Mightier than the Sword: Black Cobra slays

It's tough to think of an indie icon more accomplished than Stephen Malkmus. Although he's best known for being frontman of the infamous slacker-rock band Pavement throughout the '90s, he has made a name for himself this millennium with his solo work, which uses elements of indie-rock and powerpop to create an idiosyncratic blend all his own. Malkmus recently covered Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" for the I'm Not There soundtrack and is currently readying his latest disc with the Jicks, Real Emotional Trash. Live, you can expect a show that encompasses all his post-Pavement output in one guitar solo-riffic package. Trust us: If you thought "jamming" was synonymous with self-indulgence, think again. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks perform on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Great American Music Hall at 8 p.m. Tickets have sold out; call 885-0750 or visit www.gamh.com for more info. Jonah Bayer

S.F. transplants Black Cobra recently returned from a month on the road supporting Austin's The Sword. Guitarist and screamer Jason Landrian and drummer Rafael Martinez dole out a dead-serious hardcore bombast: a powerful, propulsive take on sludge and doom metal that common stoner metal champions only dream of matching. One listen to Feather and Stone, released in October, is evidence of the duo's momentum. Black Cobra's songs burst forth like a goddamn steam engine, forever threatening to jump the tracks. Mightier than The Sword? Indeed. Just try to socialize over the decibels emitted Friday, Dec. 21, at Annie's Social Club at 8 p.m. Admission is $8; call 974-1585 or visit www.anniessocialclub.com for more info. — J. Pace

It was vaguely inspiring to see Justin Timberlake survive Britney and the boy-band holocaust to remake himself as a credible source of white-boy soul music. Homeboy has nothing on local R&B hottie Josh Klipp, though. This guy weathered a transition from female to male, and now puts on a down-and-dirty show replete with sweaty slow jams, freak-nasty fly girls, and a rendition of "My Funny Valentine" that could make robots cry. Margaret Cho directed a video for him recently, and Tyra Banks is a fan, in case you like your grinders with a side of fabulous. Joining Klipp on the bill is bluesy, blowsy local chanteuse Veronica Klaus, a blonde cougar with a smoking back-up band and a repertoire of torch songs and smutty soul tunes. This is likely the world's only transman/transwoman bill, and the premise does not detract an iota from the artistry, courage, and dirty fun of these two crooners. Klipp and Krause perform on Saturday, Dec. 22, at Café du Nord at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $16; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com or for more info. Frances Reade

The latest disc from local singer-songwriter Vienna Teng, Dreaming Through the Noise, is densely, lovingly orchestrated. Her lyrics include parables of corporate chicanery ("Whatever You Want"), love vs. governmental sanction ("City Hall"), and wanderlust of the heart ("Blue Caravan"). With her gentle, brooding voice and refined piano, Teng never bears too many crosses, but rather plays the somewhat biased storyteller. She's Norah Jones gone to grad school, Tori Amos sans excessive angst (or excess, period). Teng's rattle 'n' hum seeks to soothe the unquiet mind and the weary heart. Vienna Teng performs two separate shows on Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Independent: solo at 7 p.m. and with full band at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $20; call 771-1421 or visit www.theindependentsf.com for more info. — Mark Keresman

San Francisco's Ascended Master definitely embraces the cult-rock thing. The group's MySpace page lists influences ranging from spiritual iconoclasts Dr. Gene Scott and Elizabeth Clare Prophet to all manner of psychedelic rock godheads. The band cryptically claims to sound like "the exalted hymns of subaquatic life forms embracing the culture of a new era through sound," which is as apt a description as any. Live, the quintet brings an enigmatically arty visual component to its hypnotronic noise, which occasionally involves one of its members writhing ecstatically on the floor. Ascended Master brings the trance ritual on Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Hemlock Tavern at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $6; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com for more info. Mike Rowell

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