This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Dan Bern, John Howie Jr., Filthybird, Modern Skirts, I Was Totally Destroying It, Big Star's Third
VS.: Tapes 'n Tapes vs. Baths
VS.: Ben Sollee vs. David Allan Coe
INTRODUCING: Diggup Tapes
RE-INTRODUCING: Birds & Arrows
02.11 DAN BERN @ THE POUR HOUSE
Given his harmonica-playing folk-rock style and nasal vocal twang, it's no surprise that Dan Bern's suffered a Dylan comparison or two. Bob's certainly a touchstone, as are Mellencamp's heartland rock and Elvis Costello's punchy wit. His music possesses a rousing spirit wedded to a canny, lighthearted manner, whether surveying "Tiger Woods," imagining Yoko as "The Fifth Beatle" or fashioning his own "Alice's Restaurant" with "Osama in Obamaland." He hasn't perhaps attracted the attention he deserves, but the Iowa native's nine studio albums over 13 years have built a sturdy grassroots following. $13/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
02.11 JOHN HOWIE JR., FILTHYBIRD @ THE CAVE
With The Rosewood Bluff imploding ahead of their debut CD's release, John Howie's turned his attentions elsewhere, notably John Howie Jr. and the Sweethearts. This set is part of a Valentine-themed "Sweetheart Serenade," featuring bands of couples. Howie (who's promising a Two Dollar Pistols reunion, too) taps a familiar country-rock vein with upright bassist Billie Feather. Filthybird released one of last year's best records, a laid-back blend of willowy pop, atmospheric country and moody rock anchored to Renée Mendoza's fluttering croon. Pittsboro's Sarah Shook & The Devil offer a sinister, shadowy, late-night singer/ songwriter vibe. $5/10 p.m. —Chris Parker
02.11 MODERN SKIRTS @ THE POUR HOUSE
As a flagship act of the current indie crowd of Athens, Ga., Modern Skirts has gradually broadened the span of its power pop to expansive, kaleidoscopic pop-rock eclecticism—think a quirkier, more adventurous Roman Candle. While hardly cohesive, this year's Gramahawk finds the quartet mixing Spector-esque production techniques and sunny, Beach Boys-inspired harmonies with off-kilter song structures, glossy synths and digitized beats. The hooks that were abundant on earlier efforts are occasionally obscured, but that's a minor quibble for a band this ambitious. Colourslide, a Gainesville, Fla., four-piece, delivers polished, radio-ready modern rock with soaring, arena-size choruses. $8/ 11 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
02.12 I WAS TOTALLY DESTROYING IT @ MOTORCO
Over the last three years or so, Rachel Hirsh has grown up alongside I Was Totally Destroying It, the Chapel Hill quintet in which she sings and plays keys. This show celebrates Hirsh's 21st birthday and IWTDI's gradual maturation from a giddy pop-punk group to a punchy, multifaceted rock band with more complex arrangements and lyrical heft. The colossal guitars and churning rhythms of Free Electric State blend shoegaze and early indie rock, while Charlotte four-piece The Sammies bundle garage rock energy with a touch of twang. Singer-songwriter Wesley Wolfe opens with a full-band set of literate indie pop. $5/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
02.15 BIG STAR'S THIRD @ UNC'S HISTORIC PLAYMAKER'S THEATRE
After some of the Triangle's best musicians and pop icons tackled an ambitious live performance of Big Star's Third—with an orchestra, drums, electric guitars and keyboards—what could they do for an encore? Unplug for an acoustic performance of one of pop music's best, obviously. While the electric performances at Cat's Cradle in December were mind-altering, expect the acoustic concert to reveal the brilliant musical subtleties that may have been smudged in the bombast. Sparse and haunting, "Holocaust" and "Blue Moon" lend themselves well to stripped-down versions, but it will be interesting to hear the rollicking "You Can't Have Me" and "Kizza Me" in the raw. $8–$15/ 8 p.m. —Lisa Sorg
THURSDAY, FEB. 10
TAPES 'N TAPES
Claim to fame: The disappointing buzz band that didn't tell you to clap your hands and say anything
After a huge and unexpected debut and a failed stint at one of the biggest indie labels in the land, the mighty buzz that chased well-meaning indie rock quartet Tapes 'n Tapes into South by Southwest 2006 has all but disappeared. At least they tried to revive the magic and charm on this year's self-produced, self-released Outside, a disc that attempts to mine the same indie rock nostalgia that made the band matter at the start. It doesn't work, but at least we'll forever have "Just Drums." With Oberhofer. At CAT'S CRADLE. $14–$16/ 9 p.m.
Claim to fame: Being recommended to anticon. by electronics whiz Daedelus
Young producer Will Wiesenfeld provides plenty of reasons to dance on his debut as Baths, Cerulean, whether it's the apoplectic beat of "Apologetic Shoulderblades" or the chant-and-chime movement of "Aminals." But its his ability to bring it down, to suggest Eno in a sunshower and to bliss out beneath a rain cloud, that distinguish his music from a lot of peers. Actually, pretty much everything distinguishes Baths from Tapes 'n Tapes, the boring and bland alternative here. With BRAIDS and Blackbird Blackbirds. At DUKE COFFEEHOUSE. $10/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
SATURDAY, FEB. 12
From: Lexington, Ky.
Claim to fame: Soulful singer-songwriter who plays cello, not guitar
Though you should afford an ample splatter zone should you ever witness a physical fight between the stringbean Sollee and grizzled rebel redneck David Allan Coe, Sollee's not so overmatched musically. Sollee is Coe's ideal counterpoint, actually, bringing a latte-sipping, This American Life-flavored sheen to traditional folk. He played alongside Béla Fleck with Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet, and he retains that bluegrass feel on his solo release, mixed with a soulful blues and jazz dipped in sophistication by the cello. Sollee's voice is his knockout punch: A nimble, textured instrument, its balletic rhythms amplify the music's refinement. At CASBAH. $13–$15/ 8 p.m.
DAVID ALLAN COE
From: Akron, Ohio
Since: Mid '60s
Claim to fame: Salieri to Waylon's Mozart in creating Outlaw Country
There's no bigger redneck or renegade than David Allan Coe, but, for some, the legend has overshadowed the music. Coe's always possessed a cockeyed sense of humor, and he sells it with a pretense-free everyman style. Indeed, Coe has written many songs with Shel Silverstein, including some of the tracks on his notorious "blue" records. While Coe's certainly a redneck—he allegedly lived in a cave after an IRS seizure—he's clever like a Fox(worthy). His paeans to the outsider and blue collar-country concerns hit hard. Between the larger-than-life persona and truly amazing songs, Coe breaks Sollee in two like day-old biscotti. With Rebel Son. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $20–$25/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
02.10-11 DIGGUP TAPES @ KINGS
In 2009, N.C. State's student-run radio station, WKNC-FM 88.1, released Hear Here, a superb compilation that collected new tracks from more than a dozen of the Triangle's best bands. Recorded in a high-end studio and pressed onto shiny silver discs, it was a professional endeavor, the sort of here-and-now capsule you could play for your parents. DiggUp Tapes Cassingles Vol. 1, then, is Hear Here's misfit younger brother, the sort of dirty kid who parents send to shopping malls when company comes over. Recorded on the cheap and dubbed onto casette tape, these dozen songs find some of the same bands—Birds of Avalon, Motor Skills, Lonnie Walker—forgoing sheen for the scruff. Birds of Avalon's gnarled "Guffaws" twists and scrapes through detuned guitars and broken percussion, and Lonnie Walker plays the role of DeVotchka led by Devendra Banhart during his hobo days, both taking to the basement to mix up the medicine. With a piss-off shrug by Whatever Brains, a horn-abetted blast by Yardwork and a head-shaking lament by NAPS, Vol. 1 showcases new blood and grit, too.
DiggUp Tapes began just as a way to release music by a group of friends cheaply and quickly. "We were talking to William Cashion from Future Islands, and he told us that tapes are so cheap, even if we lost money, we'd lose, like, $100," says Nathan Price, who plays bass in NAPS and co-runs DiggUp Tapes with Lonnie Walker leader Brian Corum. Now, after this edition of 200 singles, DiggUp Tapes plans to release more NAPS material and a full-length or two by new Raleigh acts.
Whatever Brains, Birds of Avalon, NAPS and Arbor Myst play Thursday, Feb. 10. Lonnie Walker, Embarrassing Fruits, Fat Camp and Bubbly Mommy Gun play Friday. Veelee, also included on the compilation, plays Kings Sunday, Feb. 13. The 9:30 p.m. shows cost $6 each night. Hear the music at cassinglesvol1.bandcamp.com. —Grayson Currin
02.11 BIRDS & ARROWS @ THE ARTSCENTER
"It used to be a much more pared-down folk sound," explains Andrea Connolly, half of what used to be a husband-wife duo called Birds & Arrows, "and as Josh has come in, I feel like we've gotten a little more brave about branching out." She's talking about cellist Josh Starmer, a longtime Birds & Arrows guest who's now made the band an official trio. Tonight the newly formatted Birds & Arrows previews its upcoming spring release, We're Gonna Run. Warm nostalgia turns melancholic as Starmer's haunting cello supports the beautiful simplicity. Psychedelic and rock undertones are stronger this time; overall, the songs tend to be darker.
"You know," says Andrea, "that's life. I feel like we had a lot of really highs and a lot of really lows last year with music and within our personal lives." Those personal highs and lows will be revealed as the evening alternates between album cuts and the stories behind them. The $10–$12 ticket price includes a piece of art made by the Connollys, along with a download code for five tracks off the upcoming record. Pete explains, "Our energy is high with the new material right now and, with the actual manufacturing of the record still far off, we wanted to do something where we could share our excitement." The music begins at 8:30 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey