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Royal Fingerbowl’s twentysomething guitarist Alex McMurray moved from New Jersey to New Orleans to go to college. With his Marlboro country rasp and portraits of carny boys and closing-time drinkers, his band’s demo tape suggests that he majored in the balladry of Tom Waits. He learned his subject well enough, but such model worship seems less than unique. There may be hope though, as his résumé also includes reworking The Jungle Book and Madonna. With acoustic bass and brush drumming, the hard-working trio has sat in with respected jazz, funk, and blues outfits. While Waits is the master of diner and dive blues, Royal Fingerbowl appears to be on its way to articulating its own grade for this curriculum unit. At 9 p.m. at State of the Union, 1357 U St. NW. $5. (202) 588-8810. (Steve Kiviat)