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THURSDAY, MARCH 31

LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO Say it out loud with me: Joseph Shabalala. Joseph Sha ba la la. Feels good, huh? He's the leader of Ladysmith Mambazo, which burst on the international scene as part of Paul Simon's groundbreaking 1985 album Graceland and its long, globetrotting tour. The large South African ensemble sings lush choral arrangements a cappella - most of the time. Their latest CD, No Boundaries, is a collaboration with the strings of the English Chamber Orchestra, and it's beautiful, like everything else the group does. (Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa)

-Eric Snider

FRIDAY, APRIL 1

TORI AMOS w/MATT NATHANSON The faerie queen herself returns from her adopted British homeland with a new record, The Beekeeper, that's even weirder than you expected - though, in this fan's opinion, it's also a little disappointing. She's still guaranteed to be mesmerizing in person, however, and the presence of talented cult-fave singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson on the bill just sweetens the pot. (Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater)

THE FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS Jimmie Vaughan is long gone, but the T-Birds can still rock the house with singer/harp player Kim Wilson and his tight band of blues/R&B stalwarts. (Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg)

-ES

JIMBO MATHUS The native of Clarksdale, Miss., where he still lives and owns a recording studio, is one of the more interesting blues artists anywhere. I use the term "blues" loosely. Singer-guitarist Mathus makes teeming, hypnotic, sinister music rooted in his native Mississippi. It blends straight blues, stomping R&B, ragged rock, old Stones and some raucous roadhouse shit. The music on his new Knockdown South album is unkempt and exciting and I will be listening to it a lot in the coming months. (Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa)

-ES

CATCH 22/SPITALFIELD/DON'T LOOK DOWN/WHOLE WHEAT BREAD Veteran ska-punk act Catch 22 is out pimping its new live CD/DVD combo, aptly titled Catch 22 Live; these guys pack a lot more R&B and jazzy funk into their sound than most of their contemporaries. Jacksonville's Whole Wheat Bread is an interesting new national act, even though the name makes a gimmick out of the fact that it's three black guys. They've got a debut disc, Minority Rules (get it? They're black!), out on Orlando's Fighting Records, and mix energetic pop-punk with a little hip-hop. Hey, it's better than it sounds. A little. (State Theatre, St. Petersburg)

BONK FESTIVAL OF NEW MUSIC This year's installment of Tampa's heralded cavalcade of avant-garde classical, jazz and noise has been scaled back to two days, mostly because so many universities are doing worthwhile new-music seminars that BONK's founders want to focus on even more forward-thinking and unsung sounds, many of which originate right here in town. The first night, at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Patel Conservatory, features the USF Percussion Ensemble performing new works by BONK vets Eric Lyon and David Rogers, as well as locally based, jaw-droppingly good contemporary chamber group Confluences. Saturday's program shifts across the Bay to St. Pete's Dali Museum, and features flutist Margaret Lancaster performing new pieces composed for her by BONK president/Handshake Squad guy Robert Constable, among others. Support! (Patel Conservatory @ Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa; Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg)

RISE AGAINST/ALEXISONFIRE/BRAZIL/THE BLACK MARIA Rise Against wasted all comers on last year's Warped Tour; it was easily the best set I witnessed all day. The band plays tight, short, anthemic hardcore tunes that have one foot in the old school, and one in the new. Alexisonfire is a fairly generic screamo outfit, while Brazil keeps getting touted as "prog-punk" and getting mentioned in the same breath as Coheed & Cambria and Rush. The Black Maria is a new project from Kyle Bishop, who led the excellent, ahead-of-its-time Grade to underground godhead status and ultimately dissolution. Aaron Red Skyline has a massive man-crush on Bishop, who, it must be said, is pretty dreamy. Don't expect Grade's pummeling mix of metalcore and pop, however - The Black Maria is a much more straightforward, modern rock/nü-punk outfit. (Masquerade, Ybor City)

OKSANA & JIM WARREN Gifted Russian-born pianist Oksana Kolesnikova and Grammy-winning artist/album-cover specialist Jim Warren team up for an exhibition and performance to benefit the Admiral Farragut Academy's Fine Arts Department. The Academy is located at 501 Park St. N. in St. Pete. (Admiral Farragut Academy, St. Petersburg)

GIDEON STRING TRIO The Czech Republic's top classical ensemble comes to town. The trio will be joined by noted oboist Phillippe Magnan. (Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, Tarpon Springs)

SPIKE MIKE'S BIRTHDAY BASH I have no idea who the hell Spike Mike is, but it looks like there are gonna be a bunch of great locals, from folk to metal, playing his B-day party. Also, it's free, dude, so that's five more bucks you can spend on getting loaded and not on Spike Mike's present - your attendance is present enough. The playas: Jackson Davis & Wookess Williams, Kate Bradshaw, Jen Shamro, So Far No Good, Fist Monkey, Flat Stanley, Area 51, Dukes of Hillsborough, Battlestar, and River Chicken. (Pegasus Lounge, Tampa)

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