Concert Calendar

We pick the shows, you go see them

J Mascis/Sebadoh

Dinosaur Jr. return to town this week. Only problem, the two core members won't be onstage at the same time. The split between J Mascis and Lou Barlow is the stuff of indie-rock legend — the former heading off to a solo career while the latter formed Sebadoh. Mascis (pictured) has long been the mercurial force to Barlow's sentimental bent, but on his new album, Several Shades of Why, Mascis trades brain-shredding electric leads for comfortable acoustic melodies and something approaching earnestness. He plays the Grog Shop on Wednesday; Barlow is there on Monday. The two have always been a yin-yang affair, which is part of what made Dino so exciting. They still are, but the duality inherent in both the original group and its offshoots seems to be approaching a singularity. Who knows if that's actually a good thing? Check out both shows this week and judge for yourself. — Nicholas Hall

J Mascis With Kurt Vile & the Violators. 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 30. Grog Shop. Tickets: $17, $15 in advance. Sebadoh With Richard Buckner and Turn to Crime. 8 p.m. Monday, April 4. Grog Shop. Tickets: $12. Call 216-321-5588 or go to


It takes longer to read this concert preview than it does to listen to any of the songs collected on First Four EPs, the recent release by Off! The semi-all-star group — featuring former Black Flag/Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris, Burning Brides guitarist Dimitri Coats, Redd Kross bassist Steven MacDonald, and Rocket From the Crypt/Earthless drummer Mario Rubalcaba — plays a blasting, classicist version of L.A. punk that has none of the clean, cooing backup vocals favored by Bad Religion or the zillions of bands that followed them. This is noisy, pissed-off punk in the spirit of Morris' earliest records with Black Flag: bare hints of melody buried beneath savagely distorted guitars, barely perceptible bass lines, and thwacking drums. Off!'s longest songs, "Poison City" and "Peace in Hermosa," run 93 and 92 seconds, respectively. Another clocks in at 34 seconds. Naturally, this makes their live sets a raucous, raw blast of pure punk adrenaline. — Phil Freeman

With Trash Talk. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 31. Grog Shop. Tickets: $15, $13 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to

The Hold Steady

Is the honeymoon over between the Hold Steady and hyperbole-spouting fan boys? Sure seems like it, based on the tepid response to last year's Heaven Is Whenever, the band's fifth album and by far their weakest. After a half-decade run as indie rockers' favorite Springsteen-quoting old-school-style band, frontman Craig Finn and his group were all ready for their arena moment. Then the underwhelming Heaven Is Whenever proved that indie rockers want their heroes on a smaller scale. This doesn't mean the Hold Steady aren't one of the best live bands you'll see these days. As long as they play songs from Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America, they'll always have a place in our hearts. The band is performing only two U.S. shows this season: one in their hometown of N.Y.C. and the other here in Cleveland. So we probably won't get any tour fatigue when they drop by House of Blues this weekend. — Gallucci

9 p.m. Saturday, April 2. House of Blues. Tickets: $18, $15 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or go to

Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine have gotten sick of being so damn cute. So the Cincinnati-based husband-and-wife duo of Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler has gone the Tom Waits route, roughening up their thoughtful, folksy art-pop with bizarre instrumentation and Bergquist's increasingly weird vocals. Their new album, The Long Surrender, is another excellent entry in their underrated catalog. Moodily produced by Joe Henry, the album features some of the group's most dense and fascinating material. Lucinda Williams pops up on the uplifting "Undamned," and on "The Laugh of Recognition" they trick out a gorgeous ballad with pedal-steel, piano, mandolin, and psychedelic guitars. But for all their recent musical adventures, Over the Rhine still know how to write touching melodies that are expansive and, yes, cute. — Ryan Reed

9 p.m. Saturday, April 2. Musica in Akron. Tickets: $19.99; call 330-374-1114 or go to

Queens of the Stone Age

Did it take stoner-rock kings Queens of the Stone Age a few years to find their groove? Depends who you ask. Some fans claim the California rockers didn't hit their stride until their second album, 2000's Rated R. But old-schoolers say they had it from the very start, on their 1998 self-titled debut. The skuzzy record — dirty, muddy, and positively mind-wrecking at times — has just been reissued with a cleaner sound (ha! Right ...) and three bonus tracks. Best of all, QOTSA are on the road, playing the album in its entirety, along with the extra songs and other rarities from the early days. Josh Homme is the only member left from that original album, which was pretty much a solo record anyway. So you can expect fuller and louder versions of the songs onstage. A dozen years have given the album perspective. The live setting should give it more power. — Michael Gallucci

With the Dough Rollers. 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 30. House of Blues. Tickets: $35, $30 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or go to