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Franti the fearless

It's impossible not to feel the passion and purpose in the music of Michael Franti and Spearhead. Franti is intense about his intentions to deliver a powerful charge toward positive change through roots-rock-reggae, so much so that he let his music light the way into the heart of darkness.

Franti flew with little more than a guitar and cameraman into red-zoned Baghdad, Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine, on a mission of peace, love and understanding. He came out with the documentary "I Know I'm Not Alone," which won Best International Documentary at the Harlem Film Festival, and the album "Yell Fire!," complete with songs inspired by the journey.

On his home turf, the San Francisco Bay native's coast-to-coast calls for justice have been made from the cold walls of California's San Quentin State Prison, to the halls of Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and tonight he takes the Town Ballroom, 681 Main St.

Door open for tonight's show at 8; tickets are $25 and available at the box office or through


Double survival kits

The Jony James Band has made its mark by staying true to the blues while constantly taking risks. Whether stretching the sound of the local trio's "Survival Blues" through innovative grooves and intriguing guests, or expanding their tours to tiny towns and budding festivals along the East Coast and into the Midwest, they're always up to something new.

The band returns tonight from a three-week tour that included a festival in North Carolina that found them in an all-hands "super jam" with Edwin McCain and Devon Allman for a crowd of some 3,000. They'll play Milligan's, 3864 Abbott Road, Orchard Park, at 7:30 tonight before hitting their home base of the Tudor Lounge, 335 Franklin St., for their Sunday and Thursday residency -- plus a stop in between at the Buffalo Smokehouse's Bike Night on Wednesday.


The Mohawk walk

An always interesting weekend in the life of Mohawk Place, 47 E. Mohawk St., kicks off at 9 tonight with Madison, Wis.-based Celtic indie-rock quintet the Kissers; delivers local love in Johnny Nobodoy's CD release party at 9 p.m. Saturday, with help from the Audience and Mark Nosowicz; and kicks out the garage jams at 8 p.m. Sunday with the high-heeled saucy swagger of Bloodshot Records' Detroit Cobras and their tour mates the Willowz and Dan Sartain.

For the hordes who head to the 'Hawk after Thursday at the Square, the always engaging Dee Adams and the Housecats will feed the flood next week week with a free show.


Bad Break for Bad Penny

If you've spent any time around the Buffalo music scene, you've probably bumped into Penny Ballard, affectionately known as "Bad Penny." A longtime supporter of local clubs and bands, she'll be on the receiving end of that support this weekend with a benefit in her name.

Penny found a mountain of complications after recently breaking her foot, and her friends on the West end of Allen Street responded with "Dollars for Penny," featuring performances at both Nietzsche's, 248 Allen St., and the club's neighbor, Spirits of Allentown, on Sunday. The event will begin inside Nietzsche's with a 5 p.m. set from Ann Philippone, followed by the Steam Donkeys. Sets will then alternate venues, with My Brother's Robot at Spirits of Allentown (7:30), Dick Whiskey at Nietzsche's (8:45), and Hawthorne's Miss Vicky back at Spirits (at 10). Suggested donation is $5.

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