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OFF IN AUSTIN

Stephen Seigel has left the premises for a week of "research" and "taking meetings" at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin. He'll return to Soundbites next week.

In the meantime, lots of good music is ahead--too much to include here, actually, so don't forget to check the Weekly's acclaimed nightclub listings--so fasten your seatbelts.


THIS AIN'T NO FOOLING AROUND

The big night of high-profile music during the coming week appears to be Wednesday, April 1, when several promising concerts will vie for our attention and entertainment dollars.

There are few better singers around these days than Madeleine Peyroux, who will return to town to perform at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Peyroux's disarming blend of jazz, pop and folk, and her lovely Billie Holiday-style alto, have won her many fans since her debut album, Dreamland, in 1996.

Born in Athens, Ga., Peyroux grew up in Paris with her French-born mother. There, she fell in love with traditional jazz, French chansons and café music. She has recorded four albums under her own name, and an album of duets with jazz-harmonica player William Galison. Peyroux's latest is the amazingly good Bare Bones.

Expectations are high for this gig, which will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $33 to $39. Call 740-1000 for more information.

Across the street at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., the globe-trotting and genre-hopping DJ known as Diplo (née Thomas Wesley Pentz) will rock the house. Although he was born and raised in the American South and now hails from Philadelphia, Diplo has worked with such diverse acts as British-Sri Lankan superstar M.I.A., Brazilian funk-carioca act Bonde do Rolê and French techno-rockers Justice. He'll show off those influences and likely a lot more, starting at about 9 p.m. Tickets: $8. Information: 622-8848.

Billy Sedlmayr, aka Billy Sed, will perform a rare gig, also on April 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave.

One of the pioneers of Tucson punk and new-wave music, Sedlmayr played pivotal roles as a drummer and singer in seminal local acts The Pedestrians and Giant Sandworms during the early 1980s. A few years later, he became a frontman, singing and writing songs for local super-group Las Cruces.

Since then, Sedlmayr has endured a troubled life that has been well-documented in other venues--we don't have the space to examine it here--but he has continued to write songs, delving into Americana, classic rock and pop, and outlaw country. He also has recorded two albums for Rich Hopkins' San Jacinto Records.

I am overjoyed to hear that Billy is back in action, ready to hit the stage again, this time in the leafy confines of the courtyard at Old Town Artisans. Tickets will cost $15 at the door. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, which works to maintain biological diversity in the Sonoran Desert. Call 440-4455 for more information.

Also on April Fool's Day, singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell will appear at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. The hyper-literate chanteuse--whose early influences included X and Tom Waits, not to mention mentor Chuck E. Weiss--has released seven solo albums, the most recent of which is this year's Artificial Fire.

Mandel uses her husky voice to perform warm songs in which her individuality and creativity triumphs romantic despair. Local singer-songwriter Cathy Rivers, still riding high after the release of her terrific recent album, Gloom Cookie, will open the show at 9:30 p.m. with her unique desert-noir songs. Cover charge: $7 at the door. Dial 798-1298 for the lowdown.


KEEPING IT REAL AT THE RIALTO

Several other potentially excellent concerts are being offered this week by the kind folks at the Rialto Theatre--such as one by folk-rock singer-songwriter Brett Dennen, who never really floated my boat until his recent album, Hope for the Hopeless, on which his sly wit, bouncy approach and multi-culti style help raise him a cut above the interchangeable mass of sensitive, slightly-rockin' acts such as Jason Mraz, James Blunt and Jack Johnson. The charming Australian brother-and-sister duo Angus and Julia Stone, touring to promote their full-length debut CD, A Book Like This, will open for Dennen at 8 p.m., Sunday, March 29. Tickets cost $16.

Candlebox, a mainstream rock act from Seattle, was way popular during the 1990s, but broke up just before the new millennium. The group reunited a couple of years back and produced the album Into the Sun last year. They will hit the Rialto for a show at 8 p.m., Monday, March 30, with opening acts Jet Black Stare and Royal Bliss. Advance tickets are $21, or $23 on the day of the show.

And next Thursday, April 2, the acclaimed Cajun and zydeco act Beausoleil, featuring fiddler and National Heritage Fellow Michael Doucet, will appear as part of a bill that also will feature top-notch guitarist and stellar session man David Lindley. The Grammy Award-winning Beausoleil is touring to promote its potent and punchy new record, Alligator Purse, on Yep Roc Records. Tickets for Beausoleil and Lindley will cost you $20 in advance or $22 on the day of the show; 740-1000.


MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE STREET...

Club Congress is also staying rather busy during the next seven days.

Consider this an extra-hearty endorsement for the gig on Friday, March 27, celebrating the recent release of the debut CD, Bald as Love, by the sexy-as-hell local band Blackwood and Co. Fronted by the wicked dream team of vocalist Lucas Moseley (The Pork Torta) and guitarist-filmmaker Clif Taylor (Therapists), Blackwood and Co. play funky rock like it's nobody's business, with juicy organ and fuzzed-out guitar right out of a '70s blaxploitation flick or maybe one of those cheesy biker movies. Also on the bill will be openers Lemon Drop Gang and Acapulco Five. The show starts at 9 p.m., and the cover is $4.

San Francisco supergroup Moonalice is a relatively new outfit, with just one album under its collective belt, but its members have decades of combined experience. The seven-piece features guitarist G.E. Smith (the Saturday Night Live band and Hall and Oates), keyboardist Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship) and bassist Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna), as well as singer Ann McNamee.

The Moonalice sound is traditional Bay Area-variety psychedelic blues and country rock, but on its debut album, Moonalice, the group sounds incredibly tight and well-focused, thanks in no small part to the efforts of producer extraordinaire T-Bone Burnett. Moonalice will play at 6 p.m., Sunday, March 29, at Club Congress. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 on the day of the show.

Also at Congress, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit will play alt-country, Muscle Shoals-style, and backwoods rock on Tuesday, March 31. Isbell, by the way, is a former member of the Drive-By Truckers. The show will open at 8 p.m., with budding folk-blues singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle (yes, the son of Steve Earle). Admission: $11 advance or $13 on the day of the show; 622-8848.


FINALLY... A SPECIAL TREAT

Guitarist and singer-songwriter Dex Romweber, formerly of the highly influential rockabilly act Flat Duo Jets, now leads the Dex Romweber Duo, with sister Sara Romweber (Let's Active) on drums. They've recorded Ruins of Berlin (Bloodshot), a new album of swampy blues that totally smokes. Dex and Sara will perform Saturday, March 28, at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., with opening act Tyler T. The show starts at 9:30 p.m., and cover is $5. Call 623-3200 for more info.

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