Save Our Starving Musicians 

Look past your own selfish poverty and support a musician or two this spring.

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During times of economic hardship, people are known to settle into their sofas and get lost in the boob tube, or their laptops, to save money. You can understand the urge to be frugal, but this trend would be a shame for a local music scene still ramping up our two midsized clubs — the National and Toad's Place Richmond.

The answer, of course: Sell online at Amazon or eBay everything you don't need and bam! — disposable income for entertainment. Or you could simply be nitpicky about attending shows: a good reason to read this preview further.

Announced bookings come along at their own pace, but here's a glimpse at some noteworthy events likely to draw crowds, penny-pinching or not.

Twirlers rev your engines: The National plays host to the undisputed Grateful Dead tribute champions, Dark Star Orchestra, Tuesday, Feb. 10.

The busiest night of the month so far is Saturday, Feb. 21, featuring several shows: Former Drive By Trucker Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit come to the National in support of his earnest new self-titled album. Plaza Bowl holds an evening of duckpins and local music with the retro-pop love of Prabir and the Substitutes, talented singer and songwriter David Schultz and polished lady rockers, You Guys Are Girls. Also, the legendary honey-voiced crooner, Smokey Robinson, appears at the Landmark Theater as past of the Richmond Forum series.

February will also see the release of the latest from Richmond's top musical export, Lamb of God (“Wrath” drops Feb. 24), before the brutalizing metal band skips town for a European tour with continuing travels to Japan, Australia and (yes!) Jakarta, Indonesia.

So far, March is highlighted by a big early weekend at the National.

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey brings his famous British pout to Richmond on Friday, March 13, behind his new album, “Years of Refusal” (due Feb. 17). Depending on your taste, Morrissey is either brilliantly sardonic or gratingly morose and whiny, but this show is already a sell-out, so start hunting for scalps.

The following night (Saturday, March 14), the venue welcomes comedian Tracy Morgan, star of the critically popular NBC show “30 Rock,” whose raw, often raunchy shows are not for the fainthearted.

Beloved rapper and actor Busta Rhymes stops at Toad's Place March 13 for what should be a preview of his album, “Back on my B.S.,” scheduled for release March 24.

The Richmond Blues Festival licks its chops at the Richmond Coliseum Saturday, March 14, featuring a lineup of Clarence Carter, Big G, Mel Waiters, Sir Charles Jones, Marvin Sease and Roy C. Latimore.

Kicking off April, the National holds a night of '80s-tinged indie pop with Jacksonville's Black Kids and the husband-and-wife synth-pop duo, Mates of State, Thursday, April 3.

Toad's Place feeds the celebrity crushes this month with bikini-clad hit maker Lady Gaga on Friday, April 3. And many are already drooling for Monday, April 6, when heralded indie chanteuse Neko Case returns to Toad's with her country-soul-and-neo-roots style and openers Crooked Fingers.

Up the road, Charlottesville will see its share of Richmonders when the still-breathing members of the Dead bring noodles to a boil at John Paul Jones Arena Wednesday, April 15. Also, the Dave Matthews Band will have an album release weekend party of sorts at John Paul Jones April 17-18, with old-time string revivalists Old Crow Medicine Show opening both nights.

Among the national artists scheduled to release albums in 2009:

Aerosmith, Amy Winehouse, Prince, Eminem, New Pornographers, Neko Case, 50 Cent, Gillian Welch, Wilco, Mastodon, Missy Elliott, Michael Jackson, Jay Z, Sonic Youth, Roxy Music (with Eno), Dr. Dre, Lil Jon, U2, ZZ Top, and yes, D'Angelo (allegedly). S



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