Jonathan Zwickel

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    Outside Lands, Day 3: Best & Worst

    THE BEST: BEST LIP SYNCH: TENACIOUS DAlmost everything about Sunday night's Tenacious D performance was different than your average festival set. The D -- Jack Black and Kyle Gass on acoustic guitars and vocals, backed by four brilliant, anonymous musicians -- played a two-hour, skit-filled rock opera, breaking up the band and reuniting within the span of two songs ("Dude (I Totally Miss You)" and "Kyle Quit the Band"), serenading a giant robot named "The Metal," battling Satan over the "Pick of Destiny," and later, hilariously breaching rock etiquette by lip-synching the words to their songs. Though they're basically a part-time gag-band, Tenacious D proved up to the challenge of filling in for late cancellations the Beastie Boys.

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    Outside Lands, Day 2: Best & Worst

    THE BEST: BEST USE OF A BLACK EYED PEA: DAVE MATTHEWS BAND"I have a frog in my throat," Dave Matthews said midway into his band's two-hour long headlining set Saturday night, "but it's a delicious frog." His voice worn down to a gravelly croak, Matthews played the grizzled bluesman to Fergie and when the pair of Black Eyed Peas joined him onstage to lead an awkward chant of, "DAVE MATTHEWS BAND!" Despite Matthews' brief attempt at breakdancing (!), the spirited shouting was a false climax: Serious DMB fans got their fix from a 20-minute version of "Lie in Our Graves," as well as old favorites like "Ants Marching" and "Don't Drink the Water." Six-string master Tim Reynolds, Matthews longtime foil, sat in all night long, and replacing deceased sax player LeRoi Moore was a three-piece horn section (with an alto sax occasionally cheesing up the works).

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    Pearl Jam Tour, Night 4: Outside Lands

    THE BEST: BEST DISPLAY OF FAN LOVE: PEARL JAMLet's put it this way: Nobody's walking around San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the site of the Outside Lands fest, wearing a Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny t-shirt. Pearl Jam, on the other hand, brought out legions of fans of all ages, some 40,000 of which amassed in front of the giant Land's End stage to catch the festival's first headliner tear into a 90-minute set that heavily favored older material.

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    The Four Best Seattle Bands You Don't Know

    Grunge may be long gone, but a handful of the Seattle bands that played at the Capitol Hill Block Party festival in their hometown this past weekend proved that the Emerald City's music scene is still one of the country's best. Competing for the attention of the 16, 000 strong crowd with the likes of headliners Sonic Youth, Built to Spill, Gossip, and Deerhunter, the following four local bands put on some of the weekend's best shows. There can never be too much weed rap, and They Live! does bouncy, blunted hip-hop with a love that can't be faked.

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    Breaking Out: The Avett Brothers

    Two years ago, Scott and Seth Avett were summoned by the Wizard of Rock. Apparently Rick Rubin had liked Emotionalism, their fifth album of love-drunk country rock, and wanted to grant them an audience, high in his Malibu home overlooking the ocean. The pair met with the bearded guru and soaked up nourishment from an altogether different plane than their North Carolina hill country hinterland. "I had some of the best ginger tea I've had in my life," Seth says with a laugh. Such is the humble, unfussy way of the Avett Brothers -- singer-pianist-guitarist Seth, 29, singer-banjo player Scott, 33, and bassist Bob Crawford, 38. True to their ragged, rustic sound, the band climbed the ladder the old-fashioned way. "Rather than playing one show and getting a ton of money or popularity, we played 2,000 shows," Seth says -- and without exaggeration.

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    Tori Amos Kicks Off U.S. Tour

    Seattle's cavernous, 3300-capacity WaMu Amphitheater was less than half full for Tori Amos' woefully under-publicized Sinful Attraction tour opener Friday night -- Amos' name was even left off the marquee outside -- but she regaled an attentive crowd with a 20-plus-song setlist that found her transforming old favorites and unleashing the gospel-laced force of her recently-released 10th album, Abnormally Attracted to Sin. "It's time for a new adventure starting here, in one of my favorite places," she said after a potent rendition of "Caught a Lite Sneeze." "I decided to wear emerald green for the Emerald City." Indeed, the willowy Amos was wrapped in a form-fitting, floor-length dress of radiant green, her hair like a copper-colored curtain down her back; beneath she wore gold lamé stretch pants and matching thigh-high boots.

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    Green Day Kick Off U.S. Tour

    Attention aspiring rock stars: Get good seats for the Green Day tour and you might end up ripping a solo on Billie Joe Armstrong's guitar. If you're really lucky, you'll even plant a slobbery smooch on the punked-out frontman's face. (See a photo gallery of the show here.) During Friday night's two-hour, tour-launching set at Seattle's Key Arena, Armstrong pulled onstage no less than six ecstatic fans from the front row and gave each the spotlight, for better or worse.

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    Iron and Wine Kick Off U.S. Tour

    The crowd at Seattle's Vera Project was pin-drop quiet for the 70-minute duration of Iron and Wine's sold-out tour opener Monday night. The youth volunteer-run venue in the urban fairgrounds of Seattle Center, not far from the Space Needle, is an anomaly in the local scene: all-ages means no bar; no drinking means no loud drunkards talking during the show. And this setting allowed Sam Beam's gentle acoustic vignettes to really take hold. Beam, an affable dude with the looks of comic Zach Galifianakis and Southern drawl of Matthew McConaughey, took the stage solo with nothing more than acoustic guitar.

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