DOCTOR NIGHTLIFE is getting into the spirit of Thanksgiving -- going to see the Flying Karamazov Brothers and feeling intensely grateful that none of the audience has volunteered her as a juggling challenge (through Sunday at the Barns, $20 and $22.50; 202/432-0200). Less strenuously:
BREATHS OF FRESH AIR -- Wonder who puts together those acoustic "listening rooms" around the region? Here's a sneak peak: Albany singer-songwriter Bridget Ball headlines, but it's house folkies Side by Side and Nip & Tuck you need to check out at the Coffeehouse at Hope, in the Hope Lutheran Church and Student Center on the University of Maryland campus in College Park. Hope is just one of the nonprofit shows set up by the support team of Doris Justis (one Side) and Sue Trainor (Nip, or is it Tuck?) to showcase primarily regional acoustic artists. Hope comes cheap here -- $5 -- and it's healthful, too; no smoking allowed. For information call 202/686-9210 or 301/381-2460.
KITSCHIN' KABINET -- Peter Allen was camp even when he was contemporary. And now that he and Barry Manilow are doing Broadway (on, then off), it's taken the last, most basic bit of wit -- that the audience is the entertainment, not the performer -- out of cabaret. Or has it? Allen, who once tried to make his Garland case solid by marrying her daughter, has settled for writing the kind of dramatic monologues Judy made palatable. Let's hope he's taking his royalties with a shot of wry (at GWU's Lisner Auditorium, $22; 202/432-0200).
NEW AGE OF AQUARIUS -- Without psychdelic revivalist Kurt Wallinger, gone on to greater airplay with his World Party, critics predicted the once promising Celtic/mystic/new rock Waterboys would dry up. Instead, minus his distracting impulse to play folk-rock grab-bag, they've returned to their roots and grown strong and spritely. With the much less traditional, but also fiddle-fired Raindogs at Lisner Auditorium ($22.50; 202/432-0200).
TEXAS TENOR -- If you have a sense of how Texas guitar-bar blues adds soul, R&B and inverse gospel -- plus a feverish energy and sometimes torrential runs -- to rock 'n' roll, you may almost be able to grasp the tenor saxophone style of Billy Harper, a veteran of Art Blakey's Messengers. Harper's quintet performs Saturday at the First Congregational Church, 10th and G streets NW ($15, $12 students and seniors; 202/563-2766).
QUEEN FOR A DAY -- It was the battle of the billings -- "No. 1 African vocalist" Tshala Mwana at Kalabash vs. "No. 1 Ethiopian singer" Aster Aweke at Kilimanjaro -- until Mwana cancelled. Now it's "winner and still scheduled -- Aweke" ($15; 202/328-3839 or 800/543-3041).
GO-GO'S, GOING AROUND AGAIN -- Reunions are always chancy, and reunited pop bands notoriously so; still, it's hard not to root a little for this one. At their best, the Go-Go's were as light, colorful and habit-forming as soap bubbles; but just once it might be nice to see a burst bubble fly again (at DAR Constitution Hall, $22.50; 800/543-3041).
GOT MY MOJO WORKING -- It may have been a shock when Mojo Nixon separated himself from sicko-cessory Skid Roper, but when this often sloppy satirist chomps on the gritty bits, he can play lock-up-your-conventions rock 'n' roll with the weirdest of them. And Monday and Tuesday, the weirdest ts is -- Dead Milkmen and Cavedogs at the 9:30 club ($12; 202/393-0930 or 800/543-3041). You know, bands used to all be named for insects, then they went to psychopathic oxymorons. Now they're all Something Dogs. Or semi-House broken Skinny Puppies (Monday at Ritchie Coliseum, $19.50, $16.50 U-Md students; 202/432-0200). This is a Spot trend report.
SPINNIN' MARTI -- Longtime Washington fave Marti Jones may be alternative/college radio's first chanteuse, starting with the cult favorites Color Me Gone and then hooking up with indie hero Don Dixon, with whom she has a sophisticate-meets-frat party animal shtick that sometimes plays like a '90s Sonny and Cher. Jones's 7:30 show at the Barns is almost sold out, but you can get in on round two at 10 ($14; 202/432-0200).
IMPURE POP FOR NOW PEOPLE -- If Mojo Nixon is an unregenerate adolescent, Iggy Pop is far more deliberate -- a garage nihilist, a punk poseur playing over the safety net of parody. And you can dunce to it (at Hammerjack's, $10; 301/659-7625).
MO' BETTER BLUES -- Saffire: The Uppity Blues Women, whose trademark "Middle-Aged Blues" won the W.C. Handy Award for blues song of the year, showcases at Blues Alley ($15, 202/337-4141), then heads to Chicago to record their second album -- right after a truly wild women's night out with Betty at Mary Washington College Dec. 1.
MO' BETTER JAZZ -- Another local band getting a showcase at Blues Alley this week is Hidden Hours, a contemporary jazz sextet that restores freshness to the word "contemporary." A still-young amalgamation, it succeeds in tapping into a lightly Latinized percussion style without lolling in the lurid quiet-storm insinuations that camp up so many salsafied ensembles. At the same time, the breaks -- particularly those of saxophonist Les Owen and pianist Bertram McLiesh -- are extraordinarily crisp and disentangled, with a barely reined-in energy that is a pleasure to hear. In a time when so many jazz groups are either over-intellectualized or under-achieved, such free physical exuberance really is the "new thing." Hidden Hours plays Wednesday ($10; 202/337-4141).
JUST ANOTHER BRICKELL IN THE PALL -- Edie Brickell's stage presence -- that rubbery, storky-dorky twisting and those hooded eyes -- are a pretty apt shorthand for her stretched-elastic vocals and her pro-faux naif images. Brickell and the New Bohemians have a neo-hip prettiness that lies lightly on the surface. In their case, the medium really is the message: You know what they mean, if you know what they mean (at GWU's Lisner Auditorium, $19.50; 800/543-3041). Opening is Aztec Camera, whose Roddy Frame once sounded like the Elvis Costello of Glasgow, but by "Knife" had lost the edge.