Howling with Hagerty; Scottish indie-pop gets brawny

Oh shit, the Howling Hex is playing San Francisco -- which means you and I, we get to stay up superlate and see Drag City recording artist and master axeman Neil Michael Hagerty in his latest musical incarnation. As you probably know, Hagerty was a co-founder of the now-legendary boogie-noise visionaries Royal Trux; as with the Trux, the Hag (along with that damn Hex) does it all: meticulously arranged hard-rock compositions, extended jam-band workouts, explorative jazz fusion, poetic indie folk-rock, electronic freakery, and full-tilt improvisation. Hagerty is a true Renaissance man, bringing all that good stuff together. In fact, I'll say the dude is my generation's Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan wrapped, rolled, and sealed into a single package. Wow. The Howling Hex performs on Saturday, March 18, at 10 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill. Admission is $10; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com for more info.-- Justin F. Farrar


Already the engineer of the most densely quotable record of last year, South London's Art Brut is making the best of its obligatory South by Southwest appearance with its first full-fledged tactical assault on the United States. And though the many mantras of its debut -- the hyperaddictive Bang Bang Rock & Roll -- have been ceaselessly echoed by the humor-starved critical masses since the album's release, it's still probably best to refresh everybody's memory with a few gems: "Modern art makes me want to rock out!" "We're going to be the band that makes Israel and Palestine get along!" "I've seen her naked -- TWICE!" "I can't stand the sound of the Velvet Underground!" "Sometimes it's hard to stop when your heart is set on Top of the Pops!" To call Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos a poor man's Mark E. Smith probably wouldn't be too far off -- and it certainly wouldn't be an insult. Art Brut performs two shows here: an all-ages stint on Monday, March 20, at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill ($12; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com for more info); and a 21-plus show on Tuesday, March 21, at 9 p.m. at the Independent ($12; call 771-1421 or go to www.theindependentsf.com for more info).-- Zac Pennington


If you're heading to Belle & Sebastian expecting the usual twee party, you may be in for a bit of a shock. Not that its sound has gone all Motörhead or anything, but this well-bred septet of Scottish ladies and gents has twisted and toughened up its famously precious indie-pop a good deal on new album The Life Pursuit -- building on a style evolution first evident on 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress. The band treads confidently into Bolan/Bowie glam-rock territory on "The White Collar Boy" and "The Blues Are Still Blue" -- frontman Stuart Murdoch, who still sounds like a cross between Donovan and Colin Blunstone, even seems to poke fun at his group's reputation on the latter, singing, "The hoodie's way too moody for a kid with the will to funk." Thanks to the beauty of YouTube.com, bootleg footage from earlier tour stops confirms that B&S is revamping some of the more delicate, older tunes to fit in with the new vibe, so don't even think about bringing your cardigan on Tuesday, March 21, when Belle & Sebastian performs at the Concourse Exhibition Center at 8 p.m. Admission is $30; go to www.ticketmaster.com for more info. -- Michael Alan Goldberg


Andrew Eldritch, co-founder and frontman of '80s goth rockers Sisters of Mercy, appears to have problems getting along with people. He has gone through band members like Kleenex, and he once led a solo strike against his former record label, EastWest, which essentially halted the band's career over the past decade-plus. Today's Sisters of Mercy have their own label, the puntastic Merciful Release (though they have yet to release anything), and the lineup consists of Eldritch, Doktor Avalanche (a drum machine), Nurse (the drum machine's assistant), and guitarists Chris Catalyst and Ben Christo. Expect the band to indulge in its catalog highlights alongside new and rare material. Eldritch has tried fiercely to disown his goth influence/following for many years, but you can't hold the black posse down; despite the frontman's possible protests, look for lots of eyeliner and downcast expressions when the Sisters of Mercy perform on Wednesday, March 22, at 8 p.m. at the Warfield. Admission is $37.50-42.50; call 567-2060 or visit www.bgp.com for more info.-- Tamara Palmer

 
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