The Hold Steady, Blackberry Bushes, Mike Gordon, Yard Dogs Road Show, Dawes & Moondoggies, Brandon Flowers, Pretty Lights 

Live: Music Picks Nov. 11-17

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Thursday Nov. 11
The Hold Steady

The slide-guitar that opens The Hold Steady’s latest album, Heaven is Whenever, seemed to introduce a new sound for America’s favorite bar band. Soon enough, though, singer/songwriter Craig Finn is up to his old tricks, penning razor-sharp lyrical sketches of a life lived in the rock & roll scene—sketches easy to relate to if you’re simply a bar-hopping fan and not actually in Finn’s band, living the scenes with him. Handlebar-mustached Franz Nicolay is gone, taking with him the distinctive piano and organ parts that made comparisons to the E Street Band inevitable. Now, The Hold Steady is firmly in the hands of Finn and longtime guitar player/collaborator Tad Kubler, and Heaven is Whenever is none the weaker for it, offering 10 new tunes for Finn to add to the set list of one of the great live bands working today. Don’t believe me? Go see The Hold Steady and thank me later. Company of Thieves and Junior Giant open the show. In The Venue, 579 W. 200 South, 7 p.m., $17 advance/$20 day of show

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The Blackberry Bushes
One doesn’t necessarily view the soggy environs of Olympia, Wash., as a hotbed of bluegrass music, but one listen to The Blackberry Bushes lets you know the four pickers and singers in the band are no strangers to the sounds of Bill Monroe. In fact, the Bushes’ new album, Little Bit of Grace, has a cover of Monroe’s “Jerusalem Ridge,” as well as a bluegrass-ified take on Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” This is no gimmicky cover band, though; The Blackberry Bushes fill most of their album with original, rootsy tunes that benefit greatly from the slight twang in leader Jes Raymond’s voice. Piper Down, 1492 S. State, 9 p.m., cover $5

Friday Nov. 12
Mike Gordon

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Phish bassist Mike Gordon has spent the past decade exploring all manner of music beyond that of his jazzy, improv-heavy primary band, including recording a couple of albums with guitarist extraordinaire Leo Kottke and putting his own name on three solo releases. The latest of those, the just-released Moss, features Gordon singing, programming drum parts and playing guitar and piano. More than his other solo albums, though, Moss is all about the bass, with Gordon’s creative plucking and picking turning his instrument into the lead “voice” on album that he admits has “a sort of psychedelic theme.” Well, duh! We wouldn’t expect anything else from a Phish-head. That said, Gordon’s Moss is mostly a straightforward pop-rock album with only two songs clocking in at longer than five minutes. Lord knows if he’ll play the songs so concisely in concert, but I have a feeling most of his fans won’t mind Gordon stretching out a bit. The State Room, 638 S. State, 9 p.m., $25 advance/$30 day of show

Sunday Nov. 14

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Yard Dogs Road Show
The best way to describe the Yard Dogs Road Show is simply to say the group is unlike anything you’ve seen before, an oddball blend of burlesque, music and carnival tricks that the group itself calls “hobo cabaret.” With 13 members, it’s safe to say there’s never a dull moment when the crew takes a stage. If there’s not a rockin’ band playing, there’s someone swallowing a sword. If there’s not a winged goddess dancing, there’s a spaceman flying overhead. Put it all together, and it’s a show not to be missed.
The State Room, 638 S. State, 8 p.m., $17 advance/$20 advance

Tuesday Nov. 16
Dawes, Moondoggies

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This show is technically a headlining gig for Dawes, but for me, it’s a ridiculously strong double-bill with an ace opener to boot. Los Angeles band Dawes features a bunch of guys barely in their 20s with a timeless California country-rock sound that made their 2009 debut, North Hills, one of the best alt-country albums released last year. Seattle’s Moondoggies are equally influenced by the so-called “Laurel Canyon sound,” filling their songs with stunning vocal harmonies, and on their new Tidelands album, lead singer Kevin Murphy sometimes sounds like a dead ringer for a young Neil Young. Opener The Romany Rye fits right in, delivering sunny Los Angeles folk-rock that should serve as an ideal start to the evening. The State Room, 638 S. State, 8 p.m., $12 in advance/$15 day of show

Wednesday Nov. 17
Brandon Flowers

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Anyone who went into Brandon Flowers’ solo debut, Flamingo, expecting a radical departure from The Killers’ singer’s older output were sadly mistaken. Sure, it’s a solo work, sans fellow Killers, but it still holds all the dramatic flourishes, sing-along anthems and occasional head-scratch-inducing lyrics we’ve come to expect from the Utah native turned Vegas glamorpuss. It’s a bit more reserved, perhaps, than a Killers album, but it’s far from a stylistic leap into some sonic territory we’d never expect Flowers to explore. That said, the songs just might come to more vivid life in concert, where Flowers’ skills as an eminently watchable frontman are undeniable. Fran Healy of Travis, another lead singer out on a solo jaunt, opens the show. The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, 8 p.m., $25 advance/$30 day of show

Pretty Lights

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Colorado native Derek Vincent Smith, aka Pretty Lights, is proving himself to be quite the prolific producer in the electro-meets-hip-hop realm. Just this year, he’s released three EPs heavy on the boom-bap beats, including the brand-new Glowing in the Darkest Night, a six-track treat fans can download free at the Pretty Lights website ( This year, he also surpassed one million downloads of his various releases, and packed festivals on both sides of the Atlantic for his live shows, which generally feature both Smith and drummer Coby Eberhard. The Complex, 537 W. 100 South, 9 p.m., $20 advance/$25 day of show

Coming Up
Trans-Siberian Orchestra (EnergySolutions Arena, Nov. 18), David Dondero, The Moaners (Kilby Court, Nov. 19), Ghostland Observatory (The Depot, Nov. 19), Nosaj Thing, Toro Y Moi, Jogger (The Urban Lounge, Nov. 19), Margot & The Nuclear So & Sos (The Urban Lounge, Nov. 21), Black Veil Brides, The Birthday Massacre (Club Sound, Nov. 22),
Bear Hands (Kilby Court, Nov. 23), DJ Shadow, Pigeon John (The Depot, Nov. 23), GWAR (Great Saltair , Nov. 24) 

Dan Nailen

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