- The Damnwells: Bastards of the Beat.
The Damnwells' frontman, Alex Dezen (second from left), isn't big on descriptions. In fact, he'd rather have listeners decide for themselves what the Brooklyn-based quartet sounds like than rely on some rock critic's assessment. "It's no offense to me if people want to compare us to other bands, but our influences are all over the place," he says. "There are a lot of things going on in the different members of the band." The rootsy group (which includes former Whiskeytown drummer Steven Terry) recorded its major-label debut, Bastards of the Beat, with its own money, hitting the studios whenever it had enough to book some time. "The act of putting together the record went essentially hand-in-hand with the making of the record," Dezen says. "We recorded 30 songs over the course of two years, without ever thinking we were making a record." The Damnwells are at the Lime Spider (207 South Main Street in Akron) at 7 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $5, available by calling 866-468-3401. -- Michael Gallucci
Backstage at the "Miss Ricki Lake Show Pageant," Mahogany Reason slipped into his mother's black-and-white swimsuit. Perfect fit --except for the unfeminine bulge in his crotch. "So I tucked up, up, and up," says Reason, who placed second out of 12 contestants in the talk show host's drag-queen contest last September. "[Lake] said I was the life of the party." As if Cleveland's gay glitterati didn't already know. Standing 7-foot-4 in his spiked platform shoes, Reason isn't tough to find. And he's quick to set the record straight on female illusionists. "We're not street-walking-prostitute call girls and sexual deviants. I'm a glamorous conglomeration, who takes this serious." Mahogany performs at 11:15 p.m. Friday through Sunday at Bounce (2814 Detroit Avenue; call 216-357-2997) and midnight Saturday and Wednesday at Club Deco (11213 Detroit Avenue; call 216-221-8576). Admission to both clubs is $3. -- Cris Glaser
There's a sassy playfulness to Patti LaBelle's new album, Timeless Journey, which shuttles the veteran R&B songstress between old-school soul and the contemporary hip-hop version. Collaborations with Babyface, Carlos Santana, and Nelly Furtado (by means of a sampled "Turn Off the Light") energize LaBelle. She hasn't sounded this invigorated in years. Even the clunky number with semi-spoken-word duo Floetry is elevated by LaBelle's enthusiasm. And the album's closer -- a Celia Cruz tribute -- packs mucho spiritual punch. LaBelle is at the State Theatre (1519 Euclid Avenue) at 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets range from $25 to $60; call 216-241-6000. -- Michael Gallucci