The Cartridge Family, International Orange, Proof, Earwig
Friday, March 26
The Cartridge Family specialize in organ-driven rock (we're talking about Hammond and Wurlitzer), and they're currently recording an album with Rob Farris, Raleigh's version of Jim Dickinson. Adventurous poppers International Orange, with ex-Ben Folds Fiver Robert Sledge, Triad hero Snuzz and relative N.C. newcomer Django Haskins offer an abundance of riches when it comes to songwriting and singing, with the guys taking turns catalog-dipping and vocal-swapping. --Rick Cornell
Go! Room 4
Friday, March 26
According to Drew Barrymore's character in the film Donnie Darko, "cellar door" is the most beautiful phrase in the whole of human language. That may be true, but it is also the name of John Vanderslice's new down-tempo cd, released in January 2004. Vanderslice's music has been pegged as difficult to classify, but for those of you who like your coffee black and your music categorized, he probably comes closest to an emo/soft rock sound. Basically, it's just really fun music. If you do go to the show, though, be forewarned: John doesn't want you to bring any "cookies, mix tapes/cds, cakes and/or fruit pies, socks, 9V batteries, or knitwear." --Chris Scull
Thad Cockrell, Freeloader, Bailey Jester
Pour House Music Hall
Friday, March 26, 10 p.m.
$5 advance, $7 at door.
Soulful country crooner Thad Cockrell is off to jump the big pond and tour the UK soon, but first he makes a stop in familiar stomping grounds. If you haven't caught Cockrell's brand of deep heartbreak, pop in on this Raleigh visit for a dose. It'll bring back memories of what country music used to mean, without a lot of modern add-ons and doodads, or honky-tonk posturing. Bailey Jester opens, followed by barebones rockers Freeloader. For more information, call 821-1120. --Chris Toenes
Sleepy Jackson, On the Speaker and Robbers on High Street
Go! Room 4
Saturday, March 27, 10 p.m., $10
The headliner here is The Sleepy Jackson, an often-regaled, twangy-but-heavy guitar group. But please take note of openers Robbers on High Street, who shake and shiver their way through clipped melodies and luminescent guitar crackle. Their lone six-song EP, "Fine Lines," is full of the sharp-edged dynamics that make bands like Spoon roar; all off-kilter rhythms and tightlipped vocal barks. Arrive early. For more information, call 969-1400. --Chris Toenes
Masters of Mexican Music
Hill Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill
Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m.
Four musical traditions from Mexico are represented in this tour sponsored by the National Council for the Traditional Arts. The mix includes the Los Angeles-based Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano performing their award-winning versions of the sound that made Jalisco famous; jarocha master Jose Gutierrez and his Veracruz-based trio; Conjunto Hall of Fame member Mingo Saldivar; and the three-piece Marimba Chiapas. Tickets are $35, or $18 for students.
Clarence Gatemouth Brown
Sunday, March 28
Bayou Rhythm & Blues music is about the only way to describe it. Gatemouth's been doin' it for several decades and at 77 he's still churning out records. His new one is called Back to Bogalus, and it's a return to that Louisiana style of music that Gatemouth can claim as part of his birthright. Only $15, but you have to bring your own gumbo. --Chris Scull
The Forty-Fives, Boss Martians
Kings Barcade Sunday
Atlanta quartet The Forty-Fives play sweaty and raucous primal rock, equal parts the cranked-volume division of the British Invasion (Kinks, Who and Yardbirds) and the volume-cranked moments on the first Nuggets collection (kids from Detroit, Cleveland, and your hometown who thought they were the Kinks, Who and Yardbirds). Seattle quartet the Boss Martians played sweaty and raucous surf rock in their initial incarnation, but these days they're all power pop hooks and punk energy. In other words, the invading Brits that they most bring to mind are the Buzzcocks. If you see a better rock 'n' roll show this year, then, well, please be sure to take me with you. --Rick Cornell
Viva La Venus & Little Miss Messy
Pour House Music Hall
Tuesday, March 30
If you like female rock bands, North Carolina's Viva La Venus and Little Miss Messy are probably your bag, baby. The Never Ending Mending Story is Viva's new album, so get there at 8 p.m. and prepare to get rocked all up in your earhole. Bonus: This is a free show!
An Albatross, Black Castle, Ahleuchatistas, The Plot to Blow The Eiffel Tower
Wednesday, March 31
Musically, at least, An Albatross is not a high-flying bird. It's a hard-charging monster. And, at first glimpse, much of the New York City band's material may sound worthless, like an orgiastic scream-o affair gone wrong. But there are underpinnings of genuine smarts here, even if they are confined to 21-second songs or 17-second electronic interludes on an eight-minute, 11-track EP. Swirling synthesizers, mauling organs and manic noise mutations run rampant, taking the histrionic vocals of one Edward B. Gieda III and occasionally morphing them into perfectly vicious morsels that explode somewhere between Blood Brothers energy and speed metal ferocity. Songs about social revolution via free love and casual sex--interesting. Visit kingsbarcade.com for more. --Grayson Currin