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Van Halen
Pepsi Arena, Saturday

Seems like anyone you ask will tell you that the real Van Halen started with “Running with the Devil” in 1978 and ended with 1984’s “House of Pain”—the David Lee Roth era, of course. After that, it wasn’t really Van Halen, it was Van Hagar, right? So we’ve cooked up a little theory as to why the band’s comeback tour with second-stringer Sammy “Cabo Wabo” Hagar is generating such widespread anticipation. Remember the band’s dreadful 1998 incarnation with ex-Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone? You know, the one that managed only to release the universally panned Van Halen III before canning Cherone and going back to the proverbial drawing board? We think that was a diversionary tactic to make us miss the Red Rocker more than we would have otherwise. Or maybe that’s off-base—the band did sell more than 16 million records with Sammy at the helm. Either way, it’s always been about Eddie, and we know he’ll be there. Plan to hear VH hits from both (or all three?) eras when VH hit the Pepsi this weekend. (June 26, 7:30 PM, $41-$86, 476-1000)

Alex de Grassi
Caffe Lena, Sunday

There are many ways that we could inform you, the public, about a concert by a world-renowned, fingerstyle, steel-string guitarist whom you may never have heard of, but we’ve decided to go the “brief history” route. Japanese-born and California-bred Alex de Grassi began his music career as a trumpet player, but switched to guitar at age 13 for reasons unknown (we’re guessing that it went something like, “Trumpet is stupid”). His first LP, Turning: Turning Back, was released in 1978 by the venerable Windham Hill label, and he’s followed with a dozen more through the years. Along the way, de Grassi has managed to pick up a degree in economic geography from the University of California at Berkeley, which nicely complements the Grammy and Indie award nominations he picked up along the way for his 1998 album The Water Garden. He’s good, we tell you, real good. (June 27, 7 PM, $18, 583-0022)

Big Apple’achia with Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops
Club Helsinki, Great Barrington, Mass., Sunday

Being from New York City—hence the apostrophied name—doesn’t mean you’re authentic anything, but Big Apple’achia are a bluegrass quintet who can stand up to city folk and purists alike. Their rough-hewn, earthy songs feature intricate harmonies and driving instrumentals enough to impress even the most discerning fans. They’ll be joined by Philadelphian bluegrass insurgents Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops, who also turn out the old-timey stuff in five-piece format. Both acts share a serious weakness for that high lonesome sound, and whether you fancy plinking banjo or yearning fiddle, there will be a-plenty of real-deal ’grass to go around. (June 27, 8 PM, $10, 413-528-3394)

George Thorogood and Dickey Betts
Palace Theater, Sunday

What can you say, really, about a guy who has been in the rockin’ business for three decades? Not a whole lot, that’s what. These are the facts. . . . George Thorogood and the Destroyers (also called the Delaware Destroyers for their home state) are still going strong after 30 years. They’ve recently released their Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock, which debuted on the Billboard blues chart at number one. The new collection features a Tom Rothrock mix of the classic “Who Do You Love.” In a night destined for Southern-rock nirvana, former Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts and his band, Great Southern, join Lonesome George at his gig at the Palace. So grab one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer, and spend the evening rocking out with two legends of rock & roll. (June 27, 7:30 PM, $35-$45, 465-4663)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Pearl Street Nightclub, Northampton, Mass., Sunday

It’s possible that some of you youngsters haven’t yet gotten around to familiarizing yourself with the rich vein of American musical history know as the blues. This show will do nothing to help you with that. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion may freak you out, they may startle you, they may make you laugh out loud, they may rock you so hard that you sweat through your socks—but they won’t tell you much about the blues as a form. After Jon Spencer cut from the uber-noise outfit Pussy Galore, he enlisted guitarist Judah Bauer and drummer Russell Simins to form the just-barely-less-noisy Blues Explosion. Seemingly, the name was metaphorical, because this new configuration better replicated the racket of a duel with the devil than it did any blues structures native to any heretofore charted delta. Over the course of 12 years, they’ve incorporated the near- static of Spencer’s old group and thick-bottomed ’70s-style porno-funk, and even thrown in some synthesized bells and whistles and digital wizardy—but, at last listen, still not a note to perk the ears of any of you little Alan Lomaxes. (June 27, 7 PM, $17, 584-7771)

Also Noted

Tonight (Thursday) at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass., catch noted four-track-recording aficionado John Vanderslice (he once named a tune “Me and My 424,” after his preferred model of Tascam tape machine); No’hamp rockers Spouse open (10 PM, $10, 413-584-0610). . . . Make your happy hour a little happier by stopping by the Garden Grill on Friday night for an early evening with Arc (7 PM, free, 462-0571). . . . The New Age Cabaret presents a full-on evening of new bands on Friday, featuring Kickstand Love, Rocket vs. Robot, the Menace Society, and Mute (7 PM, $6, 436-3465). . . . Great Day For Up will celebrate their latest release, a split EP with Jersey-shore rockers Solace, on Friday at Valentine’s; they will be joined by eN~DOr~PHiN and the Extras (8 PM, $7, 432-6572). . . . Damn, Sophie B. Hawkins wishes you would be her audience Friday night at Club Helsinki in Great Barrington (9 PM, $28, 413-528-3394). . . . She’d kill us if she knew we were going there, but: Hush! Keep it down, now! Aimee Mann is playing the Calvin Theater in Northampton on Saturday night; Mann backup man Paul Bryan opens (8 PM, $22.50-$35, 413-584-1444). . . . Right across town—mere footsteps away from the Calvin, in fact—troubadour Richard Buckner returns to the area for a show at the Iron Horse (10 PM, $13, 413-584-0610). . . . We didn’t mean to leave a giant hole here, really. Check above for Sunday’s myriad entertaiment options, then head to Saratoga on Wednesday for a solo set by Joe Nacco at Caffe Lena; Nacco’s former Head bandmate Mike Thomas will both open for and accompany him (7 PM, $2, 583-0022).

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