This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Blag'ard, Transportation, The Jackets, Tonk, David Gray, Ben Hall, Night Fever, Red Elvises, D-Town Brass
VS.1: Spirit Family Reunion vs. Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group
VS.2: Hoots & Hellmouth vs. Holy Ghost Tent Revival
INTRODUCING: Captain Amerifest
06.30 BLAG'ARD, TRANSPORTATION @ CASBAH
Blag'ard and Transportation couldn't approach rock from angles any more divergent. The former, a Chapel Hill guitar-and-drums duo, has released two albums of careening, '90s-style indie rock. The snappy tension is matched by neurotic, often uncomfortable lyrics, but the tunes are both catchy and insightful. Songwriter Joe Taylor is a master of telling us things about himself and ourselves we might not like. As for Transportation, think a late-'70s power pop band trying its hand at yacht rock, or Badfinger with a bit more swag. The Chapel Hill trio takes a soft-edged approach, writing about women and men and the games they both play. $5/ 9 p.m. —Corbie Hill
07.01 THE JACKETS, TONK @ KINGS
Members of country rock 'n' rollers The Jackets have been making music around these parts for years, just not always together. Chandler Holt and John Teer are key members of revelatory bluegrass band Chatham County Line, while Roger Gupton's done time with Backsliders and Hotel Lights and under his own name. With their pal Evans Nicholson on drums, these veterans arrive somewhere between The Jayhawks and The Band on your playlist. Raleigh's Tonk—named for their honky-tonk stylings and known for their pedal steel swerves, walking bass lines and rhythmic shuffle—opens. $7/ 10 p.m. —Ashley Melzer
07.03 DAVID GRAY @ DPAC
When British singer-songwriter David Gray, best known for hits like "This Year's Love" and "Babylon," last played a sold-out DPAC, the songs worked as equal partners with his cutting, unflinching wit. Remember, after all, that though Gray's best known for romantic tunes that sway or acoustic tunes that gallop innocently, his winning streak with American pop audiences only came after a series of sardonic, snappy albums that cut some crooked path between Billy Bragg and Richard Ashcroft. Tonight, he plays with a mostly acoustic ensemble. Gray's repertoire is deeper than his mainstream reputation might suggest. $45/ 7:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
07.03 BEN HALL @ LOCAL 506
Ben Hall is a thumb-style guitar player in the manner of Merle Travis, meaning that he's a preserver of and conduit for a distinct style of American music that's moved well out of the spotlight. But Hall, who moved from Mississippi to Nashville several years ago to attend college, is more than some time capsule. Like his Tompkins Square labelmate Frank Fairfield, Hall climbs inside his particular form, making it his own and delivering it with the believable gusto of youth. He'll play first tonight, at 8:30 p.m. If you have evening plans, Hall plays in Carrboro at 4 p.m. at All Day Records. The former Charlie Louvin sideman, who can just now take a legal drink of whiskey, is a lot to look forward to.—Grayson Currin
07.04 NIGHT FEVER @ KINGS
Danish punks Night Fever offer a surprisingly captivating smear of Youth Crew hardcore and '80s speed metal. That mix winds up sounding something like a straight-edge Motörhead. Local heavyweights Double Negative are, as always, on top of their game, especially following the release of recent singles Hardcore Confusion, Vols. 1 & 2. Visitors from Richmond in Unholy Thoughts and Slugz keep pace with, respectively, speedy old-school hardcore à la Negative Approach or Poison Idea and hooky, rock 'n' roll-infested hardcore. Tonight, the fireworks are definitely at Kings. $7–$9/ 9 p.m. —Bryan Reed
07.05 RED ELVISES @ THE POUR HOUSE
If Southern Culture on the Skids had grown up under a Communist jackboot while dreaming of America, they might have become the Red Elvises. The Siberian transplants formed in Los Angeles during the mid-'90s behind frontman Igor Yuzov. Like SCOTS, their sound's a free-flowing mix of surf, rockabilly, country and rock, with occasional odd excursions into lounge and gypsy swing, speckled with a country-mouse appreciation of American pop culture ("Twist Like Uma Thurman," "A Kegga Beer and Potato Chips"). Fortunately, there's more to the band than singing "Yabba dabba doo" during "Party Like a Rock Star": They're talented musicians who channel their nostalgia and wonder into catchy, upbeat tunes with knowing theatrical flair. $12–$15/ 9 p.m.—Chris Parker
07.05 D-TOWN BRASS @ MOTORCO
Bull City big band D-Town Brass is a 14-member ensemble that explores nearly every avenue the format allows—and rarely disappoints. Marimba, vibraphone, keys and percussion support a gaggle of horns, allowing the adventurous troupe to veer from spacey lounge and tropical exotica to a suspenseful cinematic swing or skronky uptown jazz. Whatever direction D-Town takes, it's always infectious and often lends itself to dancing. Don't fret if holiday plans make you miss this gig; D-Town's Motorco residency means there's another opportunity each Tuesday throughout July. Free/ 8 p.m.—Spencer Griffith
FRIDAY, JULY 1
SPIRIT FAMILY REUNIONFrom: Brooklyn
Did D.C. music fans eventually tire of recycled Gang of Four riffs? Did Monet's lover one day cry, in exasperation, "No more water lilies"? I can't say, but if you're looking for originality, you'll find less from Brooklyn's umpteenth rollicking Americana act than on the pop charts. This 20-something quartet has pleasant boy-girl harmonies and a foot-stomping acoustic spirit that blends The Band, Woody Guthrie and the Soggy Bottom Boys. Neither the melodies nor the songs are particularly memorable, however. While Spirit Family Reunion is not bad, both your money and time are better spent on a Ralph Stanley disc. At BYNUM GENERAL STORE. Free/ 7 p.m.
ROBIN AND LINDA WILLIAMS AND THEIR FINE GROUPFrom: Virginia
You don't have to play for 40 years to fashion a certain authenticity, but it doesn't hurt. Robin and Linda Williams offer everything you could ask of American folk music—from sweet harmonies to crisp, lively playing, plus well-crafted songs whose concept of rustic living honors long-standing traditions rather than a Green Acres conception of the country. As their appearances on Prairie Home Companion suggest, they aren't beyond wit or romanticism, but their reputation's built on songs like the slyly poignant "Men With Guns," their swinging "Train Whistle Blues" or haunting "Don't Let Me Come Home a Stranger." Their time-honored, harmony-enriched country-folk exposes acts like Spirit Family Reunion as callow pretenders getting over on youthful novelty. At AMERICAN TOBACCO. Free/ 6 p.m. —Chris Parker
WEDNESDAY, JULY 6
HOOTS & HELLMOUTH
Claim to fame: Raucous live performances
Road-seasoned revivalists Hoots & Hellmouth craft tunes that sound as if they were written decades ago, but the quartet's primal punk bent pulls them into the present. Folding fleet fingerpicking and rough harmonies into its mighty fine folk tunes, the band takes listeners on a roller coaster ride from loose, laid-back roots pop jangles to full-tilt bluegrassy breakdowns. Fortunately, there are ample breaks in the country madness, allowing the songwriting's soulful Southern edge, timeless lyricism and immediate melodies room to shine. The show, part of Natty Greene's Taste the South series, will feature the local brewpub's suds, which should serve as fuel for the music's stomp and stammer. At THE POUR HOUSE. $8/ 9 p.m.
HOLY GHOST TENT REVIVAL
Claim to fame: Raucous live performances
Well-traveled hellraisers Holy Ghost Tent Revival craft tunes that sound as if they had been written decades ago, but the septet's celebratory cross-genre cocktail makes their postmodern aims clear. Blending brass instrumentation and Beatles influences into raging ragtime tunes, the band takes listeners on a trip through time and tradition from Dixieland to bluegrass and doo-wop to classic pop/rock. Fortunately, there's enough calm in the swirling storm of compelling, shout-along choruses and rug-burning rhythms to latch onto a bevy of hooks. Tonight is part of the Music in the Gardens series, whose picturesque setting should provide a stark contrast for the music's unruly energy. At DUKE GARDENS. $5–$10/7 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
07.01–02 CAPTAIN AMERIFEST @ CASBAH
"It was kind of out of necessity at first," admits Casbah booking agent Steve Gardner. "I like doing festivals, but I usually don't do them on this short notice." But for the relatively new Durham club, Fourth of July weekend was a blank slate, with no bands booked for the all-important Friday and Saturday nights. So, because it's 2011, Gardner turned to Facebook.
A few months earlier, he'd created a group, NC Garage/Punk, to keep members "up-to-date with what is happening in the North Carolina live garage rock/ punk scene." He'd wanted to do a garage rock festival, inspired by Chapel Hill's erstwhile Sleazefest and in line with the Bull City Metal Fest Casbah hosted in February.
Once he'd mentioned to the NC Garage/Punk group he was hoping to put together a short-notice fest on Independence Day weekend, it wasn't long before the bill started taking shape. "That Facebook group really helped, because people got excited about it and it got the word out," Gardner says. "I really wasn't sure if I'd be able to fill up two nights. I thought I'd end up with maybe one night with five bands." Instead, he filled two nights with 16 bands.
Among those ranks, there's plenty of variety: Richmond's Haverchucks hock loogies of snotty Screeching Weasel punk while Raleigh's Mumu Tutu brings a '77 swagger. Durham's Wild Wild Geese lead their '90s-style indie rock with roaring guitars, while their neighbors in Brainbows favor a bass-driven post-punk rumble, and Thee Dirtybeats look to the '60s for their hazy psych-garage. This year's Amerifest, Gardner says, is "kind of a test case." But he doesn't balk at the idea of turning his last-minute punt into an annual tradition. $9/ 5 p.m. —Bryan Reed