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Midtown Dickens & Guests, Ruscha, Droids Attack, Superchunk, Gross Ghost, Crooked Fingers, Mike Tamburo, Swayback Sisters, NC Local Music Five Year Anniversary Party, Johnny White & The Elite Band, Woody Guthrie Centennial, more

The guide to the week's concerts 

This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Ruscha, Droids Attack, Superchunk, Gross Ghost, Crooked Fingers, Mike Tamburo, Swayback Sisters, NC Local Music Five Year Anniversary Party, Johnny White & The Elite Band, Woody Guthrie Centennial, Midtown Dickens & Guests

VS: Yarn vs. Neko Case



YES, PLEASE...

07.11 RUSCHA, DROIDS ATTACK @ CHAPEL HILL UNDERGROUND

Mergers of stoner and doom metal are frequent enough that the two styles blur. Consider the recent reissue of Sleep's Dopesmoker: if it's a stylistic pinnacle (OK, it is), mantric repetition and drowsy, chanted vocals are the stoner metal way. Yet Wisconsin's Droids Attack occupies the doom-free end of the stoner rock spectrum—the second way, if you will. This hard-riffing trio brings power-metal energy to smoked-out jams, suggesting Clutch without all the silly posturing. Headlining duo Ruscha brings crushing instro-rock that pairs The Melvins' swing with Lightning Bolt's stamina. Really, this is Quasi for nihilists. Also, Blood Red Sky and Self Inflicted. $5/9 p.m. —Corbie Hill

click to enlarge Superchunk - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND

07.12 SUPERCHUNK, GROSS GHOST @ CAT'S CRADLE

One of the best live bands around returns to its local spotlight: Though Superchunk is closing in on a quarter-century of charged hooks and turbocharged performances, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone making old-band or legacy-act accusations. By giving the band years-long breaks rather than ceremonious hiatuses, they've never forced much, meaning that 2010's Majesty Shredding depended on the same sort of urgency as their early '90s classics. That also goes for "This Summer," their newly minted and seasonally appropriate single; in three minutes, the quartet anchors its hook, rips through a perfect solo and manages to sound much like its more youthful self without trying too hard. They even match it on the flip with a take on Bananarama's "This Summer." Gross Ghost opens. $15/9 p.m. —Grayson Currin

07.12 CROOKED FINGERS @ RALEIGH CITY PLAZA

Oak City 7 is a free, sponsor-driven concert series in Raleigh City Plaza that, in its first year, has actually had some success in stretching the general bounds of gratis, after-work programming. From the charmed country harmonies of Tres Chicas to the unapologetic bound of I Was Totally Destroying It, the series' headliners have elided easy typecasts. That summary holds for the career of Eric Bachmann, who led the recently reunited Archers of Loaf toward early indie-rock fame before splitting off to brood over steely folk-rock as Crooked Fingers. Like each Crooked Fingers release, last year's Breaks in the Armor includes a handful of stunning moments, especially when Bachmann backs his brood over the spare accompaniment of a nylon-stringed guitar, as on "The Hatchet." Hopefully, this series isn't yet too crowded for those moments to work. The Broadcast and Chris Hendricks Band open. Free/5:30–9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin

07.13 MIKE TAMBURO @ NIGHTLIGHT

When I first encountered the work of Mike Tamburo six years ago, I classified him as a guitarist. And yes, Tamburo's enormous billows of notes picked and packaged from an acoustic guitar shaped the bulk of his brilliant Ghosts of Marumbey, but they were far from the only anchor. Created by online and in-person collaborations with a dozen artists, those tunes would swell and dissipate with symphonic scope, speaking to the adventurousness at Tamburo's core. In the years since, the prolific Tamburo has explored dulcimer, released a box set and, most important, converted to Buddhism and taken the name Brother Ong. His latest collection, Mysteries of the Shahi Baaja, again finds Tamburo exploring a new instrumental to transcendental ends. Like a cross between a dulcimer and an autoharp, the Indian zither allows Tamburo to create clouds of sound and chord long columns of melody through them. It's beautiful, immersive stuff. With Phil Cook & His Feat. $5/9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin

07.13 SWAYBACK SISTERS @ BYNUM GENERAL STORE

Before Mary Ellen Bush joined the already-formed Swayback Sisters, she was in Ménage. While both Asheville bands share respectable three-way harmonies and a love of acoustic instruments, Swayback's traditionalism contrasts sharply with Ménage's pop-fused folk. Yet the newer band's fidelity for old-time sometimes leads to high-octane rollicks with more "Long Tall Sally" and less "Beautiful Brown Eyes." With Asheville increasingly becoming a town of two minds—the traditional music camp and the experimental kids—Swayback is a strong champion for the former model. The string trio ought to work well in Bynum, then, an old mill town with a burgeoning no-amps-allowed summer music series. Free/7 p.m. —Corbie Hill

07.13 NC LOCAL MUSIC FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY PARTY @ BERKELEY CAFE

NC Local Music, a networking and promotion organization that puts on a variety of events featuring local artists, just turned five, and they've enlisted an exhaustive line-up of musicians to help them celebrate. Surprisingly mature 13-year-old folkie MayaSings, brightly innocuous Nashville-inspired pop singer Haley Dreis and blues-infused ockers Young Cardinals play alongside five other area talents that are promising if never quite impressive. At the least, this promises a welcome celebration for a hard-working collective. $8/8:30 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence

07.13 JOHNNY WHITE & THE ELITE BAND @ CASBAH

For more than four decades, Johnny White & the Elite Band have been pushing out high-impact shows of sweet moves and smooth soul. The band's repertoire spans R&B, soul, beach, blues and even big band, but no matter the tone or tune, White and his band attack it with style—splitting lead duties between White and Shirl (just Shirl) and freeing a pack of backup singers to handle harmony and choreography. The whole package is retro-Motown cool, down to the matching outfits and onstage charm. Tonight, there's the added allure of profits going to Urban Ministries of Durham, which provides sustainable food, clothing, shelter and support services to needy and homeless community members. $25/8 p.m. —Ashley Melzer

click to enlarge 07.11mushearingaid_guthrie.jpg

07.14 WOODY GUTHRIE CENTENNIAL @ THE PINHOOK

One century ago on this day, and half a country westward, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born. As the idealist, artist and advocate Woody Guthrie, he amassed a profound body of work in less than three decades by writing about what he witnessed and wished for—the casualties of the business world, the cruelness of other folks, the tiny bits of humor that made it all worthwhile. Aside from penning America's alternative national anthem and contributing several staples to our collective songbook, Guthrie created a cascade of musical influence that stretched from Dylan and his protest peers to, these days, songwriters stuck grappling with oil spills and economic blunder. Recent tributes to Guthrie include a brilliant Smithsonian box set, panels and performances at The Grammy Museum and innumerable centennial concerts, like this Durham effort: More than a half-dozen performers—from metal dude Rich James (Hog/Horseback) to indie-rock bandleader Reid Johnson (Schooner)—share Woody's songs, putting a sharp point on the broad statement that Guthrie's legacy is wide, indeed. $7/10 p.m.—Grayson Currin

click to enlarge Midtown Dickens - PHOTO BY D.L. ANDERSON

07.18 MIDTOWN DICKENS & GUESTS @ DUKE GARDENS

"Don't you worry about that setting sun," advises Midtown Dickens during "Walk Don't Run," from Home, their acclaimed third album. The aptly titled collection of tunes is a warm introduction to the band's country quirk. A mishmash of banjo strums, harmonica pulls, mandolin runs and fingerpicked guitar lines flow together under lyrics that combine disarming candor and playful imagery. The easygoing presence they recommend lyrically holds on records and on stages. This evening's performance proves the point better than most thanks to the addition of several special guests and friends of the band, on hand to help re-create and reimagine arrangements from the album. That enviable list of collaborators includes Brad and Phil Cook of Megafaun, Mark Daumen and Leah Gibson of Lost in the Trees, Joe Hall of Hammer No More the Fingers and Christy Smith of The Tender Fruit. For a Durham-grown band to come into its own creatively is a great achievement; to do so in collusion with such strong company makes this night that much more appealing. $5–$12/7 p.m. —Ashley Melzer


SATURDAY, JULY 14

YARN

FROM: Brooklyn, N.Y.
SINCE: 2007
CLAIM TO FAME: Country-inflected roots jam band

They aren't quite jamgrass, though the Brooklyn sextet Yarn does touch on it. Their self-titled 2007 debut was pretty close to a country album, simply lit with flashes of folk. They've since upped the rock quotient and excised singer-songwriter impulses in pursuit of a more vibrant sound. Frontman Blake Christiana's supple tenor swells, dips and corners with confidence while the songs survey the struggles of loneliness trying to find the way home. "This old sorrow is all I've ever known," he sings on "Soft Rock Radio" off March's Almost Home. It features decent hooks, nice harmonies and an amicable-enough front-porch manner. With Dangermuffin. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $10–$12/9 p.m.

VS.

NEKO CASE

FROM: Tacoma, Wash.
SINCE: Mid '90s
CLAIM TO FAME: Awesome voice ahead of a sharpening songcraft

At their best, a musician's nature and personality fuse with the music. Neko Case came from a dysfunctional home and eventually left to live in a high school chum's basement. She says the local punk rock club saved her life by giving her a job, a direction and confidence. She subsequently used that triad to step out from behind her punk drum kit and take the lead, causing jaws to drop like elevators with the cables cut. She was dedicated to country at the start, but she has pushed beyond its borders into pop, possibly by taking inspiration from her time in The New Pornographers. While her vocals were always evocative, her lyrics have become equally heart-rending in recent years. While they're certainly a nice band, Yarn can't hold a match to Case, let alone the candle. With Kelly Hogan. At NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART. $15–$30/8 p.m. —Chris Parker

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