This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Sea Wolf, Patrick Park, Sera Cahoone, Local Label Slam: Pox World Empire, Laura Veirs, Watson Twins, Drive-By Truckers, Lady Gaga, Cocorosie, Titus Andronicus, Free Energy, Veelee
VS.: Holy Ghost Tent Revival vs. The Black Crowes
VS.: Billy Brag vs. Drivin' N Cryin'
VS.: Crosby, Stills & Nash vs. Marshall Crenshaw
09.16 SEA WOLF, PATRICK PARK, SERA CAHOONE @ NIGHTLIGHT
This is as talented a trio of songwriters as you're likely to see in the next six months. Sea Wolf is Alex Church, whose penchant for dreamy, dramatic arrangements corresponds to a breathy theatrical vocal delivery recalling Jeff Buckley and Conor Oberst. He's got a real gift for melody with a swooning gait. Patrick Park is generally an acoustic-driven troubadour purveying ruminative, folk-inflected pop. The beauty and power of his voice will catch you off guard. Sera Cahoone's not enjoyed the attention of her former Carissa's Wierd mates (Band of Horses, Grand Archives), but the intimate solemnity of her rather minimalist country-folk recalls Neko Case and Chan Marshall in its subtle, frightening power. $10–$12/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
09.18 LOCAL LABEL SLAM: POX WORLD EMPIRE @ THE PINHOOK
Part of a new series at The Pinhook that highlights local record labels, this concert is a catchy, quirky show of arms by Durham's Pox World Empire. The Flute Flies, a side project of Schooner's Reid Johnson and The Rosebuds' Ivan Howard, headline with a mix of grungy rock and blue-eyed pop similar to its singers' main gigs. Both Billy Sugarfix and Felix Obelix make good on offbeat lyrics and comfortably nasal tones. Sugarfix's songs take the form of sunny acoustic strum-alongs, though, while Felix Obelix creates a carnival of shiny organ and woodwind. Also on tap in this six-band bill are laid-back folk-pop act Organos and the arrestingly voiced Anna Bullard. $5/ 7:30 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
09.18 LAURA VEIRS, WATSON TWINS @ LOCAL 506
She might not get the same sort of acclaim as Chan Marshall or the Apple commercials of Leslie Feist, but Laura Veirs has been perhaps the most consistent female songwriter of the past decade. Since her self-titled debut in 1999, this Portland transplant has built a catalogue of crisp, bookish Appalachian indie rock set apart by her simple vocal delivery and clever cadences. On January's July Flame, released on her own Raven Marching label (like her first two LPs), Veirs worked with longtime producer/collaborator Tucker Martine to cap off an unheralded but unimpeachable 10-year run. The Watson Twins open. $10–$12 / 9 p.m. —Robbie Mackey
09.19 DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS @ LINCOLN THEATRE
If you've ever considered yourself a fan of alt-country or Southern rock, your debt of gratitude to Athens' Drive-By Truckers should be infinite. The most popular band of their kind because they're the most relevant, interesting and valiant band of their kind, the Truckers write songs as detail-rich as the best Southern author and as gritty and unflinching as the best bar bands. Mostly perfect for the last decade, their discography is turning into a private library of characters and conundrums, each cut from the stone of experience and suffering. The Truckers join Henry Clay People and American Aquarium in front of Lincoln Theatre. $20–$25/ 6 p.m. —Grayson Currin
09.19 LADY GAGA @ RBC CENTER
A few hours before the 24-year-old blonde girl walked down a red carpet in a dress made of meat, Camille Paglia was picking on her. Apparently one of America's foremost cultural critics—a "dissident feminist," published author and professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia—isn't a big Lady Gaga fan. Who knew?
In her article "What's Sex Got to Do With It?," which ran front and center in this past weekend's Sunday Times hours before the VMAs, Paglia indicts Gaga as the awkward and ugly end of the sexual revolution. She doesn't miss a chance for insult along the way—she calls the pop provocateur a thieving sycophant and a robotic representation of sexless sexiness.
But her real ire seems reserved for the millennial generation who let it all happen. Paglia comes off like little more than a cranky old bully. Besides, with our pop stars vanishing as fast as their own album sales, we'd be smart to recognize a messianic, over-the-top superdiva like Gaga as the novel gift she is slowly becoming, if only by default. We're not getting another one—like it or not, this is the last megastar of music. Warts, meat dresses and all ... $49.50/ 8 p.m. —Robbie Mackey
09.20 COCOROSIE @ CAT'S CRADLE
One of the last decade's most assailed acts, CocoRosie—sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady—confuse people with their absurdist art, baiting language or collage-oriented sonics until they invoke ire. But at a time when adopting trends to cash in quickly has moved from the mainstream to the land of indie, too, CocoRosie's willful oddities are the perfect panacea. As evocative as they are idiosyncratic, these songs are alleyways into adventure. Best to not stand outside, snickering at your own reluctance. $18–$20/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
09.21 TITUS ANDRONICUS, FREE ENERGY @ DUKE COFFEEHOUSE
Two bands, two of the year's best rock records: New Jersey's Titus Andronicus sprawls at the unlikely crossroads of E Street bombast, shoegaze haze and punk rock maw, their bristle and glory comingling in huge refrains and top-heavy ideas. Their second LP, The Monitor, uses Civil War arcana as an ecumenical entry point for lessons about well-read, tour van-traveled words about empathy and attitude. Philadelphia's Free Energy makes breezy classic rock fueled by some combination of The Cars, Thin Lizzy and Cheap Trick. Some call it ironic, others guileless. Let's stick with studied and sharp, and shut up before the chorus hits. $10/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
09.23 VEELEE @ TIR NA NOG
With three experimental pop acts that don't venture so far into left field that they're hard to catch, this show is an excellent free entry point into local music. Chapel Hill duo Veelee loops guitars and keys into subdued but insistent melodies well-suited for an earbud-assisted stroll. Carrboro's Motor Skills bring life to processed beats with earnest vocals and ethereal guitar. Opener Cassis Orange wraps twee-ready heartbreak into caustic but colorful lo-fi fuzz, spiced by the occasional computerized chirp. Free/ 10 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
FRIDAY, SEPT. 17
HOLY GHOST TENT REVIVAL
Claim to fame: Upcoming sextet playing rocking swing roots
Holy Ghost Tent Revival is a traveling party. A jittery, jumping swing pulses. Banjo strums slam down the beat through layers of guitar, keys and trombone. Lyrics get spat with the desperation felt as a landlord breathes down your neck for money—except it's exhilarating. With minor tweaking, it all transforms to New Orleans jazz, but the dial could just as easily be set to punk. Movement and urgency make HGTR an act worth catching live. With House of Fools and Paleface. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $5-7/ 9 p.m.
THE BLACK CROWES
Claim to fame: Departing sextet playing rootsy blues-rock
After 20 years, brothers Chris and Rich Robinson have earned the right to rest on their laurels. The leaders of The Black Crowes have long served rock with pained, soulful vocals and soaring electric guitar. After releasing the acoustic album Croweology in August, the Crowes will play a full 90-minute acoustic set followed by a full electric set tonight. The Black Crowes enter indefinite hiatus after this tour. Of course, the last hiatus only lasted a few years, served as a good recharge and led to the installation of Luther Dickinson. At RALEIGH AMPHITHEATER. $25–$45/ 7:30 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
SATURDAY, SEPT. 18
From: Dorset, England
Claim to fame: Talking to taxmen
Billy Bragg has a lot of Woody Guthrie in him. Like Guthrie, he hit the scene as just a guy and a guitar (although Bragg's was electric) and wrote songs for the voiceless. But Bragg is no more one-dimensional than Guthrie was, a point that Bragg underscored with a cross-section of songs on Mermaid Avenue, which transported Guthrie from dirt roads to New York City. When Bragg rocks out with a band, he moves comfortably from the rallies to the pubs. Darren Hanlon opens. At CAT'S CRADLE. $25/ 8 p.m.
DRIVIN' N CRYIN'
Claim to fame: Flying courageously
Kevn Kinney has a fair amount of Woody Guthrie in him—maybe not readily apparent with Drivin' N Cryin's straight-at-ya rock, but check out his stripped-down records like The Flower and the Knife. And for absolute proof, there's "In the Land of Plenty," an unabashed homage from his record with the Sun Tangled Angel Revival. Kinney's a troubadour's troubadour no matter the setting. Joining Drivin' N Cryin' for this show is Dillon Fence, another band with a front guy, Greg Humphreys, equally comfortable in solo singer/ songwriter mode. At POWERHOUSE SQUARE IN RALEIGH. Free/ 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 22
CROSBY, STILLS & NASH
Since: The late '60s
Claim to fame: Three-headed folk-rock
A Crosby, Stills & Nash memory from 1982: Junior year in college, and I'm attending a party at neighboring Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with entertainment provided by a cover band from my hometown. One of the band's most crowd-pleasing numbers was an enthusiastic take on "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." Mid-song, I noticed that one of my housemates had taken over lighting duties. When the song reached its trademark abrupt end, my buddy nailed it, dousing the lights on cue. The trio will do "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" at this show (or else risk a riot), but it just won't be the same. At KOKA BOOTH AMPHITHEATRE. $43.50–$76/7:30 p.m.
Since: The late '70s
Claim to fame Bespectacled genius-pop
A Marshall Crenshaw memory from 1982: Junior year in college, and I'm attending a party in a neighborhood across from campus. Music is being provided by the most reliable party source of those times—cassette tapes played on a boombox. A guy slips in a mixtape, and Crenshaw's "Cynical Girl" rings out—and "rings" is the correct word because, like it or not, guitars can chime. The song was somehow new wave yet old-fashioned, polite yet primal, and I was hooked. Still am, with that song's pure pleasures wiping away any cynicism that's built up over the decades since. At the BERKELEY CAFE. $20/ 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell