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Figure 8: A Tribute to the Music of Elliott Smith
Valentine’s, Friday

Though Elliott Smith was praised during his lifetime as a composer of first-rate pop, fans responded not only to his musicality, his deft Beatles-beholden songcraft, but to the bleak and not infrequently harrowing nature of his lyrics. Themes of isolation, depression, desperation and psychic fragility strung out along lushly orchestrated and achingly pretty melodies painted a engrossing portrait of the dramatic tension within a, perhaps, too-sensitive soul. It was tension sadly resolved by Smith’s grim suicide in October 2003. This Friday would have marked Smith’s 35th birthday, and in celebration of his memory, local and regional acts—including Ed Gorch, John Brodeur, Brian Bassett, Eric Halder, Danny Brennen, Joe Rogers, and others—will gather to perform his songs as a benefit for the Elliott Smith Memorial Fund, which provides support for victims of child abuse. (Aug. 6, 8 PM, $5, 17 New Scotland Ave., 432-6572)

Northern Lights, Friday

The Who’s 1969 concept-album-gone-Hollywood-gone-Broadway smash Tommy simultaneously invented the rock opera and produced the genre’s best work. W.A.S.P.’s 1985 Animal (F*ck Like a Beast) EP—the one whose jacket prominently features a close-up photograph of Blackie Lawless’ sawblade-adorned codpiece—simultaneously defined bad taste and pissed off Tipper Gore, providing the impetus for formation of the PMRC. What do these two things have in common, you ask? Lawless and company have returned with The Neon God: Part 1—The Rise, a concept album about a conflicted young man who is either a messiah or a big crazy loon. It’s totally over-the-top, pretentious drama-metal, cross-breeding the classic-rock pomp of Tommy with the timbre of the only other rock opera of any note, Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime, but it all somehow comes out sounding like an hourlong version of Tenacious D’s “Dio,” and that’s just fine by us. Rock like a beast with W.A.S.P. on Friday night, with Joey Belladonna (formerly of thrash kings Anthrax), Blasé Debris, and Doc Savage opening. (Aug. 6, 7:30 PM, $15, 1208 Route 146, Clifton Park, 371-0012)

Randy Travis, Rachel Proctor
The Palace Theatre, Sunday

OK, it’s true, Randy Travis’ real surname is the decidedly less-country-sounding Traywick; and, by this point, the man’s more an entreprenurial experience than a simple singer (he owns not one but two resort complexes on the island of Maui); and, yes, he admits to tooling around town in either his Mercedes 560 SEL or a Mercedes SUV. But he, assures fans at his Web site, he loves trucks. Seriously, he loves those, whaddya call ’em, them pick-up dealies. And twirlin’ his six-gun. And hitchin’ ’em up and headin’ ’em out. And the Bible. And all things true country. Doth Randy protest too much? Honestly, who cares? Because however canny his country, when Travis opens his mouth he sure sounds like the real deal. When his peers—the justly denigrated “hat acts”—were cravenly courting crossover success, Travis was plying a sound reminiscent of masters like Merle Haggard and George Jones. And, hell, we think he deserves a Hawaiian resort for that alone. Rachel Proctor opens. (Aug. 8, 7:30 PM, $35-$48.50, 19 Clinton Ave., 476-1000)

John Mayer, Maroon 5, DJ Logic
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Sunday

“The little girls understand.” So says the San Francisco Chronicle, anyway, regarding the reception accorded multiplatinum rock-star-heartthrob John Mayer at a recent performance. One can assume that Mayer will get a similar response at SPAC on Sunday evening. “Mayer,” the critic continued, “is a teen dream with a thick head of hair that wouldn’t look out of place on a Kennedy.” Mayer also sings; the Berklee College of Music dropout’s albums have sold in the millions, and the aforementioned Chronicle critic also noted that Mayer knows how to play a mean blues guitar. Opening will be chart-topping retro- popsters Maroon 5 (“This Love,” “Harder to Breathe”) and DJ Logic. (Aug. 8, 7 PM, $45.50-$35.50, Saratoga Springs, 476-1000)

Killing the Day, Clitorture, Malice 420
Hudson Duster, Sunday

If saying the upstate death metal trio Clitorture’s name out loud wasn’t enough to make you feel dirty, then maybe the song titles off of their upcoming, self-titled album like “Vomit Christening,” “Flesh Pollution” and “Assisted Suicide” will. But maybe that was the idea anyway, since according to the band’s Web site, they’re known for creating the “most devastating music the underground has produced and heard in some time.” Clitorture will appear in a matinee performance with Killing the Day, and California-based Malice 420. The all-ages show starts early, which is great in case the old lady wants you home in time for dinner. (Aug. 8, 3 PM, $6, 40 3rd St., Troy, 687-2391)

North Mississippi Allstars, Eddy “the Chief” Clearwater with Los Straightjackets, Crawdad, Buck2Fifty
Empire State Plaza, Wednesday

Well, we’re not sure what Mexi-can wrestling masks and big bluesy sounds have to do with local food, but the I Love New York Food Festival seems to think it works. And what could be better? You can sample homegrown food and drinks from some 70 vendors around the plaza. Buck2Fifty will serve up swingin’ blues through the lunch hour, and the after-work festivities kick off with the twangy sounds of Crawdad. Eddy “the Chief” Clearwater will be playing blazing blues and surf with the help of the bemasked Los Straightjackets, and the evening’s main course will be the North Mississippi Allstars. North Mississippi Allstars are a young, roots-rock band with a serious musical pedigree: two sons of Memphis producer Jim Dickenson and one of R.L. Burnside. With their third album, Polaris, they cross-pollinate boogie blues, psych-pop and Southern rock with room for improvisation that makes the group’s live performances dynamic. (Aug. 11, 11 AM-10 PM, Empire State Plaza, Albany, 473-0559)

Also Noted

Tonight (Thursday), catch a whole slew of loud, heavy bands, including Amps II Eleven, To Hell And Back, Evixxion and End of a Year, at Trinity Church . . . or is it Trinity Hall? Oh, whatever (8 PM, $7, 369-8579). . . . There’s a whole slew of loud, heavy bands at Northern Lights tonight as well, including Kittie and metal survivors Candiria (7:30 PM, $14, 371-0012). . . . Tomorrow night (Friday), area pop faves the Wait return from a lengthy hiatus to play at Valentine’s, with a new guitarist (the Suggestions’ Keith Hosmer) and a bunch of new songs in tow (8 PM, $7, 432-6572). . . . No plans on Saturday? Spend the day at the Corning Preserve for the annual GE Riverfest; this year’s live-music slate includes performances by Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, Abba Gold, and the Trammps (noon, free, 434-2032). . . . If you’ve still got some steam left in your engine after boogying down at Riverfest, head over to the Lark Tavern, and local rockabilly vets Rocky Velvet will help you swing-dance the night away (10 PM, $3, 463-9779). . . . Our old boy Graham Parker is at it again; he’s back on tour and will play at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass., on Saturday night (7 PM, $20, 413-584-0610). . . . On Sunday, Parker’s occasional touring band, the Figgs, play the very same Iron Horse stage, along with Mike Viola and the Candy Butchers and Fancy Trash (8:30 PM, $10, 413-584-0610). . . . He’s number two! He’s number two! Professional also-ran Clay Aiken comes to the Pepsi Arena on Sunday (7:30 PM, $35.50-$45.50, 476-1000). . . . Holy crap! Has it been that long already? The one-and-only Rush will play SPAC on Monday as part of their 30th Anniversary tour (7:30 PM, $32-$89.50, 476-1000). . . . L.A.-based children of noise Wires on Fire rock the Fuze Box on Monday; Complicated Shirt and Lincoln Money Shot open (8 PM, $5, 432-4472).

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