This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Blair Crimmins, The Rosewood Thieves, Justin Jones & the Driving Rain, The Dirty Little Heaters, The Loners, The Old Ceremony, The Love Language
VS.: Lost in the Trees vs. Jukebox The Ghost
VS.: Tony Lucca vs. Tony Furtado
RE-INTRODUCING: The Bleeding Hearts
SONG OF THE WEEK: Kenny Roby's "Foot Soldier"
05.20 BLAIR CRIMMINS @ THE CAVE
With a smile and a glint in his eye, Blair Crimmins entices listeners into his world. Songs jump with a 1920s cabaret gaudiness, reminiscent of tawdry, dangerous jazz. Tonight, Crimmins takes the stage solo, sans his normal backing band, The Hookers. A multi-instrumentalist, he will likely deliver off-kilter piano lines and rapid guitar strums, but tenor banjo, ukulele and accordion aren't out of the question. While devious lyrics can mirror the sinister Charlestons they accompany, Crimmins also has a grab bag of unjaded torch songs at his disposal, spotlighting the loneliness of a life spent in the shadows. 7:30 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
05.21 THE ROSEWOOD THIEVES @ BROAD STREET CAFE
Explaining his band's vintage lean, Rosewood Thieves frontman Erick Jordan told Paste (save it if you want it, by the way), "For some reason, my ear just doesn't accept anything from 1975 on." Sounds about right: Rosewood Thieves connects the hooks and harmonies of classic '60s pop and the sun-soaked organ-drenches of '70s heartland rock. Its loping, romantic numbers earned the band a contract with V2 and placement in Entourage and Grey's Anatomy. Thursday night's free Broad Street Cafe show finds the Thieves' vintage-filtered pop/ rock contrasted with the steaming, blues-heavy and jazz-inflected R&B of Durham quartet Soulless Dogs. Rosewood's British Invasion take on Solomon Burke tunes pairs perfectly with locals The Huguenots' retro-flavored pop sunshine, which takes the bill's middle tonight at Broad Street and Friday at Nightlight. Ethereal D.C. indie band True Womanhood opens that second bill at 10 p.m. The Broad Street bill begins at 8 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
05.21 JUSTIN JONES & THE DRIVING RAIN @ THE STATION
After getting his start in North Carolina dives and open mics, Virginia native Justin Jones returned north, moving to the nation's capital early in the decade and finding himself a producer and a job at Washington's famed 9:30 Club. Though he can sound a bit like John Mayer with banjo licks ("Honey I Need You"), Jones makes smooth roots pop with radio-friendly soul. Tonight, he joins fellow D.C. residents (and former Raleigh lads) The Moderate's easygoing, often Wilco-esque rock and Nashville pop-folk singer/songwriter Flinn Pomeroy, whose twangy voice soars inside sensitive odes penned in coffee shop corners. The free show starts at 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
05.23 THE DIRTY LITTLE HEATERS, THE LONERS @ THE PINHOOK
Badass apples who love each other, Durham's The Dirty Little Heaters and Raleigh's The Loners comprise a mutual admiration society of heavy, belligerent garage rock bombast. Aside from sharing a label (Durham's Churchkey), the Heaters and Loners have minds full of unapologetic, unrelenting rock 'n' roll, manifested in perfect form by The Loners' run-the-roads "Revolution!" or The Heaters' massive fuck-off missive, "Railroaded." Tonight, they let the guard down and the quiet in: Greensboro's Basalt—a minimal two-piece that puts woozy, scattered laments to four-track—opens. $5/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
05.23 THE OLD CEREMONY, THE LOVE LANGUAGE @ CAT'S CRADLE
It's tempting to cheerlead here, to champion a local-band scene that's built itself to the point where two acts can headline a Saturday night at the town's most legendary rock club and likely sell the space out. But, by now, we shouldn't require the handicap of area advocacy: Whether from California or Carolina, The Old Ceremony and The Love Language are top-notch pop bands pushing strong melodies in dichotomous directions. The Old Ceremony wraps its songs in luxury, violin and vibraphone and vocal harmonies lifting Django Haskin's platitude-twisting songs about love and aging from all sides. The Love Language, though, pounds away with pianos and organs and lots of guitar, pushing Stu McLamb's girl-and-grief blasts from behind. Tonight promises two dozen earworms for a Mr. Hamilton. 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
THURSDAY, MAY 21
LOST IN THE TREES
From: Chapel Hill
Claim to fame: Teeming 11-ish-piece orchestral pop
Ari Picker marshals Lost in the Trees, guiding a packed stage of players through the symphonic flourishes of indie rock anthem "Fireplace"—which pairs swelling strings to a jutting bassline and euphoric gang vocal chorus—as adroitly as the full-on orchestral overtures of his two "MVT" sketches. Between those two poles, violins, violas, cellos and mandolin slash and sway against textures of accordion, euphonium, French horn and tuba. Picker's ex-bandmates and current Trekky labelmates The Never share the bill, offering dreamy pop that's lost a step or two over the years but remains reliably melodic. At TIR NA NOG. Free/ 10:30 p.m. Lost in the Trees also plays a free show Sunday at 8 p.m. at OPEN EYE CAFE.
JUKEBOX THE GHOST
Claim to fame: Bouncy three-piece piano pop
Ben Thornewill leads Jukebox the Ghost into battle, banging on his keys with the same ferocity of a local Ben more famous for pounding the ebony and ivory. Jukebox folds the Five's enthusiasm with operatic Freddie Mercury panache ("Victoria"), adding some of They Might Be Giants' quirks ("Where Are All The Scientists Now?") for good measure. Guitarist Tommy Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin add harmonies and shifting rhythms to the madcap commotion, with the infectious results landing in the neighborhood of The Format's fantastic Dog Problems. The rest of the lineup is packed with indie pop power, from energetic folk enchantress Jenny Owen Youngs to the youthful ambition of The Winter Sounds. At CAT'S CRADLE. $8-$10/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
TUESDAY, MAY 26
From: Los Angeles via Pontiac, Mich.
Claim to fame: Appearing on New Mickey Mouse Club alongside JC Chasez, Keri Russell, Britney, Christina and Justin
Tony Lucca isn't any less talented than his fellow Mouseketeers, which is a bit like suggesting Hervé Villechaize isn't any shorter than Verne Troyer. He's worn several hats as a songwriter, from sensitive, aching, love-addled strummer (2006's Canyon Songs) to blue-eyed funkster with less soul than Josh Kelley's shoes (last year's Come Around Again). His apparent guitar skill is lost in waves of sentimentality designed to appeal to those born with an aversion to pungent cheese. You'd have to tap a sequoia to gather this much sap. Tony Furtado, the night's contender, is safe: Lucca would have a difficult time beating his own Little Tony. With Joey DeGraw (OMG, Gavin's bro) and Andrew Hoover at THE CAVE. $5/ 10 p.m.
From: Portland, Ore.
Claim to fame: Banjo skills that earned him the Grand National Banjo Championship at 19
Furtado may lack Lucca's Hollywood pedigree, but his musical skills supply a rout tonight unlike any since the charge of the light brigade. With interests that extend beyond the bluegrass sound best suited to banjo, Furtado developed into a masterful slide guitarist. Not one to sit still, he branched out beyond the richly inventive, genre-bending jazzy-folk-blues instrumentals that characterize his first decade of music-making to include his shadowy baritone vocals. Familiarity and facility in a variety of idioms have afforded him the ability to easily sidestep triteness. The worst track on Feburary's terrific Deep Water is better than anything Lucca's ever done. At the BERKELEY CAFE. $10/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
05.23 THE BLEEDING HEARTS @ SLIM'S
Didn't know The Bleeding Hearts were gone? Well, they weren't exactly, but the Raleigh four-piece has taken an extended break from touring last year in support of its second album, Nothin' On But the Radio.
"We did all that last year and were kind of burned out on each other," reports frontman Sam Madison from a campsite in Huntington Beach, S.C.
But the Hearts have been practicing for the last month, welcoming new second guitarist Larry Burlison, who does double time in Richard Bacchus and the Luckiest Girls. Burlison renews the band's energy, says Madison, who admits he's contracted the songwriting bug again.
"Everybody's playing better than ever, and I'm writing songs like crazy again," he says. "We've always had a combination of sounds between punk, pop and hard rock. The first album was more pop, and the second album was more punk. The new stuff is more '70s hard rock-sounding."
One of the 10 new tunes is called "Search and Destroy," which has nothing to do with Iggy Pop and, according to Madison, everything to do with "hooking-up."
"We definitely may do another album," Madison cryptically teases. "We'll see what happens." $5/ 11 p.m. —Chris Parker