This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Bluegrass All-Star Jam, Ex-Monkeys/ Juan Huevos, Zebralesque/ Blood Red River/ Pinche Gringo, 919Noise Showcase, Hellrazor/ Thunderlip, Elvisfest, L in Japanese, Jimmy & the Teasers/ Billy Joe Winghead
VS.: Whatever Brains/ Box Elders vs. Goner/ A Tin Djinn vs. Waumiss/ Tin Star
INTRODUCING: DaShawn Hickman & Steel Moven
SONG OF THE WEEK: The Box Elders' "Hole in My Head"
01.08 BLUEGRASS ALL-STAR JAM @ MEYMANDI CONCERT HALL
For anyone who's never managed to catch the annual Midnight Jam at MerleFest, this picker-packed gathering promises to be the next best thing—just a couple of hours east and a few months earlier. With a line-up almost 20 strong and a promised song-circle format, the event has got to be one of the larger guitar (and mandolin and fiddle and ... ) pulls on record. Representatives from heavyweight groups such as the Del McCoury Band, Blue Highway, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver as well as scalding-hot up & comers Grasstowne verify the all-star tag, and if the music ever slows down, the players could hand out their surplus International Bluegrass Music Association awards as door prizes. Does Rob Ickes really need all 10 of his Dobro Player of the Year trophies or Michael Cleveland his six for Fiddle Player of the Year? $20-$35/ 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell
01.08 EX-MONKEYS/ JUAN HUEVOS @ THE POUR HOUSE
Expect a wild night of human energy and electronic production: California-to-Carolina duo Sonic Death Rabbit uses Nintendo Game Boy samples to power its big beats and chromatic melodies, but the band's onstage revelry means there's frantic dancing and bunny suits. Juan Huevos delivers a one-man rap rager cut with self-deprecation about masturbating to MySpace. And the Ex-Monkeys' gear-heavy jams careens from blissed trip-hop to aggressive beat-based anthems without notice. At its best, Ex-Monkeys makes music meant for heroics. Also, WKNC DJ Charlie Burnett. $5/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
01.08 ZEBRALESQUE/ BLOOD RED RIVER/ PINCHE GRINGO @ THE BERKELEY CAFE
This trio of acts is a three-layer cake of shake, rattle and roll. The rattle is the ramshackle garage blues torrent of one-man band Josh Johnson (The Spinns), sometimes accompanied by his lovely lady Sarah Dougherty. The ragged shuffle has front porch amiability, with a rusty swing hanging out for all to see. That makes him a fine match for Zebralesque, Raleigh's answer to Suicide Girls. This lithe quartet shimmies and shakes like a brakeless semi speeding down the Himalayas, with heart-in-the-throat/ lump-in-the-pants burlesque. Surf-inflected instrumentalists Blood Red River are the meat in the middle, the frictionless catalyst that helps it all go down rolling. 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
01.09 919NOISE SHOWCASE @ NIGHTLIGHT
The latest event hosted by the Triangle's new noise collective looks promising: Pykrete is the solo project of Chuck Johnson, who played in the rock band Spatula and various experimental guises before heading to California to study experimental sounds at Mills College last year. Johnson's synthesizers twist in microtones, his power electronics constantly flitting between rhythm and chaos. Two of the collective's leaders—Bryce Clayton Eiman and Promute's Shaun Sandor—unite in Bicameral Mind, which mixes subsurface long tones and steady streams of small sounds to create the illusion of stillness through motion. Whether with his Chapman stick or a Theremin, Steve Burnett slowly builds slight worlds of sound. 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
01.09 HELLRAZOR/ THUNDERLIP @ LOCAL 506
Hellrazor shoots from the hip: The Raleigh quartet's brand of vintage thrash lunges in straight lines, drawing from what the band refers to as the "strong roots from which heavy metal came." That, in Hellrazor's case, means gruff but melodic vocals, fast, chugging riffs and unrelenting surges of drums. Consider Iced Earth, Anthrax and Judas Priest the Unholy Trinity, and you'll be on the right track. Wilmington's Thunderlip brings Thin Lizzy's harmonic guitars and AC/DC's swagger. Raleigh's Armored Uprise opens. $5/ 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed
01.09-10 ELVISFEST @ TIME OUT SPORTS BAR (HOLIDAY INN-CHAPEL HILL)
David Quick hosts his 11th annual celebration of the King's birthday with 20 bands spread over two rooms: Friday night includes favorites Gojira-X and The Tremors before culminating in the instrumental prowess of Killer Filler and the cocksure country of The Bo-Stevens. Arrive early for Malamondos on Saturday (8:30 p.m.) and stay all the way through for Billy Joe Winghead's annual grimy, sleazy rock. $10/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin
01.10 L IN JAPANESE @ NIGHTLIGHT
A longtime local beatmaker and dance party maestro, L In Japanese brings his boom-bap predilections and crowd-pleasing DJ set to the back alley bar as a means to benefit a West Franklin Street staple, Internationalist Books & Community Center. What a well-suited collaboration: With L's love of vintage and indie hip-hop, Nightlight's consistent commitment to adventurous music, and Internationalist's dedication to progressive politics and culture, respect for and participation in the underground gets its own boost tonight. $5/ 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed
01.11 JIMMY & THE TEASERS/ BILLY JOE WINGHEAD @ THE CAVE
Fresh from Oklahoma for its annual Elvisfest appearance, BJW sticks around an extra day to deliver a second helping of maladjusted psycho-ballistic sleaze. Its tarbaby racket opens up the throttle and pours in an irreverent mix of sinewy garage-abilly grime that wrings out your synapses like a combination of Oxycontins and OxiClean. You won't know where you are or what you're doing, nor will be able to wipe that silly grin off your face. Jimmy and the Teasers may be local, but the boy and his girls come from the same comic book-inspired fantasies that spawned BJW, boasting hip-checking crunch and garage-busting vibrancy with a hustle in its bustle. $5/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
THURSDAY, JAN. 8
WHATEVER BRAINS/ BOX ELDERS
From: Raleigh/ Omaha
Since: 2008/ 2005
Claim to fame: Fuzz and swagger, with a magnetic pop center
Tonight's distorted double blast of garage pop should feel at once familiar and refreshing: Omaha's Box Elders, for instance, conjure Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and The Animals, bouncing along to lyrically clever, structurally simple rock in nervy little numbers. After only half of a glorious tune like "Hole in My Head," you should be hoping to sing along. Raleigh's Whatever Brains carries the same sort of instant charm, with songs like "Swhatever" and "Summer Jammin'" offering sharp slices through decades of rock listening. But the band sometimes shocks its pop with flashes of noise and rhythmic ruptures, and those moments are tonight's welcome surprise. At NIGHTLIGHT. $5/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
GONER/ A TIN DJINN
From: Raleigh/ Raleigh
Since: 1999/ 2008
Claim to fame: Three people each, plus a panoply of welcome influences
Of all the bands in the ring tonight, Goner is the old standby, having released three albums in a decade of keyboard-pop bustle. The trio's stuck with it for a few reasons, not least of which is the fact that it's still evolving: Last year's glorious Rock 'n' Roll Always Forgets benefited from Scott Phillips' sharpened character study skills (see "Hella Jean") and tense atmospheric explorations ("Some Lose, Some Pay"). A Tin Djinn is a new Raleigh trio casting Eliot Wilcox's David Bowie air in grand rock gestures that seem to consider The Jesus and Mary Chain, Roxy Music and The Smashing Pumpkins equally. The free show is part of WKNC's Local Beer, Local Band series. At TIR NA NOG. 10 p.m.
WAUMISS/ TIN STAR
From: Carrboro/ Durham
Since: 2007/ 2008
Claim to fame: Faces you may know making sounds you may not
Both Waumiss and Tin Star put familiar names in surprising new contexts: Clarque Blomquist is a long-time member of The Kingsbury Manx, but this duo with his wife, Caroline, presents the two (also members of Shallow Be Thy Name) as rhythm-loving stylistic journeymen. A mix between The Beat Happening, The United States of America and Saturday morning cartoons, Waumiss offers its chiming charms in 90 second bursts of keyboards, guitars and hooks carved for efficiency. Tin Star gathers members of tommygun, Bringerer and Gray Young but casts the crystalline voice of Jamie Miyares in ascendant arches of consonant piano and intricate guitar, like Blonde Redhead scoring a silent travelogue about rushing along the Audubon and waking up on big airplanes. At THE CAVE. Donations/ 10 p.m. Tonight's choices offer a split decision, where the losers are those who go nowhere.
01.09 DASHAWN HICKMAN & STEEL MOVEN @ THE ARTSCENTER
"Everyone was going in different directions," explains sacred steel star DaShawn Hickman as to why his band, The Allen Boys, has been absent from local stages lately. "As far as playing how we were playing, we're not doing that anymore." With The Allen Boys now limiting themselves to the Mount Airy House of God and other church-related gigs, Hickman teamed up with bassist and high school pal George Smith. Smith introduced him to guitarist Josh Casstevens and drummer Kelly Sanders, both of whom played with Smith in Mount Airy Southern rock jam band Mood Cultivation Project and several of its offshoots.
Though still steeped in the gospel-rich pedal steel tradition, Hickman's new group incorporates more secular sounds from rock and jazz, along with covers that aren't found in your hymnal. "Right now, we're doing some Michael Jackson stuff," Hickman says. "It's the same energetic feel [as The Allen Boys]. The difference is there's one black guy and three white boys." Hickman and Steel Moven, along with Carrboro roots outfit Hooverville, kick off The ArtsCenter's American Roots Series Friday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $13-$15.
Highlights of American Roots' sixth year include several famed singer-songwriters: Yep Roc artist and Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale, well-covered folkie Tom Paxton, and J.D. Souther, who wrote several Eagles hits. Look for guitar aces like electric blues slinger Johnny Winter, country blueswoman Rory Block and jazz heavyweight John Scofield's Piety Street project, featuring Jon Cleary, Ricky Fataar and George Porter Jr. of the Meters. And, as always, there will be beautifully harmonizing Americana acts: This year, modern gospel collective Ollabelle and Jayhawks Gary Louris and Mark Olsen both come to Carrboro. —Spencer Griffith