Hoot Owls, Debi Graham Band, SXSW Showdown ... 

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Like the cowbell, the dobro is often sidelined in favor of more popular instruments. In the right hands, however, it turns black-and-white sound into Technicolor bluegrass. Take Hoot Owls, for example, a local quartet employing dobro, acoustic guitar, snare drum and bass to create a traditional blend of country, swing, blues and folk. Tonight they’ll team with the Winterwood Duo—Paul Hansen and Richard Schmeling—two buddies whose 30-year career spans numerous configurations and countless Salt Lake performances. Both groups focus on original material, but expect a few tributes to Hank Williams Sr., Kasey Chambers, Richard Buckner and the Derailers. South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, 6876 S. Highland Dr., 7 p.m. All-ages. Info: 944-9723.


Not many local artists share recording rights with a former Panamanian presidential nominee. Debi Graham is the only Salt Lake performer included on Concepts, an eclectic compilation released by Papa Egora political party founder/Hollywood actor/singer Ruben Blades. Her achievement rounds off a year spent writing a movie score, filming a video, appearing on Death By Salt and Amp 6Pack, and touring in support of Anesthesia. Graham and her full band (Maria Galiano, Larry Martinez) also snagged a couple 2004 SLAMMys, earning them a spot among Utah’s cultural elite. Now they’re back in the studio preparing to win over the rest of the world. DV8, 115 S. West Temple, 9 p.m. Info: 539-8400.



Woe to those who dare trounce upon the all-sacred battle of the bands—especially when said contests involve up-and-coming talent. Tis a far better thing to praise and embrace lesser-known acts like Midwife Crisis, The Happies, Slender Fungus, Torque, Medicine Circus and De La Vega; shower kisses on slightly-better-knowns such as I Am Electric, Mary Tebbs & Lisa Marie, Nova, Six-Sided Box and Salt City Bandits; and count blessings for Austin’s South by Southwest music festival where abovementioned performers will vie for the chance to hit it bigger than Jesus. Or not. It all depends on who makes it onto one of 100 stages filled with mediocre to brilliant talent. Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Cabana, DV8, Egos, Monk’s, Sugarbeats (all-ages), Todd’s Bar & Grill, Urban Lounge and Zanzibar, 7-1 a.m. Semi-Finals Wednesday, Jan. 12; Finals Saturday, Jan. 15. Info: www.slweekly.com.

Also Saturday: Volante (Lo-Fi Café).



Word has it a bunch of punk-rancheros are stepping on Backstreet Boys territory with a stunning rendition of “I Want It That Way.” Thanks to Jackass, a new demographic is learning what it means to be someone’s fire. However, the nitty-gritty SoCal band fans flames far less organized than any pretty-boy ensemble could ever ignite. Their post-modern approach to western drama has garnered attention from the likes of late-punk-godfather Joe Strummer, Hank Williams III, Nashville Pussy, and Exene & the Original Sinners. The group’s BYO Records debut, Plastic Jesus, is an exercise in Tex-Mex punkabilly—a south of the border trip across maniac territory. Critics can’t decide whether to label the album as comedy, mock-country, or punk-alt-country. Can you? Lo-Fi Café, 127 S. West Temple, 6:30 p.m. All-ages. Info: 480-5634 (with Sweatin’ Willy and the Utah County Swillers).



Picture this: You’re in a bar in a one-horse town when Toby Keith walks in. He takes one look at Halfacre Gunroom and decides, “These boys need a good ass-kickin’,” and proceeds to throw blows. Big mistake. Barroom brawls between slick, overly produced country stars and taste-the-pain hellions rarely end with the former victorious. HG is the Rated-R group girls’ date when they need a thrill. The brazen Tennessee-bred lads graze darker pastures, crafting callous hooks and lyrics with macabre undertones. Their debut, Wrecked, showcases a knack for sharp songwriting spawned on a literary kick. Most of the album’s content dwells on broken relationships, the whereabouts of lost loves and the strangers who could have been your best friends. Ego’s, 668 S. State, 9:30 p.m. Info: 521-5255.



“Well aren’t they just the cutest things?” your mom will say after meeting Limbeck. The Orange, Calif. (they prefer to avoid misleading O.C. references), countrified power-poppers are also just about the nicest boys this side of Denver, but don’t expect them to play by the rules. Hi, Everything’s Great ditched cookie-cutter ideals for alt-country experimentation, a third-base move that confounded peers and outsiders alike. Once the shock wore off, audiences warmed to the idea of laidback suburban youth searching for substance with Kerouac aplomb. Their eagerness to explore translates into love for adverse circumstance—especially when said obstacles involve Lynyrd Skynyrd. “When people are unresourceful enough to say ‘play ‘Free Bird,’ we’ll be ready for it. We’ll get on top of it, so next time you see us we’ll bring it, we’ll bring the bird,” guitarist Robb McClean told Soundriot. Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, 7 p.m. All-ages. Info: 320-9887.


Phunk Junkeez (Liquid Joe’s, Jan. 14). Robert Earl Keen (Harry O’s, Jan. 15). Minnie Driver (Eccles Center, Jan. 15). Michael Franti & Spearhead (Suede, Jan. 21). Sundance Music Café: Ben Kweller, Kings of Leon, Dresden Dolls, Nellie McKay, Trail of Dead & More (Plan B, Jan. 21-28). Calexico (Egos, Jan. 22). Snocore Tour (In the Venue, Jan. 23). Cake (Suede, Jan. 24). Scissor Sisters (Suede, Jan. 25). Tony Furtado (Velvet Room, Jan. 25). Bowling for Soup (In the Venue, Jan. 26). Cher (Delta Center, Jan. 31). Anthony Gomes (Egos, Jan. 31). The Thermals (Kilby Court, Feb. 2). Otep (The Circuit, Feb. 2). Tift Merritt (Liquid Joe’s, Feb. 8).

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