He wasn't 'round long, but Gram Parsons (1946-1973) remains one of the most significant songwriter/performers of the past 25-plus years. From his brief tenure in the Byrds to co-leading the seminal Flying Burrito Brothers to his two early-'70s solo discs, Parsons pioneered "Americana," a then-practically-avant-garde synthesis of country music, Southern soul, gospel, and rock 'n' roll. Saturday, Jan. 13, the Great American Music Hall hosts the Seventh Annual Sleepless Nights' Tribute to Gram Parsons , where the Bay's best country and country-inspired practitioners interpret the man's canon: honky-tonk connoisseurs Red Meat , Dave Gleason's Wasted Nights , Sweetbriar , Tarnation siren Paula Frazer , and more. Proceeds benefit the Pat Spurgeon Kidney Foundation and the show starts at 9 p.m. Admission is $10-12; call 885-0750 or visit www.gamh.com for more info. Mark Keresman
Before that first Brit Invasion, instrumental rock was common, popular, and influential: Ventures, Dick Dale, and Link Wray laid the foundations for generations of electric stringbenders. In the '90s, there was an indie-rock mini-renaissance Tortoise, Man or Astro-Man, and Los Straitjackets proved verbal expression to be unnecessary. The new century, however, belongs to Red Sparowes . Comprising members of Neurosis, Angel Hair, and Isis, these crimson aviators merge colossal slabs of metallic riffage with eerily poignant melodies and the subtle repetition of minimalist composers such as Philip Glass. Dense, uncompromising, and engrossing, Red Sparowes weave soundtracks to epic films in the mind's eye. Experience them and be changed on Sunday, Jan. 14, at the Great American Music Hall at 9 p.m. (Neurosis headlines). Admission is $17; call 885-0750 or visit www.gamh.com for more info. M.K.
Rap-metal notwithstanding, the spheres of black R&B and white rock 'n' roll were intertwined a lot more in the 1960s than now, especially in the Midwest and Northwest. MC5, the Sonics, and pre-superstardom Bob Seger mixed soulful fervor with amped-up aggression. These days, Seattle's Thee Emergency hoe that selfsame row. Fronted by the impassioned, audacious vocals of Dita Fox who evokes a Janis Joplin raised in Detroit instead of Texas and the lean, distortion-laden onslaught of Sonic Smith (a nod to Patti Smith's late husband), Thee Emergency are raw, but aren't just another garage combo with studied amateurishness. Ms. Fox can indeed sing well, and the rest play with flair as well as fury. Thee (remember the extra "e") Emergency, Makes Nice, and Top Ten perform on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at Rickshaw Stop at 8 p.m. Admission is $8; call 861-2011 or visit www.rickshawstop.com for more info. M.K.