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CL's picks for the week's best shows

THURS/26

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO, NATIONAL GRAIN Escovedo doesn't just play a show, he stages an event. Whether touring with a trio, four-piece rock lineup or a string quintet, he delivers an emotional musical affair that is burned into the soul. Few contemporary songwriters are as thoughtful and intense. He will touch your heart. Local country boys National Grain open. $15. 9:30 p.m. The Earl. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com. -- James Kelly

ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA & CHORUS Guest conductor Bernard Labadie leads the ASO in Mozart's "Symphony No. 41." The ASO Chorus joins in for two of Gabriel Fauré's best-loved and melodious compositions: his "Pavane" in the original version with chorus, and his "Requiem," one of the most frequently performed works in choral-orchestral repertoire. Featured soloists in the "Requiem" are soprano Karina Gauvin and baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson. $18--$63. 8 p.m. Symphony Hall. 404-733-5000. www.atlantasymphony.org. -- Mark Gresham

NATHANIEL BARTLETT, PLANT Bartlett performs new works for solo marimba and computer-generated sounds. Bartlett's recently released Precipice -- Modern Marimba (Albany Records) taps into the same headspace as minimalism and experimental music luminaries Phillip Glass, Terry Reilly, Steve Reich and Harry Partch. Making use of live organic drums, electric bass, sonic manipulation, loops and electronics, Atlanta duo Plant constructs a labyrinth of improvised polyrhythms and dubbed-out electronics. $5. 9 p.m. Eyedrum. 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org. -- Chad Radford

PADDY KEENAN Although he may not be as well-known as a lot of other Irish artists (like, uh ... Bono?), Uilleann pipes master Keenan is a seminal figure in bringing traditional Irish music into the contemporary era. His former group, the Bothy Band, was one of the first to merge folk and rock music. Hope they have plenty of Guinness Stout. $14. 7:30 p.m. Eddie's Attic.

404-377-4976. www.eddiesattic.com. -- JK

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, THE MARS VOLTA Without this Los Angeles spasmodic quartet, wearing a sock on your cock in public might have only been the domain of fraternity hazings. But the Red Hot Chili Peppers legitimized the practice, as well as psychedelic punk-funk years before Zoo York. And just as their legacy (really, the Lollapalooza era in general) reached its nadir with late '90s nu metal, RHCP went and got all mature. But who wouldn't distance themselves from all those illegitimate rap-rock devil spawns. They're now too dignified to flash the tube steak, I mean, tube socks, and thank god. The Mars Volta, meanwhile, can play one obtuse, contused "song" (really a post-hardcore song suite) as long as half the Red Hot Chili Peppers' entire set. Because prog-rock is the new post-punk, bitches. Watch that those hydrochloric riffs and lysergic dynamics don't get in your eyes. $52. 7:30 p.m. Arena at Gwinnett Center. 800-224-6422. www.gwinnettcenter.com. -- Tony Ware

ROBERT RANDOLPH AND THE FAMILY BAND, RYAN SHAW Randolph is an impressive pedal-steel guitarist who leads the Family Band. Together, they give rapturous performances that blend hard rock and funky soul with ease. With the new album, Colorblind, Randolph is poised for a major breakthrough. Check out the band at the Tabernacle with soul singer and former Atlantan Shaw. $25. 8 p.m. The Tabernacle. 404-249-6400. www.livenation.com. -- Mosi Reeves

FRI/27

HARVEY MILK, TENEMENT HALLS Mythical like Sasquatch, Athens' distorted destroyers Harvey Milk do not trudge lightly. Maniacally? Perhaps. Epically? Often. Irrepressibly? Absolutely. And the trio's reputation certainly preceded the band before its recent DVD documentary/reformation. With hints of the Melvins, Jesus Lizard and ZZ Top, Harvey Milk does Southern sludge dirges like a draggin' Roscoe P. Coltrane needs a corndog when he's weak like a cat -- that's something fierce. More tangy (and a bit twangy) is Tenement Halls -- the apple cider vinegar sauce to Harvey Milk's five-alarm chili. Cabbagetown's best kicks out desperate pep and disarming bounce marked by bright detailing. The Rattler also performs. $10. 9:30 p.m. Drunken Unicorn. www.thedrunkenunicorn.net. -- TW

MOJAVE 3, TIM O'REAGAN Birthed from the remnants of shoe-gaze pioneer Slowdive, Mojave 3 offers sleepy, Nick Drake-like melancholy at its finest. O'Reagan plays drums for the vaunted Jayhawks, but his name alone may be less familiar to some than Mojave 3. On his self-titled debut, O'Reagan pairs his group's ethos for emotionally direct songwriting with a light and sweet voice. Decatur band Ocha La Rocha opens. $15. 9 p.m. The Earl. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com. -- MR

MUTE MATH, THE WHIGS Musicians go through stages, in more than one sense. Louisiana quartet Mute Math, with its electro-trip-rock-anthem hooks, often sounds firmly in a Synchronicity-meets-Pop Mart phase, aiming for an arena-worthy modulation even on club stages. Mirror ball lemons remain unlikely to be brought forth, but expect tidal waves of melodic undulation regardless. Athens' own the Whigs reportedly recorded the band's debut, Give 'Em a Big Fat Lip, in a frat house and it sometimes seems that in frat houses is also where it gets the most play. But that audience doesn't make the trio's nervy, rootsy jangle any less catchy. Jonezetta also performs. $14. 8 p.m. Roxy Theatre. 404-233-7699. www.livenation.com. -- TW

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