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Bands with a bang

Datarock, Elvis Costello, and many more: Get ready for one of 2007's busiest pop weekends.

The Christmas slowdown on the pop-music calendar will pick up before the year ends.

On New Year's Eve, there's a wide range of worthy shows going on both hither and yon, from Danish dance duo Datarock, who headline the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, to gospel roots-rockers Hoots & Hellmouth, who play the Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville, to Elvis Costello, who plays with his band, the Imposters, at the House of Blues in Atlantic City.

And with Dec. 31 falling on a Monday, the immediate run-up to 2008 is set to play out as one of the busier pop weekends of 2007.

Next Friday in Philadelphia, for example, there's an excellent bill at the Factory with The Word - the blues, jazz and gospel melding jam band featuring the North Mississippi All Stars plus keyboardist John Medeski and steel guitar wizard Robert Randolph - with the under-appreciated Chocolate Genius opening. Meanwhile, local luminary Art DiFuria's Photon Band headlines at Johnny Brenda's, Boston goth cabaret duo Dresden Dolls play the Fillmore at the TLA, and the New Orleans funk ensemble Porter-Stoltz-Batiste hold it down at the North Star Bar.

On Saturday, the action moves out of town. At the Borgata in Atlantic City, Black Eyed Pea Stacey Ferguson - that's Fergie to you - plays the Event Center, while just a short walk past the blackjack tables at Mixx, esteemed DJs Sasha and Digweed spin. At the House of Blues, poperatic pianist Rufus Wainwright will show off his Judy Garland moves. And in Trenton, Slash, Scott Weiland, and the rest of the leather-panted Velvet Revolver strut at the Sovereign Bank Arena.

The following Sunday's busy with local acts taking a working holiday. Philadelphia and the world's finest live hip-hop band, The Roots, are at the House of Blues, set to leave you exhausted on the night before the biggest party night of the year. G. Love & Special Sauce are at the Borgata Event Center. And back up the AC Expressway at the Electric Factory, the University of Pennsylvania-educated electro-jam band Disco Biscuits stretch out.

On New Year's Eve, the Datarock show is the hipster attraction of the evening. Partners Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes have the requisite visual shtick - the "New Rave" twosome always wear red tracksuits and giant sunglasses - to go along with goofy geeky disco moves. On their doubly eponymous debut album, the single "Fa Fa Fa" makes infectious use of stuttering guitars, and "I Will Always Remember You," a duet with Scandinavian pop siren Annie, is a perfectly kitschy accompaniment to a champagne toast. Philadelphia DJ Low B opens.

Back down the Shore, Costello will be free to scan an ever-expanding 30-year song catalog that began with snide punk-era aggression and has included experiments with classical and country music. Astonishingly enough, the hyper-productive Costello has not released a studio album of his own new material since 2004 - though he did put out The River in Reverse with New Orleans pianist Allen Toussaint in 2006. Expect a wide-ranging set that hopefully pulls from his 1977 debut My Aim Is True, which was reissued this year.

Hoots & Hellmouth - the Philadelphia octet built around guitarists and singers Sean Hoots and Andrew "Hellmouth" Gray - released their self-titled debut on Drexel University's Mad Dragon label earlier this year. It's a spirited, warm-hearted revival meeting of a record full up with songs such as "The Good That I Know You Know" that start off quiet and can barely contain their enthusiasm.

And there are plenty of other noteworthy shows on New Year's Eve. Iron, the local six-piece soul-reggae-funk band featuring Matt and Greg Mungan (formerly of Scram) headline Tritone, along with DJs Hunk Papa and Botany 500. DJ Dave P heads a list of 11 record spinners at the Making Time party at Transit.

The aforementioned Disco Biscuits move their celebration over to the larger Tweeter Center in Camden, with the help of Fela Kuti devotees Antibalas. Jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli plays at the Borgata's Music Box Theater, and Gladys Knight will undoubtedly sing "Midnight Train to Georgia" 'round about midnight at the Tropicana.