Josh Davis chose his moniker because he believed a DJ is there to support the music, not be its focal point. So it's more than just a little ironic that he's become one of the most recognizable DJs in the world. Shadow pops up every few years with a new album, spending his downtime far away from the media spotlight. Since his landmark debut, 1996's Endtroducing . . ., he's released only a few records, including a trickle of mixes, live sets, and collaborations. Each album reveals Shadow's deft hand as both producer and archivist. His greatest strength is his uncanny ability to unearth unbelievably cool sound snippets from forgotten moments in music history and then seamlessly work them into and around a dizzying number of styles. He's also just as likely to sample non-music sources, like, say, a Francis Ford Coppola interview. Instantly recognizable and constantly cribbed, DJ Shadow is the inspiration and catalyst driving many of today's best hip-hop artists. And like the master he is, he readily trumps his students. — Nicholas Hall
With Pigeon John. 8 p.m. Thursday, November 18. House of Blues. Tickets: $29.50-$35; call 216-522-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS
After more than a decade and a half of unplugged genre-bending, the Asylum Street Spankers are calling it a day with one final Spanks for Everything! Farewell Tour. The band erupted from the drunk and drugged heads of three Texans during the mid-'90s as an acoustic tribute to lost and obscure country, blues, and jazz tunes. They eventually incorporated similar-sounding originals into their sets. The Spankers turned into a rotating collective over the years (more than 50 musicians can claim membership) and began compiling one of the weirdest discographies in modern music. Their catalog includes a kids album, a set described as "agnostic gospel," theme albums dedicated to sex and marijuana, a holiday CD, three live albums, the ballroom-jazz-and-death-metal mood swinging My Favorite Record, and the YouTube hit "Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV." Christina Marrs is the only remaining original member on the farewell tour, but the Asylum Street Spankers have carried their banner proudly over the years. This last hurrah should be no exception. — Brian Baker
With Caravan of Thieves. 8:30 p.m. Friday, November 19. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $20, $18 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
It seems like this Philadelphia power-pop band has played Cleveland about 75 times in 2010. We might be a little fuzzy on the exact number, but we can tell you that the one tour they hooked up with that we really wanted to see — with New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus — was the only one that didn't make it to Cleveland. They're back on the road with Cincinnati goofballs Foxy Shazam for another swing through the states. Free Energy are still touring on their debut album, Stuck on Nothing, which came out in May. It's a fun listen, infused with loud, brash, and occasionally just-plain-wrong songs that sound like they dropped off a time-traveling truck from 1975. It's also the oddball album on producer James Murphy's DFA label, which usually sticks to smartass hipster electro-rock (like the kind Murphy's LCD Soundsystem makes), not flashy and chewy guitar pop that mashes the Raspberries, Cheap Trick, and T. Rex. Needless to say, it all gets bigger, brasher, and more knuckleheaded onstage, where all those guitars have even more room to roam. Be sure to see them this weekend — this may be the last time they come to town this month. — Michael Gallucci
With Foxy Shazam and Hollerado. 9 p.m. Sunday, November 21. Grog Shop. Tickets: $8; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
NEVER SHOUT NEVER
Talk about a lucky break. For Christofer Drew, better known as one-man-band Never Shout Never, it was a literal one. Drew was a 14-year-old tennis prodigy in 2005 when he broke his foot. Laid up, he spent his downtime listening to the Beatles and Bob Dylan and learning to play his dad's guitar. He started writing his own songs not long after and immersed himself in his Missouri hometown's DIY music scene. Drew became so involved with making music that he dropped out of high school his sophomore year to pursue it full time. He lived in his car, worked several jobs, and digitally distributed his songs. He was able to book some Midwest tours thanks to a MySpace explosion (he was netting about 100,000 plays a day). Two years ago he self-released The Yippee EP, his first work under the Never Shout Never name. Drew's synthesis of '60s melodies, punky nasal-voiced angst, and Justin Bieber-sized charm has endeared him to a generation of young fans. Drew plans to retain control over his entire output and how it reaches his fans. In other words, he and Never Shout Never are in it for the long haul. — Mark Keresman
With the Maine, I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business, and Carter Hulsey. 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 23. House of Blues. Tickets: $21, $18.50 in advance; call 216-522-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
John Mellencamp recorded his latest album, No Better Than This, the old-fashioned way. The really old-fashioned way. The chain-smoking 59-year-old singer-songwriter traveled around the country with producer T Bone Burnett, stopping at musical landmarks along the way — like Sun Studio in Memphis and the San Antonio hotel room where Robert Johnson laid down some historic tracks in 1936 — and recording the results with a single microphone. It's Mellencamp's most focused album in years, a travelogue of American sounds filtered through an artist who's become somewhat of a music preservationist over the past decade. It's not exactly a breezy listen — you won't be singing along to "Love at First Sight" or "Don't Forget About Me" like you did to "Jack & Diane" or "Cherry Bomb" — but it is an interesting one that oughta open up considerably in concert. Mellencamp's new tour brings him to smaller theaters for the most intimate shows he's played since dropping "Cougar" from his name. The evening is split into three parts: There's an acoustic set, a small-combo set, and a set by Mellencamp and his plugged-in band. So you'll probably be able to sing along to something after all.— Gallucci
John Mellencamp. 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 17. Palace Theatre. Tickets: $42-$250; call 216-241-6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.
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