Country crooning: By any measure, country trio Rascal Flatts is at the center of a phenomenon. In just five years, the group has sold more than 7 million albums, and its latest, "Feels Like Today," is the best-selling country album of 2005 so far. It debuted at No. 1 on the country and pop album charts, has sold more than 3 million copies and led to a tour, stopping in Salt Lake City tonight, that has drawn more than 250,000 fans to Rascal Flatts concerts in the past year. The three members - Gary LeVox, Jay Demarcus and Joe Don Rooney - have made their harmony-laden country-pop the dominant sound of country radio right now. Tonight at 8, Rascal Flatts and opener Blake Shelton, play the Delta Center. The show is sold out.
Indie cool: Oregon's 31 Knots is a strong contender for the coolest band not yet signed to a big-name indie label, even though its musical proficiency outshines half the stuff that gets regular radio rotation. Lead singer Joe Haege has that unmistakable indie vocalization, but there is nothing standard or trite about the band's sound. Even the elitist folks at pitchforkmedia.com give 31 Knots a thumbs-up. The band plays Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Kilby Court, 741 S. Kilby Court (330 West), Salt Lake City. Powerchords and Declaration open the show. $6.
Sound bathing: Rock group Limbeck understands what many a Hollywood hack perceives as silver screen truth - "People Don't Change," the first track off the band's catchy new album, "Let Me Come Home." People may not change, but bands sure do: Limbeck was a punk band before evolving into the alt.country group it is today. The band plays with The Annuals and The Yearbook opening, Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at the Lo-Fi Cafe, 127 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City. Tickets are $8 through Smith's Tix and 24tix.com.
See this show: Last year, Bright Eyes leader Conor Oberst attracted attention thanks to his participation on the "Vote for Change" tour alongside rock veterans like Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M. and Pearl Jam. Earlier this year, his profile grew even larger when Bright Eyes' most recent two albums, the folk-rock of "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" and the more experimental "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn," debuted in the Top 10, despite being released on Oberst's hometown label, Omaha's Saddle Creek Records.
Though he'd been dogged by "new Dylan" comparisons for most of his professional life, the one-two punch of "Awake" and "Digital" showed that Oberst should be an artist to watch for the next few years at least. Bright Eyes headlines Kingsbury Hall at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25, available at all Smith's Tix outlets and the venue. Sons and Daughters open the show.
Prog from Orleans: Don't be fooled by the name Drums & Tuba - there's a guitar or two somewhere in the delightful noise of its latest, "Battles Olé." The album opens with whirs and sputters before unleashing some of the coolest prog rock this side of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Other times the band sounds like it's channeling Sublime, but with the pauses and carefully planned feedback you would expect from geniuses of instrumentation. The show is Monday at 9 p.m. at Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City. $7 at the door.
Rainy day women: Bj rk rocks, but her bizarre instrumentation (and behavior) can be alienating. PJ Harvey is a brilliant rocker, but there's something in her persona that is genuinely frightening. Enter Laura Viers, an artist with the swift lyrical stroke of Harvey and exuberant femininity of Bj rk, but with catchy tunes and crisp vocals that make you want to sing along. Viers is on tour to support "Year of Meteors," a likable CD that has many trade magazines pointing their collective fingers in an effort to say, "Now hear this." Viers plays Tuesday at 10 p.m. at the Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City. $7 at the door.
Punkers unite: It's clear why Nintendo chose Chicago's Fall Out Boy to headline its Fusion Tour - in just five years, the pop-punk band has become a favorite with teens in all stages of discontent. Additionally, hardly a band in punkdom makes more pop-culture references (including self-conscious ones) than these guys. But mostly, Fall Out Boy takes the familiar punk sound and somehow makes it its own. Also on the bill are Boys Night Out, Motion City Soundtrack, Panic! At the Disco and The Starting Line, playing Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Utah State Fairpark, 155 N. 1000 West, Salt Lake City. The show is sold out.
Real country: Male/female duets are part of the lifeblood of country music, and Whiskeytown and Tres Chicas vet Caitlin Cary and North Carolina country crooner Thad Cockrell have made the kind of album that clearly illustrates why. Full of power and great harmonies, "Begonias" is a pleasure for the listener, as it clearly was to make for the performers. Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell headline Tuesday at 9 p.m. at Ego's, 668 S. State, Salt Lake City, with Roman Candle opening. Tickets are $7, available at 24tix.com and the door.
The unknown legend: Like too many of country's best songwriters, Rodney Crowell is better known for other people performing his songs than for his own albums. On one hand, it's great that Keith Urban sailed to No. 1 with Crowell's "Making Memories of Us," and Tim McGraw and Lee Ann Womack also had recent success with Crowell's music. But you should get to know Crowell for his own performances, starting with the energetic "The Outsider," his latest set, recorded with his stellar touring band The Outsiders. There's a reason this guy is in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rodney Crowell and the Outsiders, with openers Will Kimbrough and Jedd Hughes, play Park City's Suede, 1612 Ute Blvd. at Kimball Junction, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $13, available at all Smith's Tix outlets, 24tix.com and the door.
The air up there: Hip-hop fans around the globe know Atmosphere is the offspring of rapper Slug (born Sean Daley) and whatever group of rhymesters he can gather. The group is probably best known for a string of EPs based around Slug's ex named Lucy. If there's a more formidable muse than a broken heart, I don't know it. Atmosphere, with Blueprint and P.O.S. opening, brings its poetic flavor to In the Venue, 579 W. 219 South, Salt Lake City, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $17 in advance through 24tix.com and Smith's Tix.
Still Dynamite: You might remember him best as J.J. Evans, aka "Kid Dynamite," from the pioneering '70s-era sitcom "Good Times," but Jimmie Walker was an established standup comic before that show and has continued working in comedy ever since. See what Walker's been up to lately when he performs two shows at West Valley City's Wiseguys Comedy Cafe, 3500 S. 2200 West, at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Tickets are $10, available at Smith's Tix outlets and the door.
Bring the noise: Thank Lucifer the nu-metal craze has all but ended. It was insulting to metal enthusiasts and distracting for those of us who didn't know any better. It also cost Soulfly's Max Cavalera quite a few fans as he toyed with the genre around the turn of the century. Since then, Soulfly has returned to alternative metal with its latest, "Dark Ages," and you can hear for yourself Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Lo-Fi Cafe, 127 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City. Opening the show are Throwdown, Bloodsimple and Incite. Tickets are $16 through Smith's Tix and 24tix.com.
You'll like the bite: Badass Motor City combo The Detroit Cobras is basically guitarist Mary Ramirez, singer Rachel Nagy and whatever collection of folks they decide to play with, but that doesn't make the group's great new album, "Baby," any less coherent. While coming on as a gritty, garage-rock maelstrom, there's no denying the Cobras' ear for pop hooks - just check out those hand claps on "I Wanna Holler (But the Town's Too Small)" or the harmony vocals on "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand." Thursday, The Detroit Cobras play the Velvet Room, 149 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, Thursday at 9 p.m., with Reigning Sound opening the show. Tickets are $12, available at 24tix.com, Smith's Tix outlets and the door.