This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Chuck Mead & the Grassy Knoll Boys, Paleface, Midtown Dickens, Simple, Tab Benoit, Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos, Mighty Gospel Inspirations, Detroit Cobras, Dex Romweber Duo
VS.: Erie Choir vs. Wild Wild Geese vs. The Loners
VS.: X vs. Steely Dan
INTRODUCING: The Desmonds
06.05 CHUCK MEAD & THE GRASSY KNOLL BOYS @ BERKELEY CAFE
Chuck Mead co-founded BR549, a honky-tonking outfit that famously held court in Nashville's Lower Broadway by putting an encyclopedic knowledge of country music to the test by daring members of the audience to stump the band with obscure requests. Perhaps Mead's choice to end the brand-new Journeyman's Wager, his first solo album, with the song "No Requests" is his way of separating himself from BR549 and making it clear that this is his show. Or maybe that's reading too much into it, and "No Requests" is just the final snappy number on a record that lines 'em up from end to end. What's completely clear is that Journeyman's Wager is a showcase for Mead's versatility as a singer and a stylist. "Out on the Natchez Trail" is equal parts Johnny Horton and Chuck Berry, while "Gun Metal Gray" is spooky and swampy. "She Got the Ring" is a joy, even as it recounts a miserable situation, a burst of cleverness and hookiness that deserves to be on some country chart somewhere. Jeanne Jolly and John Howie, Jr & The Sweethearts open. $10-$12/ 9 p.m. —Rick Cornell
06.05 PALEFACE, MIDTOWN DICKENS @ LOCAL 506
For their respective biographies, each of these bands has a substantial reputation for carefree, good-time shows: Paleface was a seminal songwriter in New York's anti-folk bloom, the slight sandpaper of his voice adding a gravity to that scene's lyrical nonchalance. The same goes for Durham's Midtown Dickens, which began as a ragtag, learn-while-you-play duo of best friends Kym Register and Catherine Edgerton. And while it is true that you'll be casually charmed by Midtown's ode of innocence, "A.M. Dial," and swept up by the shout-out spirit of Paleface's "The Show is on the Road," both bands hit their best strides when they slow themselves down and let their introspection assume beautiful ballad shapes. Listen for Paleface's "Traveling from North Carolina," redolent of The Band's "Whispering Pines," and the beautiful tears of Midtown's "Job Song." For real, though, Greensboro's kamikaze circus, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, is nothing but party. $7/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
06.05 SIMPLE @ NIGHTLIGHT
Were the world just, bands like Simple could take little blocks of 100-word adoaration (like this one) and cash them in for tour vans, hotel key cards and premier booking agents. As is, though, Chapel Hill's Simple is another of the town's sundry local-locked gems—blasting forward with a propulsive rhythm section and the hazy guitar lines and anxious ennui of vocalist Chip Smoak. It generally only shoots them as far as Rosemary and Franklin streets, though. A bit like American Music Club casting Superchunk as fishing bait, Simple's tunes are wiry but satisfying, the kind of eager songs that seem sung from notepads upon which the ink still dries. Raleigh's The Whalewatchers add sleek, sidewinding guitars and a bed of keyboards to a deliberate mix of sardonic and sincere pop (see "Pretty Money"). With its aim for angularity and fill-happy drums, Charlotte's opening Radio Taiwan suits the bill. $5/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
Note: Because of a misunderstanding between the club and the band, this entry has been amended since publication.
06.06 TAB BENOIT, MEL MELTON & THE WICKED MOJOS @ CAT'S CRADLE
In front of a rhythm section as filling as gator po' boys and muffulettas, Tab Benoit's masterful guitar work sits way back, hesitates and then delivers a punch to the gut. Like a strong belt from a sweet Hurricane off of Bourbon Street, Benoit's blues can transform sadness into jubilation. Mel Melton opens the evening, driving forward on harmonica as his band, The Wicked Mojos, works to keep up in dizzying fashion. The head chef and owner of Papa Mojo's Roadhouse in Durham, Melton caters this show with a little debauchery, glamour and hot sauce. Presented by The Blue Bayou Club. $18-$20/ 9 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
06.07 MIGHTY GOSPEL INSPIRATIONS @ SOUTHERN VILLAGE
Less is often much more in gospel music, with an a cappella delivery ensuring that the words are delivered straight to the soul. That's the approach taken by the Mighty Gospel Inspirations. As it says on the back of the group's new album, In Black and White: "This music is from a time when instruments were a luxury; voices, hands and feet were all you might hear in a song." And, oh, what voices. Dashawn Hickman & Steel Moven share the bill. $5/ 7 p.m. —Rick Cornell
06.08 DETROIT COBRAS, DEX ROMWEBER DUO @ LOCAL 506
Cover songs are dangerous territory, but for Dex Romweber and his Bloodshot Records mates the Detroit Cobras, they're a means of preservation: Check Dex's take on the lost Roy House blues cut "Is It Too Late?" Recorded from a years-old memory, it might or might not even count as a cover. Elsewhere on the stellar Ruins of Berlin, Dex and sis Sara mine lost gems, while sprinkling in a few originals. Altogether, the two offer a fresh spin on a vintage sound. The Cobras mine a treasure trove of forgotten singles, building a catalog that reminds us of that fertile period in the pre-Beatles '60s where rock & roll, country and R&B cohabitated the airwaves. But don't write this off as some dusty tribute: Romweber's sizzling guitar tone and nicotine growl and the Cobras' garage rattle offer raw thrills by the minute. $10/ 9:30 p.m. —Bryan Reed
SATURDAY, JUNE 6
Claim to fame: Members of Sorry About Dresden, Audubon Park and more
Erie Choir is a songwriter's band, its ranks ebbing and flowing around front man Eric Roehrig and his sauntering pop songs. Elvis Costello's a reasonable touchstone, even if Erie Choir takes his snark and snap and sets it on a front porch, headphones offering hints of Comboland jangle and Archers crunch in the cool breeze. $6/ 10 p.m. With The Travesties and The Magic Babies at LOCAL 506.
WILD WILD GEESE
Claim to fame: Members of Spider Bags, Americans In France, Rongo Rongo
By referencing The Replacements with its forthcoming LP, Forgetting to Take out the Trash, Remembering to Ruin our Lives, Durham's Wild Wild Geese offer a hint at what a listener might expect—pop songs cloaked in ragged, noisy guitars. But thick keyboard chords cut through the punk-pop buzz, too. This new band is poised to be another one of the area's must-sees. Donate/ 10 p.m. With Inspector 22 at THE CAVE.
Since: Resurrected in 2007
Claim to fame: Members of Vanilla Trainwreck and Big Joe
Now two years into its second life, Raleigh rock staple The Loners bring the ruckus with a guitar-and-drums blast. Chris Jones' work behind the kit fills any space left open by Eddie Taylor's jagged, ringing guitar lines and Dead Boys snarl. These rock 'n' roll bursts sting like a swift kick from a pissed-off Ramone chewing tin foil. Donate/ 10 p.m. With Chrome-Plated Apostles at THE RESERVOIR. —Bryan Reed
TUESDAY, JUNE 9
From: Los Angeles
Claim to fame: West Coast snarl
Even as I careened about to the thrashy, bracing rock of X in the first half of the '80s, I was always a bit intimidated. The songs, the stories and the presence made it clear that the band's members had been to places I hadn't: underground clubs, dark corners of the soul, the West Coast. All that leather. And they were take-no-prisoners live performers, arsonists dead set on burning the world down one stage at a time. Now, years later, I find out that there was nothing to fear. In fact, X wants to reach out to the audience. This latest tour, featuring all the original members of the band, is billed as "Total Request Live," where we the people get to vote on which songs they'll play. My choices: "Sex and Dying in High Society," "Come Back to Me," "The Have Nots," "True Love Pt. #2" and the ringer, "4th of July." Special guest Steve Soto & the Twisted Hearts opens. $20-$23/ 8:30 p.m. At CAT'S CRADLE.
From: Annandale-on-Hudson, NYSince: 1971 Claim to fame: East Coast cool
Even as I soaked in the jazzy, brainy rock of Steely Dan in the latter half of the '70s, I was always a bit intimidated. The songs, the stories and the presence made clear that co-leaders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had read things I hadn't: underground classics, Duke Ellington bios, William Burroughs. All that literature. And they were take-no-first-takes studio savants, perfectionists dead set on making sure every note was in its place. Now, years later, I find out that there was nothing to fear; in fact, Becker and Fagen want to reach out to the audience. On this tour, the guys are going to have several "Takin' It to the Seats" Internet request shows (though, alas, not at the Durham, which opens the band's U.S. tour), where the fans help create the set list. My choices: "Doctor Wu," "Kid Charlemagne," "Barrytown," "Bad Sneakers," and, a bit of a wild card, "Home at Last." $65-$115/ 7:30 p.m. At the DURHAM PERFORMING ARTS CENTER. —Rick Cornell
06.10 THE DESMONDS @ THE CAVE
Few moments are more awkward than meeting somebody for a second time while assuming it's the first: It's a bit like that in introducing The Desmonds, whom you might've met before, in the early '90s, as Jeff Carroll & The Desmonds. The band dropped the "Jeff Carroll &" part, though front man Jeff Carroll remains at the helm.
"We formed sometime in 1992 as Jeff Carroll & the Desmonds. Chocolate Box was our 11-song album released in 1994 under the Accidental label," the band offers succinctly. "There were some singles on a compilation or two. Now we are back, simply as The Desmonds." Oh, yeah, those guys.
The music bug, as it's wont to do, bit singer/guitarist Carroll, drummer Joseph Fiore, bassist Bert Rogers and guitarist Steve Storms again, leading them back into the garage to resurrect The Desmonds' unwavering guitar pop. With a charged melodicism that would be at home with fans of Cheap Trick, Badfinger and Elvis Costello, The Desmonds aren't treading any new ground, but the ground they do tread is tried and true, indeed. No sense reinventing the wheel when all you needed was some air in the tires, right? Nice to see you again, fellas. 10 p.m.—Bryan Reed