ZIG ZAG: Though he's released 10 studio albums, Ziggy Marley is both cursed and blessed that he'll always be known as the son of Bob. Perhaps as a reaction to that fact, Marley's latest album, Dragonfly (2003, Private Music), leaves behind both his backing band, the Melody Makers, and the reggae that made both his dad and him famous. Instead, his first solo outing (which includes guest spots by The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea and John Frusciante, as well as David Lindley), which has received mixed reviews, focuses on rock, hip-hop and African music, with just a hint of reggae.

Opening for Marley at his appearance this week is Michael Franti and Spearhead. Franti, former leader of both the proto-industrial found-percussion combo The Beatnigs and hip-hop group the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, has made a career out of merging music with his far-ranging and left-leaning politics, spirituality and positivity, without ever becoming annoying doing it. His latest album fronting Spearhead, Everyone Deserves Music (2003, Boo Boo Music), is perhaps his finest hour.

While Spearhead has always been more musical than most hip-hop acts, calling Everyone Deserves Music a hip-hop album would be misleading. Yes, there are remnants of rap here and there, but Franti spends more time singing than rapping, and the album seamlessly incorporates elements of rock, funk, disco, reggae, classic soul, bossa nova and Afrobeat. "Pray for Grace," for example, places Franti's dance-hall reggae-style vocal delivery over a bed of percolating, modern-sounding bossa nova, while "We Don't Stop" sounds like nothing so much as The Clash at the point they discovered rap. If this is radio Spearhead, keep your paws off the dial.

Ziggy Marley and Michael Franti and Spearhead perform at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 5, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $27 at the Rialto box office, all Ticketmaster locations,, or by calling 321-1000. They'll be $29 on the day of the show, and a portion of the ticket proceeds will be donated to URGE (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment) and the 911 Power to the Peaceful Fund. For more information, call 740-1000.

HOT STUFF: Chicago-raised, Brooklyn-based brother and sister duo The Fiery Furnaces (Eleanor and Matt Friedberger; they've recently added a drummer) have been garnering raves from the likes of Rolling Stone and The New York Times for both their debut album, Gallowsbird's Bark (2003, Rough Trade), and their absorbing live shows. With an overriding sound that is difficult to place on a timeline or a map, the album is wholly unique and utterly eccentric, veering from bar-room piano-led blues-rock stomps to chunky guitar anti-anthems that somehow recall T. Rex to slithery pseudo-funk workouts. Though it becomes more coherent the more spins you give it, Gallowsbird's Bark is a methodical mess, and joyously so.

The Fiery Furnaces perform on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Jesse Deluxe opens at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $5. For more info call 798-1298.

SUCK FEST: Regarding his band Mest's latest, self-titled album (2003, Maverick), singer/guitarist Tony Lovato had this to say: "Musically, it's our most mature record. Going into it, we wanted to make sure that 20 years from now, when we're 40 years old, it's something we can be proud of. No matter what the fans are going to think, what's punk, what's not--we wanted to make a fucking amazing record that will last." Tony, I've got some bad news: Your album sucks. It sucks now, and 100 years from now, when your grandchildren listen to it, it'll still suck.

In fact, it's like a handbook on how to suck. First clue: Your single, "Jaded (These Years)," features Benji Madden from Good Charlotte, one of the only bands that sucks more than yours does. And how jaded can you possibly be when you're young enough to call Rancid's Tim Armstrong your idol? Hey, I'll admit to liking Rancid, too, but with the caveat that they stole everything they know from The Clash. What's that? You've never heard of The Clash? Oh, hell, I give up. Just remember, kids: Just because horrible teen-pop is played on guitars by dudes with tattoos and piercings, that doesn't make it punk, no matter how many times the record company tells you it is.

Mest performs on Monday, Feb. 2, at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. The show begins at 7 p.m. with openers Home Grown, Madcap and Fall Out Boy. For further details, call 358-4287.

ON THE BANDWAGON: The first installment of Old Pueblo Songwriters, a showcase for local singer/songwriters both new and established, should be a dandy. Appearing on the bill are Greyhound Soul's Joey Peña, Truck's Jesse Stanley, Ozlo, Stefan George, and ex-Tricky Luz frontman John Clinebell. Check it out at 9 p.m. tonight, Thursday, Jan. 29, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Questions? Call 622-3535.

Adventurous jazz fans will want to check out the latest installment in the ongoing bookings of Steve Hahn's Zeitgeist: The High on Out Duo, with Glenn Weyant and Friends taking the opening slot, performs at 8 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 2, at the Mat Bevel Institute, 530 N. Stone. All ages are welcome and admission is $7 at the door. For details, call 622-0192.

Mike Hebert is one busy guy. This week, his three bands (!) will perform in one night as part of a showcase for the record label he owns and operates, Plez Records. The bill features honky-tonkin' Southern rockers Tallboy, hot-rod surf outfit the Fender Benders, and retro lounge swingers the Kings of Pleasure. Hebert currently has all three bands in the studio as well, and is slated to release a compilation album on Plez in February. The shindig goes down at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Cover is $4, and that number again is 622-3535.