YES, PLEASE: Hammer No More The Fingers, Peter Mulvey, Lake & Hennepin, Leland Sundries, Twilighter, New Town Drunks, Psychic Ills, Roomrunner, Dope Body, Dustin Wong
EH, WHATEVER: Cults
VS: Fun. vs. Craig Finn
INTRODUCING: Paint Fumes
03.01 HAMMER NO MORE THE FINGERS @ TIR NA NOG
Though Hammer No More the Fingers hails from Durham, the power trio's primary touchstones initially appear to be Chapel Hill icons such as Superchunk and Polvo. But they often shirk those indie-rock stereotypes to mine '90s alternative influences injected with their own ingenious hook-crafting abilities, eccentric lyrical tendencies and grand arena ambitions. Incisive guitar shredding and incessant shout-along choruses make Hammer one of the best—and most fun—bands to see in the area. Opening is Raleigh collective The Big Picture, led by The Never's Jonny and Joah Tunnel; the band's lushly arranged soundscapes skew its indie-pop pedigree with hefty infusions of hip-hop and electronica. Free/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
03.01 PETER MULVEY @ CASBAH
A theater major at Marquette, Peter Mulvey wound up busking in the Boston subways, slowly building a regional following and local press accolades. He frequently sings with the mannered theatricality of a beatnik poet, or narrates in a radio baritone over delicately detailed fingerpicked runs stacked like a pyramid of crystal goblets. Beyond this stylistic tic, it's hard to figure why he hasn't found wider acclaim in the last two decades. His playing is astounding. He spent time in Ireland and proves as adept at a folksy reel as jammy acoustic-funk. The lyrics are heady, and mostly in a good way (as opposed to, say, a New Radicals way). Patrick Dyer Wolf opens. $10–$12/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
03.01 LAKE & HENNEPIN, LELAND SUNDRIES @ THE PINHOOK
Good news: There's a Lake & Hennepin LP in the works. The new band, fronted by Dirty Little Heaters singer Reese McHenry, had its first session Feb. 26 with Chris Rossi at Spacelab Studio. Rossi, who plays guitar in Lake & Hennepin, also recorded the Dirty Little Heaters' 7-inch, Fatty Don't Feel Good. Leland Sundries, a New York band appearing with these Durhamites, brings pensive, story-driven folk-rock punctuated by an intriguingly menacing banjo. Songwriter Nick Loss-Eaton writes with odd lyrical structures, building songs from disconnected observations. His nonlinear Americana poetry is filled with gorgeous, if detached, images such as "Snuck into the planetarium so I could sleep under the stars." John Hildenstein opens. $5/ 9 p.m. —Corbie Hill
03.02 TWILIGHTER, NEW TOWN DRUNKS @ THE CAVE
Twilighter aren't Edward/ Isabella acolytes. The Triangle staple predate their vampire brethren, and their music bristles like they're insulted by the suggestion. The quintet's spindly art-punk suggests Gang of Four held under a faucet and beaten with a rolled-up Bauhaus tract. But for all the post-punk angularity, there's still room for hooky psychedelic pop on songs such as "Phantom Limb." Their inebriated counterparts, the New Town Drunks, give catchy, lighthearted irreverence a name; indeed, they emblazon it on a dog collar. Their "what me, worry?" lyrics dovetail nicely with strummy, racing rhythms, giving performances a "we're here, where's the party?" vibe. Free/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
03.06 PSYCHIC ILLS, ROOMRUNNER @ KINGS
Brooklyn's Psychic Ills and Baltimore's Roomrunner make for strange tourmates, but that doesn't make this show any less compelling: Suggesting a more melodic Ash Ra Tempel and a less frenzied Acid Mothers Temple, Psychic Ills stretch themes beneath woozy jams. Bass and guitar wash against each other in the world's widest echo chamber. But Roomrunner goes back to primo grunge, stamping out Mudhoney-like bits of anger and irritation that catch almost every time. With The Ill Family. $6–$8/ 9:30 p.m.—Grayson Currin
03.06 DOPE BODY, DUSTIN WONG @ NIGHTLIGHT
This one will be incredible: Formerly of Ponytail and Ecstatic Sunshine, Dustin Wong uses the same dizzying guitar ideas he applied in those bands to create kaleidoscopic webs of sound. Riffs and purrs lace into an invitation of immersion, suggesting you sit right down and stare into the colors of space for a while. Baltimore's Dope Body, who just sealed the deal with Drag City Records, truss scuzz and triumph, tying menacing music that suggests Double Dagger to the splendid twists of Ponytail. Folks don't talk about Baltimore music as much they once did; here's proof that they should. $6/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
03.04 CULTS @ CAT'S CRADLE
In 2010, Cults debuted with a two-sided, two-song single called Go Outside, which darkened the corners of the duo's cheery, harmony-loving pop ever so slightly. With the help of a Robert Longo press photo and a momentary air of mystery about exactly who they were, Cults felt like a sophisticated young indie band with aims higher than the buzz and bites of music blogs. Indeed, Cults eventually stepped out of the shadows and signed to Columbia Records, through which they released their self-titled LP last year. The full-length smears the spunkiness and sinister side of those first Cults' tunes until they go lifeless—hooks without engines or dimensions, waiting lazily for something more. Phil Spector did this stuff just fine; what's the point of revivalism if you can't take the goods to the next step? With Writer and Mrs. Magician. $15–$17/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
SATURDAY, MARCH 3
From: New York
Claim to fame: Gleeful orchestral pop
There's nothing odd about the fact that Fun.'s single "We Are Young" was covered on Glee. They're a shiny, theatrical blend of fellow acts on the Fueled By Ramen label, combining the grandiosity of The Academy Is with Fall Out Boy's polished pop energy. This is what the Decemberists might sound like if they were transplanted into Jack's Mannequin. The music is generally well-crafted and lushly arranged, but the huge choral harmonies on the concept album Some Nights lead the band heedlessly past Queen into art-pop pretension. It's elegant, poppy and often quite rhythmically adventurous, but awfully rich and sugary. With Sleeper Agent. At CAT'S CRADLE. $17–$19/ 9 p.m.
From: Brooklyn by way of Minneapolis
Claim to fame: Springsteen-worthy down-and-out narratives
Fun. hardly stands a puncher's chance against Craig Finn, whose lyrical franchise features a blend of characters dark and colorful enough for an Elmore Leonard novel. Appearing for the first time as a solo artist, he's supporting a collection of songs that linger on the bleakness more than his Hold Steady "Positive Jams." Clear Heart Full Eyes is a quieter album that puts his words in bas-relief; the music is influenced by a collection of alt-country ringers he picked up in Austin. Where Fun. is oversized and theatrical, Finn is pulled back, and the tighter spotlight makes the emotions that much more distinct, allowing him to easily overshadow the competition. With Marcellus Hall & the Hostages. At LOCAL 506. $12–$14/ 8:30 p.m. —Chris Parker
03.03 PAINT FUMES @ MOTORCO MUSIC HALL
Paint Fumes are, arguably, Charlotte's most important loud band. The city has become a hotbed for garage and punk with the likes of Brain F≠ and Young and in the Way, but these bands owe many of their first shows to Elijah Von Cramon, Fumes frontman and booking force at the integral house show spot Sewercide Mansion.
Lately his own band, started less than a year after Cramon learned to play guitar, has become one of the city's best. They're a forceful and frenetic garage trio, playing Oblivians-inspired rave-ups with an aggressive, high-speed edge that indicates Cramon's proximity to hardcore. With the always energetic Josh Johnson (aka Pinche Gringo) behind the kit, the trio's live sets are breathless and infectious.
"I've always liked old music," Cramon says of the band's taste for old-school rock 'n' roll riffs. Still, he emphasizes punk's influence on their songs. "All that stuff is super simple, but it always has a different sound. It's the same chords that have been played forever. It's just making them your own."
Paint Fumes' first single drops in March, with a full-length to follow later this year. Paint Fumes play Motorco on Saturday, March 3, with Drunken Prayer and Midway Charmers. $5/ 9 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence