The Connells, The Mayflies USA
Cat's Cradle—It's been at least seven years since the last studio album from either Raleigh's The Connells or Chapel Hill's The Mayflies USA, but it's hard to call these on-again, off-again power-pop purveyors nostalgia acts. Their gentle melodies get lifted by airy harmonies and clear, chiming guitar chords, rising into strong, friendly hooks. Sure, The Mayflies might throw more fuzz into the mix than their elders of the more-refined Connells. But the bands' commonalities—the gentle jangles and steady croons that have filtered consistently through this region for almost 30 years now—don't seem to have lost any steam. This rare gig starts at 9 p.m. and costs $15. —Bryan Reed
Long Leaf Opera
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State—For its 12th season, Long Leaf, the Triangle's summer music staple, gave itself an unprecedented challenge: performing three operas in one night. One would think that staging a single opera is a grand enough task, but in a show titled Three for One: A Bill of One-Acts, Long Leaf will produce thrice the sets, grand costumes and musical accompaniments. Long Leaf's Jim Schaeffer says the program will open with A Tree-A Rock-A Cloud, a dramatic piece about a man retelling the story of his lost love, composed by J. Mark Scearce, an accomplished composer and NCSU's director of music. The night's main attraction, says Schaeffer, comes with the world premiere of Chandler Carter's Mercury Falling. Starring tenor Daniel Neer, Mercury Falling tells the true story of French sculptor Jean-Louis Brian, who chose art over his own life. After two dramatic pieces, the night ends with Bon Appetit, a light opera by noted composer Lee Hoiby, in which soprano Barbara DeMaio Caprilli literally bakes a cake in front of the audience. Schaeffer promises that these operas will "leave you with goose bumps all over." OK, but do we get to eat the cake? Tickets for both shows, Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., are $25-$35. —Belem Destefani
The Radiators, Rory Block
The ArtsCenter—You can thank Mississippi for these back-to-back nights of The ArtsCenter's sixth-annual American Roots Series: The Radiators of New Orleans add funk to their blues base, delivering good-time tunes that have been called "Fish Head" music by fans for 30 years, with bass lines grooving over drums that call feet to movement. Guitar, keys, jubilant vocals: They all suggest life's troubles can be put on hold, at least for tonight. Fare for this riverboat ride is $22-$24, and it leaves dock Friday night at 8:30 p.m.
Further upstream on Saturday, riverboats represent another opportunity passing us by, as Rory Block channels this sense of loss in her Mississippi Delta blues. Growing up in Greenwich Village during the '50s folk revival, Block developed a familiarity with and love for this traditional style. On her latest album, she covers the songs of Son House, who taught her when she was 15 and who taught Robert Johnson in an earlier time. Her voice and guitar are sparse and intimate, much like an empty, moving river. The show starts at 8:30 p.m.; tickets are $17-$19. —Andrew Ritchey