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APRIL 17

Even in the ’80s, when acoustic guitars were still considered unpunk, folk had a hold on alternative rock, albeit mostly as a label applied to upstarts who couldn’t afford amps or to songwriters who had evolved beyond their bands to write solo ballads and employ cellists. But with ardent sentimentality slowly supplanting cold irony in ’90s indie-rock, songwriters like Elliott Smith are exposing more profound ways folk could matter to a punk. Smith’s songs are slow, whimpering moans, achingly specific about heartbreak but nimble nonetheless, often unfolding into the sort of psychodramas Nick Drake might have penned had he ever lived to see good in the downside of love. On his last album, Elliott Smith, the Portland native and part-time Heatmiser member chronicled self-destruction in songs that, despite the personal overtones, had relevance well beyond his own situation. On Smith’s latest, Either/Or, with its jubilant arrangements and odes to angels, the songwriter discovers optimism, yet the characteristic skepticism remains: The softest moments still cut the deepest. Tsunami, the evening’s headliner, is similarly adept at manipulating tones, letting volume do what it wants even if it undermines singer Jenny Toomey’s assertion that “Punk Means Cuddle.” Tonight’s appearance marks the band’s first show in a year. The group has been recording in Chicago, so expect to hear some previews from an upcoming album, tentatively scheduled for a fall release. At 8:30 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1831 14th St. NW. $6. (202) 667-7960. (Brett Anderson)