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The guide to the week's concerts 



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This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Monterey Jazz Festival, Lucky, Mandolin Orange, Small Ponds, Starmount, The Jackets, Americans in France, Whatever Brains, The Invisible Hand, Terence Blanchard, Sam Bush, Simeon, Bustello, Straight 8s, John Harrison, Terry Anderson & the Olympic Ass-Kickin Team

VS.: Lonely H vs. Matt Kurz One vs. Ray Bonneville

SONG OF THE WEEK: Copeland's "The Day I Lost My Voice (The Suitcase Song)"



YES, PLEASE...

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02.25 MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL @ CAROLINA THEATRE

Back in 1958, Billie Holliday, Louis Armstrong, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, Milt Jackson and Max Roach were among those who gathered for the first Monterey Jazz Festival in California. Browse the names of the rosters for the past five-plus decades, and you'll invariably see the lights of this American music rise and fall, appearing and reappearing on the lineups over time. But the festival is an emissary as much as a destination: Tonight, Kurt Elling's rich voice leads a sextet that features violinist Regina Carter and pianist Kenny Barron on this stop of a nationwide tour that takes them from one shining sea to the other. $35-$45/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin

02.25 LUCKY, MANDOLIN ORANGE @ LOCAL 506

Lucky finds Squirrel Nut Zippers chanteuse Katharine Whalen and Alcazar Hotel frontman (and former Zipper) Will Dawson planting new roots together beyond the swing revival. With a shot of Alcazar's unhinged garage rock punch, the ably backed pair rolls through a vintage kaleidoscope of sassy pop, sweet country and sultry blues. Mandolin Orange is the promising pairing of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, who match fiddle, mandolin and guitar on idyllic acoustic duets in Welch & Rawlings fashion. Fellow coed duo Birds and Arrows gives inventive treatments to clear glimpses into the couple's diaries—you can practically feel them holding hands during the gently cooed harmonies. $7/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith

02.25 SMALL PONDS, STARMOUNT, THE JACKETS @ TIR NA NOG

The night starts with a little mood music and climaxes in a classic rock, three-songwriter punch. Starmount is led by the lithe lines of Greg Elkins' pedal steel guitar, but don't overlook the underpinning, especially the drumming of Brian Donahoe. One of the area's most subtle and satisfying kitmen, he augments jazz tricks like rimshots and elliptical meter with electronics. Meanwhile, Small Ponds—the collaboration of Tres Chicas' Caitlin Cary and The Proclivities' Matt Douglas—recently finished its debut demo, and these songs are (quietly) demanding to be heard. From the stunning lyrical turns of "Horse on a Bus" to the eerie Radiohead temperament of "Bleeding Heart," it's a breathtaking first batch. And just as the suds portion of tonight's Local Beer, Local Band bill starts to take hold, The Jackets—half of Chatham County Line going electric, loud and hooky—pull up in the party wagon. Free/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin

click to enlarge Americans in France
  • Americans in France

02.26 AMERICANS IN FRANCE, WHATEVER BRAINS, THE INVISBLE HAND @ NIGHTLIGHT

The Invisible Hand of Virginia sports a perfect pop-rock swerve and verve, ripping through three-minute stacks of verse-chorus-verse splendor with guitars both distorted and chiming. The harmonies twist and the songs veer, but the four-piece's perfect little bursts seem casual and unassuming. Both Americans in France and Whatever Brains drop their hooks into the room with a different attitude, though: A little snotty and unafraid of effrontery, both bands tear into their brash tunes like you're lucky enough to be there. And, in pretty much every respect, they're absolutely right. With Naked Gods. $5/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin

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02.26 TERENCE BLANCHARD @ MEMORIAL HALL

With a dozen Grammy nominations and five wins, Terence Blanchard's credentials are beyond questioning. Indeed, the only thing limiting his trumpet chops is his own sense of restraint. He bends and twists blue notes from his horn, stifling soaring, hard bop runs to create a sense of intimacy. With all of his expressive playing, though, Blanchard may be best known as Spike Lee's go-to film composer. Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Summer of Sam? That's Blanchard. On Lee's Hurricane Katrina documentary, When the Levees Broke, the New Orleans musician sounded contemplative and lugubrious. But his most recent album, Choices, lets the bright brass of his trumpet shine through in a sort of art bop. Swinging heads mix with spoken-word recordings of civil rights activist/ philosopher Dr. Cornel West. Blanchard arrives at UNC with his quintet as part of the 33rd Carolina Jazz Festival. Running Wednesday through Saturday, and featuring the likes of drummer Jason Marsalis and saxophonist Ivan Renta, Blanchard's Friday performance will be a certain highlight. $10-$75/ 8 p.m.—Andrew Ritchey

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02.26 SAM BUSH @ CAT'S CRADLE

Dubbed the King of Newgrass, progressive-minded mandolinist and fiddler Sam Bush has been breaking barriers for so long that it's hard to imagine his integration of rock and jazz influences offending anyone but the staunchest traditionalists nowadays. The fact that Bush is one of the finest pickers in the land and a gifted vocalist to boot has surely helped assuage a few entrenched ears along the way. No slouch herself, Missy Raines is a nine-time IBMA bassist of the year and has performed alongside such bluegrass pioneers as Jesse McReynolds, Josh Graves and Kenny Baker. Raines takes the opening slot, along with her feisty, jazz-inflected combo, The New Hip. $20-23/ 8 p.m. —Spencer Griffith

02.27 SIMEON, BUSTELLO @ BROAD STREET CAFE

Singer/ guitarist Simeon Berkley's namesake quartet has a talent for texture. They amble over ringing tangles of distortion and crashing cymbals to throwdown with a "PBR Streetgang," and luxuriate in the wavering dreamy shimmer of "Time in the City of Medicine." They bust out bristling, irresistible power pop reminiscent of Possum Dixon for "Last Call Queen." With each look, Simeon moves with lingering, unhurried grace and supple charm. Alluring hooks scrupulously coat the noisy spates of post-punk angularity. One hears echoes of The Pixies and The Feelies in Bustello, a new trio featuring Ben Clarke (Metal Flake Mother) and Sex Police alums John Plymale and Jody Maxwell. Also, The Breaks. 10 p.m. —Chris Parker

02.27 STRAIGHT 8S, JOHN HARRISON @ THE CAVE

John Harrison's genteel pop possesses quirky characteristics—be they buzzing background electronics or the casual exhaust of squiggly guitars—but his breathy tenor skates so effortlessly through generous vocal melodies and sonorous soundscapes, they sometimes get overlooked. Inventive arrangements keep each of his three North Elementary albums fresh, but it's the brain-burrowing glimmer of his psych-folk-pop hooks that afford the anchor. He joins Doug Keith for tonight's early slot. Lean, oiled and built for speed, rockabilly trio The Straight 8s fishtail their reverb-drenched country blues. They swagger and they swing, but they never shake loose their grip on the groove and foot-stomping old school rock. 10 p.m. —Chris Parker

02.27 TERRY ANDERSON & THE OLYMPIC ASS KICKIN TEAM @ BERKELEY CAFE

Heat sheets, schedules and the ilk coming out of Vancouver have been scoured, and a conclusion has been reached: Ass-kickin' must be a Summer Olympics event. But that's OK­—you don't have to wait until London 2012 to see Terry Anderson and the squad in action, thanks to this show benefitting the Artspace Artists Association. And after plenty of bar- and stage-side research, judges have reached another conclusion: To make the team, you need the agility of NRBQ, the pub-ready spirit of The Faces and the primal urges of Rockpile. Should be a gold-medal night. $8-$12/ 8:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell


THURSDAY, FEB. 25

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LONELY H

Since: 2003

From: Port Angeles, Washington

Claim to fame: Releasing a pretty decent 2006 debut, Kick Upstairs, while still in high school

Versatility is admirable, but consistency has to count for something, too. This is the conundrum of Lonely H, a precocious indie pop quartet until about a year ago. That's when they suddenly veered off the pretty, mannered pop byway onto a dusty country-rock back road marked by signposts for The Band, The Eagles and Little Feat. While an effective move for losing a tail, it's also how you lose your audience—particularly when your first two albums gave little indication of this new direction. However well you pull it off—and it's decent, if inferior to their earlier incarnation—it'll seem arbitrary and insincere. So, what's next, post-grad dance-punk? At SLIM'S. $3/ 9 p.m.

VS.

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MATT KURZ ONE

Since: 2002

From: Athens, Ga.

Claim to fame: Music well-crafted enough to eclipse the spectacle of his one-man band

As sole proprietor of his sound, Matt Kurz is well-equipped for the swerving maneuvers of Lonely H. You may wonder at the tangled mental wiring that allows him to play the drums and bass guitar with his feet, handling the toms, cymbals, guitar (and when necessary keyboards) with his hands while singing, but there's little questioning the result. Kurz transcends the gimmick by rocking his ass off. He's got great presence (perhaps unsurprising given his mastery of the eye-catching instrumental setup) and exceedingly catchy songs, ranging from Springsteen-ish road anthems to grimy garage rave-ups, ringing indie rock and rollicking British Invasion pop/ rock. At THE CAVE. $5/ 7:30 p.m.

VS.

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RAY BONNEVILLE

Since: Late '80s

From: Canada as a youth, Boston as a young man and presently Austin

Claim to fame: Thrice Juno-nominated roots songwriter with distinctive percussive guitar style

Whatever concessions were made for Lonely H's age or Matt Kurz's multi-tasking go out the window with Bonneville. Give them a quarter-mile handicap on a half-mile track, and he'll still overtake them. His weathered, arid tenor recalls Mark Knopfler, while the music traces a folk-blues vein informed by John Hiatt, Bob Dylan and John Prine. The up-front vocals and sauntering pace are folk, but they're yoked to groovy, deep-seated sway blending soul and blues. Bonneville wields the pairing with such remarkable assurance and songcraft you're dumbfounded he's not at least almost famous. Kurz and Lonely H may be striking and unpredictable, but Bonneville's masterful. At SIX STRING CAFE. $10-$12/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker

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