This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Dirty Johnny & the Makebelieves/ Dirty Little Heaters, Pinche Gringo/ Rat Jackson, Instant Jones/ Western Civ, Summerbirds in the Cellar/ Polynya, Signalfest Fundraiser Dance Party with DJ Forge and Disco Inferno
EH, WHATEVER: Valencia
VS.: Rev. Billy C. Wirtz vs. American Aquarium vs. The Starlings
08.28 DIRTY JOHNNY AND THE MAKEBELIEVES/ DIRTY LITTLE HEATERS @ THE RESERVOIR
Both these acts invite you to strap it for a bloozy bar-bound version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Locals Dirty Little Heaters writhe beneath Resse McHenry's supple six-string touch and soulful, foundation-shaking vocals, which recall Janis Joplin's thunderous wail. The hungry rumble must be fed, so stand back from the Heaters' chomping maw. Dirty Johnny and the Makebelieves' primitive proto-punk pulse is enough to raise your blood pressure. The grimy guitar grinds like a drunk, desperate barfly—sloppy, guileless and assertive, with no turning back. Open the door and party's coming in until the alcohol's exhausted and the hangover's knocking. The Makebelieves also plays Slim's on Friday. Free/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
08.29 PINCHE GRINGO/ RAT JACKSON @ THE CAVE
A pair of wild and crazy guys, Pinche Gringo and Rat Jackson are bar-crawling Baudelaires getting by on scruffy charm and the animal magnetism of their dirty garage-blues sound. Josh Johnson's one-man band Pinche Gringo rattles and shakes more than the pizza guy's beater, arriving with a wry, stoned smile, doughy beats and plenty of guitar sausage. Four-piece Rat Jackson's like fictional detective Philip Marlowe awakening from a big sleep to the sound of gunning guitars, a smirk leaking from his lips as he squares his sights on the latest femme fatale. They all slay him, but the pursuit's half the fun anyway, as the hot-blooded narratives imply. $5/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
08.30 INSTANT JONES/ WESTERN CIV @ BROAD STREET CAFE
Throw back some top shelf area guitar rock: Alabama transplant Western Civ delivers muscular throb, whose beefy bass and chunky guitar drone recall Archers of Loaf, forging tart melodies tightly gripped by a rhythmic undertow. Burlington's Instant Jones is fueled by frontman Seth Church's clever lyrics and vocal drawl, shuffling over wiry guitars and insistent bottom-end. The band ranges from moody, meandering rock reminiscent of Seam and Television to garage-punk boogie and catchy sing-alongs like "Rule of Thumb," with its post-millennial perversion of Patrick Henry: "Give me liberty, or give me satellite TV." 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
08.31 SIGNALFEST FUNDRAISER DANCE PARTY WITH DJ FORGE AND DISCO INFERNO @ CAT'S CRADLE
Labor Day Weekend's festive nature wafts across town like clouds of smoke from barbecue grills. Here, it drifts into the Cradle's walls to benefit the Signal Foundation, the local electronic music benefactor. Veteran spinners DJ Forge and Disco Inferno's Silvaback and One Duran bump it up on the holiday's eve. $6-$8/ 9 p.m. —Chris Toenes
08.31 SUMMERBIRDS IN THE CELLAR, POLYNYA @ RESERVOIR
Don't judge Orlando's Summerbirds In The Cellar by first impressions: This brood belies its Sunshine State origins (and half its name) with indie rock that's been given an icy digital bath. Brad Register's dark lyrics are masked by his delicate, airy delivery, though the pulsating synths are quite ominous. On the flip side, Polynya's cheery pop-rock doesn't align with the Arctic feature from which it derives its name. An undercurrent of throbbing bass and driving percussion gives an edge to the proceedings, and though the band may sound a little like it wants to be your new best friend, the Triangle foursome manage boy/girl tradeoff vocals without the gag-inducing cuteness of Mates of State. Free/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
08.29 VALENCIA @ THE BREWERY
Philly pop-punk quintet Valencia has a bad habit of dining on Fall Out Boy's and Saves the Day's greasy leftovers from a buffet of power chords, counterfeit heartbreak and waxy cool kid poses. Diets like that only lead to some amazing waste, as with Valencia's first, This Could Be a Possibility, 10 tracks of over-processed emo-gloss and smoothed urgency. High in calories but low in nutrients, Valencia's copy-cat songwriting and ripped off adolescent whine is worse than Good Charlotte's Hollywood poser punk-itude and Pete Wentz' phoned-in emo cool. $8-$10/ 6:30 p.m. —Kathy Justice
SATURDAY, AUGUST 30
REV. BILLY C. WIRTZ
Claim to fame: Overseeing the First House of Polyester Worship
How do you feel about boogie-woogie blasphemy? The first steps of Billy C. Wirtz's irreverent path were taken when he got booted out of his first band when his desire to play stuff by James Brown and Dyke & the Blazers conflicted with the wants of his Crosby, Stills & Nash-favoring mates. The musical humorist-slash-hillbilly love god has embraced the non-status quo ever since, delighting in turning sacred cows into bacon double cheeseburgers while answering the question "What if Mojo Nixon were Jerry Lee Lewis' love child?" At the BLUE BAYOU CLUB. 9:30 p.m.
Claim to fame: Leading services at the Church of Alt-Country Saints
How do you feel about extra-earnest rock of the roots- and country-driven variety? You'd be forgiven for mispronouncing this six-piece's name as "Americana Honorarium." It can feel like leader BJ Barham is delivering a speech—or, maybe more appropriately, a sermon—on alt-country and its saints of both early and latter days. It's a quality sermon, chock full of sonic parables about Son Volt and Whiskeytown as well as Neil Young, Gram & the Byrds, and others that Jay Farrar and Ryan Adams, in turn, preached about. New Familiars and Buzzround open. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $8-$10/ 9 p.m.
From: Seattle, Wash.
Claim to fame: Singing in the choir at the Church of Heavenly Voices
How do you feel about harmony-rich, wife-and-husband-led Americana? If playing the country-rock avian name game, you'd probably align the Starlings with the Jayhawks—if, that is, Mark Olson and Gary Louris were a couple and they were indebted more to Emmylou Harris than Gram Parsons. Joy Mills' voice can both soothe and sting, and the acoustic backing, built around Tom Parker's string work, also reveals conflicting personalities. Call it lilt with an edge. Joe Romeo and the Orange County Volunteers hold down the second shift. At THE CAVE. $5/ 7:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell
08.29 STARMOUNT @ SADLACK'S
As the frontman for Vanilla Trainwreck and the producer for records by Whiskeytown, Birds of Avalon, The Rosebuds and hundreds of others, Greg Elkins has been writing and recording music in Raleigh since the early '90s. During that time, he's had the chance to hear and assess countless musicians, and admits he was struck by Dave Pitts' electric bass playing in the co-ed pub-rock band Overproof. When Pitts told Elkins he was learning to play upright bass, Elkins proposed that they learn their respective new instruments together.
"For a long time, I wanted to get involved with the pedal steel guitar," says Elkins, who cites "Afar," a tracky by ambient soundsmith and Brian Eno collaborator Harold Budd, as the spark for his pedal steel interest. "I just think it makes really awesome, ghostly, spooky sounds that you don't get from any other instrument, and it hasn't been explored in a lot of different contexts."
As they learned, they recruited new members: Elkins asked Brian Donohoe, a drummer he'd recorded in the band STRANGE, to join, and Pitts invited keyboardist Rob Davis to add synthesizers. Six months later, they were playing in public. A year later, they're perhaps the most intriguing new band in Raleigh, sculpting ambivalent atmospheres (are they arid or arctic or both?) with conflicting tools (upright bass and pedal steel lifted with synthesizers). The band practices in Elkins' Desolation Row Studios, recording everything it does. The bulk of a debut is in the can, so look for a full-length in the next few months. Free/ 7 p.m. —Grayson Currin