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    Hitmaker Bruno Mars Wows the Ladies in NY Debut

    Bruno Mars' talents are much in demand these days. Earlier this year, the 23-year-old co-wrote and produced two of the biggest hits of the spring-Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" and B.o.B's "Nothing On You"-the latter of which spent two weeks on top of Billboard's Hot 100. His production team, The Smeezingtons, are also behind K'Naan's "Waving Flag," which became the official anthem of the 2010 World Cup, and Matisyahu's "One Day," NBC's theme song for the recent Winter Olympics. All that production work has been good for Mars and his partners Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine-it certainly helps pay the rent. But ever since his days as a 4-year-old performing with his family's band the Love Notes in his native Hawaii, Mars has always wanted to be a frontman, to sing his own songs.

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    Fun Lovin' Free Energy Rock SPIN's NYC Office

    The most striking thing about Free Energy -- besides their pitch-perfect power pop -- is that they do it all without a hint of irony. It might be tempting to rough up all those Day-Glo riffs, harmonized guitar solos and sing-along choruses with a wink and a nod -- just to let the hipsters know that there's a Pavement record under all those hooks. But that would be too easy, and not nearly as much fun. All of which may go some way to explain why SPIN named the Philly quintet one of the 10 Artists to Watch in 2010, and why everyone had such a damn good time last night at the band's SPINhouse Live show, presented by Amstel Light. Rain may have prevented the festivities from taking place on SPIN's Manhattan rooftop, forcing the show indoors.

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    The Flaming Lips Wow for SPIN's 25th Anniversary

    "Everyone always says that when bands play places like L.A. and New York that no one wants to have a good time," frontman Wayne Coyne told the giddy crowd at Manhattan's Terminal 5 before The Flaming Lips' show last night. "But I think that's fucking bullshit!" New York may have a blasé reputation (well-deserved or not), but on Tuesday the Lips' fans proved the city's critics wrong, and Coyne right. And really, how could they not have had a good time? Together for 27 years, The Flaming Lips are the only band playing SPIN's week-long 25th anniversary concert series (presented in conjunction with ZYNC from American Express) who are older than the magazine itself. But despite their age, Coyne and his cronies have remained one of rock's most thrilling, most inventive-most euphoric-live acts. Nearly every song Tuesday night came with its own wacky prop.

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    Jack Johnson Fills Madison Square Garden with Love

    Jack Johnson isn't an obvious choice to play Madison Square Garden. His songs-a supremely mellow blend of AM folk and Hendrix-inspired funk rock-seem more suited to a beachside bonfire or a candlelit café than a 20,000-seat arena. Same goes for his look. With his beard, jeans, and simple T-shirt, Johnson looks more like a married 35-year-old with three kids (which he is) than the headliner of the same venue Iron Maiden destroyed earlier this week. But surfer dad or not, Johnson has sold 18 million records, and his last, June's To The Sea, went straight to No. 1, selling 243,000 copies in its first week alone.

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    The 8 Best Moments of Brooklyn's Afro-Punk Festival

    Brooklyn's Afro-Punk Festival -- co-founded by James Spooner after his 2003 documentary of the same name, and held this past weekend in Commodore Barry Park -- aims to explore the nexus between hip-hop, punk, and urban black culture. It's the kind of place where folks of all shapes, sizes, and colors can be spotted with Metallica, Joy Division, and Green Day T-shirts. Bands like Living Colour and Fishbone are the festival's touchstones, and of course Bad Brains, D.C.'s legendary hardcore band, who, along with Mos Def, headlined the event's sixth annual installment. The festival's 19 bands -- some well known, some less so -- represented nearly every color in the afro-punk spectrum.

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    The National Wow a Hometown Crowd at Radio City

    If a steady stream of adoring press coverage, including a critically acclaimed new album, High Violet, are any indication, the National's moment seems to have finally arrived. And if after nearly 10 years of playing tiny clubs to increasingly larger, more affectionate crowds, the Brooklyn quintet is moving on to grander things, then selling out New York City's Radio City Music Hall is surely part of it. The National have a well-deserved reputation for tense, brooding ballads, but Wednesday's night's set proved that what they really want to do, and what they do better than almost anyone else, is make great, turbulent, cathartic rock'n'roll. The band seemed a bit timid during the first few songs, which may have had something to do with the bass-heavy mix.

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    Tour the Grateful Dead Archive with Bill Kreutzmann

    When the Grateful Dead played their first show in 1965 at one of Ken Kesey's Acid Tests in San Jose, Calif., no one could have possibly imagined-whatever their mental state-that 45 years later one of the guys wailing away onstage would be a tour guide for the New-York Historical Society. And yet there stood longtime drummer Bill Kreutzmann Wednesday night leading a group of 30 or so Dead fans on a private tour of "The Grateful Dead: Now Playing at the New York Historical Society" in Manhattan, the first public exhibit of material from the Grateful Dead Archive housed at UC Santa Cruz. It was a long, strange trip, to say the least. But then so is the archive itself.

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    Anthrax, Fall Out Boy Supergroup Debuts Live Show

    Folks are sure to be skeptical: A hard rock band featuring members of Fall Out Boy? Really? FOB writes Top-40 choruses, not bottom-heavy riff rock. They're known for tabloid theatrics, not guitar heroics. They are emo, remember. But despite any fan worries, The Damned Things - featuring FOB's guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley - is a heavy band, and a pretty good one, too. Of course, it helps to have some metal royalty in the group, in this case Anthrax guitarists Rob Caggiano and Scott Ian (he of the foot-long goatee).

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    Buzzcocks Outlast Bomb Scare in New York City

    Britain may have a new prime minister, but they'll always have the Buzzcocks. It's been 32 years since the quartet played their first show, opening up for the Sex Pistols at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall. And yet the band, or at least its core members, guitarists Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle, are still around and kicking. The Buzzcocks haven't released an album since 2006's Flat-Pack Philosophy, but that hasn't stopped them from hitting the road -- which is more than you can say for most punks over 50. For their current Another... Bites Tour, they are playing their first two records, Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites, released just six months apart in 1978, plus a smattering of other hits.

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    V.V. Brown Wows at Tour Opener

    There's a lot to know about V.V. Brown besides the fact that the London singer-songwriter released her debut album, Traveling Like the Light, in the states earlier this month. Her real name is Vanessa, she's a part-time model, she has her own vintage clothing store, and she's writing a graphic novel. V.V. also famously wrote some of the songs off Traveling -- including hit single "Crying Blood" -- on a one-string guitar. Oh, and she's stunningly beautiful. And yet most Americans probably know very little about her. Which is a shame. While the sudden rise of V.V.'s profile in the U.K. may mimic the ecstatic trajectory of current and one-time "it girls" Kate Nash and Lily Allen, her music is far more eccentric.

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