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Free, live music has returned to The Jester's Bar, and manager Chad McLean plans to continue adding shows through the summer at the corner of Rodney and Fifth.

And, as always at the "J-Club," there's a mix of genres on tap. Quality progressive metal and punk bands have taken the poolroom stage in recent weeks, and a Missoula rap artist and a fun-lovin' local group will take the stage before month's end.

McLean said he had stopped booking bands this winter because of the economy, but times are changing.

"We're slowly swinging back into things and by the end of summer should be going full-steam with shows," he said, adding that he won't charge cover until the annual end-of-summer Ear Infection festival.

"Given the status of the Helena music scene, it's good to have it come back here and there."

AMBEDEXT, a Missoula rap artist with Northeastern roots, will take the Jester's stage May 15. He's promoting a new album, "The Dex Files" -- put out by Missoula's Buzz Records -- which includes a number of solid collaborators from the Northwest's rap scene, McLean said.

"That's a legitimate record," he said. "That's good stuff. It's well-recorded and well put together."

Take a listen at myspace.com/ambedext.

Others are set to join AMBEDEXT on stage, but those details are still getting hammered out.

Local favorites Tonight We Ride will get the house dancing May 22. It's an acoustic punk and rock 'n' roll band with a love for the audience, and these guys always get people singing along to their original songs. They've recently added a drummer and put out an album of their own.

"They're a really fun band to come see," McLean said. "Sometimes it gets so serious ... it's just nice to have a band come do fun stuff. It's got a sense of humor, and it's just what your doctor ordered."

Tap your foot to myspace.com/twrmt.

McLean's been running an open mic night every Thursday at 9, followed at midnight by DJ Qwantim's Dirty Disco. Qwantim is leaving before the end of the month, so catch this dance party while it lasts.

Upcoming shows will be posted on myspace.com/jestersbar and in Your Time.

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