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The guide to the week's concerts 

This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: The Wigg Report, Joe Pug, John Hiatt, Lil Malcolm and the House Rockers, SPENCEfest, Beres Hammond, Inner Circle, Culture, The Summer Slaughter Tour

VS.: The Waybacks vs. Red Clay Ramblers

REUNITING: Fashion Design

EH, WHATEVER: Carnival of Madness

EH, WHATEVER: Santana, Steve Winwood



YES, PLEASE...

07.22 THE WIGG REPORT @ THE PINHOOK

One of the leading lights of Durham's anti-folk snapshot, The Wigg Report spikes its quirky, frenetic power pop with liberal doses of keys and horns, strengthening the stickiness of the trio's persistent refrains. More Bull City favorites populate the undercard, though they're better known in other incarnations: The male halves of Durham duos Sequoya and Beloved Binge—Matthew Yearout and Rob Beloved, respectively—unite with drummer Mike Wright as Joy in Red for messy banjo-led excursions. Jason Kutchma offers acoustic translations of Red Collar's supercharged electricity. $5/ 9 p.m. Spencer Griffith

click to enlarge Joe Pug - PHOTO COURTESY OF ARTIST

07.22 JOE PUG, BJ BARHAM @ LOCAL 506

Singer-songwriters with harmonicas, acoustic guitars and slightly grainy voices will inevitably be compared to Dylan. It doesn't help Joe Pug's case that his cutting lyrics range from the personal to the extremely political, as on the perfect "Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)." While favoring rootsy twang over pop-soul sheen, his songs do bear a keen sense of melody, reminiscent of the '90s folk-pop of Shawn Mullins or, say, Eagle-Eye Cherry. BJ Barham steps away from the shit-kicking roots rock of his band, American Aquarium, to open with a solo set. The quieter Barham should allow his storytelling to come to the fore. Rayland Baxter rounds out the evening of songwriters. $8/ 9 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey

07.22 JOHN HIATT @ CAT'S CRADLE

John Hiatt, almost 40 years into a rambling music career, sits as an elder statesman of a hardwood style of songs that, if split open and examined, would reveal rings of blues and folk and soul, and even of reggae and new wave. Hiatt's rangy catalogue has attracted a number of other musicians over the years, a list that speaks to his musical restlessness. Artists from B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Buddy Guy to Bob Dylan, Odetta and Nick Lowe have dipped into Hiatt's songbook. Hiatt's new The Open Road offers 11 more rugged, worthy numbers ready for the picking. $35/ 8 p.m. Rick Cornell

07.23 LIL MALCOLM AND THE HOUSE ROCKERS @ BLUE BAYOU CLUB

The Blue Bayou continues to hang on, which is vital for fans of zydeco and Cajun music. (Should Papa Mojo's ever face similar day-to-day doubt, the situation would indeed be dire for the accordion and rub board set.) The latest Louisiana band to visit Hillsborough, aka Lafayette on the Eno, is Lil Malcolm and the House Rockers of Lake Charles, a zydeco outfit that leans toward the traditional and features two generations of Walkers: pop Percy (who cut his teeth playing with the likes of Rockin' Dopsie) on guitar, Percy Jr. on drums and Lil Malcolm on accordion. $14–$18/ 9:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell

07.25 SPENCEFEST @ SLIM'S

"I want to be stereotyped/ I want to be classified," declares Milo Aukerman on The Descendants' classic "Suburban Home," and the same goes for SPENCEfest, which promises frills as sturdy and predictable as the Die Hard franchise. True to Raleigh's long-standing template, the electric-lead explosion—a wedding celebration for Mike Spence and Allison Getchell—offers hard-revving six-string combustibility encased in the amber of halter tops, Firebirds and several cases of Budweiser. The vibe runs through the T's boozy, Southern-tinged Thin Lizzy-isms, The Loners' muscular blooze rave-ups and Richard Bacchus' debauched garage rumble. 5 p.m. Chris Parker

07.27 BERES HAMMOND, INNER CIRCLE, CULTURE @ LINCOLN THEATRE

Outside of Jamaica, Beres Hammond has few hits. The lovers' rock vet has strung together a respectable career, though, thanks to the consistently high quality of his ballads, reliant on his honeyed voice splashed with rare toasts. Inner Circle, on the other hand, is responsible for the smashes "Sweat" and "Bad Boys" (yes, the C.O.P.S. theme), though the Grammy-winning group has since suffered from member attrition. Along with original harmony vocalist Albert Walker, Kenyatta Hill—the son of deceased co-founder and lead singer Joseph Hill—now carries the mantle for Culture, which debuted in 1977 with the big-deal Two Sevens Clash. Also, the sultry R&B of young Hammond protégé Lenya Wilks. $27-32/ 9 p.m. Spencer Griffith

click to enlarge Cephalic Carnage - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND

07.28 THE SUMMER SLAUGHTER TOUR @ VOLUME 11 TAVERN

If you don't like your heavy metal fast, precise and mean, tonight's 10-band marathon of high-flying, technical death metal and growling grindcore—the local stop of the North America-spanning Summer Slaughter Tour—will be a special evening in purgatory. Poland's Decapitated and Los Angeles' The Faceless rightly take the top spots, but be sure to catch the early set from Colorado's Cephalic Carnage: The band's upcoming Relapse blast, Misled by Certainty, is a thrill-a-minute romp through drum patterns that shift and ricochet and guitars that spiral skyward and dive way low. Also, The Red Chord, Decrepit Birth, All Shall Perish and a whole lot more. $22–$25/ 3:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin


SATURDAY, JULY 24

click to enlarge The Waybacks - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND

THE WAYBACKS

Since: 1999
From: San Francisco
Claim to fame: Adventurous aesthetic that's taken them from opening for Bob Weir to recently playing Abbey Road with a full orchestra

Old and new don't always yield to better or best. Though The Waybacks started life as something of a traditional string band, the one-time quintet soon morphed into something else. They have a larger repertoire of pitches than a confidence man, ranging through acoustic styles from Celtic folk and bluegrass to gypsy jazz and country. They've covered Led Zeppelin II front-to-back and have added electric instrumentation and drums as they've evolved over the years. Between the felicitous tastes and irreverent attitude, they'll leave you flat-footed if you don't keep your expectations in check—and sometimes even if you do. $15/ 9 p.m. At BERKELEY CAFE.

VS.

click to enlarge Red Clay Ramblers - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND

RED CLAY RAMBLERS

Since: 1972
From: Durham
Claim to fame: A facility for authentic string band style that they've also translated to the stage, earning the band a Tony Award

There's a skill in expressing reverence for the past without becoming trapped. The Ramblers have spent nearly four decades honing that skill, and you'd be hard-pressed to find an act that better captures the sepia-toned warmth and energy of Appalachian folk and fiddle-fueled swing while subtly embedding elements of modernity. They've showcased their versatility on Broadway, in movies and alongside ballet companies. Yet more than simply capture a mood or spirit, they've proven to be fine storytellers, too, which is apparent on last year's Old North State. While The Waybacks gracefully bob and weave through styles, they have no answer for the Ramblers' unvarnished power or home-field advantage. $9–$25/ 8 p.m. At N.C. MUSEUM OF ART. Chris Parker


REUNITING...

07.24 FASHION DESIGN @ LOCAL 506

"What happened was kind of sad," says Luke Berchowitz, the former guitarist and sometime lead singer of Fashion Design, a band that simply "collapsed" soon after releasing its full-length debut, Model, in 2006. Fashion Design—in its heyday, a moody, new wave rock outfit—gathered Berchowitz, Kuki Kooks, Sandee Kooks and Megan Culton. The band played loud, sang louder and did both with a gloomy romanticism. For all its promise, things changed for the band after its label, 307 Knox, stalled the release of Model.

"Over that year, when we were waiting for our record to come out, we lost a lot of momentum, and we weren't playing shows or writing as much or practicing as much," remembers Berchowitz. "It was just really depressing having this record that we were proud of just sit there. Then, interest waned."

It's not an especially original implosion, but it was rough on the members. Now reuniting years later, the four members are just happy to see each other and play music. It is an unequivocal reunion, not a chance for reignition. From what Berchowitz says, from his home in Massachusetts, "something miraculous would have to happen" to inspire that. But for at least one night, Fashion Design will reign again. "I've always been proud of our body of work, and it's always been just fun to play. And to come back and see some people, to hear the compositions again will be great—if we play for an audience or if we don't." —Ashley Melzer


EH, WHATEVER...

click to enlarge Shinedown - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND

07.25 CARNIVAL OF MADNESS @ RALEIGH AMPHITHEATER

Everybody has problems: One only hopes to express them with the grace and finesse this crew of overblown malingerers and pretense-laden narcissists lacks. Shinedown's epic ballads combine Journey's mawkish, pussy-addled sentimentality with underwhelming bursts of aggression that sounded trite 15 minutes after Alice in Chains first conceived them. The occasional taut menace of Chevelle's moody metal is undercut by enough whiny angst to make teenagers seem well adjusted. Formed 20 years ago, Puddle of Mudd offers a grunge approach that's indeed incredibly dated. Their grunge's veneer is often as thick as the cast of The Hills. $35–$45/ 5 p.m. —Chris Parker


click to enlarge Santana - PHOTO COURTESY OF ARTIST

07.28 SANTANA, STEVE WINWOOD @ WALNUT CREEK

Both of these veterans once made good music, but now they perform before equally played-out contemporaries whose musical tastes have become sclerotic. It's sad that creativity flees aging artists as quickly as their hair, but that's a common side effect of getting rich, fat and self-satisfied. Winwood's never been much of an editor, and 2008's Nine Lives drowns in a meandering morass of jazzy soul as soft and empty as a newborn's head. Santana still plays a mean guitar, sure, but he's practically a guest on his own albums. $25–$70/ 7:30 p.m. —Chris Parker

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