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The guide to the week's concerts 

This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Neil Diamond Allstars, New Town Drunks, Phil Wiggins and Corey Harris, Richard Bacchus, Rat Jackson, Pontiak, Everybody Was In The French Resistance...Now, BettySoo, Pride Parade, Howe Gelb, Jeff Crawford

INTRODUCING: The Venables

VS.: Red Collar vs. Wild Wild Geese

VS.: Tim Stambaugh vs. Rye Mountain Boys



YES, PLEASE...

05.14 NEIL DIAMOND ALLSTARS, NEW TOWN DRUNKS @ CAT'S CRADLE

Alcohol's the special sauce that takes Neil Diamond Allstars to the next level. Whether it's charismatic frontman Jack Whitebread barely negotiating the stage's edge, his domestic held aloft like a beacon, or the audience wrapping their arms around each other's shoulders, swaying to the influence, the social lubricant holds back the sentimentality and batters down the walls. $10/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker

05.14 PHIL WIGGINS AND COREY HARRIS @ FLETCHER THEATER

In a great Piedmont blues pairing, Phil Wiggins played harmonica alongside guitarist John Cephas for more than 30 years. Cephas died last year, but Wiggins has found a new match, for the time being, in Corey Harris. No longer playing against Cephas' resonant guitar and smooth voice, Wiggins now works against Harris' more soulful twang. His blues influenced by West African and Caribbean traditions, Harris picks percussively, biting back at Wiggins. Wiggins answers, bending his notes in a dirty old way. $21–$25/ 8 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey

05.15 RICHARD BACCHUS, RAT JACKSON @ SLIM'S

Richard Bacchus is a wily street-fighting punk—he'll try anything to knock you off your feet. Most often he's a bare-knuckled brawler with slashing Bowery-bred guitars, all grimy power chords and provocation. Sometimes he's "Dubnacious," circling with a reggae fire. He's not above calamitous love mongering, either, like a "Capital Offender" escaped from England circa 1977. Whatever the idiom, expect it to be catchy, muscular and vaguely dangerous. Rat Jackson, on the other hand, is a bruising, no-frills bum-rush over a garage-blues rumble. $3/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker

click to enlarge Pontiak
  • Pontiak

05.15 PONTIAK @ NIGHTLIGHT

Pontiak is a wooly rock 'n' roll power trio of brothers—Van, Jennings and Lain Carney—from the edge of the mountains just west of Washington, D.C. They play blues-based rock with thick bass, craggy guitar and relentless drums, but they play it a bit unlike most bands you've ever heard. Full of big rests and audacious bait-and-switch maneuvers, their sprawling man-rock thrives on the unexpected. Longtime friends and Thrill Jockey labelmates Arbouretum open. At his best, frontman Dave Heumann is a thrilling guitar player, pushing guitar solos to the brink of chaos but pulling them in just in time to maintain the song's motion. Local monsters Caltrop headline. $7/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin

05.16 EVERYBODY WAS IN THE FRENCH RESISTANCE...NOW @ LOCAL 506

Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos' side project with girlfriend Dyan Valdés sounds similar to his main gig, if only because Argos' self-conscious speak-sung vocals continue to stomp about in memoir fashion, as if the music were incidental. Valdés' sweet, high-pitched backing vocals soften the edges of Argos' discourse, bridging the gap between his gruff brogue and the keyboard-heavy bounce. The songs are (intermittently clever) answers to prior hits, offering a different perspective on classic hits from "Billie Jean" to "Don't Think Twice (It's Alright)." Argos' bull-in-a-china-shop demeanor is more suited to clamorous rock than urbane pop, but it's a night's entertainment, for sure. $8–$10/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker

click to enlarge BettySoo
  • BettySoo

05.18 BETTYSOO @ BERKELEY CAFE

Looks can be deceiving, which is why petite Asian-American singer/ songwriter BettySoo so easily defies expectations. The swollen size of her voice can be shocking, and if you didn't know she's from Austin, you might be surprised by her Texas country styling. Her three albums showcase equal facility with tender, ambling country-folk, supple rock twang and smoldering organ-driven blues. Her latest, Heat Sin Water Skin, was produced by Gurf Morlix, particularly fitting given BettySoo's passing sonic resemblance to Lucinda Williams. Her crisp vocal phrasing abets lean evocative writing, skillful enough to unbalance your senses. $10/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker

05.18 PRIDE PARADE @ LOCAL 506

Athens, Ga., quintet Pride Parade suggests one of those monstrous pickup trucks that automobile manufacturers' marketing teams call super duty: Powerful but agile, with the ability to roll through open-road Southern rock and to rumble through noisy metallic brambles if need be, Pride Parade goes most every place you'd like it. Think Dinosaur Jr. beating the theatrics out of Soundgarden behind the bar, and you're almost marching. Chapel Hill duo Blag'ard ties the same browbeating execution to a more aerodynamic frame, while Embarrassing Fruits relaxes with its hooky indie rock drift and jerk. $5/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin

05.19 HOWE GELB, JEFF CRAWFORD @ LOCAL 506

For a quarter century, Southwestern songwriter, bandleader and tastemaker Howe Gelb has been one of music's most consistently prolific and profound voices. Whether with the distorted spectral twang of Giant Sand, the dichotomous rustle and hustle of his solo albums or the brilliant collaborative one-off Arizona, Amp & Alternator, Gelb has long been a savant of space, tone and time. He warps country-rock like the sun bends a stack of vinyl on a summer day, and he combines impulses—of the country troubadour and the mystical poet, of a punk rocker and a Nashville acolyte—like a magnate of postmodernity. Jeff Crawford, who plays bass, organ and production roles in a half-dozen local bands, opens with his sturdy pop-rock songcraft. $10/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin


INTRODUCING...

05.14 THE VENABLES @ THE CAVE

The Venables have been making music for more than five years now, but given the intermittent nature of their efforts, you're forgiven any unfamiliarity. The band formed around the friendship of guitarist Phil Venable and drummer Matt Brown, who respectively managed and played in the Two Dollar Pistols for a spell. Four years ago, they released Shoulda Coulda Woulda, a 10-track album soaked in late '80s/early '90s alterna-rock and influenced by Dream Syndicate, the Jayhawks, Hüsker Dü and the Replacements.

The album title's proved prescient—Venable soon relocated to suburban Virginia ("where souls go to die, so they can shop at WalMart," he cracks), and he has been trying to move back ever since. He's shorn himself of grandiose plans over the years. The former Chapel Hill News music writer's only musical ambition is to "make it so it doesn't suck."

The key to that, says Venable, is Brown: "A lot of the weirder things you hear have more to do with him than me. If we sound any different, it's mostly because of him." He, Brown and guitarist/ bassist Mike Nicholson expect to grow back to a quartet, release their Grab Bag EP in July and begin work on a second LP later this year. 7:30 p.m. —Chris Parker


THURSDAY, MAY 13

RED COLLAR

From: Durham
Since: 2005
Claim to fame: Inciting chaos on the dance floor

Can't make it to Wilmington this weekend for Rad Fest, a two-day stand featuring punk rock of all flavors? Take this show as a sampler. Hometown heroes Red Collar headline with dogmatic rants and jagged guitars to rally weekend warriors a night early. Three touring acts give support on their way to the Port City: Oklahoma City's Red City Radio has a certain pop polish to its aggro sing-alongs, while the fast blasts and raw nerves of Austin trio The Anchor can't be soothed so easily. Minneapolis' Slow Death adds a heartland spin, carrying The Replacements' flag with pride. At BROAD STREET CAFE. Free/ 10 p.m.

VS.

WILD WILD GEESE

From: Durham
Since: 2009
Claim to fame: Inspiring dances in the garage

Though fuzzy fits of guitars and keyboards lead the raucous, punk-spirited charge of Wild Wild Geese, the Durham trio doesn't confine itself to the unruly garage rock roar from whence it came—members hail from the drunk and disorderly Spider Bags, the towering Rongorongo and the jittery Americans in France. With the kind of nervous energy that turns a crowded bar into a frenzy of flailing limbs, the three-piece's memorable nuggets are crowned by howling pop hooks. Carrboro's Lake Inferior kicks the dance party into motion with lush, glossy pop of the digital sort, its pulsing electro-rhythms splattered with glitches and covered by dreamy synthesizer washes. At TIR NA NOG. Free/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith


FRIDAY, MAY 14

TIM STAMBAUGH

From: Carrboro by way of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Since: 1990
Claim to fame: A couple decades of Tim Stambaugh Bands

Newgrass and traditional bluegrass—that's what Sugar Hill artists the Shady Grove Band played when Tim Stambaugh joined the group as a banjoist in the late '80s. He then formed the first Tim Stambaugh Band in 1990. Over the years, various incarnations of the band have released three recordings of—you got it—newgrass and traditional bluegrass. Like its predecessors, the latest version finds Stambaugh playing banjo and guitar and singing songs embodying, in the words of The New York Times Magazine, "real sentiments from the common man's perspective." Free/ 10 p.m. At BROAD STREET CAFE.

VS.

RYE MOUNTAIN BOYS

From: Durham
Since: They sound like it's been decades, but only about a year
Claim to fame: That's still in the works

Truegrass and more truegrass—that's what the Rye Mountain Boys play. The quintet was formed, in the words of the band, "to invoke the 'ancient tones' of Bluegrass music as it was conceived and performed by the founding fathers of this ever-evolving and expanding genre." Its members have the right backgrounds for that mission. For starters, banjoist Hugh Moore is a Grand Ole Opry vet who's recorded with the likes of Bobby Osborne and Vassar Clements. Fiddler Brian English was a five-year mainstay of Raleigh's Old Habits. And the man at the heart, Jim Collier, has spent 30 years on the old-time music scene. Pass the hat/ 7 p.m. At the BYNUM GENERAL STORE. —Rick Cornell

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