A couple of very different festivals -- Sonic Circuits DC and Duke Ellington Jazz Festival -- highlight the picks for early in the month. One of them features a transgender singer-songwriter who sometimes sounds like Randy Newman, the other has one of John Coltrane's most renowned collaborators. Try to guess which is which! Also, a tough decision with the Wedding Present vs. Wire, the return of Shudder to Think and a great Beck cover by Jay Reatard in this supersize edition of the mixtape.
"Susie at the Seashore" - These United States (Oct. 4, Rock and Roll Hotel)
The local group led by Jesse Elliot is back with its second album and this song, at least, shows off a new T.Rex-inspired sound.
"Giant Steps" (YouTube video) - McCoy Tyner (Oct. 5, National Mall)
Here's a fantastic performance of the jazz legend and former John Coltrane collaborator taking on the 'Trane classic, on which he originally performed.
"Teeth Are the Only Bones That Show" - Baby Dee (Oct. 5, Velvet Lounge)
The transgender singer-songwriter/performance artists is an underground hero whose performances can make most acts at the Palace of Wonders seem positively normal. This song is a fairly straightforward, jaunty piano pop song.
"Singing to the Earth (To Thank Her for You)" - Apollo Sunshine (Oct. 9, DC9)
More breezy, less etherial indie-pop. There's a lot of that these days. This Philly band does it better than most, though.
"Hit Liquor" (YouTube video) - Shudder to Think (Oct. 10, 9:30 club)
D.C.'s most confounding almost-stars of the '90s are back, and this stilted rocker is a good example of the band's slippery appeal.
(15 more after the jump...)
"Suck" - The Wedding Present (Oct. 11, Black Cat)
It's a battle of legendary British, alternative bands whose name starts with "W" on this Saturday night. I side with David Gedge and Co., and this track from their 1991 masterpiece "Seamonsters" -- with its perfect guitar sound, courtesy of Steve Albini -- is a big reason why.
"12XU" - Wire (Oct. 11, 9:30 club)
But it's hard to argue with the ferocity of this classic from Wire's unimpeachable 1977 debut. So great that Minor Threat covered it, meaning it's as good as the Monkees!
"Waking Up Drunk" - Spider Bags (Oct. 13, Velvet Lounge)
"Waking up drunk makes me happy/Lately you just bring me down," sings Dan McGee on this rollicking indie-country-rock number that was one of my favorite songs of 2007.
"Joe Brown" - YellowFever (Oct. 13, Dahlak)
Dahlak still doesn't do the best job of promoting its shows, so when a good band from out-of-town (Austin in this case) is playing there, I've got to get the word out.
"The Snow Leopard" - Shearwater (Oct. 15, Millennium Stage)
Will Sheff's dramatic vocals get on my nerves a bit, but it's hard to pass up seeing Shearwater for free at the Kennedy Center instead of paying to get into at the Black Cat or 9:30 club.
"Guns of Thunder" - Pierced Arrows (Oct. 18, DC9)
Underground garage-punk heroes Dead Moon recently called it quits after more than 20 years, but Fred and Toody Cole, the husband/wife duo at the core of the band, are back with a new group that plays the same kind of ragged rock, still highlighted by Fred's anguished wail.
"Blues That Defy My Soul" (MySpace stream) - Dexter Romweber Duo (Oct. 23, The Red and the Black)
Romweber fronted rockabilly cult favorites Flat Duo Jets and he still brings the old-school rock-and-roll, somehow sounding like a reincarnation of Screamin' Jay Hawkins on this track.
"Strange Powers" - The Magnetic Fields (Oct. 26, Lisner Auditorium)
Stephin Merritt will go down as one of the era's great songwriters, and this bouncy synth-pop gem from 1994's "Holiday" is among his best, with plenty of his trademark smart and funny lyrics. ("On on the ferris wheel / Looking out on Coney Island / Under more stars than / There are prostitues in Thailand.")
"Gamma Ray" - Jay Reatard (Oct. 28, Black Cat)
Another reason Jay Reatard is a king among men -- he recognizes the power of the "current cover." Why wait 20 years to tackle a song? Cover it right away! His version of Beck's single from "Modern Guilt" is one of the best songs of the year.
"Girlfriend" - Matthew Sweet (Oct. 29, State Theatre)
Perhaps the single best alt-rock radio hit of the '90s. Those stinging guitar leads, the harmonies in the chorus, even the drum fills at the end. Just perfect.
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