1. Only a few more days for this warm snap, and then we’re back to temperatures in the teens and twenties, and maybe even some snow. See that crazy ice jam in the Kenduskeag? This winter is weird, man. Ladies, wear your strappy heels on Friday — you can dance with the up-and-coming roots rockers the Usual Suspects, who are at Paddy Murphys, you can swing with John Nowak and special guest comedian Steve Robbins at Nocturnem Drafthaus, you can get intense with the Aurora Jazz Project at the Big Easy at the Charles Inn, you can rock with Mike Billings at 4Points BBQ & Blues out in Winterport, or you can get sweaty at the contradance at the Unitarian church on Park Street, with contra band Whiffletree. On Saturday, there’s jazz group Mes Amis at Nocturnem, the Trisha Mason Band at Paddy’s, One Shot Nothing at the Big Easy, bluegrass wizards Nevah at the Next Generation Theatre in Brewer, the Bluesboy Revue at 4Points in Winterport, and up in Old Town, there’s the mellow sounds of Roots, Rhythm & Dub at Kingman’s.
2. There are three great double bills in Portland this Friday, from very diverse genres. At Port City Music Hall, college rock is brought to the stage by the Alternate Routes and the Ballroom Thieves; at Geno’s Rock Club, there’s ska and surf with El Grande and Thee Icepicks (pictured); and at One Longfellow Square there’s bluesy rock with Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers with the Eric Green Party. On Saturday, there’s a night of jammy spaciness with Daze Inn and Normal Instruments at Empire, there’s funk and soul (and bowling) with Kenya Hall and the Broken Men at Bayside Bowl, there’s country artist Eric Paslay at the Asylum, and r&b motherland Muscle Shoals gets a tribute night featuring Sarah Borges and Amy Black at One Longfellow Square. On Sunday, it’s Dispatch Magazine’s classic album listening party at Empire — this month it’s Lou Reed’s “Transformer” — and at Port City Music Hall there’s rapper Gramatik.
3. The Rockland area has to be the place to be on the coast this weekend for cool stuff going on. Check out all these shows, all happening on Saturday: there’s a really great double bill at the Strand Theatre in Rockland featuring the Mallett Brothers Band and North of Nashville, there’s rockers Cinnamon at the Myrtle Street Tavern, there’s North Haven-based folk rock trio the Toughcats (pictured) at Billy’s Tavern in Thomaston, and at Rock City Coffee in Rockland there’s indie rockers First in Maths. Might I suggest eating at one of Rockland’s wonderful restaurants — like 3Crow, Cafe Miranda, Fog Bar, Suzuki, the Home Kitchen Cafe, and on and on.
4. Take advantage of the balmy temps and good snow and get your ski on this weekend. It’s Martin Luther King Day weekend, so there’s good deals out there for ski and stay packages at all your favorite mountains. Afterwards, enjoy entertainment like the very busy Toughcats, who will perform at Sugarloaf on Saturday, along with rockers Pict later on in the night. Also in the Sugarloaf area, there’s two nights on Friday and Saturday of Richard James and the Name Changers. See if you can say hi to Rack co-owner Seth Wescott, who’s off to the Olympics in Sochi in a few weeks. At Sunday River, Now is Now is set for apres ski on Saturday, and Grateful Dead tribute band the Dead Sessions fill out the evening on Saturday.
5. Gamers get some love this weekend, of the non-electronic kind. Snowcon 6, the annual gathering of lovers of Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, Settlers of Catan and LARPing (among many others) takes over Orono and Old Town from Friday through Saturday. Friday night, the fun starts at the Bear Brew Pub in Orono, with the “So You Meet in a Tavern” party featuring NerdProv comedy at 7:30 and magicians and dancing with Dj DHuman8 at 8:30 onwards. On Saturday, the real fun begins at the Black Bear Inn in Old town, with so much gaming from 8 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, as well as tons of vendors to sell you all the 20-sided your beautiful little nerdy heart desires. A weekend pass for the whole thing is $45, and just Saturday is $30 and just Sunday is $20; the Friday night party is $5.