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Heels Of Steel 

Hell On Heels Tour At The Grog Shop Leads This Week's Concert Picks

Friday, February 6

The Hell on Heels tour featuring Von Iva and Semi Precious Weapons (pictured) is a rare indie-rock club bill that features tons of sass and booty-shaking grooves. San Francisco trio Von Iva is known for its sultry lesbian disco-punk flavor. With only drums, synthesizers and vocals, its sound is danceable and doesn't suffer from lack of guitar or bass. Having toured with the Go-Go's, Lady Sovereign and the Gossip, they're not strangers to pushing the boundaries of hedonism and redefining the meaning of lesbian rock 'n' roll. Their stage show is notoriously unscripted. Semi Precious Weapons are equally notorious. Voted NYC's Best Band by Village Voice readers, this glam-garage phenomenon is quickly becoming known nationwide. Singer Justin Tranter was on the MTV show Made, showing high-school girls how to form a band. Their unique brand of glam-rock harkens back to the glitter and makeup of the Bowie days set to a heavy garage sound sprinkled with liberal amounts of attitude. When Tranter steps onstage with his platinum hair, tights and high-heeled boots, and delivers his signature line, "I can't pay my rent but I'm fucking gorgeous!," you know you're in for a bombastic show. After a few high kicks and splits in those heels, you'll also know why Semi Precious Weapons are revered for their live performances. Expect to go home covered in sweat and glitter. Dead Letter Room starts the whole thing off at 10 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $8 advance, $10 day of show. - Lois Elswick

Ben Taylor

Unlike other legendary musicians' offspring, Ben Taylor doesn't seem to mind being in the shadow of his famous parents. Last year, he went on the road with his mom Carly Simon (his sister Sally Taylor - who often sings backup on Ben's discs - was also on the bill). And he has no problem giving props to Mom and Dad. He says his music takes after both of his parents equally, even though Simon is his harshest critic. There's no denying his father's influence, as he bears a close resemblance to a young James Taylor, in looks as well as voice (many fans who heard Ben's version of "My Romance" for a Ralph Lauren commercial first thought it was James Taylor). Ben's now on the road promoting his latest album, The Legend of Kung Folk Part 1, which features veteran session musicians like drummer Rick Marotta, who has played with both of his parents. Onstage, Taylor often plays by himself or with a small band. After all, who needs a wall of instruments when you have a compelling story to tell? Schuyler Fisk, who has her own famous parent, actress Sissy Spacek, opens at 7 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $13 advance, $15 day of show. - Ernest Barteldes

Miss Tess & the Bon Ton Parade

A young Boston singer with an affinity for the singing and songwriting of a much earlier era, Miss Tess draws from influences like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. Tess, who grew up in Maryland listening to her father's big band, has updated that sound for a new generation. Songs like "Comes Love" and "Can't Sleep" sound like they were recorded sometime back in time but have a modern edge to them, thanks in part to Tess' undeniable sensuality. Expect to see two new Tess releases, Live on the Road and Darling Oh Darling, in stores sometime this year. For this jaunt, as always, she's backed by a fine band she calls the Bon Ton Parade, a combo that features sax, clarinet and upright bass. The Smokin' Fez Monkeys open at 7 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $8. - Jeff Niesel

Combichrist

In recent years, industrial rock has taken a detour from its roots in sonic experiments and confrontation to a decidedly more club-oriented sound, taking its cues from European dance floors. Granted, some of the genre's mainstays still know how to throw punches, but critics have a point when they decry the scene as anemic. Andy LaPlegua's Combichrist is part of a wave of industrial-rockers that addresses those criticisms; Combichrist's latest, Today We Are All Demons, merges heavily sequenced synths and percussion with LaPlegua's militant-on-steroid vocals. On paper, it's a safe combination to suck in industrial scenesters. But LaPlegua's pit-bull mannerisms inject a needed bite to the overall work. When applied to the live setting, tracks like "All Pain Is Gone" take on an almost tribal vibe, bolstered by percussionists onstage. As an added incentive, ex-Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland's Black Light Burns will be part of the bill. BLB's recent EP, Cover Your Heart, offers lo-fi versions of Borland's influences, ranging from Lard to PJ Harvey. It also includes some moody, atmospheric instrumentals taken from the sessions for BLB's 2007 debut Cruel Melody. The instrumentals in particular prove Borland is capable of more interesting output than his time in that "other band" would suggest, and provide a clue of things to come, both onstage and on his next studio release. Desillusion opens at 8 p.m. at Peabody's (2083 E. 21st St., 216.776.9999). Tickets: $14 advance, $16 day of show. - Norm Narvaja

Ludo

With the rise of the superhero movie, unapologetic nerds have already taken over the cineplex. Bands like Weezer, They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies and even Ben Folds have proven the same can hold true in other arenas - geeks can similarly inherit the musical earth. Armed with a treasure trove of infinitely catchy power-pop hooks and self-effacing snarky lyrics, midwestern workhorses Ludo follow in their predecessors' Converse-clad footsteps. While similar artists may focus on meticulously crafting a look and lifestyle of distinction, the St. Louis foursome hit the ground running, recording their eponymous debut - for their own label, no less - after existing for a mere three weeks. As a follow-up, they thwarted the curse of the sophomore slump by releasing Broken Bride, a rock-opera EP that dealt with the eclectic themes of love, time travel, car wrecks, zombies and dinosaurs. It was a bold move, but it paid off with a 2006 deal with Island Records. Currently touring behind last year's seamless and frenetic You're Awful, I Love You, the Warped Tour vets may not yet possess the quirk quotient of, say, Weezer, but they've certainly got the potential. Sing It Loud, This Providence and the Morning Light open at 6 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. - Julie Seabaugh

Kelly Richey

Fans compare Cincinnati-based guitarist Kelly Richey to Stevie Ray Vaughan, not only because of her fiery, energetic performances, but also because of her very percussive right hand - a characteristic she shares with the late Texas bluesman. In more than a decade on the road, Richey has evolved by seizing opportunities. In addition to touring, she manages her own label, does her own booking, runs a recording studio, writes songs and hones her guitar skills. At the Winchester (12112 Madison Ave., 216.226.5681) tonight, she'll play a set of original tunes alongside covers by guitar heroes like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, who have been some of her greatest influences. Rounding out her power trio are longtime collaborators Jimmy Valdez (bass) and Shane Frye (drums). The show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets: $12. - Barteldes

Johnny Nobody

Buffalo-based band Johnny Nobody favors indie-rock's more melodic side. A song like "This Is Falling Apart" goes for something like a Coldplay/Radiohead vibe with falsetto vocals and angst-ridden lyrics. It's not quite on the same level as those groups - the vocals are too raspy to be totally captivating - but the effort deserves a passing grade. And while the guys definitely like vocal harmonies, they aren't afraid of adding some noisy guitars to the mix, as the moody, psychedelic rocker "Ill Will" suggests. Making the trek from Buffalo to Cleveland in the middle of winter shows the band's got determination too. The Suede Brothers, DJ Blackbird and DJ KC open at 9 p.m. at the Matinee (2527 West 25th St., 574.2853). FREE. - Niesel

Cee Knowledge the Doodlebug

Ah, the Digable Planets. When they emerged in 1993 with the aptly titled Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space), they really livened up hip-hop with their jazzy style. That didn't last for long though, and after a disappointing follow-up, the band called it a day (though they did reunite briefly last year). Frontman Cee Knowledge the Doodlebug (a.k.a. Craig Irving) has soldiered on with a solo career, issuing two decidedly funky albums with his band, the Cosmic Funk Orchestra. He brings a semblance of that ensemble to the Grog on a tour he's dubbed "The Creamy Spy Invasion Tour." Winslow, Unseen Handz, Mikrophonx and Amotions, Muamin Collective and Poetic Republic open at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $10. - Niesel

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