcho Guy Oseary signed him after just one listen. Jelen’s debut album, Give It All Away, has already spawned a TRL hit in “Come On,” and he’ll perform that song and more at Northern Lights this weekend. By the way, ladies, he’s awfully cute. (May 8, 7:30 PM, $10, 371-0012)

Janis Ian
The Egg, Saturday

After a year of being off the road, Janis Ian just embarked on a spring tour in support of her new album, Billie’s Bones, on Oh Boy Records. Ian, who has been nominated for nine Grammys, started on the scene when she was only 15 years old with her controversial song about interracial relationships, “Society’s Child.” These days she’s enjoying the result of some serious songwriting, which has taken form in the new album. Billie’s Bones (the title track pays homage to Ian’s idol, Billie Holiday) is a folk album on which she has a duet (“My Tennessee Hills”) with one of her most admired heroes, Dolly Parton. The first leg of the new tour is a Northeastern one, during which Ian will come to the Egg in Albany on Saturday. (May 8, 8 PM, $22, 473-1845)

The Figgs, the Rudds, Mike Viola, Jake Brennan and the Confidence Men
Valentine’s, Saturday and Sunday

It’s homecoming time at Valentine’s this weekend for longtime local favorites the Figgs. Yes, feel lucky that, en route home after a wide-swinging tour, they’re choosing to mark the release of their new album, Palais, in the friendly confines of downstairs at Valentine’s for not one night but two. Perhaps two nights are required for proper celebration because it’s a double disc; regardless, the new material is some of the best yet. The rock swaggers, and the pop is spunky and astute as ever. And since it’s home turf, the Figgs have been known to do it all: old songs, new songs, French songs, blue songs. Joining them on Friday will be Mike Viola, lead Candy Butcher, with his sensitive keyboard pop, and sassy rockers the Rudds, the powerpop brainchild of ex-Staziak John Powhida—think Prince meets Michael McDonald meets Cheap Trick, and you’re close. Then on Saturday, the opening “singer-songriot” will be brought by Jake Brennan and the Confidence Men. (May 7-8, 8pm, 18+, $7, 432-6572)

Also Noted

This is where we would usually mention a show or two happening this week at Albany’s Larkin Lounge, but that’s not the case this week (see “Rough Mix,” p. 39). . . . Head on down to Bard College tonight (Thursday) and catch the William Parker Quintet in a performance titled “Rocket to the Moon Has Just Injured the Rain God”—heck, that would get us out of the house (8 PM, $15, 845-758-7456). . . . Mario Sevayega will perform at the FYE store in Colonie Center tomorrow (Friday) to promote his recent release, Copper + Red (7 PM, free, 437-0727). . . . Some of our recent cover models from Pitch Control Music will be part of an evening of live hiphop at the Lark Tavern on Friday; the show will be recorded for possible later release (10 PM, $4, 463-9779). . . . If you don’t mind the drive, the Iron Horse Music Hall has a few great shows lined up: On Friday, Christopher O’Riley will perform his solo piano interpretations of the Radiohead songs we know and love (7 PM, $20, 413-584-0610); Saturday night, it’s the “rustic pop” of ex-Red Red Meat frontman Tim Rutili and his latest project, Califone (10 PM, $11, 413-584-0610). . . . Looks like Hudson is the other place to be this weekend: Acclaimed folkie Michael Hurley will play his brand of Americana at Hudson’s John Doe Book and Record Shoppe on Saturday, with chamber-folk innovator PG Six opening (8 PM, $10, 828-4738); that same night, NYC-based composer-guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil will bring his avant-jazz trio to Time & Space Limited, with special guest percussionist Michael Lopez (8 PM, $10-$15, 822-8448). . . . Everyone’s favorite yodeling Alaskan pseudo-folkie, Jewel, is on a damage-control mission following last year’s pop disaster, 0304; she’ll perform a solo acoustic show at the Palace Theatre on Monday night (7:30 PM, $39-$49, 465-3334). . . . And for the kids, Northern Lights plays host to the piano-emo of Something Corporate and the Weezerific powerpop of the Rocket Summer on Wednesday (7:30 PM, $20, 371-0012).

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