Blonde Redhead, Sunset Rubdown and More SF Show Previews

Given their respective noise-rock and industrial pedigrees, guitarist Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard, Hank III, Tomahawk) and bassist/programmer Paul Barker (Ministry and related side projects the Revolting Cocks, Lard, and 1000 Homo DJs) could have indulged in all manner of experimental racket and still had plenty of fans go along for the ride. Instead, their new quartet U.S.S.A. ranks as one of the more tuneful groups either musician has worked with of late. Rounded out by monster session drummer Johnny Rabb and relative unknown Gary Call on vocals, the band evokes the vampire-rock menace of classic Killing Joke, Bauhaus, and NIN with the dark grooves of its recently released debut The Spoils. Get a dose of the outfit's razor-wire melodies when it plays with local noise merchants Oxbow and bong-wielders Weedeater on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 12 Galaxies at 9 p.m. Admission is $8-10; call 970-9777 or visit for more info. Dave Pehling

When the genre-spawning power-pop group Big Star formed, its band name was as self-deprecating as it was hopeful. Though the group was initially plagued with commercial indifference and personality conflicts, a listen to its first three albums reveals a songbook you would swear was a collection of number-one hits that a case of amnesia stole from memory. The interplay of crystalline guitars and heavenly-harmonized vocals provided the context for singers Alex Chilton and Chris Bell's tales of heartbreak, disillusion, and nostalgia. Currently abetted by members of superfans the Posies, drummer Jody Stephens and Chilton have led a somewhat happier Big Star since 1993. In 2005 the reformed group released In Space, an album that stays true to its live sound but is raw only by Big Star's shimmery standards. Big Star performs on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Fillmore at 9 p.m. Admission is $35; call 346-6000 or visit for more info. John Garmon

Situated off the northwest African coast, the island nation of Cape Verde was once a colony of Portugal, affording its citizens a wealth of African and European cultural influences. This is no doubt why the music of Cape Verdean Sara Tavares is so bountiful. A current resident of Portugal, the singer and guitarist embodies a confluence of global influences — her recent Balancê is a simmering dish of the sultry Brazilian sounds of samba and bossa nova, the effervescent juju of Afropop icon King Sunny Ade, and the poised Euro-American songcraft of Everything But the Girl and Rickie Lee Jones (whose voice Tavares sometimes evokes). Become enlightened when Tavares performs as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival on Sunday, Oct. 21, at the Florence Gould Theater (Legion of Honor) at 2 p.m. Admission is $25; call 398-5655 or visit for more info. Mark Keresman

The intense moments on Sunset Rubdown's latest disc, Random Spirit Lover, could shatter good masonry. “Shit, I know we're all getting old,” Krug says resignedly at one point, setting up a thrilling salvation-by-guitar-solo. But the whole thing would ring so much louder if he didn't have to sweat so hard working up the force. Album-wide, he's fighting big waves of bombastic production that constantly threaten to submerge him, when simpler treatments would better serve the pluck-the-day urgency of his voice. It can make for compelling drama: Krug vs. the world and blistering guitar riffs. But too great a fraction of Lover's demands feel frivolous. Barring career highlight “The Mending of the Gown,” which must be the catchiest denouement ever to open a record, all songs build intrigue better than they deliver payoff. That includes “Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns,” which brings poltergeist arpeggios and snowdrifts of fuzz guitar, but not, alas, the polycorn promised in the title. Sunset Rubdown performs on Sunday, Oct. 21, at the Independent at 8 p.m. Admission is $15; call or visit for more info. Sam Ubl

Once upon a time, the members of New York City's Blonde Redhead were heralded as Sonic Youth acolytes for their tumultuous guitar noise, weird tunings, and art-cool leanings. It didn't help that Youth drummer Steve Shelley signed them to his label and produced their self-titled 1995 debut. Along the way, though, the trio has become considerably quieter and prettier — most point to 2000's Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons as the obvious turning point. And when Blonde Redhead signed to 4AD a few years back, the group openly embraced the label's dream-pop legacy: 2004's Misery Is a Butterfly was a lush and atmospheric affair. The band's new, shoegazery 23 is equally radiant and intoxicating. Plus, the two-guy, one-girl outfit is probably the best-looking indie-rock band this side of Dean & Britta. See and hear for yourself when Blonde Redhead performs on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Warfield at 8 p.m. Admission is $25; call 567-2060 or visit for more info. Michael Alan Goldberg

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