Plenty of shows to check out over the break

You can celebrate the beginning and end of finals, and spring break, for that matter, with Friday night’s weekly “Shut up and Dance,” with DJ Gregarious at Lola’s Room in the Crystal. He spins good tunes, Lola’s is a comfortable room and the night is free. It is kind of like a mature high school dance with some people dancing and many mingling around the dark edge of the room.

On Wednesday, March 28, Seattle’s popular 764-HERO returns to Lola’s with their melodic riffs, thought-provoking lyrics and tight musicianship.

Rising from the embers of seminal Seattle acts Hush Harbor and Bell Jar, 764-HERO took to the West Coast with their fiery, aggressive brand of emotionally-driven indie rock in 1996. Originally a duo, John Atkins (guitar/vox) and Polly Johnson (drums) have adopted Red Stars Theory contributor James Bertram into the fold, adding depth and sophistication to their off-the-cuff, anthemic rock stylings.

Adhering to club guidelines set by such contemporaries as Built to Spill, Modest Mouse and Quasi, 764-Hero choose their chords wisely, avoiding classic rock redundancy and remaining derivative only of their neighbors across the street. Their latest CD is excellent – the continued growth is obvious. This band never fails to excite!

Friday, March 30 is the first night of the Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel – A Concept Album show. Little information could be found about the album, but the shows will both be great. Friday night’s lineup is Quasi, Lou Barlow, and Ann Magnuson and Dave Rick of the band Bongwater.

Portland duo Quasi combines keyboard/guitar and drums in their tight execution of well-written songs. Sam Coomes’ keys manifest organesque sounds with a more percussive attack and distorted wail. Coomes is an incredible musician – when not fronting his own band, you can usually find him on stage somewhere with Elliott Smith. Janet Weiss, also the drummer for Sleater-Kinney, exerts her talent with vigorous drumming that helps create the band’s sound.

Lou Barlow has contributed his talent to many exceptional projects. He plays with indie pop bands Sebadoh and Folk Implosion. Playing solo, his songs and great voice hold their own.

Ann Magnuson and Dave Rick grace this evening with a rare Northwest appearance. Their seminal band, Bongwater – an eclectic collaboration featuring Rick, guitarist/bassist Mark Kramer and actress/singer Magnuson – juxtaposed innovative musical experimentation and Magnuson’s funny and scathing spoken word observations on life, New York and celebrity.

Night two of the concept album release party features Guided By Voices, The Minus 5 and Creeper Lagoon.

Guided By Voices is basement pop incarnate. GBV began as a side project to singer/lyricist Robert Pollard’s teaching career. Demos began to circulate and be released and now after dozens of independent releases, Pollard and Co. are releasing albums for a major label.

Twelve years after the appearance of their first locally released cassette (and six years after their much heralded Bee Thousand), it was finally, in Pollard’s words, “time to get paid.” Do the Collapse, produced by The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, finds the band as sharp and poignant as ever, but more pristinely recorded.

The Minus 5 is a Seattle-based pop music collective started in 1993 as a side project of Scott McCaughey of Young Fresh Fellows fame. The idea was to have a different lineup with each release. This revolving door has seen the likes of Peter Buck (R.E.M) and members of the Posies, the Walkabouts and NRBQ. As in the YFF, McCaughey plays jangle pop, but with lyrics that are more bleak than whimsical. This incarnation features McCaughey and Peter Buck for the Portland show.

Creeper Lagoon will offer up more pop. They’re not just intriguing, they’re relentlessly listenable. The group create tunes that are the kind of elusive songs you keep coming back to time after time.

Sunday, April 1 is Swingin’ Sunday at the Crystal Ballroom with Casey McGill and Mood Indigo featuring Rebecca Kilgore. Dance lessons are 4-6 p.m. Swingin’ Sundays are now a monthly event, taking place on the first Sun of each month.McGill is bringing his trio Mood Indigo, with Portland’s own Rebecca Kilgore.

Featuring David Jackson on vocals and bass, John Reynolds on vocals and guitar and the inimitable keyboard playing of McGill, Mood Indigo will perform Mills Bros.-type three part harmonies all night long.

Casey, who before going to New York was a long-time Crystal favorite with his Spirits of Rhythm, states it simply, “If you haven’t seen me perform with this unit, you’ve missed an essential part of what I do.”

Don’t miss these shows, they’re sure to help you recoup and relax after finals and spring break.