Boston is a music city. It's an indie rock staple, a hip-hop haven and the starting point for most East Coast tours. But its venues can also be a labyrinth to navigate. For the uninitiated, here are some mind-numbing, internal concert dilemmas and some solutions that might finally drag you away from that TIVO'd Justin Timberlake HBO special for a night or two. This should last you just past the next calendar month, then you're on your own.
"Look, I just left my local music scene, Orlando, where I followed this heroic cast of misfits from the most beaten-down, bottom-rung dive bars all the way to the top. That band was called O-Town. I want to do it all again. I want to schmooze with the yokels. I want to semi-consciously make out with the sketchy sound operator. I want to listen to: some of Boston's best before they get too famous."
The Self-Righteous Brothers, Oct. 5, T.T. The Bear's; Apollo Sunshine, Oct. 3, Paradise Rock Club.
These bands may scream. They may throw their instruments at amplifiers they clearly do not own. They may purposefully flub notes under the inscrutably broad definition of dissonance. But what would a local music scene be without local alternative bands like Apollo Sunshine, who will hurt your ears with five-minute-long solos using only the feedback from an amplifier? It'd be nothing, because somehow, some way this type of thing makes local scenes homey.
Don't get the wrong idea, though; Apollo Sunshine and the ironically-named Self-Righteous Brothers make alternative pop hits-like Sunshine's "Eyes" and SRB's "Sidecar Jesus"-that will make them famous soon. Get on the bandwagon now so you can scoff later.
Listen: www.theselfrighteousbrothers.com, www.apollosunshine.com
"Look, I can't get into indie rock, but I desperately want to start for self-betterment/cultural/mating purposes. I want to get into it from the ground up. Oh, and I also had a thing for that chick on the episode of Growing Pains where Ben has his first kiss. I want to listen to: can't-miss college rock."
Rilo Kiley, Sept. 21, Avalon; Matt Pond PA, Sept. 27, Paradise Rock Club
Rilo Kiley became the bedrock of the early '00s intellectual rock movement because of their catchy choruses and daring lyrics that resonated with young urbanites struggling their way through Ayn Rand books. Their hot, sweet-voiced former child star lead singer Jenny Lewis also may have something to do with their success. This is where to start an indie rock addiction, but it might be a show where you need to know the words to get the full effect. There are plenty that have memorized them all. (We're looking at you, 80% of Emerson folk.)
For the same biting, flowery-but-still-very-much-rock-'n'-roll lyricism and hooks that will leave you humming, look to the slightly edgier Matt Pond PA a week later at Paradise Rock Club.
Listen: www.rilokiley.com, www.mattpondpa.com
"Look, (expletive) this (expletive). I wanna know what's on the (expletive) real. I wanna listen to: some mother(expletive) raunchy, hook-filled rap."
Little Brother, Oct 17, Paradise Rock Club
This Durham, North Carolina-based indie spitter will relate to you regardless of socioeconomic status. Little Brother rails on wearing leather jackets in 100 degree clubs and the sudden abundance of exposed muffintops. Plus, the only influence listed on his Myspace page is, "anybody who ain't makin' wack s--t." What's not to like?
"Look, I like recognizable hip-hop and rock, but I'd need to be blown away to see something in concert. Plus, my roommate might be criminally insane-he only listens to electronica and old Barenaked Ladies singles and has a marked-off calendar until the day Halo 3 comes out-and he wants me to take him out this weekend. I want to listen to: something that will leave a room universally slack-jawed."
Girl Talk, Sept. 14, Avalon
Girl Talk is not a band; it's also not a "she." Girl Talk is Pittsburgh DJ Gregg Gillis, who takes songs from, say, Neutral Milk Hotel and mixes it with Three 6 Mafia. Then he'll throw in some Phil Collins-all in one song. And the final cut is downright seamless. The Avalon is usually an awful venue-it employs a strict curfew so it can turn into a dance club, and it's built like, well, a dance club-but if anyone can make this place work, it's Gillis.
"Look, could you tone it down a little? I have very sensitive ears. I want to listen to: genuflection-inducing, sigh-generating acoustic rock music."
Iron Wine, Sept. 27, Orpheum Theatre; Jose Gonzalez, Sept. 30, Paradise Rock Club
Both Iron Wine's Jim Beam and Gonzalez will be supporting their September releases with shows around the hub at the end of the month, but that's where the similarities end. Beam, from "Such Great Heights" cover fame, will be at the sit-down, almost-on-campus Orpheum Theatre, so any and all freshmen pre-gaming will occur with a double-shot at Starbucks. While Iron Wine has recently dabbled in country and alternative, the even quieter Gonzalez was taming his voice to perfection. The introspective Swede-also known for a cover, 2005's "Heartbeats"-will be at the bottle-clinking cave that is the Paradise Rock Club. No need to worry: both put on captivating sets that will leave you in stunned silence.
Listen: www.ironandwine.com, www.josegonzalez.com
"Look, I had a really bad day. I just wanna to dance with somebody. I wanna feel heat with somebody. I wanna listen to: pure, unadulterated pop music."
The Pipettes, Oct. 9, Paradise Rock Club
Surf-rock trio The Pipettes are what would have happened if three extras from a beach scene on "The Brady Bunch" stumbled upon a time machine on set and typed in "2007." The throwback British all-girl indie trio has created fun, nostalgic music that anyone can love. They will make you dance and, no matter what the circumstances, you will have a good time. This band is the musical equivalent of Zoloft.