YES, PLEASE: Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Lexx Luthor, Widow, Clay Pigeons, Magnolia Collective, Pratie Heads, Le Weekend, Airstrip, Joe Bell, The Dynamite Brothers, Stripmines
EH, WHATEVER: Mountain Heart, Buckethead, That 1 Guy
VS1: Devil Makes Three vs. Sagapool
VS2: Miniature Tigers vs.Ava Luna
INTRODUCING: Prypyat, Trepak
03.15 LYLE LOVETT, JOHN HIATT @ DURHAM PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt used to do this acoustic tour with compadres Guy Clark and Joe Ely; more recently, they've pared it down to a duo, losing a little of the variety but gaining some focus. It's not really a show supporting Lovett's new album, Release Me, which reflects his large-ensemble tendencies more than this stripped-down presentation can accommodate. Still, Lovett is a master performer in almost any setting, and if there's a more accomplished Americana songwriter than him over the past quarter-century, it may well be Hiatt, with whom he shares an innate understanding of the connective tissue between country and R&B. $32.50–$82.50/7:30 p.m. —Peter Blackstock
03.16 LEXX LUTHOR, WIDOW @ BERKELEY CAFE
On last year's Life's Blood, the Raleigh metal squad Widow makes its own case for retromania, diving headlong into the melodic excess and fantastic lyrical voyages of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. And while the time machine's already set to 1980, tonight's headliner, the Kinston-based heavy metal cover band Lexx Luthor, will run through a list of classic favorites. Playing since 1984 with a rotating cast that counts ex-members Robert Sledge (Ben Folds Five) and Sully Erna (Godsmack), Lexx Luthor's seasoned covers ought to mesh nicely with Widow's reverent originals. Wilson-based thrash re-enactors Dark Design open. $5/9 p.m. —Bryan C. Reed
03.16 CLAY PIGEONS, MAGNOLIA COLLECTIVE @ THE POUR HOUSE
Raleigh quartet Clay Pigeons play Americana with a rock-centric bent. Even with its jangly guitar and thumping country bass line, a track like "The Day We Drove to the Rodeo" is driven by a sturdy backbeat and wailing vocals, deeply recalling Patty Hurst Shifter. The harmonies are really terrific, too, suggesting the Eagles with the pretty, album-closing title ballad of last year's American Pipedream EP. Their wistful romanticism and ne'er-do-well charm comes captured in their observation, "What have these heroes of yesterday turned out to be? Wage weary workers and hourly prisoners who just find the end to a means." Keening, haunted country-folkies The Magnolia Collective open. $5–$7/10 p.m. —Chris Parker
03.17 PRATIE HEADS @ SHARED VISIONS CENTER
If you'd like to observe St. Patrick's Day in a manner that doesn't require the guzzling of watery domestics colored green or endless jokes about getting lucky, here's an acceptable alternative: As Pratie Heads, Jane Peppler and Bob Vasile have been enthusiastically arranging and inventively interpreting Celtic tunes for three decades. Their 30th-anniversary concert guarantees a celebration of commitment, not of calendar coincidence. $8–$10/7:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
03.17 LE WEEKEND, AIRSTRIP @ THE PINHOOK
Le Weekend's deconstructed college radio-rock hits on two divergent ends of that spectrum—passion and apathy. The music is technical as hell, yet Le Weekend has a penchant for establishing an ebullient, catchy melody just to cut it off quickly and switch to another one. With casual vocals and jarring starts and stops, Le Weekend plays like a mid-'90s indie band having an identity crisis mid-song. Exciting new band Airstrip brings dark, riff-built pop that neither navel-gazes nor gets mired down in its own gloom. $5/10 p.m. —Corbie Hill
03.18 JOE BELL, THE DYNAMITE BROTHERS @ MOTORCO
This two-band bill is advertised as a benefit to back Partners for Youth, a Durham mentoring and job-placement program that works with area teenagers. This two-band bill is also a must-see for those who congregate at the nexus of rock and soul, where sweaty rhythms and sizzling hooks get real nasty. The Dynamite Brothers suggest a neighborhood Black Keys with pizzazz, while Joe Bell and the Stinging Blades slide originals into covers dressed so well you'll barely detect the difference. $10/7 p.m.—Grayson Currin
03.18 STRIPMINES @ KINGS
It's no stretch to call Raleigh's Stripmines one of the most brutal no-frills hardcore bands playing today. The band's bludgeoning, challenging arrangements provide fuel behind the band's vicious vocalist, Matt LaVallee. This is the release party for the band's full-length Crimes of Dispassion, an explosive LP that captures the band at its most devastating. It also marks the beginning of an end for the band; LaVallee has announced he'll leave Stripmines after a summer tour. Count this as an increasingly rare opportunity to see this band in a powerful early era. Kansas City's Sucked Dry, Denver's Negative Degree and Raleigh's Abuse. open. $6–$8/7:30 p.m. —Bryan C. Reed
03.17 MOUNTAIN HEART @ THE ARTSCENTER
Many people have said Mountain Heart lost their hillbilly soul when singer Steve Gulley left the band. Indeed, since his departure and the arrival of Josh Shilling, the band has made a strong shift toward the contemporary pop side of country, confirmed by the title track of their latest album, That Just Happened. Mandolin chopping and guitar-string breaking has been replaced by loud drums and lyrics instructing listeners to "shake their hips," reflecting a more manufactured and tired pop-country sound very common in Nashville. This bait and switch doesn't satisfy. $21–$25/8 p.m. —Dan Schram
03.21 BUCKETHEAD, THAT 1 GUY @ LINCOLN THEATER
We've all seen people who play guitar really fast; it's the music world's equivalent of bodybuilding. And after the initial wow factor wears, it's only tedious and masturbatory, especially when the musician is going it alone. Buckethead's fried chicken hat and plain mask do nothing to push his guitar-hero games and flurry-o'-notes fretboard exercises toward the musical fringe. And though it's not his fault the market's already saturated with Steve Vais and Joe Satrianis, pretending that a weird hat renders his playing idiosyncratic by association is just silly. With That 1 Guy's homegrown Primus-lite. $19–$23/8 p.m. —Corbie Hill
FRIDAY, MARCH 16
DEVIL MAKES THREE
From: Santa Cruz, Calif.
Claim to fame: Devilish spin on string band spunk
An acoustic three-piece of guitar, banjo and stand-up bass, The Devil Makes Three scares up spirited string band tunes with distinctly gothic and vaudevillian themes. Though the band's members hail from New England and founded the trio in California, it may as well have been formed in some hellish underworld. Over primal thump-and-stomp rhythms, the three rabble-rousers harmonize maniacally on galloping, diabolical odes to graveyards, shipwrecks, Jack Daniels and the afterlife. Banjo extraordinaire and one-man band Phillip Roebuck opens with fleet picking and the frenzied stomp of tambourine and kick drum, together scoring his gruff folk-punk stuff. At CAT'S CRADLE. $14–$16/9 p.m.
Claim to fame: Modern take on Eastern European traditions
A half-dozen multi-instrumentalists comprise Sagapool, a diverse act that pairs violin, accordion and clarinet with guitar, drums, bass and piano to explore Eastern European folk traditions in a contemporary context. The majority of Sagapool's members hail from Quebec and reflect the cultural melting pot of their home province, while the band also claims natives of Italy and Hungary. The group's playful but dramatic originals are marvelously crafted and masterfully executed, tying Romanian gypsy melodies to klezmer rhythms in a lively, largely instrumental manner. PineCone executive director William Lewis leads a preshow discussion. At STEWART THEATRE. $5–$28/8 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21
Claim to fame: Lo-fi bedroom pop turned chillwave
At some point, frontman Charlie Brand's innocent guitar pop gave way to synthesizers, culminating in 2010's Neon Indian collaboration "Gold Skull" off Miniature Tigers' intermittently enjoyable second album, Fortress. Their latest, Mia Pharaoh, dives headlong into neutered indietronic soul like a jackknife into an empty pool. Loud dance floor pulses and wafting synths obliterate any charm Brand's hook-lined compositions retained. It bottoms out with the wretched "Cleopatra," which sounds like Christopher Cross mailing a stool specimen to Owl City's only disco. With Geographer, The Chain Gang of 1974, Pretty and Nice. At NIGHTLIGHT. $10–$12/8 p.m.
Claim to fame: Nervy hipster soul
Led by Carlos Hernandez, son of a '70s NYC soul DJ, Ava Luna fashions minimalist soul that blends the distancing arty still life of TV on the Radio and Dirty Projectors with big harmonies and keyboard-driven R&B. The singing doesn't feel forced, while free jazz and background electro-splatter bring noisy balance to the sweet, understated grooves. Their latest, Ice Level, is smoother and more refined than 2010's intriguing Services EP, titrating their pop and experimental impulses. Ava Luna's soul hybrid's a lot more enjoyable than Miniature Tigers' cheap plastic copy. With ANR, Plains. At MOTORCO. $8/8 p.m. —Chris Parker
PRYPYAT, TREPAK @ TIR NA NOG
At two months in, most couples are still in the honeymoon phase, with days spent kissing and smiling. But Durham's Leah Gibson and Duncan Webster began dating in September 2010 and wasted no time starting a new band. They formed Prypyat in November.
Busy musicians already—Duncan the bassist in wacky and cathartic indie rock trio Hammer No More The Fingers, Gibson then a cellist in orchestral folk outfit Lost in the Trees but now touring with Bowerbirds—the two soon found themselves collaborating. Webster had long practiced classical, finger-picked guitar in his free time, penning many of Hammer's songs in that mode. Those intricate lines paired well with Gibson's lush and spacious string parts, so they decided to push it further, piling on ethereal atmospherics and dousing Webster's vocal in reverb.
"I really like the minimalism of it," Webster says. "Just the space between notes. It's very uncrowded music. It's almost like we try to make a song as simple or as minimal as we can." With Trepak and Ugly Purple Sweater. Free/10 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence