This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Tin Pan, Robbie Fulks, Tom Meltzer, Solas, Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun, American Aquarium, Lady Lazarus, Dexter Romweber & The New Romans, Bettye Lavette
VS.: The Capstan Shafts vs. Turbo Fruits
INTRODUCING: Jenna and the Jintlemin
EH, WHATEVER: The Moondoggies, Quiet Life
01.27 TIN PAN @ THE CAVE
If it's difficult to imagine a group of street musicians playing—as invited guests, mind you—with MC Hammer at the Shorty Awards, inside the Guggenheim Museum and at center court of the U.S. Open Final, that's because New York City's Tin Pan is hardly your run-of-the-mill street-performing quartet. Though they regularly busk in Central Park, Tin Pan's insanely infectious blend of jump blues and gypsy jazz idioms would feel at home along the cobblestone streets of New Orleans' French Quarter or at dawn in a smoky cabaret. $5/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
01.28 ROBBIE FULKS, TOM MELTZER @ CASBAH
Robbie Fulks cut his teeth in the Chicago bluegrass act Special Consensus in the '80s before embarking on a solo career marked by an adventurous blend of what's often called roots music. Rockabilly, country, folk, blues—it's all in his repertoire. Fulks delivers it with a swaggering baritone and wicked sense of humor, whether he's noting a bar grown "toxic with smoke and self-regard," offering the matter-of-fact epitaph "She Took a Lot Of Pills (And Died)" or savaging Nashville, complaining, "They can't stop the flood of assholes; there ain't a big enough ASCAP." Last year, he released Happy, a long-shelved album of offbeat Michael Jackson covers. $12–$15/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
01.28 SOLAS @ THE ARTSCENTER
Even after more than 15 years, it's still hard not to measure Solas against their elder kin, Cherish the Ladies, even if championship fiddler/ step dancer Winifred Horan only spent a few years with them. Horan left to form Solas in 1994 with multi-instrumentalist Seamus Eagan, who won the All-Ireland Championship on four different instruments by the age of 14. Their approach is not as traditional, rocking far harder and embracing contemporary pop both in sound and choice of reworked covers (Josh Ritter, Rickie Lee Jones, Dan Fogelberg) to abet originals and Celtic standards. They're not built for purists and are that much more interesting for it, finding a middle ground between then and now. $24–$28/ 8:30 p.m. —Chris Parker
01.28 BILL KIRCHEN & TOO MUCH FUN @ BERKELEY CAFE
High reverb brings out the chomping twang of Bill Kirchen's Telecaster. Kirchen melds country, blues and rock to re-create bygone sounds of rockabilly and western swing. Over walking bass and shuffling drums, Kirchen's electric guitar rings out. Kirchen's muscular guitar may be best known from his work on "Hot Rod Lincoln"—a number he recorded with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in 1972—but he's been playing steadily for more than 40 years. On his latest release, last year's Word to the Wise, Kirchen was joined by Elvis Costello, Dan Hicks and Nick Lowe. That company not good enough for you? $16/ 7 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
01.28–29 AMERICAN AQUARIUM @ KINGS
With a two-night stand by Megafaun last weekend and an upcoming double-header from Future Islands, Kings is using its medium-sized space—about half that of the Cradle, about 100 less than The Pour House—to give some of the area's most popular bands weekend homes. That's fitting for American Aquarium, a band that has persevered through outlandishly aggressive touring schedules, a busily revolving door of members and the sometimes overly brusque nature of frontman BJ Barham's romantic rants to become the region's true alt-country institution. And if you've been paying attention all along, you know that such a reputation—badass boys with hearts and songs so sweet, just like Whiskeytown and, to an extent, their namesake of Wilco—is really all they've ever wanted. The Delta Saints and Jack the Radio open Friday. Whiskey Gentry and Lee Bains and the Glory Fires open Saturday. $10–$12/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
01.28 LADY LAZARUS @ NIGHTLIGHT
Mantic is the debut by Savannah songwriter/ tone invoker Melissa Ann Sweat, who records as Lady Lazarus, itself the title of the Sylvia Plath poem that famously ends "I rise with my red hair/ and I eat men like air." Sweat has an interestingly unsteady hand at the piano, with her wobbling rhythms, chord splashes and sheets of drone forming sound clouds spiked by lightning. Suggesting at once Charlemagne Palestine and Smog, Cat Power and Debussy, Sweat makes music that's immersive and restrained without seeming pretentious or overly mannered. Carrboro's Phantascist headlines. $5/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
01.29 DEXTER ROMWEBER & THE NEW ROMANS @ THE PINHOOK
Dexter Romweber might be forever known for the wild-eyed rockabilly he plied as half of the cult favorite Flat Duo Jets, but he's grown into a new role: a rock 'n' roll elder. His late career moves shouldn't go overlooked. Departing for the evening from his duo (with drummer/ sister Sara Romweber), Dexter leads The New Romans, a stage-crowding cavalry of bold, brash horns, sultry organ and heavy percussion. Bustello blends Stiff Records power pop into '60s garage, with ample shades of surf and rockabilly, for a grown-up punk boogie. Killer Filler opens with instro-rock fit for beach parties and baseball stadiums. $5/ 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed
01.29 BETTYE LAVETTE @ THE ARTSCENTER
As Bettye LaVette neared and passed the age of 60, the Motown native finally found the well-deserved fame that long eluded her. She followed her Joe Henry-produced 2006 breakout, I've Got My Own Hell To Raise, with a Grammy-nominated collaboration with Drive-By Truckers, a show-stopping rendition of "Love, Reign O'er Me" at the Kennedy Center Honors and a duet with Jon Bon Jovi at Barack Obama's inaugural celebration. Despite LaVette's prowess in all manner of soul singing, she can't be confined to a single genre, wringing every bit of emotion from her glorious, compelling pipes on swampy R&B nuggets and transcendent readings from the rock songbook. $22–$26/ 8:30 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
FRIDAY, JAN. 28
THE CAPSTAN SHAFTS
Since: Late '90s
Claim to fame: Profligate bedroom-rocker in Robert Pollard mold
It's the classic conundrum—brains or brawn? The finesse end of this couplet is Dean Wells, the lo-fi auteur behind The Capstan Shafts. Wells claims as many as two dozen releases, but the Shafts are a band raised in captivity. Prior to last year, though, he had played live a handful of times. (Excuse him if he looks sallow, OK?) Like Robert Pollard's work, Wells' songs are generally brief and quite catchy, sharing similar anglophile predilections down to the British lilt of his vocals. His latest, Revelation Skirts, is the first he's recorded with a band. He rewards it with brash, punchy material; at heart, he's looking to charm you with well-crafted rock. With Le Weekend. At LOCAL 506. $8/ 9:30 p.m.
Claim to fame: Noisy garage remnant of teen rockers Be Your Own Pet
The Turbo Fruits could give a damn about intelligence, though they're not dumb in a self-conscious (AC/DC) or regular (Poison) manner. They just specialize in propulsive proto-punk throb that doesn't require a lot of thought. Bob your head and throw yourself into the nearest person, wall or beer bottle like you just don't care. Somewhere between The Stooges and Jay Reatard, the Turbo Fruits slap down the pedal and race to the finish with reckless abandon. For as vibrant and calamitous as it sounds, the hooks are never far behind. The Fruits are rambunctious bruisers who batter the untested Shafts. With The Mercators and Tea and Tempests. At DUKE COFFEEHOUSE. $5/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
1.30 JENNA AND THE JINTLEMIN @ THE PINHOOK
With Jenna and the Jintlemin, there are a few things that need to be addressed. The band's full, rich, slightly oddball take on classic country is one. The fact that the band's backing instrumentalists mostly hail from Raleigh indie power Annuals is another. But the most important item to mention is the instantly charming voice of Jenna Smith.
Wrapped in arrestingly melodic—and considering the source of its players, surprisingly unassuming and uncluttered—tunes, Smith's lines resound with Southern warmth. It's a voice that brings a breezy elegance to every song, one that makes even her fluffier numbers hard to ignore.
After returning from Appalachian State University last summer, Smith began playing solo acoustic shows. Annuals, friends of hers from high school, offered her an opening slot in October. They pitched in as her backing band and have been doing so since.
"After I moved back to Raleigh, I noticed how big the music scene had gotten, which is really, really cool," she says. "But also, sometimes it can be kind of stiff. I just wanted to have fun, and we're definitely having fun."
Jenna and the Jintlemin play the Pinhook with the Big Picture and Red River. Free/ 9 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
01.27 THE MOONDOGGIES, QUIET LIFE @ LOCAL 506
The clock's ticking on the type of shaggy '60s folk purveyed by The Moondoggies. The fingerpicked guitar, three-part harmonies and woozy, ambling gait—with its requisite nods to The Band—are mighty familiar. Like My Morning Jacket, they possess a woolly psychedelic flair that often takes them past the five-minute mark, though the pace is more sluggish and less rocking, particularly on their second album, Tidelands. While they're pretty skilled musicians, the songs lack stick, offering but a pretty face that by morning's forgotten. $8–$10/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker