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MINDY SMITH 2/13, SCHUBAS Slipped in among stars like Shania Twain and Alison Krauss on last fall's Dolly Parton tribute album, Just Because I'm a Woman, this clarion-voiced young singer-songwriter turned heads with her version of "Jolene," and she's since formally launched her career with One Moment More (Vanguard). She's got tons of potential--she can sound as shy as Suzanne Vega or as full of conviction as Sandy Denny--but as of now her singing is well out in front of her songwriting. Interesting aside: she gets way more into the Jesus songs than the personal affirmations. VENOMOUS CONCEPT 2/13, DOUBLE DOOR This is the very first show by this part-time band, so there's only the lineup to go on, but it's a good one: Melvins and Fantomas guitarist Buzz Osbourne, Danny Herrera and Shane Embury of Napalm Death, and the Chicago connection, Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth. Don't expect metal, though, avant or otherwise: band members are calling the project "outlaw punk," by which I think they mean simple, violent, loud, and fun (as opposed to their usual--complex, violent, loud, and fun). Also on this high-density bill are Nausea, X-Terrorizer, the Last Vegas, and Buried at Sea. VOLCANO, I'M STILL EXCITED!! 2/13, EMPTY BOTTLE This pop trio (of Texans relocated to Brooklyn) is the brainchild of Mark Duplass, who nearly had his music career cut short by acute tendinitis. He found that playing organ didn't hurt nearly as much as playing guitar; hence all the tweedling keyboards on the band's eponymously titled full-length debut on Polyvinyl. Itchy, moody, with a puppyish energy at its core, this is the kind of indie pop that glories in the utter absence of pretense (which winds up seeming to be a sort of pretense in itself, of course). Like Squeeze without the bite, or Spoon without the soup. Also on the bill are the Ponys (see the Meter) and the breathtaking We Ragazzi. THE COUNTDOWN 2/14, METRO This local husband-and-wife duo recently played Larry Tee's Outsider Electronic Music Festival, which I guess is what you rename your electroclash festival when no one wants anything to do with electroclash anymore. But the Countdown's new self-released five-song EP works just fine independent of any "movement." On "Human Resources," with its ominous litany of Big Brother's privacy invasions, they come off like a version of Missing Persons that listened to more punk rock and less Kraftwerk, more scary than spacey. TOBIN SPROUT 2/14, BOTTOM LOUNGE It's hard to believe Lost Planets & Phantom Voices (due in a few weeks on Luna) is the first full-length from this Guided by Voices veteran since 1999. But time flies when you're a photo-realist painter: the art gallery at Sprout's Web site is full of loving close-ups of electric meters, price tags, ketchup and beer bottles, and other ordinary objects. There's a similar feel to Sprout's recent music: his contemplation of the weird in the mundane is so focused that he loses interest in the bigger picture. Like fellow artist/musician Robyn Hitchcock, he illuminates odd beauty with a radiant, chiming, gently psychedelic glow; unlike Hitchcock, Sprout seems to lack the capacity to frighten. VAN HUNT 2/15, SCHUBAS Young soul singer Van Hunt just put out his debut album on Capitol. On the croony "Dust" and the sultry "Seconds of Pleasure"--both light on studio sheen, very heavy on guitars, horns, and other real instruments--he seems determined to take sticky, ambitious soul music back from the bespectacled Dusty Groove patrons who've hoarded it, shrink-wrapped it, and raised its prices. I can't imagine how his organic style will compete with the slicker stuff on the R & B charts, but it sounds perfect for a small room like this. LISA LOEB & DWEEZIL ZAPPA 2/15, HOUSE OF BLUES I've always thought that watching other people eat was even more pointless than watching other people fuck, but I know several cable subscribers who say that Dweezil & Lisa, this celebrity pair's show on the Food Network, is actually pretty good (personally, I don't know if I could listen to Frank Zappa's son talking in great detail about food without being distracted by visions of a Montana dental-floss ranch). Here they'll play Loeb's theme songs for female viewers too cynical for Sex and the City and probably find some time for Zappa's post-Vai novelty shredding.

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