The essential gig guide

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The Independent Culture

The National

On tour 1-10 November

Beloved of such disparate talents as Bruce Springsteen and Tom Smith of Editors, The National offer richly detailed chamber pop with a gothic underbelly. The group comprises two sets of brothers plus baritone crooner Matt Berninger, and they hail from NYC via Cincinnati, Ohio. These dates are in support of their fabulous Boxer album, a resonant update on inner-city alienation and the American Dream gone wrong.

The Donnas

London ULU 5 November

California's The Donnas (pictured) are to the Noughties what The Runaways were to the Seventies: an all-girl rock band you'd think twice about inviting to your daughter's birthday bash. Back with fairly self-explanatory new album Bitchin', they continue to push buttons marked "trashy" and "loud" on nuggets such as "Don't Wait Up For Me" and (eek!)"Here For The Party."

Kelley Stoltz

On tour supporting Two Gallants, 6-15 November; solo dates at London Water Rats 5&19 November

Trivia hounds love the fact that this San Francisco-based singer songwriter was once gainfully employed as Jeff Buckley's fan-mail sorter, but Stoltz's forthcoming new album Circular Sounds reminds us he is a major talent in his own right. Said work is less outré than his previous albums, trading some of the multi-instrumentalist's psychedelic mischief for poppier, but no-less-appealing fair. Listen out for the insanely catchy "When You Forget."

Thrill Jockey's 15th

London Koko 11&12 November

Cake and candles time for the Chicago-based label that brought you influential post-rockers Tortoise, "glam-influenced chameleon" Bobby Conn and Brazilian /African pop-influenced outfit The Sea and Cake. These and many more T.J. bands will be appearing at Koko over the course of Sunday and Monday. All ticket buyers get a free Thrill Jockey act CD that has been lovingly mixed by Trey Told 'Em, AKA DJ duo Greg Gillis and Frank Musarra.


On tour 12-16 November

Earlier this year UNKLE's more rock-orientated album War Stories necessitated the reinvention of their live show. Out went the erstwhile trip-hoppers' lone DJs-with-decks approach, and in came a seven-piece band, plus a vast multimedia show incorporating banks of television monitors. Earthy stomps such as "Mayday" and the haunted-sounding "Burn My Shadow" have thrilled moshers and ravers alike, making nonsense of linchpin James Lavelle's fears of a metamorphosis too far.

Joseph Arthur

On tour 16-22 November

While most musicians' tour set-lists are set in stone, songwriter and artist Joseph Arthur is a seat-of-his-pants kind of guy. He's been known to open gigs with a bit of spontaneous painting, and, when playing solo, he uses electronic looping devices to build arrangements. These dates with side-project band The Lonely Astronauts should be something else again.

Edwyn Collins

London, Great Newport Street Arts Theatre 19&25 November

Real cause for celebration here, these dates marking Collins' tentative return to the stage after being pole-axed by a brain haemorrhage in February 2005. Friends such as Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame will be on hand to help perform tracks from Edwyn's sixth solo album Home Again; perhaps even the singer's ace worldwide hit, "A Girl Like You." "I liked it when people booed," Collins recently told Mojo, recalling his youthful days fronting Orange Juice. This time out a standing ovation is more likely, to be honest.

St Vincent

On tour 22-30 November

St Vincent, AKA Annie Clark, sang and played guitar with the likes of Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree before inking a solo deal with Beggars Banquet and releasing her fine debut Marry Me earlier this year. It is an intensely melodic and sonically forward-looking work which one imagines would be difficult to reproduce live, but Clark's impressive multi-tasking – she also plays vibes, bass and piano – should help.