From literate indie to psychedelic metal

In years past, the Las Vegas live music offerings seemed to always snow over with blandness by November. Not in 2010. As the holidays threaten to crush my sanity, the more great shows fill up my calendar. Here are a few must-sees this week.

First, Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady—the thinker’s indie-rock band—will sway House of Blues on Nov. 12. Very literate vocalist Craig Finn’s lyrics are brilliant and specific in their rough-hewn poetry, even if his pop-song constructions are fairly standard. Still, a tune like “The Sweet Part of the City” is art of the highest caliber in the way it articulates the slim joy of living somewhere that’s cool: “The part with the bars and restaurants/So we shot ourselves out into outer space/It was tough to place the aftertaste/It was stark but it was spacious.” Living in the downtown Las Vegas Arts District, I know exactly what he means. The band’s latest album, Heaven Is Whenever, is full of punk-rock-filtered-through-Springsteen-grade-craftmanship moments.

Too cerebral for you? In that case, try some shoe-gaze doom (talking My Bloody Valentine meets Black Sabbath) and brace your internal organs for only the second viscera-pounding, mind-expanding Vegas appearance of Portland, Ore., trio Megaton Leviathan, who will unleash a devastating, darkly psychedelic wallop at Brass Lounge on Nov. 12. Like a bad acid trip in outer space, this band will transport your eardrums into unbelievable places. Megaton Leviathan is touring in support of its just-released debut full-length, Water Wealth Hell on Earth, and it’s one of the top metal releases of 2010. Forget that noodling jamband crap; the Leviathan will swallow the precious yolk of your consciousness whole.

On the brutal crust-punk end of things, Trap Them is coming to Vegas to obliterate Area 702 Indoor Skate Park (Nov. 16, $19).  This Salem, N.H., quartet exerts a teenage eardrum-smashing grindcore attack, equal parts Black Flag (hardcore), Swans (noise), and Entombed (death metal). Taking their name from the 1977 Italian cannibal gorefest flick Trap Them and Kill Them, these guys are visceral to a fault, their discordant, angular guitar riffing hung against a violent backdrop of jackhammering drums.

But there’s also a minimalist, conceptual element (especially evident in the lyrics) to what they do that borrows from other unlikely forms such as, say, spoken-word poetry, elevating Trap Them to a level above the reach of most loutish extreme music acts. If you enjoy an edgy, arty take on ye olde punk rock, you will totally groove on this. The band performs with Every Time I Die and Howl.

Finally, if it’s been a while since you’ve enjoyed a kick-ass Southern blues-rock band, please check out the searing John Zito. Dude plays a lot of covers, but they’re anything but faithful. Zito instead brings his own pyrotechnical flair to every riff and vocal line. He’s got an arsenal of killer originals that stand up against any of his classic renditions, too. Catch him and his powerhouse band at Divebar on Nov. 15.

Man, what a week. Hopefully the last two months of my KISS calendar won’t collapse under the weight of all this great live music.

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Art of McSweeney’s a delightful yearbook of literary success

Book Jacket

Art of McSweeney’s a delightful yearbook of literary success

By M. Scott Krause

To be honest, I’ve missed the boat on a few things. I thought [i]Harry Potter[/i] wasn’t particularly well-written. I was lukewarm on [i]The Da Vinci Code[/i]. [i]Twilight? [/i]Who knew? That said, it’s a real point of pride I got in on the ground floor with Timothy McSweeney’s [i]Quarterly Concern[/i], the groundbreaking, all-star literary journal Dave Eggers founded in 1998, prior to hitting it big with [i]A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius[/i] (Vintage, 2000).