Gigs to brighten dark days

Escape from the rainy months ahead by taking in some top-notch tunes

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      Trust us—we get it. The months after Christmas typically find you wallowing in an extended bout of depression that would bum out Morrissey, Ian Curtis, and those gloomy dandies from Interpol. Christmas isn’t back for another 11 months, stat holidays are so far off they might as well not exist, and every day looks like monsoon season in Southeast Asia, but without the monkeys and mangoes. Normally, we’d forgive you for wanting to spend the next couple of months lolling in the bathtub in the dark while “Love Will Tear Us Apart” plays endlessly on the iPod. But in case you haven’t heard, there’s a party on the horizon unlike any Vancouver has seen before. Wilco and the Sam Roberts Band on the street for free as part of the Olympics’ LiveCity celebrations? Thank you, God, not to mention sweet baby Jesus.

      Considering everyone else is going to be doing their best give ’er, you might as well join the celebration, starting with the following cherry-picked-for-your-pleasure shows.

      Phoenix (January 22 at the Orpheum)
      In the spotlight: Frenchies on a mission to show the world that France’s music scene doesn’t start with Air and Daft Punk and end with Justice. Why you need to go: Phoenix didn’t exactly rocket off the starting line; releasing its first single at the beginning of last decade, the four-piece had the misfortune of being French when the Brits, Yanks, and Swedes were grabbing their guitars to stage a pop-music palace coup. Thanks to the Internet, no one cares where anyone is from these days, and you no longer need to wait until your puny little music scene catches the attention of the tastemakers at Spin, which explains why the French alt-poppers are playing soft-seaters.

      Steve Earle (January 23 at the Orpheum)
      In the spotlight: A formerly hard-drinking train wreck who once seemed like the unofficial poster boy for a certain distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. These days Steve Earle has given up the drink—not to mention the blow—but one of Americana’s most notorious bad-asses is still raising hell, churning out roots rock politicized enough to impress the unrepentant pinkos in Anti-Flag. Why you need to go: Normally, Earle finds himself at the Commodore. This time through town, the legendary maverick finds himself headlining the awesomely opulent Orpheum, making this a must-see for anyone who’s been following him since he had two cowboy boots in the gutter.

      Mötley Crüe (January 24 at GM Place)
      In the spotlight: Arguably the most surprising comeback act of the past two decades. In the late ’90s Mötley Crüe was a bloated caricature of the mean, lean, junk-addled machine that ruled suburban strip malls in the late ’80s. Metal was dead and—to the delight of anyone who ever suffered through their remake of “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”—Nikki Sixx and company were practically pop-music pariahs. Then came The Dirt, a bio so fantastically filthy and debauched that even the most snotbagged hipster could suddenly appreciate the cretinous brilliance of “Kickstart My Heart”. Why you need to go: The sad reality is that Mötley Crüe will never be half as brilliant as The Dirt—no surprise, considering that the first page of the book starts with an ode to Bullwinkle, a chick who looks like a moose but can, um, ejaculate right across the room. That’s not a problem, though. Bring the Neil Strauss–penned opus, settle in with a flashlight, and kick back with the world’s best—not to mention loudest and trashiest—audio book.

      The Cribs (January 31 at Venue)
      In the spotlight: Union Jack–wrapped Britpoppers with a serious jones for golden-era American indie rock. In other words, you’ll have better luck convincing the world that Robbie Williams isn’t a hopeless twat than you will pinning an easy label on the Cribs, who were touted as Britain’s next big thing for most of last decade. Why you need to go: The Cribs’ fourth and latest album, Ignore the Ignorant, has not only landed the band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and Late Show With David Letterman, but it also hit the Top 10 in the U.K. and was named best album of the year by Music Magazine in Japan. It’s the last accomplishment that impresses the most; if the Cribs are crazy enough for the Japanese, they are more than good enough for the likes of you.

      Kool Keith (January 31 at the Biltmore Cabaret)
      In the spotlight: The veteran MC, born Keith Thornton, who, in addition to answering to the name of Kool Keith, has also been known to pass himself off as Poppa Large, Dr. Octagon, Black Elvis, Blonde Man, Jimmy Steele, Willie Biggs, Reverend Tom, X-74, and Rico from Puerto Rico. And if you think that partial list sounds out-there, you’ve obviously never heard Dr. Octagonecologyst. Why you need to go: One of the most, um, unusual rappers in the long and crazy history of American hip-hop, Kool Keith continues to toil in the underground for good reason: he’s obviously fucking nuts. Not that that’s going to stop anyone from bum-rushing the dance floor when he kicks into “Earth People”.

      Alice In Chains (February 2 at the Orpheum)
      In the spotlight: One of the big four from Seattle’s deservedly fabled grunge scene. There will be those who’ll argue that the current edition of Alice in Chains is one of the most shameful shams since the Doors decided to hit the road with that jackass from the Cult playing the part of Jim Morrison. After all, it was the junk-sick lyrics of now-deceased pincushion Layne Staley that made the group famous in the first place. As sacrilegious as that might be to some, it didn’t stop AIC from selling out the Orpheum in the time it takes to melt a spoonful of uncut China white. Why you need to go: Let’s face it: you could have Carrot Top holding the mike and not even that would make “The Rooster” any less harrowing.

      Anvil (February 13 at Venue)
      In the spotlight: Pioneers of modern metal who inspired the likes of Metallica and Guns N’ Roses in the early ’80s and then gradually learned that not only is rock ’n’ roll a vicious game, but it’s also cruel as fuck. Why you need to go: A couple of years back, Anvil cofounders Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner were working shit jobs in the wasteland that is southern Ontario, a couple of former hair farmers lost in a world that’s never been kind to those living on past glories. Then came Anvil! The Story of Anvil, a documentary by big-shot Hollywood screenwriter Sacha Gervasi. The first half of the film made you wonder if someone had decided to remake This Is Spinal Tap starring the mullet men of FUBAR. The second was heartwarming enough to revive what was previously one of the most undeservedly unsung acts in the history of Canadian rock. Suddenly Anvil is no longer playing the Keltic Rock Pub in Brampton, but headlining honest-to-God venues at home and abroad. That sometimes the good guys win is reason enough to hoist the devil horns, crack open the Jack, and take a hit on a Cohiba-sized bomber.

      Feist (February 17 at the Orpheum)
      In the spotlight: One of the true troopers of the Canadian indie-rock wars. If you’re one of the many who think that Leslie Feist hit the big time overnight with that song from the iPod commercial, you’re never going to beat Nardwuar the Human Serviette on the Canadian version of Rock & Roll Jeopardy!. From Calgary punkers Placebo to By Divine Right to Broken Social Scene, Feist has more than paid her dues. And don’t bother even asking about playing second fiddle to that skank Peaches with a sock puppet called Bitch Lap Lap. Why you need to go: For most of you, one reason and one reason only: the chance to sing along to that song from the iPod commercial.

      If you’re planning to hit on El Perro Del Mar’s Sarah Assbring, here’s a tip: saying “Hey, Assbring, bring that ass over here!” is not a good opening.

      El Perro Del Mar (February 27 at the Biltmore Cabaret)
      In the spotlight: Ultra-charming Swedish acoustic-pop chanteuse who is seemingly out to convince fans that Prozac is for quitters. If a six-pack of Lonesome Charlie and a handful of prescription pills are your idea of a good time, you’ll want to be at the Biltmore early for an artist who gives you a good idea what Chan Marshall might have sounded like if she’d grown up making meatballs at Malmo’s main IKEA outlet. Why you need to go: A couple of years back, El Perro Del Mar pulled into the Red Room tag-teamed with a hotter-than-shit-hot upstart named Lykke Li, who was being touted as the biggest Swedish export since the Hives. The woman also known as the unfortunately named Sarah Assbring more than held her own, proving herself to be the best thing to come out of Sweden since, if not Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, then at least the (International) Noise Conspiracy. Think Cat Power, only 99 percent less insane.