This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: We Are Country Mice, Young Buffalo, Erykah Badu, Superchunk, Veelee, Systems, Bitter Resolve, Redress Raleigh Benefit, The Others Benefit, Americans in France, Invisible Hand, Naked Gods, Milagres, Xray Eyeballs, Spider Bags, The Small Ponds
VS.: Kenny Roby vs. Tim Reynolds and TR3 vs. Greg Brown
03.03 WE ARE COUNTRY MICE, YOUNG BUFFALO @ THE PINHOOK
We Are Country Mice are from Brooklyn. That said, these city mice play a sort of retrospective rural rock. Songs like "A Good Old Fashioned Barn Raising" aren't too different from early Modest Mouse surf-meets-jangle-meets-stomp, while "The Ballad of John" aims for an electrified Springsteen character. Mississippi's Young Buffalo adds Africa-according-to-Paul Simon vocal harmonies to world-ish percussion. But sometimes, such as in "Three Deep," they mix these harmonies with a bright, optimistic post-punk punch. That's when they're at their best. These two acts play Durham as part of the great annual pilgrimage that brings hordes of bands, like so many van-bound monarch butterflies, to South by Southwest, in Texas. $7/ 9 p.m. —Corbie Hill
03.04 ERYKAH BADU @ DPAC
The mantra Black Girls Rule is as powerful as ever—especially now that Janelle Monáe's fluorescent fusion of anything rhythmic has her headed toward pop iconoclasm. We owe a great deal of this to the reigning priestess of soul music, Erykah Badu, whose 2010 LP New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh should have been mentioned in any one of this year's Grammy conversations—some of which included Monáe. For years, Badu has used these onstage moments as her therapy sessions, a one-on-all confessional with her long-time disciples, all no less than entranced by their one-and-only analogue girl. $45–$96.15/ 8 p.m. —Eric Tullis
03.04 SUPERCHUNK, VEELEE @ CAT'S CRADLE
Most every time Superchunk—more or less the unfaltering anchor of Triangle indie rock, not necessarily in sound but certainly in vision and importance—plays Cat's Cradle, they book a blue-chip upstart as openers. Last time, it was the sidewinding Durham trio Hammer No More the Fingers; this time, it's the serpentine Carrboro duo Veelee. The move not only shows that the Triangle still makes loads of great music and that Superchunk somehow has its collective ear to the ground but also that Mac McCaughan, Laura Ballance, Jim Wilbur and Jon Wurster are as perfectly punchy as any band that's come in their wake. If last year's excellent Majesty Shredding didn't convince you that the scene veterans still have it, see them live; they remain a wonder. $14/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
03.04 SYSTEMS, BITTER RESOLVE @ THE RESERVOIR
Is this post-thrash? Systems draw from all over the heavy spectrum to create a sound that has the space and atmosphere of a Neurot band but an immediacy that indicates a background in hardcore. Ghost Medicine, the juggernaut full-length to be released this summer, pits harsh black metal roars against haunted baritone countermelodies, all atop a tempest of doom and death metal that threatens to drop the floor out with its bassy heft. Chapel Hill's Bitter Resolve, stoner-doom calling to mind a more concise Electric Wizard, plays its first show with the punishing drums of Lauren Fitzpatrick—also of local duo The Curtains of Night. It may be a good year for local heavies, with Bitter Resolve also readying a record for release this summer. Free/ 10 p.m. —Corbie Hill
03.05 REDRESS RALEIGH BENEFIT @ KINGS
ReDress Raleigh makes ecological reform stylish with an annual fashion show that demonstrates how green clothes can still be stylish. This benefit won't hurt the appeal—it sports three of the area's most accessible outfits. I Was Totally Destroying It decorate '90s indie rock grit with jubilant pop hooks and danceable beats. Bright Young Things urbanize well-worn folk roads with British Invasion harmony and pretty melodic fills. Opener Wesley Wolfe, a live wire of nervy emotion, offers wonderfully overthought pop rock. $8/ 9:30 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
03.04 THE OTHERS BENEFIT @ MOTORCO
Raising funds for the Durham Crisis Response Center's efforts to end domestic and sexual violence, this four-act bill is stacked with female talent. Athens' Caroline Aiken is a vet of the worldwide coffeehouse folk scene, having long since graduated to performing her bluesy, pop-inflected jangles on festival stages with friends and contemporaries Bonnie Raitt and the Indigo Girls. Midtown Dickens kicks off the event in duo form, offering early rewards with its charmingly sincere anti-folk ditties. In between, Fujiyama Roll combines classic American rock with Japanese pop, while Durham native Adia Ledbetter croons sultry jazz with silky scatting. $8-10/ 8 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
03.08 AMERICANS IN FRANCE, INVISIBLE HAND, NAKED GODS, MILAGRES @ NIGHTLIGHT
Americans In France's knotty output is as exhilarating as licking a nine-volt battery. It's a bundle of anxious energy, sarcasm and wiry post-punk. But it is also, undoubtedly, pop. This makes them the perfect headliner for a four-band bill that skews the template enough to compel attention without alienating ears. Virginia's Invisible Hand, meanwhile, offers jittery strands of melody and southpaw hooks, while Boone's Naked Gods wind agile melodies into percussive, dynamic songs that echo art pop and classic rock in equal measure. New Kill Rock Stars signees Milagres open, busting this bill's trend with gauzy synth-driven pop. $6/ 9:30 p.m. —Bryan Reed
03.09 XRAY EYEBALLS, SPIDER BAGS @ THE PINHOOK
To put it mildly, 21st-century garage rock is thriving beyond anyone's wildest Nuggets-size dreams. However, if you're not independently wealthy and you're having trouble choosing between the Phil Spector girl-group enthusiasts, the post-punk provocateurs, and the Jesus & Mary Chain amp wreckers, fear not: Brooklyn five-piece Xray Eyeballs is a one-stop shop that covers all those bases, as well as a few you probably didn't know needed covering. With the static-laden country-fried stylings of Chapel Hill's Spider Bags opening things, this show promises to shower attendees with an embarrassment of lo-fi riches (along with a beer or 12). Also, the fantastic Last Year's Men. $7/ 9 p.m. —David Raposa
03.09 THE SMALL PONDS @ THE POUR HOUSE
The joint outlet of The Proclivities' Matt Douglas and Whiskeytown's Caitlin Cary, The Small Ponds make elegant and gentle music, showcasing soft harmonies that float with a velvet touch. Of course, there are hints of Cary's twangy past and Douglas' polyglot rock presence, but the songwriting duo's sweeping pop savvy is hardly restricted. Touring with the Ponds on the way to South by Southwest is Brooklyn quartet My Cousin, The Emperor—led by N.C. State grad Jason Reischel—which often mirrors the buoyant, pop-fringed country rock lopes of Limbeck. 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
SATURDAY, MARCH 5
Since: Mid '90s
Claim To Fame: Ex-Six String Drag frontman
Kenny Roby's quite comfortable with the plaintive peals of reverb guitar, having explored country and roots rock for more than a decade as a solo artist and in Six String Drag. It's not surprising, then, that by stepping outside this comfort zone, Roby discovered a hard-hitting new look. His last album, The Mercy Filter, bobs and weaves with sneaky power pop allure that suggests Elvis Costello with more of Graham Parker's soulful bite. His sonorous baritone sidles easily between aching ode and cooing paean, providing the versatility this new direction requires. This second sound really punches up the set list. With Jerry Leger. At THE CAVE. $5/ 10 p.m.
TIM REYNOLDS AND TR3
From: St. Louis and New Mexico (by way of N.C.'s Outer Banks)
Since: Mid '80s
Claim to fame: Dave Matthews' lead guitarist
Tim Reynolds started his jazz-rock fusion act TR3 before his bartender friend started Dave Matthews Band, but DMB has come to define how the public sees Reynolds. An exceptionally skilled guitarist, he's joined Matthews on numerous duo tours. His guitar gymnastics are awe-inspiring but careful to serve the song, an attitude that makes him a fine foil for Matthews. While the funky aspects of TR3 will appeal to jam enthusiasts, Reynolds as frequently indulges in jazz-augmented classical folk reminiscent of Jorma Kaukonen's work with Jefferson Airplane. Reynolds' only significant deficiency is his gruff vocals, which lack the dynamism of his playing. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $14–$20/ 9 p.m.
Since: Early '70s
Claim to fame: Grammy-winning rustic folk icon
Greg Brown, or Iris Dement's hubby, is a star, though his fame's been bounded by the insular nature of the folk scene. He's the archetypal triple threat—capable of dropping you with keenly observed, oft-humorous stories, a nimble baritone that's equally comfortable at either end of his range, or his stirring folk-blues fingerpicking. His songs run from quiet reflection to gentle beauty and even bristling jazz-blues at times. He's just too cool with his homey everyman style and easygoing wit. Roby and Reynolds are worthy competitors, but they must bow before the master. With Bo Ramsey. At CAT'S CRADLE. $28–$30/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
03.04 TOWERS @ NIGHTLIGHT
Though he's no longer part of UNC's collegiate bubble, Derek Torres isn't new to the surrounding town's music community. He was a multi-instrumentalist in the dance-rocking Lake Inferior, which grew from one of Chapel Hill's best student bands into a fresh, invigorating force. Now he moves on with Towers.
"Lake Inferior broke up in July, so I just had a bunch of material," he says, explaining that Towers grew out of demos he recorded over the summer.
The results are a revolt of sorts. Torres, tired of the processed electro-pop of his old band, wanted to get back to "real rock 'n' roll." Fuzzy and lo-fi, the new songs are a psyched-out take on primal swagger, like Panda Bear remixing Elvis. He's polishing the tracks now with arranging partner Sam Logan (of the retro-fueled Huguenots) and Karen Blanco and Alex Maiolo, who played for defunct acid-pop act Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies. He's been practicing and recording with them, but he's unsure they'll make it for Friday's concert.
"I have a show coming up, and I have no idea who's going to be playing with me," he laughs. With The Forms, The Lisps and Felix Obelix. 9:30 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence