Helio Sequence, John Lee Hooker Jr., Secret Chiefs 3, and ... Goldfinger? Sorry about that last one.

At an early age, John Lee Hooker Jr. seemed to have it all: an almost regal pedigree, instant name recognition, and the talent to back up his father and legendary bluesmen like Jimmy Reed before his 16th birthday. But the Behind the Musicstyle meltdown came early, and a once-promising career was stalled for 25 years by drugs, alcohol, divorce, and incarceration. Now, Hooker, recipient of the 2004 Comeback Artist of the Year award presented by the Bay Area Blues Society, has returned with the Grammy-nominated Blues With a Vengeance, a rollicking mix of blues, jazz, and R&B that has pushed the prodigal son back into the spotlight. Sober for nearly three years, he has been touring nonstop since early 2004, backed by a robust four-piece featuring Herbie Hancock protégé Will "Roc" Griffin. During that time, Hooker has established himself as a mainstay of the San Francisco blues scene, and will appear on Friday, Jan. 13, at Biscuits & Blues; call 292-2583 or visit www.biscuitsandblues.com for more info. -- Rossiter Drake


Followers of local avant-rock outfit Mr. Bungle may lament the band's unofficial demise with the long radio silence since the 1999 release of California, but at least its principals have kept up a constant stream of new projects and weird releases ever since. Aside from participating in ridiculously costumed noise-terrorist band Faxed Head and doom/drone experiment Asva, guitarist Trey Spruance has focused most of his creative energies on the wildly ambitious and eclectic sounds of Secret Chiefs 3 . First heard on a 7-inch single included with Bungle's sophomore opus, Disco Volante, SC3 has been exploring a heady collision of Middle Eastern modes, twanging surf-rock, lush cinematic overtures, and corrosive death metal for a solid decade. On the group's most recent effort, 2004's Book of Horizons, Spruance and company ventured even farther into orbit, dividing into no fewer than six separate "subbands" -- complete with intricately designed logos and distinctive styles -- to better deliver the composer's sprawling vision of musical and metaphysical apocalypse. Fans of brash, envelope-pushing sounds will be in ecstasy when Secret Chiefs 3 is joined by fellow artistes-in-dementia (and labelmates on Spruance's Mimicry Records) Sleepytime Gorilla Museum for this co-headlining show on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Great American Music Hall; call 885-0750 or visit www.gamh.com for more info. -- Dave Pehling


Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann acknowledges his band's reputation for zany theatrics on the tour circuit -- after all, these are the same wild and crazy guys who routinely set themselves aflame and invite audiences to join them onstage for sweaty, orgiastic singalongs. These days, though, Feldmann's more interested in showing off the band's newfound maturity, pointing to its latest offering, the saccharine-heavy Disconnection Notice, as proof. "We wanted to make a record where, whatever we want to record, we record," Feldmann says. "So we have a song like Damaged,' which has mandolins and this crazy Indian sampled vocal. ... I felt like we really pushed the envelope." Right. It's true that these ska-punk revivalists have formidable chops -- just listen to their self-titled debut, a punchy mix tinged with metal and reggae. But time has dulled Goldfinger's luster, and with so much bubblegum filler, Disconnection serves notice that the boys have lost their edge. Still, the party goes on. The L.A.-based quartet will invade the SF Weekly Warfield on Sunday, Jan. 15, alongside fellow SoCal sensations Zebrahead and Reel Big Fish; call 775-7722 or visit www.bgp.com for more info. -- Rossiter Drake


What's your favorite two-piece act? The White Stripes? Death From Above 1979? Donny and Marie? After this show, it might be the Portland duo Helio Sequence : singer/guitarist/harmonica player Brandon Summers and drummer/keyboardist Benjamin Weikel. On the pair's most recent album, 2004's Love and Distance, main man Summers revealed he'd gotten over his obsession with My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, which characterized the group's two previous discs -- sure, there was still the occasional wobbly, delay-pedaled six-string, but most of those walls of noise got torn down in favor of an airy, quasi-psychedelic junction of squishy electronics, Weikel's elastic thwaps, and lots of gentle, whooshy melodies. Helio Sequence's live shows hardly lack punch -- when Summers puts harmonica to mouth, the resulting jams strangely recall late-era Stone Roses. But the pair's predominant vibe is that of a Sgt. Pepper's--ized Postal Service. See how it all comes together when the winsome twosome plays on Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Rickshaw Stop; call 861-2011 or visit www.rickshawstop.com for more info.-- Michael Alan Goldberg

 
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