On the other hand, the Allman Brothers Band (with original members Gregg Allman on keyboards and Jaimoe and Butch Trucks on percussion) seems to be having a creative renaissance. The jam band forefathers' recent Hittin' the Note is one of its finest releases ever. The guitar duo of Warren Haynes (the hardest-working man in rock today) and boy wonder Derek Trucks is the best team since Duane 'n' Dickey. While Skynyrd is coasting, the Allmans are creating.

Expect some political talk too, as the tour is billed "Rock 'n Vote." While the Skynyrd boys are vociferously Red state (they played the Republican convention), the leanings of ABB are a bit murkier. But really, could a band whose symbol is a psychedelic mushroom be against any cellular (or brain) research? One thing's for sure: This is one show where you can yell "Freebird!" at the top of your lungs -- and actually hear the goddamn thing. -- Bob Ruggiero

Saturday, October 9, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 281-364-3010.

Gibby Haynes and His Problem
Gibby Haynes and His Problem
The Meat Purveyors
The Meat Purveyors

The Meat Purveyors, with Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys and Molly & the Ringwalds

Like fellow Austinites the Gourds, the Meat Purveyors have answered to all manner of genre-labeling in their six-year career (alt-country, roots-rock, Americana), but what this four-piece delivers is a more or less straight -- though banjo-challenged -- bluegrass, held together with a honky-tonk spirit slathered on thick, like a third coat of barn paint. And while their essence may spring from the shared punk-country aesthetic of three chords and the truth (and it does: Ponder the title of their previous album, All Relationships Are Doomed to Fail, and all of a sudden a safety-pin-pierced cheek doesn't seem all that fatalistic), the musicianship displayed is much too accomplished to stay in the garage.

The Purveyors have been known to kidnap an unsuspecting song or two -- they've taken on the works of Madonna, Elvis Presley, the Velvet Underground, Ratt and Merle Haggard in four prior releases -- and on the new album, Pain By Numbers, they wrap around Fleetwood Mac's "Monday Morning," Rank & File's "Amanda Ruth" and Ronnie Milsap's "Daydreams About Night Things." But it's an inspired cover of Johnny Paycheck's "It Won't Be Long (And I'll Be Hating You)" that best demonstrates the band's willingness to leapfrog past the standard-issue harmonies of separation and loss to a land where hearts are not only broken but stomped on by steel-toed boots and finished off with a satisfied grin. Welcome to their world. -- Rob Trucks

Friday, October 8, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899.

Friends Forever, with Bully Pulpit, Necrosis and Organ Failure

It would an understatement to say that the members of Friends Forever see their music as a distant second to their performance of it. For the past several years, this Denver band has become the horror of coffee shops and warehouse art spaces across the nation. The band pulls up alongside such establishments in an ancient Volkswagen Transporter, flips on a couple of stand-alone generators and commences with impromptu rock shows from inside their van. While they do end up with actual bookings in many towns, they prefer to play outside of the club. Better still -- the van is equipped with a sunroof, which serves as a sort of miniature Cape Canaveral for the band's frighteningly amateur fireworks displays.

Musically, it can't be put much simpler: Friends Forever is awful. It is the essence of a strip-center dive bar band, the kind of band that barters multiple performances of "Louie, Louie" for free Lone Star pitchers all night and still ends up owing the club money. It would probably be called stoner rock were it not for the fact that, by their own admission, they can't afford the drugs.

But the labels or the music don't really matter in the end -- Friends Forever has truly inspired with its numerous treks across the country. In nearly every city, the band members have had to fight off angry residents of the streets where they perform and have narrowly escaped police intervention. Their van is their venue -- the stage arrives with the band, the only light is that of the sparks, bubbles and flames spewing up through the sunroof. Also, don't miss the band documentary Friends Forever the Movie, and be glad they cut out the "Vomit Party" scene. -- Lance Scott Walker

Saturday, October 9, at the Southmore House, 3107 Leeland.

Michael McDonald and Hall & Oates

When silver-haired singers on arena stages announce, "This next song is from my new album," the resulting reactions usually range from profoundly disappointed, leftovers-for-dinner-again-Ma? groans to concessions-stand stampedes. However, Michael McDonald encountered no such resistance to this disclaimer at a recent tour stop. "You play whatever you want, babydoll," screamed one sassy supporter.

The fact that McDonald's new album, Motown, actually overflows with old songs certainly helps his cause. Backed by a soul-slinging band and some versatile vocalists, McDonald's weathered rasp can tackle Stevie Wonder's "All in Love Is Fair" and even "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" without stretching beyond its grasp. McDonald still croons some of his own classics, such as "Keep Forgetting" (later the laconic backdrop for Warren G's "Regulate") and "Sweet Freedom," a track from the Running Scared soundtrack that he prefaces with a brief Gregory Hines eulogy. His soggy "ain't"-anchored medley ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough"/"Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing") makes the title of its second song unpleasantly apt, but McDonald redeems himself by sparking up the Doobies' "Takin' It to the Streets."

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