The Devil and Doctor Octagon: Kool Keith returns

From his 1988 landmark album Critical Beatdown with Ultramagnetic MCs to the groundbreaking collaboration with S.F. producer Dan the Automator as Dr. Octagon, the rapper Kool Keith has covered new, strange ground at almost every turn. He is known for his perverted, otherworldly lyrics and stream-of-consciousness flow; nothing in this man's long career has been conventional — not the costumes, the personas, and least of all his stage antics (rumor has it he was thrown out of his own tribute concert last year in Cleveland). On the verge of the long-rumored and long-awaited release of The Return of Dr. Octagon (without the Automator), Keith will show off fresh material and, presumably, a bit of that old "Sex Style." Kool Keith performs on Wednesday, March 19, at Mezzanine at 9 p.m. Admission is $16; call 625-8880 or visit www.mezzaninesf.com for more info. — TophOne

After Zach Braff and the Shins turned lo-fi indie into Gap ad blah, you just knew real freaks like Times New Viking and Pink Reason were gonna come along and revisit the music's roots in slacker-scuzz and wastoid alienation. This is where Montana's Ex-Cocaine comes into the picture. Mike Casler and Bryan Ramirez sound as if they smoked a phatty while taking a blowtorch to Neil Young's proto-grunge epic "Cortez the Killer." Then they smoked even more weed and melted Black Flag's My War. So yeah, this boombox-bred noise flows slow and thick, like electrified molasses. Make sure you leave your dancing shoes at home when Ex-Cocaine unleashes its down vibes on Wednesday, March 19, at the Hemlock Tavern at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $6; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com for more info. Justin F. Farrar

For a couple sharing neither amorous glances nor a toothbrush, Beach House's Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally sure know how to craft shimmering, gorgeous love songs. The opener to their self-titled debut, "Saltwater," rattles like the radiators in an old house, Legrand's lyrics providing the warmth: "You couldn't lose me if you tried." New release Devotion teems with more love-spiel, like the electric harpsichord-textured "Wedding Bell," which explores the emotional ephemera in your standard relationship. Sonically, Beach House evokes Jason Pierce's "feather on your breath" approach, Legrand's detached vocals floating below the empyrean cloud-cover of her languid organ playing and Scally's soothing slide guitar. It's music to close your eyes and sit down to — just remember to leave a path for the unloved punters heading to the bar when Beach House performs on Saturday, March 15, at Bottom of the Hill at 10 p.m. Admission is $10-$12; call 626-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com for more info. Ryan Foley

Steve Earle's actions have by now become as well known as his songs. Of course, there's the prison stint he did resulting from his heroin addiction, and the uproar over "John Walker's Blues," a song about the American Taliban kid that Earle wrote from the alleged terrorist's perspective. You could spend hours reading about Earle without learning a thing about his music. Which is a shame, since he is a Grammy winner whose style of brash, impassioned folk music is in preciously short supply these days. He annihilates the sensitive-guy label given to acoustic-guitar-carrying folk singers, performing with an unapologetic sincerity for his left-leaning beliefs. Recently he's been spotted onstage with a drum machine, which, regardless of how it sounds behind his protest songs, is testimony to the 53-year-old's artistic curiosity. Find Earle middle-fingering the status quo alongside his wife, alt-country diva Allison Moorer, at the Palace of Fine Arts on Friday, March 21, and Saturday, March 22, at 8 p.m. Admission is $35; call 563-6504 or visit www.palaceoffinearts.org for more info. Mark Sanders

 
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