Choice Concert Picks

For you, the choice reader


Bayside aren't the first band to whine about how much they hate the way you make them feel. And they're not the first group of Christian rockers to shred away the post-hardcore blues either. But for all of their whining and shredding — not to mention their occasional neo-classical pretensions — Bayside often land on target. And really, singer Anthony Raneri is no whinier than Ben Folds or Quasi's Sam Coomes — both of whom he recalls. Songs stay far away from the fancy prog-impressed strictures that dominate so many other bands that play around in the same territory. Bayside prefer slamming home four perfect chords, over and over until they hit the sweet spot. When Raneri declares "I am a masochist" in "The Ghost of St. Valentine," he says something so many of Bayside's peers will probably never realize about themselves. That's some kind of victory. Dan Weiss

With the Sleeping, Terrible Things, and Call It Fiction. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 15. Grog Shop. Tickets: $16, $13.50 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to

Darwin Deez

If you saw Darwin Deez's name on any recent best-of lists, don't be so quick to brush him off as empty buzz. The dude's the real deal. His self-titled debut was one of last year's biggest surprises — 10 songs of brilliant minimalism. Deez, a regular at N.Y.C. open-mic nights and coffee shops, plays simple guitar lines over drum-machine loops that result in some very low-fi (and highly catchy) basement pop. Deez's lyrics aren't very complex, but his delivery is so convincing, you can feel the pain in his trembling voice on the aching "Bed Space." On "Bad Day," he turns that pain into dark humor, rhyming goofy revenge lyrics over a funky, cathartic riff. Deez's nuts-and-bolts approach to his music is refreshing in a time when so many artists bury their work in glossy production. With any luck, you'll be hearing a lot more of Deez in the new year. Eddie Fleisher

With HotChaCha. 9 p.m. Saturday, January 15. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $10; call 216-383-1124 or go to


Ventana look scary, decking themselves out in post-apocalyptic gasmasks. But the truly scary stuff is found on the Cleveland quartet's debut album, American Survival Guide Vol. 1. It's an occasionally powerful, completely creepy slice of modern industrial metal, where electro-synth pulses give way to detuned riffs, guttural howls, and prog-metal gusto. When the synths are wiggling and the doom-and-gloom atmosphere chills out a bit, Ventana turn tuneful, allowing subtly catchy melodies to creep above the murk. Still, their style is mainly acerbic bloodletting. On "The Dying Sound," singer Stitch (who also does time in Mushroomhead) proclaims, "I'm a danger to myself, but I'm a savior to everyone else" — strong words from a band whose most widespread act of philanthropy came in the form of an iTunes bonus track found on the Saw VI soundtrack. But in today's war-drenched times, Ventana's words and apocalyptic tunes ring frighteningly true. Ryan Reed

With Cyanotic and Prep School Tragedy. 7 p.m. Saturday, January 15. Peabody's. Tickets: $12, $10 in advance; call 216-776-9999 or go to

Carsie Blanton

Hippies are an easy target, but let's give credit where it's due. Those patchouli-scented, peace-sign-dangling ragamuffins bucked the status quo when it was a dangerous thing to do. And many lived the DIY ethic long before urban punk squatters did. Twenty-five-year-old singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton's parents were late-blooming hippies who home-schooled their little girl in rural Virginia, exposing her to rock & roll, blues, jazz, folk, and R&B. It was a rich cultural environment where Nina Simone carried as much weight as Joni Mitchell and John Prine. Music became such a passion for Blanton that she recorded her debut album, Hush, when she was only 16. She settled in Philadelphia (and its burgeoning coffeehouse scene) four years ago, honing her synthesis of American roots, refined pop, and classic soul music. Her second album, Buoy, came out in 2009, so she's about due for a new one soon. You'll hear some fresh songs when she comes to town this week. Mark Keresman

With Zach and Aidan Bailey Williams Band. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 18. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $8; call 216-383-1124 or go to

Twin Shadow

Twin Shadow embodies the classic argument of whether substance can triumph over style — especially when the style is laid on so thick. Forget, the debut album from Dominican-born, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter George Lewis Jr., recalls lots of post-punk legends: Depeche Mode, Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order. That's the style part. But Lewis' substance reveals itself in songs like the lovely "Castles in the Snow" and the sweet "When We're Dancing." Plus, his lyrics benefit from deeper listens — check out the funny and moving "Tyrant Destroyed." Still, Forget is a highly stylized album, and its new-wave arrangements are as charmingly claustrophobic as you'd expect from a set of intimate bedroom recordings. Lewis is bringing a full band on tour, opening up both the singer and the songs, which take on more organic moods in the live setting. In this case, style and substance both win. Chris Drabick

With Brahms and Clover. 8 p.m. Sunday, January 16. Grog Shop. Tickets: $8; call 216-321-5588 or go to

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