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French electro-rock luminary Richard Pinhas graces the States 

Wednesday, Jun 27 2007
A friend once described the National as the ideal band to spin when you're alone and wallowing in misery. It's a fair assessment: Matt Berninger's deep drawl and the band's velvety piano-folk are decidedly intimate. But with the recent release of its third album, Boxer, the Brooklyn quintet is no longer anyone's secret. A recent concert found the National mesmerizing a sold-out audience. Echoes of the Go-Betweens, recent tourmates Arcade Fire, and even New Order emerged from its setlist. Auxiliary violinist Padma Newsome danced around the stage on standouts such as "Squalor Victoria," although the rail-thin Berninger stole the spotlight. He gripped the microphone stand passionately, eyes closed like R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, bringing individuals together by singing of loneliness and longing. Catch the National on Wednesday, June 27, at Bimbo's at 8 p.m. Admission is $16; call 474-0365 or visit for more info. — Annie Zaleski

Lauryn Hill has morphed from insanely promising ingénue to a veteran-gone-insane in under a decade. Since her multi-platinum 1998 solo debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, public output and appearances have been scarce, and speculation as to her well-being under the pressures of success has grown to mythological proportions. A brief 2005 reunion with Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel as the Fugees yielded the lackluster single "Take It Easy" before the trio parted again. There is hope, however: The recently released animated flick Surf's Up features an unreleased song from Hill called "Lose Myself." Set to jangly guitar pop, she almost whispers, "I had to lose myself so I could love you better." Not exactly an indication of health, but Hill is certain to provide a slew of water-cooler moments after her Bay Area show on Wednesday, June 27, at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $45-89.50; call 510-465-6400 or visit for more info. — Tamara Palmer

The voice of Veils singer Finn Andrews hits listeners as either sexy and evocative or as a criminal abuse of the trembly vibrato made famous by Morrissey and Jeff Buckley. There's very little in-between, so it makes sense that Andrews — whose dad, Barry, played in XTC — would name his latest album Nux Vomica, after the plant that can be used to soothe (hangovers, anxiety, etc.) or kill (it contains strychnine). The disc is the follow-up to Veils' ambitious Runaway Found, which failed to find an audience outside of Europe when it was released three years ago. But Nux comes loaded with infectious numbers ranging from hand-clap pop to atmospheric, piano-propelled mood-rock, and as the glowing reviews pour in, the band appears poised for an American breakthrough. The Veils play with the Comas and Bedroom Walls on Thursday, June 28, at Cafe Du Nord at 9 p.m. Admission is $10-12; call 861-5016 or visit for info. —Maya Kroth

French bands Heldon and Magma were as important as the Velvet Underground and Soft Machine when it came to bringing electronics and the avant-garde into a rock context. Heldon's mid-'70s recordings presage aspects of techno, ambient, and industrial sounds with automaton-like beats and fierce soloing. Founder Richard Pinhas still pursues his singular vision of rocktronica, three decades later. Although his sustained textures bear some similarity to the dreamscapes of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, Pinhas' approach is less ethereal, more rhythm-driven and harrowing a la Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Without being self-consciously doom-y, Pinhas imparts the notion of a future closer to Bladerunner than the Jetsons. Richard Pinhas will be accompanied by Magma's Antoine Pagan when he performs on Sunday, June 29, at 21 Grand (416 25th St., Oakland) at 8:30 p.m. Call 510-444-7263 or visit for more info. — Mark Keresman

Neither War nor Midnight Star hails from the Bay Area, but both were local favorites during their heydays (the '70s and '80s, respectively). Most memorably, War created the Latin-tinged classics "Low Rider" and "The Cisco Kid," while Midnight Star still garners heavy nightclub action with electro R&B hits "Freak-A-Zoid," "Midas Touch," and "No Parking (on the Dance Floor)." These days, neither act tours with all of its original members. But that should prove relatively irrelevant as the vintage tunes blast on a warm, beer-soaked festival evening. Radio station KISS FM's "Old School Fiesta" brings together these bands (alongside Debbie Deb and others) on Saturday, June 30, at Shoreline Amphitheatre at 6 p.m. Admission is $10-55; call 650-967-3000 or visit for more info. — T.P.


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