This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Annuals, The Light Pines, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Hellrazor, Janzig, Lurch, Steep Canyon Rangers, Mandolin Orange, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Spider Bags, Whatever Brains, Bellafea, Xiu Xiu, Cancer Bats
VS.: Holy Ghost Tent Revival vs. Southern Culture on the Skids vs. American Aquarium vs. The Hot Club of Cowtown
INTRODUCING: The Stars Explode
12.02 ANNUALS, THE LIGHT PINES @ TIR NA NOG
Raleigh Denim presents two Triangle buzz bands, former and current. More than a half-dozen discs into its career, Raleigh six-piece Annuals—once the side project to guitarist Kenny Florence's still-active Sunfold (formerly Sedona)—is as ambitious as ever, though its sprawling kitchen-sink indie rock misses as often as it hits. It's been mostly hits thus far for Chapel Hill sextet The Light Pines, which lived in the shadow of The Love Language until earlier this year. That's when bassist Josh Pope—who thumped the four-string in Annuals for a spell—and two more Love Language refugees rededicated themselves to the Pines' blooming psychedelic rock. Free/ 10 p.m.—Spencer Griffith
12.03 J. RODDY WALSTON AND THE BUSINESS @ LOCAL 506
You may not believe it just yet, but Baltimore's J. Roddy Walston and the Business is quickly becoming a serious contender for the title of best bar band in America, holding its own versus heavyweights like The Hold Steady and Titus Andronicus. Combining the former's penchant for instantly singable anthems with the unhinged, whiskey-fueled moxie of the latter, Walston's songwriting may fall a bit short of both, but not by much. Lending a touch of boogie-woogie to the beefy, boozy roots rock of the swaggering Business, the livewire energy of Walston's piano pounding will likely distract you from any small shortcomings. $8/ 9:30 p.m.—Spencer Griffith
12.03 HELLRAZOR, JANZIG, LURCH @ BERKELEY CAFE
The mighty Hellrazor headlines, loosing a maelstrom of revisionist NWOBHM that nods to Obituary's death metal in the midst of a Maiden/ Priest juggernaut of theatrical, fantastical power metal. Boasting ex-members of Daylight Dies, While Heaven Wept and Twister Tower Dire, the Tar Heel outfit brings September's Soothsayer EP and all its galloping, grandiose mini-epics and mythological fascinations. Tonight, they'll find worthy complements in the support acts. Janzig—an all-female Danzig/ Misfits cover band—resurrects the former's blues-metal wallop and the latter's B-horror hardcore. Lurch continues to build a glowing reputation as Durham's newish punk-metal giant, birthed from the ashes of Tooth. —Bryan Reed
12.03 STEEP CANYON RANGERS, MANDOLIN ORANGE @ CAT'S CRADLE
"Steady" might not be a word that a band yearns to hear—flirting, as the tag does, with faint praise—but it fits the climb of western Carolina bluegrass quintet the Steep Canyon Rangers. Formed in UNC-Chapel Hill's dorms, the Rangers had been at it for almost 10 years when they were awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association's Emerging Artist trophy. As of late, though, "steady" has turned into "soaring," thanks to the group's collaboration with Steve Martin; it's led to marquee appearances at Bonnaroo and Carnegie Hall and on Austin City Limits. Opener Mandolin Orange continues its climb with a shift from hushed country to full-band wallop. $12/ 9 p.m. —Rick Cornell
12.04 BONNIE “PRINCE” BILLY @ DUKE’S REYNOLDS INDUSTRIES THEATER
Songwriter, singer, bandleader, actor, photographer, tastemaker and risk taker: Will Oldham—known throughout the years as Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Palace or Palace Brothers—is a multimedia impresario of indie rock. But his chief fame remains singing songs in a bedrock country voice that hurts so sweetly, and deservedly so; Oldham, like Mark Kozelek or Bill Callahan, can make nonsense sound good. Luckily, his wit and attention to detail as a writer make the bulk of his catalog a poignant mix of melancholy and absurdity. Tonight, he caps one of Duke Performance's best runs yet. $5–$38/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.04 SPIDER BAGS, WHATEVER BRAINS, BELLAFEA @ LOCAL 506
This end-of-semester showcase presented by the Daily Tar Heel's Diversions section offers a master's class for the kids in leading a band. Spider Bags' frontman Dan McGee is all energy and agitation, twisting his wiry frame through tough-but-sweet, hooky-but-thorny garage rock blasts. He swears and slurs; you just sing. Stand close enough to Whatever Brains' Rich Ivey, and expect a stream of spit, sweat and snot as he barks his band's warped art punk anthems. Bellafea's Heather McEntire is a collision of quiet and outrage, all funneled through a voice that's lined by country and soul but built on a young punk insurgency. Free/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.04 XIU XIU @ NIGHTLIGHT
Even if you're an avid fan of Xiu Xiu's painstaking, pain-ridden work for 5 Rue Christine or Kill Rock Stars, tonight's set—dubbed "experimental" by Nightlight—might not be for you. Jamie Stewart's last such set at Nightlight plundered texture and noise, lashing long-form hum with percussive clatter. From both ExMonkeys and Cheezface, expect a higher ratio of beats—however mangled—to blasts. This is a dance party, of sorts; just check indie rock expectations at the door. $5/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.07 CANCER BATS @ THE BREWERY
Cancer Bats bridge hardcore, punk and metal, vacillating from ominous, deep-rutted breakdowns to spiky torrents of scratchy guitar, while singer Liam Cormier goes from feral-but-decipherable growls to speak-singing in the manner of Henry Rollins. The tempos aren't fast but they hit hard, and the band effectively uses dynamics to shape its songs. They followed 2008's Juno-nominated second album, Hail Destroyer, with the more massive Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones, which successfully captures the concussive power and preternatural tightness of their live shows, thanks in part to new bassist and backing vocalist Jaye Schwarzer. $12/ 6:30 p.m. —Chris Parker
SATURDAY, DEC. 4
HOLY GHOST TENT REVIVAL
Claim to fame: Revivin'
"Y'all sound like Doc Watson and John Lennon makin' sweet love." That's what an instantly converted fan from Blacksburg, Va., once said upon contact with Holy Ghost Tent Revival. With all due respect to the gentleman from Blacksburg, his colorful description merely scratches the surface of the sextet's lively sound and approach. Vintage-sounding but freshly pressed rags and swing tunes and hybrids of joyously indeterminate origin are presented with thrashy purpose and all due respect. And don't forget the horns, which somehow find the middle ground between gospel and boozy. With Cabinet and Nick & the Babes. $6–$8/ 9 p.m. At LINCOLN THEATRE.
SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS
From: Chapel Hill/ Mebane
Claim to fame: Pickin'
"Southern Culture on the Skids' Too Much Pork for Just One Fork is my tenth favorite record ever." That's what an impressed Mekon/ Waco Brother Jon Langford sort of said in 1995. At least his faves list, as published in the Spin Alternative Record Guide, had Too Much Pork at No. 10. And seeing how this SCOTS appearance is billed as a "holiday pig pickin'," there couldn't be a better soundtrack. But if you want to sample some newer stuff, the just-out The Kudzu Ranch has forkfuls of the drive-in rock and garage soul that you (and Langford) crave. With The Forty-Fives and Pinche Gringo. $12–$14/ 9:30 p.m. At CAT'S CRADLE.
Claim to fame: Twangin'
"That was Townes Van Zandt-worthy." That's what an impressed friend said after BJ Barham stepped away from his American Aquarium brethren and their ringing anthems for a penetrating solo turn at the recent Chip Robinson benefit. High praise, at which Barham would no doubt offer that he (and everybody else) has a way to go to reach Townes territory. But it does speak to Barham's inspirations: Picture a congregation with Texas singer/ songwriters in the first pew, Springsteen in the middle and alt-country heyday heroes Whiskeytown and the Backsliders in the rear. They provide a foundation for his Raleightown hymns. With House of Fools and Crowfield. $8–$10/ 10 p.m. At THE POUR HOUSE.
THE HOT CLUB OF COWTOWN
from: Austin, Texas
Claim to fame: Swingin'
"Can we get that violin player for my band?" That's what an impressed Bob Dylan might have said in 2005 about Hot Club of Cowtown's Elana James. Whatever the words were, violinist/ vocalist James ended up touring with Dylan after Hot Club opened for him and Willie Nelson during the pair's ballpark tour in the summer of 2004. On a series of gems released by the late HighTone Records and most recently on 2009's equally gemmy Wishful Thinking, that's how strong the sway of the Django-does-Dallas hot jazz and Bob Wills-honoring Western swing of James, guitarist/vocalist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin sounds. $14–$17/ 8 p.m. At CASBAH. —Rick Cornell
12.04 THE STARS EXPLODE @ THE CAVE
The Stars Explode, led by drummer/ part-time vocalist/ contributing songwriter turned guitarist/ frontguy/ sole songwriter Doug Edmunds, has been around since late 2007, but the four-piece never got a proper introduction. And even if it had, some lineup changes this year would be enough to call for a reintroduction. In February, lead guitarist Eric Peterson signed on, joining Edmunds and bassist/ supporting vocalist FJ Ventre. And in August, drummer Will Rigby (The dB's, Steve Earle's Dukes) came aboard after relocating to Chapel Hill.
Having drummed in bands since he was 13, Edmunds is comfortable with his move to the front of the stage. He credits Jeff Carlson, his bandmate in '90s hard-poppers Gladhands, for schooling him in the arts of writing and arranging. He's also quick to cite those around him now. "My job is made easier by the caliber of guys I'm playing with and the fact that we've all been at this awhile." He's less comfortable with the power pop tag—"It brings to mind really twee, lame-ass bands from the '80s." He prefers "pop rock," thank you. The Stars Explode is preparing to take that pop rock into the studio with Mitch Easter for #2 Record. "Just the working title," says Big Star fan Edmunds with a laugh. —Rick Cornell