This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Sam Bush Band, GWAR, Thank You, Naps, Nests, Schooner, Floating Action, The Tomahawks, Lud, North Elementary, Weedeater
VS.: Salt To Bitters vs. I Was Totally Destroying It
VS.: Punch Brothers vs. Jim White
INTRODUCING: Mason's Apron
02.17 SAM BUSH BAND @ MEYMANDI CONCERT HALL
Sam Bush is a bluegrass icon whose influence is felt in the recent burst of string band-oriented pop and rock. A championship fiddler who won the National Oldtime Fiddler's junior division for three consecutive years, Bush moved to mandolin and founded New Grass Revival in 1971. He gave banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck his first break and spent time in Emmylou Harris' Nashville Ramblers. He's pursued a solo career for the last 15 years, unfurling his warm croon over a sophisticated blend of pop and bluegrass. His latest, 2009's Circles Around Me, returns to his more traditional bluegrass roots. With Bearfoot. $20–$30/ 8 p.m. — Chris Parker
02.17 GWAR @ LINCOLN THEATRE
Hailing from the farthest reaches of the multiverse (or Richmond), GWAR has come to slay all humanity with their bloody stage show and tongue-in-cheek music. Keeping the shock rock ideals alive, GWAR brings to life an unearthly stage presence that tells a story and brings the audience along for the ride. Joining GWAR on this tour are the thrash metal band Mobile Death Camp and the melodic death metal band Mensrea. Those going to this show should be prepared for a filthy night of exaggerated gore and sex. $20/ 7 p.m. —Jonathan Newman
02.17 THANK YOU @ NIGHTLIGHT
Baltimore trio Thank You plays two Triangle shows this week—tonight at Nightlight and Friday in Raleigh at Berkeley Cafe. My recommendation is to see them Thursday; if you're overwhelmed and confused (likely), see them Friday, too. Thank You's new Thrill Jockey album, Golden Worry, packs a lot of action into 32 minutes, putting a Reich-like mix of This Heat and African guitar music into rhythm crew overdrive. Have fun and dance, but listen. Oulipo and Fifty Bird Step open Friday, with Mutx and Fan Modine taking the honors Thursday night in Chapel Hill. —Grayson Currin
02.17 NAPS, NESTS @ TIR NA NOG
There's been some worry of late that the area kids just aren't starting bands like they used to—that is, three or four years ago, when now-heavyweights like Bowerbirds, Megafaun and The Love Language began to hit their strides almost simultaneously. Tonight should ease your worried mind: Nests, for instance, is the project of singer-songwriter Jeremy Walton, and his skeletal songs are projected spectrally by a cast that includes local talents like Lonnie Walker's Brian Corum. The same goes for Naps, a band that bends the indie rock of Modest Mouse and Sebadoh into strangely luminous shapes. Jenna and the Jintlemin, meanwhile, gather the bulk of Annuals behind the fair-voiced Jenna Smith for restrained country music. Good Thursday primer. Free/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
02.18 SCHOONER, FLOATING ACTION, THE TOMAHAWKS @ KINGS
Floating Action's not fit for easy description, thanks to their closet of different disguises, but roots-psych is a fairly effective catch-all. Their characteristically ramshackle hook-laden arrangements emanate a lighthearted vibe that's often countermanded by darker lyrics, much like Park The Van labelmates Dr. Dog. Schooner possesses similarly felicitous tastes, specializing in supple, well-wrought indie pop lined with warm texture and winsome swoon. With vintage rockers The Tomahawks. $6/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
02.19 LUD, NORTH ELEMENTARY @ THE CAVE
This is about as local as you can get: Lud is the longstanding (est. 1992) Chapel Hill fivesome fronted by Carrboro Citizen staffer and former Independent Weekly managing editor Kirk Ross, and backed by Sara Bell (Shark Quest, Regina Hexaphone), Lee Waters (Fashion Design, Mount Moriah), Anthony Lener and Bryon Settle. Their relaxation rock is understated and simple in approach, but, like a Southern Sunday morning, it's no less ideal for it. North Elementary isn't as long-running as Lud, but they're perhaps the more visible of the two. Helmed by songwriter John Harrison, the band has, in recent years, honed its fuzzy layered pop into richly rewarding thinking-man's pop à la Sparklehorse. 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed
02.20 WEEDEATER @ CASBAH
Weedeater just released Jason ... the Dragon, certainly the latest and arguably the least of their four albums. But the Wilmington, N.C., sludge metal heathens are still about as powerful as power trios go, roaring through stoner metal with a red-eyed ferocity that's almost Eyehategod frightening. Frontman Dave "Dixie" Collins remains one of metal's most compelling instrumentalists, playing huge bass riffs with a rare marriage of clarity and coercion. Don't spend your money on Jason; spend it on Weedeater, a blissfully loud band that treats every show like it could be their last chance to score. With ASG and Hog. $10–$12/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
THURSDAY, FEB. 17
SALT TO BITTERS
From: Chapel Hill
Claim to Fame: Dramatic folk-punk
Tony Raver's anguished wail recalls early Bright Eyes, an emotionally wrought weapon with which he does most of his damage. The music circles warily 'round his wild-eyed paeans. Strummy acoustic guitars and banjos slash and burn beneath a waxy Rhodes organ moon sometimes trailed by pedal steel, a perfect twilight backdrop for Raver's discontent. The songs are pregnant with foreboding and slow-burn shuffle, making the implicit impending doom that much more oppressive. Raver's vocals sound broken, bewildered and on the run, as if pursued by the avenging hitman of No Country For Old Men. With Twilighter. At BROAD STREET CAFE. 10 p.m.
I WAS TOTALLY DESTROYING IT
From: Chapel Hill
Claim To Fame: Energetic power pop
While IWTDI subscribes to the power pop formula in terms of energy and hook density, they place greater emphasis on texture then more traditional adherents. They suggest a synthesis of '80s exemplars Modern English and The Plimsouls—creamy synths jostle against distortion-drenched guitars while the punchy rhythms drive the songs, buttressing their power. Over their three full-length releases, their arrangements have grown curvier and less straightforward, but the band's secret weapon remains the contrasting vocals of Rachel Hirsh and John Booker. Their pretty and brash styles (when not harmonizing with each other) bring out different colors in the music and afford them the two-fisted attack to pummel Salt to Bitters into submission. With The Bakers, J Kutchma, Jack the Radio. At DEEP SOUTH THE BAR. $5/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
FRIDAY, FEB. 18
From: New York City
Claim to fame: Progressive-minded bluegrass unit featuring Chris Thile
Expect big surprises from this radical acoustic quintet. Starring the mandolin virtuosity and high, melancholic vocals of Nickel Creek's Chris Thile, the Punch Brothers match the bold instrumentalist with an equally agile quartet. Flashing technical brilliance on complex neo-bluegrass numbers streaked with classical and jazz sensibilities, the Brothers' 2010 sophomore effort, Antifogmatic, is still uncommonly accessible—marrying Thile's tender songwriting with inventive arrangements, incredible melodies and instrumental grace. On stage, the group dips into an eclectic well of covers that includes everyone from Radiohead to The Strokes, The Beatles to Bach. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $20-24/ 8:30 p.m.
From: Pensacola, Fla.
Claim to fame: Southern gothic songwriter on David Byrne's label
Expect small surprises from this oddball singer-songwriter. Jim White's atmospheric, folk-based arrangements are a stew of American music—Beck and Grandaddy are good, though slightly off-base comparisons—soundtracking offbeat storytelling. Though White's sometimes goofy and occasionally just plain weird, his serious, ruminative work is hauntingly beautiful. The South Memphis String Band opens, teaming a trio of Mississippi-rooted boys—Grammy-winning country bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart, former Squirrel Nut Zipper leader and Buddy Guy sideman Jimbo Mathus and guitarist Luther Dickinson of the Black Crowes and North Mississippi Allstars—who tackle gospel, Delta blues, jug band tunes and, of course, traditional string band numbers. At REYNOLDS INDUSTRIES THEATER. $5-34/ 8 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
02.20 MASON'S APRON @ MOTORCO
Mason's Apron has been a band for a grand total of one single, solitary month (give or take a few days). Given they're already racking up attention and residencies, that fact's a little less startling if you realize the group's stocked with talented folks typically seen hitting the decks with Mandolin Orange, Hammer No More the Fingers, Big Fat Gap and The Lizzy Ross Band. It may have been calculated madness that brought them together, but their friendship actually formed thanks to the wealthy acoustic scene in Carrboro.
"When you pick and jam, it's fun to just say, 'Oh let's play this song, let's play that song,'" says bassist Miles Andrews, "but it's actually also a lot of fun to get the music together and tighten it up and share ideas and really make some fun music that means something a little bit—to us at least."
Mandolinist Andrew Marlin echoes the sentiment. "I think we all fulfill totally different roles in this band than we do in the other bands that we play in ... when we get in front of people, most of the stuff that we do isn't really worked out," he says. "It's kind of just right off the cuff with a lot of communication going on." Musically, that translates into a loose Americana vibe that's as likely to inspire them to kick an original instrumental jam as cover a Gillian Welch tune. "We totally wing it, but in a way that is completely rehearsed, " says guitarist Jeff Stickley, "and we'll be doing it every Sunday this month at Motorco." No cover / 12 p.m. —Ashley Melzer