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Where to go. What to hear.

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My Chemical Romance at the Richmond Coliseum

The question, really, is what is the secret ingredient in New Jersey's water that breeds such runaway musical popularity? Springsteen, Bon Jovi? Come on. It's sure not the cleanliness of the water. Which may explain the dirt in My Chemical Romance's sound. It goes straight for pop rock and collects, like the very filth of Newark streets, the bang-bang-bang of punk and the intestinal vibration of metal. So there are pretty anthems sung through stoner headbangs, but also sped-up punk-rock style minus the politics. That filthy Jersey sound has once again swum through the Passaic River and come out, not clean, but polished, anyway. MCR plays Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. $25. Call 262-8100 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

Wiseacre, Buttercup and tiny little bowling balls

Nothing evokes the long-gone lonesomeness of steely country like duckpin bowling, the tiny thunder of pins punctuated by frontier-style heartbreak. So it is that Wiseacre, Buttercup and The Trestle Walkers play a country show Saturday, Dec. 2 at Plaza Bowl Duckpins, each tuned to a slightly different frequency of spiritual ache. And something to take out the sorrow on, besides. Wife left you? Duckpins! Dog got broke? Duckpins! Got small hands? Duckpins! They play two shows, one family-style at 7:30 p.m., one for the beer-drinking class at 10 p.m. $10. 233-8799.

Coming of the "Messiah"

It took George Frideric Handel about three weeks, give or take, to compose one of the great musical masterpieces of the Western canon. And he wasn't even from Jersey. Poor guy was as creatively charged as he'd ever been, but broke, depressed and suffering the side effects of a stroke when he set down the music to "Messiah." It's rumored that he wept over the pages at the beauty and elegance of the music. In the 250 years since it leapt from the collective unconscious, it's become a beacon of the season, capturing the scope of something spiritual and greater-than-we. The Richmond Symphony hallelujahs in the holidays Friday, Dec. 1 at Second Baptist Church at 8 p.m. and at St. Michael's Church Monday, Dec. 4, at 8 p.m. $10-$35. 788-1212.

Tim Berne at the Firehouse Theatre Project

When has Richmond's avant-jazz army, the Patchwork Collective, ever led you astray? They've certainly led us all weird at one time or another, but when dealing with music that's at the front lines - or far periphery - of the popular, it's sure to be unorthodox. New York saxophonist Tim Berne is one of these, beating up on convention all through the '80s when people had hair to frost. He's joined by the ubiquitous composer and collaborator Michael Formanek and high-caliber drummer Tom Rainey, plus of course the alterna-jazz Velvet Underground-appreciating Boots of Leather. Berne and company play Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. $7-$10. 355-2001.878-5155 S

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