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The guide to the week's concerts 

This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Tisch Benefit, Jonathan Richman, Steep Canyon Rangers, Doug & Telisha Williams, 9th Wonder Showcase, American Aquarium, The Get Up Kids, Sourvein

VS.: Marnie Stern vs. David Dondero

INTRODUCING: Jordan & The Sphinx

SHOWING: Sacred Steel Photography



The Moderate's third annual concert benefitting the Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke—an organization that's helped the band's pal Dan Reeves, as well as the late local music superfan Cy Rawls—is also a homecoming event for the D.C. quartet, half of whom are Raleigh natives. Hints of those Southern roots show in the band's driving pop-rock. Hillsborough four-piece Wembley sounds deceptively simple, using clever arrangements that scatter subtle accouterments between bursts of keys and shards of guitar that bounce between coed vocals. Matt Douglas—co-leader of The Small Ponds and frontman of The Proclivities—opens with a well-written batch of tasteful ballads. $10/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith

click to enlarge Jonathan Richman - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST


Founder of The Modern Lovers, forebear of punk, troubadour of There's Something About Mary, Jonathan Richman sings simple, stream-of-consciousness story-songs while strumming an acoustic guitar. His voice transforms from a Lou Reed-style speaking of lyrics to a croon rooted in early rock 'n' roll. Song topics vary from Pablo Picasso to vampires to Boston to cell phones. While not scared of the silly, Richman avoids becoming a novelty act through a sense of genuine, almost childlike wonder and an occasional nostalgic melancholy. Can you really pass up the chance to see Richman perform "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar?" $13–$15/ 9 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey


Bluegrass has its roots in popular music. The Steep Canyon Rangers honor those roots by branching out and rounding harsh edges, finding a sound that ultimately shares space with contemporary country. The quintet started playing together during the members' undergraduate years at UNC a decade ago. The Rangers have grown over the years, with each release climbing higher on the charts, and the group garnered even more recognition when they became Steve Martin's backing band. In March, the group releases Rare Bird Alert—including a bluegrass-ified take on "King Tut"—with their sometimes leader. $10–$12/ 9 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey


Doug and Telisha Williams animate small-town life in the Southeast. Hailing from Martinsville, Va., the husband-and-wife duo sing of unemployment, heartbreak and whiskey. Somewhere between folk and old-time country, they even allow a chilling murder ballad in their repertoire. Doug strums a tender acoustic guitar that can develop into rollicking Southern rock. Slapping the upright bass, Telisha sings with a Dixie-darling twang that alternates from cynical and world-weary to playful and seductive. The duo is joined by another married couple—Sally Spring and Ted Lyons. On acoustic and resonator guitars, Spring and Lyons deliver a broader, slower-burning folk-rock approach. $18–$20/ 8 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey


There's not really anything left for 9th Wonder to do locally, other than run for public office. Hell, we'd all vote for him, right? Until then, we get his exploratory committee of rhyme spitters and singers. His party consists of a white guy who will floor you with rap humor (Thee Tom Hardy), an adorable black girl who's not afraid of any emcee cipher (Rapsody), a feisty point guard from the Bay Area who raps huskily (GQ) and more deal breakers. Who knows? Maybe Phonte will show up to offer his endorsement. 10 p.m. —Eric Tullis


Considering American Aquarium has spent the past few years living on the road much more often than in Raleigh, the band's showmanship and airtight musicianship hasn't been in question for quite some time. But with each new tune BJ Barham pens, he inches closer to becoming one of the South's most reliable alt-country songwriters, despite the inconsistencies of his alternately sensitive and sneering personas. The upbeat roots rock of Wilmington's Onward, Soldiers comes largely in the form of breezy jangles, with scattered despondency occasionally shadowing the levity. $8/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith

click to enlarge The Get Up Kids - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


When The Get Up Kids last came to the Cradle in November 2009, it was the influential emo rockers' first tour in more than four years. As such, it drew heavily from Something to Write Home About, the band's biggest and best album, released a decade prior. This time around, the quintet is supporting There Are Rules, its first full-length since calling it quits in 2005. While the keyboard-centric Rules is a fun listen, its ultimately unmemorable, lacking Write Home's treasure trove of hooks and sing-along choruses; fortunately, there will still be plenty of cuts from the latter. Get a double dose of engaging indie pop from openers Miniature Tigers and Brian Bonz. $18–$22/ 7:30 p.m. —Spencer Griffith


No opener has been announced for this show. But, really, Sourvein doesn't need one. The long-running Wilmington doom crew has been lugging riffs like bags of cannonballs for almost 20 years, and with new album Black Fangs on the horizon, it shows no sign of quitting soon. Singer T. Roy Medlin leads the band with a raspy howl (not unlike the one favored by Weedeater's Dixie Dave Collins). But where other like-minded acts suck their riffs deeper, slower into bottomless pits of sludge, Sourvein's sound is more brackish and foggy, like a ghost ship inching its way along a marshy coast in a very dark night. 9 p.m. — Bryan Reed



From: New York
Since: 2006
Claim to fame: Face-shredding guitarist with good pop instincts

Like a Marvel-ian back-alley super brawl, this matchup pits artists with very different powers. Marnie Stern's contorting time signatures allow her to blink through time-space, delivering wicked slashes of guitar. Her pedal rack looks capable of launching an Apollo rocket. Though many indie superheroes employ squealing squalls and chest-caving throb, Stern leavens her mix with killer tunefulness. It runs from her sweet, willowy vocals to the sturdy, hummable melodies hidden within the whirling, slicing noise-pop/ rock. It's as though she's beside you in the thunderous cacophony, cooing in your ear—exactly which ear changes moment to moment. With Tera Melos, Gray Young. At KINGS BARCADE. $8–$10/ 9:30 p.m.



From: Everywhere (but by way of Duluth, Minn.)
Since: Late '80s
Claim to fame: Inspired Conor Oberst's vocal style

David Dondero works in an entirely different vein than Stern. His pen, heart and ambling Dylan-esque folk-poesy coalesce in a piercing style that pokes holes in your heart like a pencil through a paper cup. His timeless style is poignant in its simplicity—a guitar and a voice serving tales of windblown souls, plucky survivors and withered or wounded love. He's Mark Twain and Leonard Cohen rolled up in Townes Van Zandt—you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll want to share a beer with him. For all her technical prowess, Stern can't beat that. With Franz Nicolay. At LOCAL 506. $8–$10/ 9:30p.m. —Chris Parker



In 2003, Jordan Dupree and wife, Adrienne Christiana, began performing together in Knoxville. But Jordan & The Sphinx became a family band three years later when Christiana's father and brother joined following the couple's move back to her childhood home in Arkansas. After cutting its teeth hosting the weekly open mic at a nearby VFW, the group hit a rough patch a few years later when Christiana's father had to give up drumming amid difficulties recording an album and finding shows. After a brief schism, the pair patched up its relationship and headed to Durham in late 2008, on Dupree's brother's promise that a rich local music scene awaited them.

"[We were] hoping to record our songs, meet great local musicians and get involved in a vibrant music community," Dupree explains of the move, and they've done just that. Hooking up with bassist William Brown and former American Aquarium drummer Paco Robles, the new incarnation of Jordan & The Sphinx released an EP last May, revealing a funky folk sound that's wildly eclectic but positively steeped in the band's rambling Southern experiences. With the newly rechristened Effingham and Richmond's The Itchy Hearts. $5/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith



The sacred steel sound finds its origins in the predominantly black House of God and Church of the Living God denominations of Pentecostal Christianity. In recent years, the sacred steel sound has emigrated, perhaps never more notably than in the hands of Robert Randolph and the Family Band. But the tradition has remained, mostly, in the church.

Florida musicologist Robert L. Stone immersed himself in the sacred steel scene for his 2010 book, Sacred Steel: Inside an African-American Steel Guitar Tradition. In it, he explores the music's religious functions and its secular evolution, its players and its audiences. This week, The ArtsCenter opens a small exhibit of some of Stone's black-and-white photography, casting images of a deeply religious and sonically captivating musical tradition that proves, if nothing else, that America still has a few musical tricks up its sleeve. The exhibit is part of the ArtsCenter's Southern Sacred Steel Conference, which, through the month, also features performances from The Allen Boys, The Lee Boys and the Aubrey Ghent Band; a lecture on sacred steel by Stone; and a sacred steel worship service. The photography exhibit is free to the public. —Bryan Reed


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