YES, PLEASE: Airstrip, Fin Fang Foom, Pipe, Ben Davis, Ted Leo, Killer Filler, Small Ponds, Man Forever, David Allan Coe, Amen Dunes, Mountains
VS1: Delta Rae vs. Taj Mahal Trio
VS2: Islands vs. Attack Attack!
CELEBRATING: Discovery Anniversary: Treasure Fingers
02.16 AIRSTRIP @ NIGHTLIGHT
Matthew Park sort of dropped off the radar after his last project, Veelee, split up last year. Where that duo explored playful, occasionally careless tonescapes, his new project Airstrip seems menacingly tight. "So-So," the latest of three standalone tracks released via Airstrip's Bandcamp page, opens with a menacing invocation: "Some people will love each other/ some people will kill each other." His vocal melodies are insistently catchy, tucked into hermetic pop rhythms, and the messages are direct and personal—quite the opposite of his last project's minimal abstractions.
Park recorded these tracks at his home studio. Yet the live incarnation features musicians capable of rendering these tunes as metronome-precise onstage as on record (not everyone gets to share a rhythm section with Horseback, but he does). A full-band EP is in the works, which promises to be an exciting document when it does surface. With Lilac Shadows and Heads on Sticks. $5/ 9:30 p.m. —Corbie Hill
02.18 FIN FANG FOOM, PIPE, BEN DAVIS @ LOCAL 506
Fin Fang Foom last played a show in late 2010. Yet bands like the Foom—as much foundational as functional parts of the Chapel Hill music scene—can stand such absences. The trio's sinuous, terse post-punk speaks to the rollicking snap of vintage college radio rock while making space for larger post-rock structures. And while Foom has been together since '96, raucous punk act Pipe was an early Merge signee in '92 (Happy 20th!). Ben Davis holds similar street cred from his time in Milemarker. His current band, The Jetts, injects arena flair into late-'90s indie. $6 (free before 10 p.m.)/ 10 p.m.—Corbie Hill
02.18 TED LEO @ DUKE COFFEEHOUSE
Prolific D.C.-based songwriter and Pharmacists frontman Ted Leo steps out alone for this solo show, but don't expect the politically and socially minded singer to tone down his tunes for much of the set. Even without his backing trio, Leo's urgent indie rock is electric in both spirit and sound. Though Leo has streamlined his style over the past dozen-plus years, stray strands of influence (from dub, mod and rude-boy trends to folk and Celtic traditions) still stripe his jittery, dancy rhythms and melodic choruses chock full of hooks. Leo also has a knack for treating others' tunes as if they were his own. Merge mogul Mac McCaughan matches Leo's pep with the punk-edged slacker rock pioneered by Superchunk, along with the indie pop his Portastatic project has long championed. $5–$10/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
02.18 KILLER FILLER, SMALL PONDS @ THE CAVE
Sweet folk duo Small Ponds mint lilting Laurel Canyon folk. It's pretty, low-key music highlighted by the gentle harmonies of Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown, Tres Chicas) and Matt Douglas (The Proclivities). They released their debut self-titled EP in 2010, showcasing an understated charm epitomized by the slinky "Gypsy Cards," which suggests a dub version of Steve Miller's "Abracadabra." Killer Filler are what their name suggests and so much more. Led by ex-SCOTS keyboardist Chris Bess, they're an instrumental quintet at the intersection of surf, garage and R&B. It's a lively neighborhood where there's equal room for conversation and shaking it loose. 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
02.18 MAN FOREVER @ KINGS
Massed music, or the swelling sound of several players sending a simple idea into dizzying ecstasy, breaks past the bonds of human limitations. Instead of one guitarist playing a plain riff, we hear that riff, extrapolated to infinity, all of its variations occurring at once. This is the stuff of Rhys Chatham, Glenn Branca, Boredoms and, tonight, Oneida drummer Kid Millions. With Man Forever, Kid Millions gathers four or so drummers and an organist to play elementary patterns that eventually turn into an unstoppable din. Be prepared to be pushed back by might and swept in by intricacy. Savage Knights and Plasma Expander open. $6/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
02.18 DAVID ALLAN COE @ LINCOLN THEATRE
One of the most fascinating figures in all of music, David Allan Coe has written some of the finest pieces of rough-edged-and-mean country rock ever made. His assailable reputation isn't so simple, though, thanks to myths of jail time and various illicit activities, a series of race records and a general fuck-you disposition. Now in his 70s, he soldiers ahead, talking dirty and grumbling his standards in famously raucous shows. Openers Rebel Son picked up on the belligerent side of his songs, while Tonk plays the country straight, smart and sizzling in the first slot. $20–$25/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin
02.21 AMEN DUNES, MOUNTAINS @ KINGS
At first glance, the pairing of Amen Dunes and Mountains might appear incongruous. The former's lonely, introspective songs are distinctly the product of Damon McMahon's brain, while the latter's two-man drones value pure sound above individual ego. Yet both acts seem to share the common goal of reaching some higher mental and spiritual plane through obsessive, mind-stretching music. Both have also recently made their best work by expanding their sonic range. In McMahon's case, transforming Amen Dunes from a solo project to a full band helped give his songs a wider emotional palette; last year's Through Donkey Jaw contains a plethora of moving moments and mini-epiphanies. For Mountains, the rise in quality on 2011's Air Museum is primarily a matter of stylistic diversity. Throughout seven hypnotic tracks, the pair doles out long tones, synth squiggles, pulsing bass, and thick static, all in the service of musical meditation. Wear a blindfold and you will probably be able to pick out which band is which—but you might also be surprised by how the feelings you get from both are similar, perhaps even seamless. $6–$8/ 9:30 p.m. —Marc Masters
SATURDAY, FEB. 18
CLAIM TO FAME: Three-sibling, harmony-enriched country pop sextet
This battle presents an apples-to-oranges comparison more reflective of personal prejudices than these acts' own hierarchical position. Delta Rae's strengths—four-part harmonies, a dramatic mien evident in the vocal delivery and booming arrangements, and a polished country tone that incorporates elements of gospel, blues, rock and pop—aren't even in the same jurisdiction as their competitor's. Additionally, one's appreciation depends highly on great tolerance for Nashville's pop predilections like those of Lady Antebellum. While not as pop, it's of a similar vein with equally trite subject matter. But those predisposed to the sound will really enjoy their big voices and ample energy. With the Chris Hendricks Band. At CAT'S CRADLE. $10–$12/ 9 p.m.
TAJ MAHAL TRIO
SINCE: Early '60s
CLAIM TO FAME: Renowned world-music-loving blues singer/ guitarist
Since getting his start playing in Rising Sons with Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal's gigged with folks from the Rolling Stones to Buddy Guy. He exhibited trailblazing interest in Caribbean and West African music during the '70s, seamlessly incorporating it into his sound. After a fallow period, he returned to prominence amid the Stevie Ray-led renaissance. Taj Mahal's a fluid, keenly suggestive player, whose licks often echo other styles (jazz or reggae, for instance) without straying far from his blues-baked heart. His gruff, rumbling baritone nicely complements the sound. His experience and pedigree outpoints fresh-faced, would-be Nashville stars Delta Rae, despite their new major-label deal. At MEYMANDI CONCERT HALL. $20–$35/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
TUESDAY, FEB. 21
CLAIM TO FAME: The polished follow-up of a Unicorn
Touring behind its just-released fourth record, A Sleep & A Forgetting, Islands might be a bit mellow this time around. The quartet's new effort simply saunters along, with a few undeniably catchy, upbeat ditties scattered among otherwise deliberate indie pop jangles. The Valentine's Day drop is no coincidence: After a break-up and cross-country move, Nick Thorburn began writing for the album the same day one year ago; the cathartic results are unsurprisingly intimate. Lo-fi Lexington, Ky., one-man band Idiot Glee opens with retro-leaning pop soul akin to Floating Action. At LOCAL 506. $9–$11/ 9 p.m.
FROM: Westerville, Ohio
CLAIM TO FAME: Unimaginative, pop-sweetened metalcore
Attack Attack! juxtaposes hoarse screams and guttural growls with just the right amount of clean hooks and electronic embellishments, attracting slews of slam-dancing teens in brightly colored tees. This is all to say that the quartet's not much different from countless likeminded outfits churning out virtually indistinguishable records these days. From the unrelenting heaviness of The Ghost Inside to the pop inflections of Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! and locals Ever After and Wealth in Water, the rest of the bill follows in the same vein, relying ad nauseam on half-time breakdowns and double-bass blasts. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $17–$20/ 7 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
02.17 DISCOVERY ANNIVERSARY: TREASURE FINGERS @ KINGS
For 12 missions now, Discovery has invaded Kings Barcade to present what DJs and organizers Edwin "Nixxed" Whitted and Henry "Fuck the Biters" Lancaster III hope is "Raleigh's finest dance party." The two joined forces last year after recognizing the opportunity to present electronic dance music in an otherwise indie-saturated scene. "We just felt like going to Kings we could present electronic music in a venue rather than just a straight-up club setting, so it sort of bridged those two ideas together," explains Lancaster.
They've since offered boisterous sets of their own, showcased wild light shows and curated a rotating lineup of guest DJs from around and out of town, all key in solidifying their reputation. "It's not just 'Hey, come stand around in a room and dance and listen to some music,' it's a full show," says Whitted.
For their one-year anniversary, the pair will throw their biggest party yet, booking wickedly inventive Altanta DJ Treasure Fingers to headline. "This is a chance to see an internationally known DJ in your own backyard for like $7. We're pretty confident this doesn't happen most places in the world, and it's going to happen here," says Whitted. "That's going to be a good feeling for our one-year anniversary." $7/ 10 p.m. —Ashley Melzer