SELECTIONS 


;Thursday•25

;Indigo Girls It's almost impossible to believe that it's been 20 years since the Indigo Girls first struck their folk match to the pop matchbox with their quiet debut, Strange Fire. It's even harder to believe that — weathering the whiplash of pop music's forgetful curve — Amy Ray and Emily Saliers continue to be quite capable of transforming their dog-eared thesauri into candlelit sincerity. Their latest record, Despite Our Differences, is their first for Hollywood Records and sees their reflective harmonic strums simmered down to a relative sparseness, thanks to production from jangle legend Mitchell Froom. (A brief experimental period apparently came with its own set of lessons.) Beneath the seemingly harmless arrangements, though, the Girls scratch some difficult chords. "They found the meth, and the scales, and the wife that made your life hell," the gruff-voiced Ray laments on "Dirt and Dead Ends," a song about misunderstood double lives. Expect more heart-wrenching stuff, then, from the girls who perfected the craft. (with Three 5 Human, 7:30 p.m. at Carr Performing Arts Centre; $38.50; 407-849-2001)

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;The Dears When a band wraps their lyrical misery in a brocade of luscious, elegant pop, we tend to pay attention. When they do it with perfection like the Dears do, we fall in love. Some critics have groused that the Dears are a little too perfect; in fact, those dummies at Pitchfork.com said they were "too bold to be believable." Listen to the stunning arrangements and full-on drama of Gang of Losers (the Canadian group's third full-length) for a clear example of why such boldness should be rewarded: It's affecting and effective. (with the Annuals; 9 p.m. at the Social; 407-246-1419; $15)

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;Friday•26

;FX 2007 For the 18th year, geekish types from around the country emerge from their parental lairs and flock to what has been trademarked as "the coolest show on earth," the Florida Extravaganza, aka FX. Palms are already glistening over the promising lineup, and atop the heap of exclusives is the resurgence of the scarcely produced Greatest American Hero Ralph figurine. Endless arrays of evergreen collectibles include comics, sports and anime, as well as trendy vinyl art toys. Sweet dreams are realized via meet-and-greet booths — catch actors from Heroes and Firefly plus the cast from the Star Wars-themed adventure flick Fanboys. Those not experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome may test their gaming prowess at the Dreamblade 10K and 1K tournaments. No word yet on the Wedgies Prevention Committee. (noon-7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday at Orange County Convention Center; $14-$20, pass packages available; 800-345-9845; www.fxshow.com)

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;;Lounge Battles 5 DJ Mad Illz, the organizer and creator of Lounge Battles, boasts on this year's flier that "THIS WILL BE A SOLD OUT EVENT." That's no exaggeration. For the past four years, the battles have turned away many disappointed fans, standing in lines wrapping around the block. The beat drops Friday with a 2 on 2 Street Battle (noon-6 p.m. at Culture Mart, $5) that moves to AKA Lounge later that night for the final rounds (9 p.m.-2 a.m., $13). Beat-boxing and DJ battles continue Saturday at AKA Lounge, followed by the main event: More than 30 MCs from around the country contend for $1,000 in cash (9 p.m.-2 a.m., $13). Sunday brings the performance battle, featuring last year's Orlando-based champions Caveman Theory (9 p.m.-3 a.m. at Screamers, $13). Twenty bucks buys an all-weekend pass, which can be pre-ordered online or by phone. (407-435-4798; www.myspace.com/loungebattles)

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;Saturday•27

;;Orlando International Guitar and Music Expo If this were FX, we'd call them dorks, but rockers don't ever have that problem — they always get the chicks. For almost 20 years, the Orlando International Guitar and Music Expo has been crack for musical junkies. Whether it's a chance for thrashers-in-training to drool over the tools of their heroes (like a $30,000 Gibson ES335, the guitar synonymous with Chuck Berry and the Hall of Fame) or a guitar collector's nirvana (a $300,000 1958 Les Paul Goldtop, anyone?), this place is no mecca for bargain hunters. Rather, it's a lush six-stringed paradise for those who love to rock. (10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at Osceola Heritage Park, Kissimmee; $10; 321-697-3333; www.guitarexpo.net)

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;Mastodon/Converge/;Priestess This gig is all kinds of heavy. Mastodon's major-label debut is one of the most confounding, thudding pieces of plastic ever pushed by a multinational conglomerate. Converge's new disc, their sixth, is a stunning conflation of the group's primal punk roots and late-career sonic adventurousness. And the Canadians in Priestess deliver the swaggering '70s metal heft that everyone thought they heard in Wolfmother, but without the deplorable Zep quotations. Besides the fact that the three bands are exemplary representatives of the increasingly divergent hard rock/metal soundscape, there's not much else that links them, which makes for the kind of show we love to see. ;(7 p.m. at House of Blues; $15-$17; all ages; 407-934-2583)

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;22nd Annual Blue Spring Manatee Festival So Orange City, quite possibly the most boring place on earth, has a boring annual festival to celebrate its gentle but boring hometown creature, the manatee. Arts and crafts are sold to raise funds for preservation organizations, and manatee lovers can gaze into the Blue Spring run on the St. Johns River to see the natives. (Swimming and snorkeling among them starts March 1.) Why the special attention? Because their numbers are dwindling, and that's because there are those who would find one and only one good reason to attend: Sea cows are totally delicious. Especially with a little steak sauce. ;(10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Blue Spring State Park, Orange City; $6; www.themanateefestival.com)

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;John Mayer John Mayer may be the closest thing to a commercially viable walking contradiction in current pop culture. He's a chameleonic troubadour who's as at home writing intriguing music columns for Esquire as he is banging Jessica Simpson as he is jamming with Dave Chappelle and ?uestlove in a dynamite comedy skit. Mayer hangs with fellow prince-of-what-the-fuck Kanye; shares time on the small screen with CSI cast members and a silver VW bug; and churns out some of the lamest MOR adult-contemporary pop vomit ("Daughters," "Your Body Is a Wonderland"). Then he whips around to crank out a blues-trio album before peeling off a we're-totally-helpless-Gen-X-sheep-but-it's-cool anthem ("Waiting on the World to Change"). The floppy, curlicue hair and dazed expression are annoying, and the ease with which the dude transitions from one universe to the next irritates us. Still, we're enthralled because Mayer's zigzagging career profile could lead just about anywhere. (8 p.m. at Amway Arena; $39-$45; all ages; 407-849-2001)

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;Tuesday•30

;;Yo La Tengo/Sam Rivers Trio On the face of it, this bill might seem completely revolutionary — a time-tested atmospheric indie-rock band and our very own avant-jazz legend Sam Rivers sharing a stage? Why, that's almost as crazy as Yo La Tengo covering a Sun Ra song or something! Oh, wait … they did that already ("Nuclear War"). Anything that brings together two audiences who, in theory, are open to "all kinds of music," but in practice, are buttonholed into their habits and haunts must be a good thing. (7 p.m. at the Social; $20; ;407-246-1419)

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;Wednesday•31

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VietNam See our full CD review in Music this week. ;(with the Lemonheads; 8 p.m. at the Social; $15-$17; 407-246-1419)

; Contributors: Jeffrey C. Billman, Ray Cummings, Jason Ferguson, Jennifer Heimburg, Billy Manes, Brittany Middleton, Susie Orr, Lindy T. Shepherd

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