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A musician with equal affection for string sections and the Stooges, Alejandro Escovedo is the songwriter No Depression magazine would’ve had to invent if he didn’t already exist. Escovedo has his punk-rock bona fides—his first band, the Nuns, opened the Sex Pistols’ final show—and throughout his career he’s found a way to lash that emotional energy even to his acoustic songs, which tend to deal in hard living and bad love. (It’s not to dismiss his own songwriting to say that his leering, loping cover of the Gun Club’s “Sex Beat” is among his finest moments.) Since surviving a near-fatal bout with hepatitis C earlier this decade, his music’s been less moody and more reflective—his lyrics on the new Real Animal revisit his days with the Nuns and Rank & File, and if anybody has the right to play a blues song called “People (We’re Only Gonna Live So Long),” it’s him. Escovedo performs with Vandaveer at 7 p.m. at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $20. (202) 265-0930. —-Mark Athitakis
Los Angeles-based guitarist and singer Imaad Wasif has been in halfway-decent bands his whole life. He played in the indie-rock group Alaska!, jammed with Lou Barlow in the New Folk Implosion, and even toured with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. So why is he so sad? On his second solo record, Strange Hexes, Wasif wades through some morose territory—setting lyrics that ponder love and madness to serpentine psych-rock and ornate Eastern-inflected finger-picking. “When you feel yourself caving in/Don’t move towards the beckoning hands,” sings a forlorn Wasif with all the weariness of an emo kid trapped forever in an inescapable Gothic labyrinth. Lyrics like those don’t go very far toward explaining Wasif’s pain, but they do capture a certain dark romance—one that’s entertaining even when it’s a little bit overwrought. Wasif With Two Part Beast performs with Jason Simon and the Dustys at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, July 13, at the Velvet Lounge, 915 U St. NW. $8. (202) 462-3213. —-Aaron Leitko
John Mayer, I love you. You kill me whenever you make one of your side-splitting Internet videos, like “Makin’ Music With John Mayer,” where you explain your creative process. Favorite moment: when you tell your co-writers “How about something everyone can relate to, like when you’re fucking one supermodel and you make the other ones jealous?” Or your parody of “Two Girls One Cup” in which you ruined soft-serve ice cream for my entire summer? Or your blog, for cryin’ out loud, which is sincere and touching in a way your music, which frequently makes me want to duct-tape oranges over my ears, is not. But then again, “Daughters” is a pretty good song, and I’ve seen you shred, and you are impressively tall. Is there any way we could be friends? Just, uh, don’t sweat bringing your guitar over, OK? Mayer performs at 7:30 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. $36-$59.50. (410) 715-5550. —-Andrew Beaujon