HOLMES, SWEET HOLMES
The idea of getting pop star Joan Osborne behind the mixing board for a recording session with New York's old-school R&B combo the Holmes Brothers still seems ridiculous, if not completely insane. But what's even more bizarre is that the emotionally charged gospel album that resulted, Speaking In Tongues, is some of the best stuff the Holmes crew has ever done without a sweat-soaked audience cheering them on. As great as the record is, the Holmes Brothers will be even better at the Horseshoe on April 12. $13/advance, $15/door. 416-870-8000.
Steaming ahead into its seventh year, the annual North By Northeast Music Festival And Industry Conference -- taking stages citywide June 7 through 9 -- has become the kind of must-attend event that both aspiring artists and biz pros clear their calendars for. While a final list of participating bands is still pending, ex-Mercury boss and mega-manager Danny Goldberg (Nirvana, Beastie Boys) has been confirmed as keynote speaker, while festival honcho Andy McLean reveals, "'Artists In Charge' is the theme of this year's conference." www.nxne.com
The biggest thing to come out of Iceland since Björk, Reykjavik space-rock quartet Sigur Rós make music that sounds like it comes from an iceberg in the north Atlantic. These eerie, surreal epics make the Cocteau Twins sound like the Beach Boys. Radiohead, meanwhile, just decided to take them on tour. Sit down, close your eyes and swoon. May 4, Palais Royale. $18.50. 416-870-8000.
Even many hardcore Rocket from the Crypt fans had given up hope that Speedo and his horn-honking crew would ever return to the punk rock glory of their mid-90s peak, but it might be time for a rethink. The San Diego bashers' new Group Sounds album blazes with the Rocket rage of old, and that bodes well for a triumphant Toronto return with the righteous International Noise Conspiracy and Explosion on April 18 at the Reverb. $13.50. 416-870-8000.
GUIDED BY VICES
So Ric Ocasek's little experiment to see if Guided by Voices play better when stone-cold sober didn't really work the way he thought, and Do The Collapse wasn't a smash hit after all. The hook-up did show that Robert Pollard's songs could do with a little polish. On their new Isolation Drills, cut with just the right amount of liquid stimuli, Guided by Voices have finally delivered the power-pop masterstroke they've been threatening. Have a drink with your favourite Dayton dynamos at the the Opera House on April 25. $18.50. 416-870-8000.
While the notion of pairing Britpop dandies Oasis with stoner rockers the Black Crowes has a morbid appeal -- backstage brawls! spliffs big enough for everybody! -- it's hard to imagine a more tenuous link for a tour package than the fact that both combos happen to feature brothers. Let's just hope there's a documentarian around to capture all the fun for posterity. May 22, Molson Amphitheatre. $22-$42.50. 416-870-8000.