This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Future Islands, Gray Young, Thad Cockrell, Dave Rawlings Machine, Jay Reatard, Tiny Concept
VS.: Bob Margolin vs. Hobex vs. Acoustic Syndicate
11.27 FUTURE ISLANDS, GRAY YOUNG @ BERKELEY CAFE
Last week, Thrill Jockey Records—the venerable Chicago indie that's called Tortoise, Califone and Mouse on Mars its own—announced that it would release the next LP by Future Islands, three North Carolina kids who moved to Baltimore three years ago. That's just the latest crest in a sustained wave of momentum for the Islands, too: Between an excellent LP for British powerhouse Upset the Rhythm, a split with Dan Deacon and a forthcoming remix record with contributions by Beach House, No Age and Javelin, Future Islands' mix of soul singing and emo agitation over shifty electronic beats has consistently found new listeners since their big move. See it live, though, and truly understand it as perspiration-by-the-bucket frontman Sam Herring writhes beneath his own words like Jack Black in a big tent. New labelmates Thank You—a propulsive rhythm-and-tone army—open, as well as Gray Young, Raleigh post-rockers who appreciate concision. Also, a new side project of The Kickass, 2.5. $7/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
11.28 THAD COCKRELL @ THE POUR HOUSE
Thad Cockrell began his career with nothing but a tender voice—broad but quivering, a churchgoer alto damaged by love and the world—and a devotion to old-school country. His first two records, then, played hard on that obsession, steel guitar and fiddle lines flying lonesome beneath the credo, "Puttin' the hurt back in country." Cockrell's singing, though, carried a depth that suggested stacks of old soul LPs and an effortlessness that suggested radio pop. A move to Nashville, a tough relationship and several years later, and Cockrell has returned with the next sensible step, To Be Loved, a charming 10-song LP that lifts the stylistic limitations from songs about girls and God. Cockrell tastefully explores gospel that approaches funk and texture-heavy pop that approaches the FM dial. Appropriately, he's best when flirting with his past on "A Country of My Own": "I've got no home/ but I've got a destination," he sings over a ponderous shuffle, suggesting the expanse of styles now at his command. Nashville's ruminative The Civil Wars open, doing The Swell Season coed chemistry waltz to a score of Americana melancholy. $10/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
11.30 DAVE RAWLINGS MACHINE @ CAT'S CRADLE
Six years have passed since Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, her musical partner for more than a decade, released Soul Journey, their most recent album under her name. In the interim, tours, production work, sideman jobs and songwriting have occupied the two. Finally, in a way, they've returned with A Friend of a Friend, the first Dave Rawlings Machine LP and the latest classic in the duo's streak of them. "Ruby," the nine-track collection's gambit, is a string-laced, aching-harmony number that treats a stubborn woman's long blond hair like telegraph wires on fire. Rawlings picks his small-bodied guitar like he's outrunning the flames, and Welch sings along like a next of kin, offering support for his worried heart. Tonight, expect a mix of new tunes and clever covers, as well as a load of banter from the pair with some of music's best chemistry. In other words, don't miss this. $20/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.01 TINY CONCEPT @ NIGHTLIGHT
An old-school-style eclectic Nightlight bill: Tiny Concept is the solo act of a Bordeaux, France multi-instrumentalist named Letty. After routing rudimentary drums and beats and chiming, winding guitar lines through pedals, she sings love songs in a somewhat impish way—never mad, just a bit addled. She's on tour with Ca$h $lave Clique, which wraps its linear beats in wobbly layers of broken noise. Think Fuck Buttons, sans the grand structural aims. As Secret Boyfriend, local experimental impresario Ryan Martin has cultivated a surprisingly diverse oeuvre, moving from minimalist pop to maximalist harsh noise to saturated bedroom folk doom. With Big Nuss. 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.01 JAY REATARD @ LOCAL 506
Together, indie rock kingpin Pitchfork Media, music blogs fighting for scraps through links, and personal microblogs like Twitter have turned online music writing into a low-budget US Weekly. And very few people aggregate the infamy via the Internet (and, honestly, his in-real-life antics: touring bands tell tales, too) than Memphis three-minute master Jay Reatard: "Band quit! Fuck them! They are boring rich kids who can't play for ahit anyways .. Say hello to your ugly and boring wifes opps I mean ..." he [sic-]tweeted back when his backing band bailed in October. What gets lost in the hubbub about his bad grammar and snotty attitude, though, is that Reatard makes more happen in 180 seconds than just about anyone else around right now. His latest, Watch Me Fall, stacks a dozen hits from one end to the other, and, what's best, Reatard never seems stuck in one mode: "Wounded," as jangling as it is jilted, leads with harmonies and an acoustic guitar, while "It Ain't Gonna Save Me" is a three-way sprint of anxieties. Jittery drums race electric guitar and a despondent hook to the end—which, with Reatard, never comes too late. Americans in France and Western Civ open. $10-$12/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
FRIDAY, NOV. 27
From: High Point, N.C., via Boston
Claim to fame: For seven years (1973-1980), he stood at the right hand of Muddy Waters, playing guitar
Bob Margolin doesn't shy from his history. Check his Web site for a lengthy autobiography in which he details his time with Muddy Waters (and his appearance in The Last Waltz) and the years he spent afterward broadening his chops in various rock, rockabilly and blues outfits from the Southeast. And those tales inform his music, which roves from country-tinged ruminations to full-on Chicago blues roars. Tonight, the journeyman and blues critic is joined by bassist Matt Hill and drummer Chuck Cotton. At PAPA MOJO's. $10/ 9:30 p.m.
Claim to fame: The strange velvet of Greg Humphreys' voice
Hobex doesn't shy away from the parties. Though bits of the band's four-LP discography could seem meticulous to the point of being hesitant, like a Steely Dan record, Hobex delivers its fully formed blue-eyed soul (and funk and rock 'n' roll) tunes with aplomb and enthusiasm. Two years ago, frontman Greg Humphreys slowed the Triangle institution's roll, devoting his time to developing solo material and production work. That does this current Hobex quintet—which includes the flammable blues voice of Taz Halloween—good, as they treat these tunes like new toys. With Jeanne Jolly. At THE POUR HOUSE. $8-$10/ 9:30 p.m.
From: Western North Carolina
Claim to fame: The weird sorta bluegrass band with the saxophone
Acoustic Syndicate doesn't shy away from its hybrids. Listen to any of the band's six albums, including two for Durham-formed roots music sanctuary Sugar Hill, and you'll hear hot-picked instruments—guitar, mandolin, electric banjo, bass—twisting between breezy folk rock, side-winding psychedelic tangents, funk grooves, reggae hints and, of course, a little bit of bluegrass. The quintet's marathon shows twist it all into a tangle, songs becoming but anchors for eager explorers. After a dozen years of heavy road work, Acoustic Syndicate cut back its activity in 2005, and this show—this battle's winner—is the first of only three gigs scheduled this winter. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $14-$17/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.02 EXMONKEYS @ THE POUR HOUSE
"ExMonkeys will also be taking a live break after this show," wrote Ed Winstead of his Raleigh big-beats-and-bigger-themes ExMonkeys back in July, speaking about an August show at Durham's MarVell Events Center. The band's other half, Ian Shannon, was expecting a newborn, and, with an excellent second LP recently released, the Monkeys seemed to be at a natural point for a pause.
"We weren't very good at taking it easy," Winstead admitted last week. "Ian found that having a kid was inspiring, so writing actually picked up on his side."
And writing wasn't the only thing that picked up during the break: At that MarVell show in August, Shannon and Winstead talked to opener Cheezface, a hyperactive noise-and-sample artist who'd recently moved to Chapel Hill, about starting a monthly series based around their mutual love of "noisy electronics, beats and bass." The Pour House agreed to host it, and Technoiz was born. Along with it came the usual teachable moments involved in going from performing artist to show promoter.
"We're definitely all learning on the job, so to speak, and working on defining roles for everyone," says Winstead. "The night has brought pressure in that it puts us in a promoter role, which is new for us and a lot of work. We already have limited time due to having jobs and families—so now we're juggling trying to continue to make the band successful as well as the night."
The second edition builds on the experiences of the first. A/V Geeks mastermind Skip Elsheimer will now emcee the Wednesday night shows as DJ Bingo Blower, leading attendees in rounds of between-set bingo. And this installment expands from last month's two-band format: Wet Mango, a California solo artist who also performs in the utter electronica mindfuck Sonic Death Rabbit, opens. $6/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin