This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Goner, The White Cascade, Iris Dement, Prisms, Young Orchids, Reckless Kelly, Micky & The Motorcars, The Waybacks, D. Charles Speer, Eugene Chadbourne
VS: O.A.R. vs. The Howlies vs. Chris Thomas King (& His Louisiana Blues Band)
INTRODUCING: The Charming Youngsters
HELPING: History Rocks!
07.14 GONER, THE WHITE CASCADE @ MOTORCO
The best bands don't reinvent the wheel so much as they improve it in new, unexpected ways. And though Goner has been around since the '90s—far longer than The White Cascade—both Raleigh bands have this in common. Goner, which celebrates yet another return to live performance, approaches sprawling Springsteen story songs with the taut energy of pop-punk. The White Cascade started innocuously enough, playing straightforward shoegaze in the vein of My Bloody Valentine. But three years in, this Raleigh trio is writing adventurous tunes that put synth-driven avant-garde soundscapes alongside driving disco funk. Free/ 8 p.m. —Corbie Hill
07.16 IRIS DEMENT @ N.C. MUSEUM OF ART
She famously sang that she would "Let the Mystery Be" on her first album back in 1992, but the mystery nowadays about Iris DeMent is whether she has let her songwriting muse be, for good. Her last album came out in 2004; while fellow acoustic-music heroine Gillian Welch broke a similar dry spell with a new record last month, there appears to be no sign of anything forthcoming from DeMent on disc. Good to know, though, that she's still venturing out to perform the first-rate material from her four albums. One new recording did surface last year, when DeMent sang the traditional hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" over the closing credits of the Coen brothers' True Grit remake. The Museum of Art keenly pairs DeMent with a screening of the film. $18/ 7 p.m. —Peter Blackstock
07.16 PRISMS, YOUNG ORCHIDS @ SLIM'S
Prisms is a bold new band that largely abandons the limitations of songs in favor of sprawling, noisy improvisation. The Durham trio often packs a projector and an art film, its members dressing in white and fading into the movie even as they spot-compose a Krautrock-inspired soundtrack. Textures tie them to tonight's openers, Atlanta's Young Orchids, who take cues aplenty from punk and nostalgic '60s radio rock. But the enormous, effects-drenched mix lends an unexpected shoegaze, almost industrial feel. Drawing from the '60s is nothing new, yet that seminal decade sounds at least unfamiliar, maybe even intriguing, in this treatment. $5/ 9 p.m.—Corbie Hill
07.18 RECKLESS KELLY, MICKY & THE MOTORCARS @ LINCOLN THEATRE
Led by Braun brothers Cody and Willy, Reckless Kelly features a blend of heartland rock, Bakersfield country and honky-tonk. It's a mix that's rife with hooks. Willy's earthy baritone offers the backbone, abetted by Cody's sweet harmonies and spirited playing. Though they favor the guitar over the fiddle, the Austin quintet's still more Texas country than NashVegas. They've released six studio albums in 13 years, the latest,Somewhere in Time, featuring a dozen songs penned by Idaho singer/ songwriter and longtime friend Pinto Bennett. The similarly minded Micky & the Motorcars feature younger Braun brothers Micky and Gary. $12–$15/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
07.20 THE WAYBACKS @ BERKELEY CAFE
The Waybacks hail from San Francisco, but they sound like they were raised in Appalachia. Bluegrass is the jumping-off point for the quartet's wide-ranging blend of styles, but they seem to evoke the whole Western spectrum. On their fourth and latest studio album, 2008's Loaded, the mix includes traces of bossa nova ("The River"), klezmer ("Black Cat"), Irish folk ("Beyond the Northwest Passage"), jazzy swing ("Savannah") and country-pop ("Good Enough"). The cross-pollination is handled with flashes of humor, like that of "I'm Really Fine," a tune that recounts an ongoing struggle for self-actualization while passing through the army, Catholicism, fine art, cooking, yoga, psychotherapy and bussing tables at Denny's. $15/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
07.20 D. CHARLES SPEER, EUGENE CHADBOURNE @ KINGS
A curator after my own heart, Ben Clack introduced his new Triangle talent initiative, New Weird South, with the following sentences: "I basically want to bring more unusual acts to Raleigh and to get people excited about things beyond just the standard rock shows. Ideally, I'd like to find ways to bring Arthur Doyle and other free jazz heroes around, too." Clack's second show in his worthy conquest pairs North Carolina's legendary genre and instrument builder, the inimitable Eugene Chadbourne, with another set of traveling country weirdos, D. Charles Speer and the Double Helix. Leaving the Commonwealth, the Helix's new LP via Thrill Jockey Records, cuts an alternately smart-ass, sad-eyed and surreal path through barnstorming country music. It's one of my favorite LPs of 2011, just as Clack's new program is one of my favorite local arts ideas of the year. With Shadow World Duo. $7–$9/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
THURSDAY, JULY 14
From: Rockville, Md., via Columbus, Ohio
Claim to fame: Jammy, adult-contemporary pop
Just as water finds its own level, O.A.R. has settled on a pleasant lowest common denominator sound so pedestrian you barely remember you've heard it. The enlarged-print, major-key melodies are inoffensive and featureless, other than the rather jammy grooves undergirding them. Frontman Marc Roberge has a mannered bedroom baritone croon reminiscent of Rob Thomas; it dominates the mix like a loud talker. They're essentially a modern version of easy listening music, made for those looking for a party with a soundtrack that's no more challenging than a childproof cap. Please, turn the car around. With SOJA and Kelley James. At RALEIGH AMPHITHEATER. $19.50–$29.50/ 6:30pm.
Claim to fame: Punchy, harmony-enriched garage pop
Atlanta quartet The Howlies sport a quirky charm and adventurous style informed by '60s garage pop, particularly the bright melodies and sonorous doo-wop harmonies. Driven by an insistent backbeat, the songs boast an infectious energy. Though definitely informed by acts like The Hollies, The Kinks and The Small Faces, they incorporate other elements like surf, psychedelica and Brill Building pop, while adding drug references and expressing a subtle, puckish sense of humor. Their 2008 debut LP, Trippin' With the Howlies, sometimes struggled with a self-satisfied smirk, but it's certainly more idiosyncratic and interesting than generic frat-poppers O.A.R. With The Blue Party. At THE CAVE. $5/ 10 p.m.
CHRIS THOMAS KING (& HIS LOUISIANA BLUES BAND)
Since: Mid '80s
Claim to fame: Pioneering early-'90s rap-and-blues band that played and acted in O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Son of Baton Rouge blues artist Rockin' Tabby Thomas, Chris Thomas King garnered mainstream attention for O Brother, but his pedigree goes back further. In his teens, he toured Europe with his father, and in the'80s secured major-label backing for his eclectic blend of blues styles (gospel, Chicago, Delta, soul). Thomas attempted several times to explore a fascinating rap-and-blues hybrid in the early '90s, a project that basically went unreleased and sent him back into the arms of the blues. He has a honeyed voice and ranges easily through many blues styles with an oft-overlooked lyrical skill. King's so talented, The Howlies and O.A.R. would need binoculars just to catch sight of him. At BERKELEY CAFE. $15/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
07.17 THE CHARMING YOUNGSTERS @ KINGS
"Our rehearsals are sparse, but we make the best out of them," says Eric Von Kopp, drummer for The Charming Youngsters. The pop-rock quintet is split between Raleigh and Greenville, cities separated by an unbelievably tedious stretch of Highway 264. Yet the distance makes their practices more powerful bonding experiences, complete with beer and video games. A friend lets them play in an art gallery on 5th Street , the heart of Greenville's downtown. "We're allowed to be noisy and not be bothered too often—except by the occasional downtown drunks," says Von Kopp. Adds guitarist and vocalist Nolan Smock, "We confuse the hell out of window shoppers."
The Charming Youngsters apply jangle and swing to radio-ready rock, as if Alex Chilton replaced Dave Grohl at the front of Foo Fighters. The band formed in the same gritty house-show scene that spawned Lonnie Walker, The Love Language, Valient Thorr and Future Islands. Two Youngsters moved to Raleigh earlier in 2011, but this didn't disrupt the show schedule nor delay the release of Fortescue, the band's second EP. "We are able to reap the best of both worlds, at the cost of a short drive every now and then," says bassist Sean Burleson. Howlies and Nests round out this Sunday bill. $5-$7/ 9:30 p.m. —Corbie Hill
07.16 HISTORY ROCKS! @ MOTORCO
It was all the way back in 1853 when Durham got its name, but only now might this creative corner of the Triangle be getting its own museum. The Museum of Durham History plans to showcase the richness of the area's history while fostering the development of its current community. This museum promises to highlight the compelling humanity of Durham's history by uniting dynamic storytelling and riveting imagery. This all kicks off mid-August with the launch of History Beneath Our Feet, an online resource where visitors can learn more about the origins of local streets and the figures for whom they were named.
Although there's no boulevard yet dedicated to the charisma of Phil Cook and His Feat, the Megafaun-famed guitarist (and new father) will headline the night with a set of spirited folk tunes. Metal punks Lurcher, Americana cruisers Shipwrecker and oldies cover band The Billitones round out the show; if that weren't enough, you can bet a few food trucks will be on hand to keep you fed. It's an all-ages show, and seeing as Durham hosts 6.31 million visitors each year, you'd better be there early. $8/ 8 p.m. —Ashley Melzer