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Where It's At: March Shorts - Staples, Handler and Mayer on deck for March

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

We're inching closer to the peak concert season. In the meantime, March boasts some terrific live concerts. Here are five to wrap your head around.

Against Me!
March 1, Neumos

When super-hot and tattooed Tom Gabel interviewed with me two years ago, he offered to play at a Gay wedding reception for the small fee of unlimited beer and transportation - I'm not sure if he really meant it, but the fact he was open to the idea is something to smile about. The lead singer of punk-metal act Against Me!, Gabel's boyish looks and badass stage persona - not to mention the many times he removes his shirt during a live show - have earned him admirers from both sides of the sexual fence, though the group's fiery songs like "White People for Peace" and "Trash Unreal" are the bigger draw. I don't know why last year's The Original Cowboy release didn't get the same attention as its predecessor, 2007's New Wave. One thing's for sure, though: These guys can blow the roof off any place, any time. Expect a young, male-dominated, nicely tatted crowd for this intimate performance at Neumos (www.neumos.com).

Mavis Staples
March 4-7, Dimitriou's Jazz Alley

Legendary gospel mama Mavis Staples arrives at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley next week for a six-show run over four nights. A true original, the Chicago native got her start as the frontwoman of the iconic church ensemble the Staples Singers ("I'll Take You There," "Respect Yourself") and then became a lauded solo act, thanks to her smooth and befitting heavenly voice. Among her career acknowledgments, Staples is a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award winner, National Heritage Award recipient, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and listed on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Singers of All Time." Backed by a six-member band, Staples will hopefully pluck from an extensive catalog of material, though she's likely to lean heavily on her gospel work - amen to that! Phone reservations at (206) 441-9729 allow you to pick the best table available and are strongly recommended.

The Cave Singers
March 6, The Showbox Market

There's a reason why Welcome Joy landed inside my top 10 albums list for 2009: it's that good. The second recording from The Cave Singers, following the critical success of 2007's Invitation Songs, featured a roster of standout tracks, most importantly "Summer Light" and "At the Cut." Much like Fleetwood Mac in the early days, minus Nicks and McVie, the Seattle indie folk trio combines beautiful harmonies and bluegrass-rock backgrounds that results in a very organic sound - think campfires, mountain canyons, pine trees, and ghost stories with a flashlight. The Cave Singers play routinely in their neck of the woods and the fans keep coming, and growing - hence the upgrade to The Showbox Market from Neumos. Don't wait to see these men at an outdoor festival, catch them indoors and while they're on the verge of explosion. Visit www.showboxonline.com for ticket information.

Chelsea Handler
March 20, Paramount Theatre

Truth be told, I didn't like Chelsea Handler much when her nightly talk show debuted on the E! Channel, yet it didn't stop every Gay friend of mine from staying up late to watch her. Then, she grew on me. The part-time stand-up comedienne was the grand marshall at Los Angeles' LGBT Pride festival last year, which accounts for her rapid rise in non-hetero households. She reduces misbehaved celebs to roadkill, asks Mary-Louise Parker if she's enjoying "that piece of meat" (boyfriend), calls pageant moms "jacked up, retarded parents," and her Mexican sidekick Chuy is hysterical - and looks like my Uncle Chuy, by the way. So, it isn't a shocker that Handler's performance at the Paramount Theatre is entirely sold out - as in, no mas tickets. Whoever this lady decides to roast or whatever she rips from the headlines, the crowd is gonna eat it up like free mints on a downtown sidewalk.

John Mayer
March 31, Key Arena

Despite John Mayer's candid interviews and downright weirdness - dressing up in a Borat unitard, anyone? - I still find different ways to love him. Ditto for his music, which varies from solid pop numbers ("Belief," "Why Georgia") to complete zingers ("Daughters," "Gravity"). But, I find it difficult to continue embracing a guy who now describes his penis as "white supremacist" - in a recent Playboy interview, the Grammy winner bluntly suggested that his & um, thing & chased solely after Caucasian women, and possibly men & he's hinted at the possibility of being at least Bi. In that same interview, he also dished on his former relationship with celebrity trainwreck Jessica Simpson, describing her as "sexual napalm" - uh, that's just gross. So the decision is yours, and come March 31 will you be able to sit and listen to John Mayer croon "Your Body is a Wonderland" at Key Arena without laughing or throwing up, unless you can actually separate his personal TMIs from his actual work? I'm bringing my iPod, just in case. Tickets should still be available at all Ticketmaster outlets. Michael Franti & Spearhead are the supporting act.

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