Eighteen Visions, with Emery, Misery Signals and Remembering Never
Time was, rock and punk were directly at odds, embroiled in denominational squabbles over such ontological issues as fashion, solos and whether colored hair warranted props or an ass-beating. But things change. In 2004, the five musicians of SoCal's Eighteen Visions are the preeminent fashion plates of new-school melodic hardcore, decked out in ties and sport coats (with no shirts underneath). Back in the day, they'd have been treated as pretty boys by longhairs and hardcore kids alike. Now the band least likely to rock is actually the best at it.

As writer Chuck Klosterman rightly observed in Spin last summer, the problem with post-Cobain rock is that nobody wants to be larger than life -- not to mention the anemic music. Aaron Lewis and Chevelle don't begin to shred, and even once-great players have been living too well for too long to really put some oomph into their work. Decorated with a big red heart shape, Eighteen Visions' new Obsession is everything that Velvet Revolver -- the popular but flat hybrid of Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots -- should have been but isn't. The band fulfills certain genre obligations to its scene with the emo-damaged power ballads and metalcore double-bass blasts. But the order of the day is belligerent rippers with breakdowns and hand claps between bawdy riffs. And that makes for a good rock show. -- D.X. Ferris

Wednesday, January 19, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.

The Gourds
MP3s can really spread misinformation. I once listened to a bluegrassy version of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" covered by that large file- sharing-friendly cult known as Phish, only to later find out the file was wrongly titled. Turns out it was the Gourds, a Texas band that's a long way from the Green Mountain State that spawned Phish. The Gourds' vocals and geetars are twangier, and their songs are more sweet-as-peaches and less hippie-dick-cheese. Now that Phish is beached, it'd be a good time to hop on the "Gourdy" wagon and take in a night -- or many -- with these guys. The band is so good live that when you wake up with a pounding hangover after this weekend's Continental Club show, you'll wish you'd bootlegged it. (But if you do, please give them the rightful credit. I'm embarrassed they were even mistaken for those other heathens in the first place.) -- Travis Ritter

Saturday, January 15, at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899.

Steve Forbert
Steve Forbert has been called a lot of things in his career. He's been labeled a "new Dylan" and a "one-hit wonder" (thanks to the sublime "Romeo's Tune"), but never what he really is. Let me correct that injustice: Steve Forbert has been the most consistently great American singer-songwriter of the last 25 years.

His albums have been great (with the exception of 1980's Little Stevie Orbit, and that was a production issue), from 1978's Alive on Arrival right up through 2004's Just Like There's Nothin' to It. For some reason, he flies under the critical radar, but his fans don't seem to mind. They get treated to performances that are startling in their intimacy, shows that move from a whisper to a scream while audiences savor every syllable.

I'm sure Steve Forbert would welcome more popularity, but until the whole country wakes up -- and we know how long that might take -- the true believers will continue to gather at places like the Mucky Duck and enjoy being as close to genius as many will ever get. -- Greg Ellis

Friday, January 14, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999.

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