Jucifer trudges through dense sludge like an elephant escaping a tar pit, out-louding nearly all of its peers. Unlike the mojo-mongering White Stripes, this coed duo never provokes purists to play "where's the bassist," mostly because gearhead guitarist Amber Valentine rigs her amp to generate seismic low-end rumblings. With an ax range that stretches from fragile effects to battering-ram blasts, Valentine has become one of the only musicians coveted by both Guitar Player and Playboy. (She ranked second in that mag's "sexiest babes of indie rock" poll.) Her frosty vocals soothe during the din, at least until her sudden screams stab like ice picks in the aural canal. Drummer Ed Livengood reminds Valentine-charmed concertgoers of his presence by assaulting his oversize custom kit. Jucifer's unfathomably noisy live shows require not only industrial-strength earplugs but also protective padding, because sound waves this savage could bruise ribs. -- Andrew Miller
Saturday, February 19, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive, 713-521-0521.
When the King of California takes us back to the venerated but long-gone L.A. folk club celebrated on the title track of Ashgrove, his latest album, you better believe that he takes his electric guitar and band with him. Ever since his Blasters days, Alvin has been imbuing retro with a snappy metro spark and lyrical and musical eloquence, making him over his recent string of superb albums one of the few artists (among so many) who live up to the considerable promise of Americana music. Live at the Continental with his group the Guilty Men -- now even more potent and pummeling with the addition of Austin guitar whiz Chris Miller -- you get a rock music show as musically big as an arena, and a direct signal from the days of border radio when rock, blues, country, folk and everything else were all colors from the same palette. -- Rob Patterson
Saturday, February 19, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main Street, 713-529-9899.
Particle, with Drums and Tuba
A rising name on the jam-band scene, Particle, with its self-described "funktronic" music, combines elements of rock, funk and even electronica, and will certainly appeal to fans of Galactic or other space-trippers who grace the stages of, say, Bonnaroo or Coachella. A fan once described their music as "space porn," and the name stuck, but they have (to date) released only one studio record, last year's appropriately titled Launchpad. However, their own ParticleLIVE CD series puts out plenty of shows for the faithful, who are known as "Particle People." (Why, oh, why must every jam band have a cutesy-named fan base?). The group also regularly holds a "Krewe of the Particle People Party" in New Orleans around Mardi Gras time, featuring Krispy Kreme doughnuts served at dawn. So much for heshers on a low-carb diet. -- Bob Ruggiero
Friday, February 18, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.
Matchbook Romance, with Motion City Soundtrack, First to Last and the Matches
Most screamo bands alternate chunky riffs with tuneful vocals, but Matchbook Romance takes that combination to new extremes. There hasn't been so much chugging and crooning from a New York-based crew since the Rat Pack's heyday. Like Ol' Blue Eyes, Matchbook Romance sings only for the lonely: "The Greatest Fall of All Time" is definitely not about one awesome autumn. Motion City Soundtrack plays at a peppier pace, with its Moog melodies adding exuberance to the cuddle-core choruses. The two bands split an acoustic EP last September, solidifying their best-friends-forever bond before they started co-headlining the current Epitaph tour. -- Andrew Miller
Wednesday, February 23, at the Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717.
In a strange and ironic musical example of the Newtonian principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the rise in the late 1970s of Brit-punk acts like the Sex Pistols and the Clash kicked open the doors for the new-wave excesses of Duran Duran early in the next decade. With equally silly, albeit different, garb and haircuts, Duran Duran shared a taste for the same indulgences -- babes, boobs, booze and blow -- that punk tried and failed to unseat. Still, the band does deserve dubious credit for helping to define modern pop. Astronaut, the reunion album cut by the band's original five members, bears an eerie resemblance to the boy bands that emerged in the wake of Duran Duran's Reagan-era heyday. While there's nothing on it catchy enough to overcome resistance to the very idea of Duran Duran alive and kicking in 2005 -- nothing on the order of "Girls on Film," "Rio" or "The Reflex" -- it's plain that the lads still have a knack for creating earworms you can't shake. So if you were weaned on early MTV or came of age at the new-wave disco, here's your chance to do the time warp again. -- Rob Patterson
Sunday, February 20, at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 713-758-7200.
Mention "Jewish singing" to most goyim and they'll think of Tevye in his shtetl fantasizing about being a rich man in Fiddler on the Roof. Times have changed, folks, and even the hyperconservative Orthodox have moved on. Meet Matisyahu of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the first Hasidic reggae/dancehall vocalist. His debut album, Shake Off the Dust...Arise, is a mix of traditional reggae, dancehall, dub and hip-hop with inspirational and spiritual lyrics on the order of "Torah food for my brain let it rain till I drown / Thunder! Let the blessings come down!"
Clearly there's novelty appeal, and the music on Shake Off the Dust is superb. Drummer Jonah David, guitarist Aaron Dugan and bassist Josh Werner all shine, especially on "Got No Water," "Father in the Forest" and "Exaltation." As for Matisyahu himself, well, that's another matter. He does have talent, but on songs like "King Without a Crown" and "Chop 'Em Down," his faux Jamaican patois all but ruins promising tunes. His Kingston-style rapping does come together elsewhere, but he sounds best when he's singing in Hebrew, as he does on a couple of other tunes.
While most of his work has religious overtones, don't expect to be preached to. The album is a mellow, groove-ridden piece of work created to relax and uplift, and this show promises more of the same. Arise! -- Quibian Salazar-Moreno
Sunday, February 20, at the Kaplan Theater at the Jewish Community Center, 5601 South Braeswood, 713-729-3200.
Voodoo Organist, with Two Star Symphony and the Invincible Czars
A versatile instrument, the organ can add an angelic glow to hymns, an eerie hum to horror movies and a seedy soul to garage rock. In the hands of Scott Wexton, the Voodoo Organist, it achieves all of these objectives, sometimes during a single song. Wexton alternates between haunting and holy tones, incorporating upbeat instruments into his rollicking revival numbers and pumping up the percussion on his blues tunes. Like Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Tom Waits, he whistles through the graveyards, using his abundant charisma to persuade listeners to follow him into foreboding territory. Live, the one-man band's skull-intensive stage setup establishes his demonic credentials. He released his latest album, Holy Ghost Town, last week, which made it a timely gift for goth couples who wanted Valentine's Day to sound as haunted as Halloween. -- Andrew Miller
Friday, February 18, at Super Happy Fun Land, 2610 Ashland, 713-880-2100.
Ultra DJ Competition Finals
Dozens entered, and now we're down to the nine excellent finalists in our quest to send an H-town representative to the Ultra Music Festival at Miami's upcoming Winter Music Conference. Without further ado, here is that noble nonet: DJ Cubanito, Miss Madd Maria, Blaine Hummel, Champa Moore, Mr Bristle, Henry Chow, DJ Alex C, Andrew Lawrence and Little Martin. The good news for them is that they made it this far in the competition. The good news for the rest of us is that all of them will be spinning on Sunday night at South Beach, and there is still more good news to go around for some of us: The next day is Presidents' Day, so this will be the second Saturday night in a row for those of us with generous bosses. These DJs will be spinning early, so all you Sunday brunchers should head over to South Beach around six or seven, kick back and shift gears out of mimosas and Marys and into night mode. Get ready to be amazed by nine of the city's top house, Latin house and techno-tinged house DJs. -- John Nova Lomax
7 p.m. Sunday, February 20, at South Beach, 810 Pacific, 713-529-SOBE.