The Bay Area's biggest indie-rock festival is upon us once again, and thus we are forced to try and choose between impossible-to-choose lineups each night: whether to shell out the big bucks for a huge act that never comes around, take your chance on a buzz band you've been hearing rave reviews about, stick to your old favorites, or try the impossible task of jumping between shows in attempt to see it all. For indecisive folks, it's sheer hell. For indecisive critics who are supposed to predict which show will destroy all others, it's even worse. My advice? See the bands you're dying to see, then venture out a bit when it comes to bands you've already seen or who will likely come around again. Take advantage of the rare reunion shows (Roky Erickson and the Explosives, Sebadoh), skip the ones playing Noise Pop for the umpteenth time (John Vanderslice), and, of course, get there early to support the local opening acts.
Wednesday, February 28 Indie-rock history lesson 101: Here's your chance to see the reunion of indie-rock pioneers Sebadoh, featuring original members Lou Barlow, Eric Gaffney, and Jason Loewenstein. The reunification (including a nearly-two-month-long tour) comes on the heels of Barlow and Lowenstein's acoustic tour in 2004, last year's reissue of III, and the release of a bunch of bootlegs on their Web site. According to Gaffney, the band will play songs from the entire Sebadoh catalogue. With the Bent Mustache, Love of Diagrams, and the New Trust at the Great American Music Hall. 8 p.m. $18, $20. All ages.
MP3 sample: Sebadoh, "Gimme Indie Rock"
Thursday, March 1 If you weren't dropping acid in the '60s or haven't paid much attention to the psychedelic garage-rock scene, you might not know who Roky Erickson is. Here's a quick summary: The Texan joins 13th Floor Elevators, releases hit "You're Gonna Miss Me," which climbs to number 56 on the pop charts in 1966, gets committed to a mental hospital (after pleading insanity to drug charge) which permanently damages him, convinced an alien inhabits him, record labels screw him over, his bro takes over to get him his due success, meanwhile a generation of rock bands credit his influence. The show marks the first time Erickson has played in the city (with forming backing band the Explosives) in twenty years. With Oranger, Howlin Rain, and Wooden Shjips at the Great American Music Hall. 8 p.m. $25.
MP3 sample: 13th Floor Elevators, "You're Gonna Miss Me"
Friday, March 2 Los Angeles' Autolux is the band on the verge of perpetual blowup. Having pieced together diehard followers of guitarist Greg Edwards' former alt-rock group Failure, with arty-pop-noise-leaning fans of the Blonde Redhead/My Bloody Valentine variety, Autolux doesn't have any trouble getting people to like it, only to figure out what to do next. Staying true to its performance-as-art mentality, expect an engaging live show. With Snowden, Malajube, and Death of a Party at the Independent. 8:30 p.m., $12, $14.
MP3 sample: Autolux, "Turnstyle Blues"
Saturday, March 3 This was a tough one. Though I'm rather fond of Dead Meadow and expect their hazy psychedelia to translate live quite nicely, I'll have to go with Clinic on the simple fact that there may not be many more opportunities to see these Liverpool gents on this side of the Atlantic. To boot, the band's latest CD, Visitations, is a welcome return to the freshness of their earlier sound. The single, "If You Could Read Your Mind," with its half-tempo surf guitar, howling monkey effects, and chugging rhythm (a mood perfectly captured in their mysterioso video), will likely stir the crowd to a frenzy. Though I'm not a huge fan of their surgical masks live (it looks ridiculous while singing), their synchronized dance moves would be a treat. With Earlimart, Sea Wolf, and the Mumlers at the Independent. 8:30 p.m., $17.
MP3 sample: Clinic, "If You Could Read Your Mind"
Sunday, March 4 I refuse to choose on this one, simply because I'm not a huge fan of any of these bands. So here are your choices: 1) Cake (their fans know who they are), 2) Midlake (Fleetwood Mac with Thom Yorke vocals), 3) The Dwarves (raucous obnoxious punk), and 4) Comedians of Comedy (you may need a good laugh after all drinking). My medals of honor go to Scrabbel and Ester Drang.
MP3 sample: Cake, "Wheels"