This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: West Africa Music Night, Estrangers, Lollipops, Jon Lindsay, Lightning Bolt, Stag, Fang Island, Tom Maxwell, Randy Dean Whitt
VS.: Lizzy Ross Band vs. Mary Chapin Carpenter vs. Chatham County Line vs. Malcolm Holcombe
INTRODUCING: Blood Jar Creepers
CELEBRATING: Churchkey V
08.23 WEST AFRICA MUSIC NIGHT @ LOCAL 506
African rhythms fresh from the vine, nurtured in Carolina terroir, unite these two regional bands playing music from Senegal and Ivory Coast. Asheville-based Zansa opens. Led by Ivorian percussionist Adama Dembele, Zansa's modern Afropop sound blends fiddle with guitars and traditional drumming. Carrboro local Kairaba headlines the evening, with colorful frontman Diali Cissokho on smoky vocals and ecstatic kora solos. Both Dembele and Cissokho are griots, meaning their families have been professional musicians for generations; they bring ancient knowledge as well as fresh moves to their respective fusions. Joining forces should bring surprises, as well as a ripe opportunity for dance-floor movers and shakers. $8/9 p.m. —Sylvia Pfeiffenberger
08.23 ESTRANGERS, LOLLIPOPS, JON LINDSAY @ TIR NA NOG
With three of the state's premier pop-rock up-and-comers crammed onto one bill, this installment of Local Band Local Beer night is a must. Winston-Salem's Estrangers pursue roughshod retro-rock romance with the abandon of Raleigh's The Love Language, but their taste for subtle sonic trickery gives them added intrigue. The Lollipops are more reserved but every bit as effective, riding fuzzy and frenetic acoustic shambles and buzzing synth lines to catchy conclusions. Charlotte's Jon Lindsay offers the easiest access point in the opening slot; he transplants Sloan's slacker-pop hooks beneath light-psych atmospherics. Free/9:30 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
08.23 LIGHTNING BOLT @ KINGS
A band of two Brians, the electrified noise-rock juggernaut Lightning Bolt hasn't released an album since 2009's totally fine Earthly Delights. But no matter how long it's been since their last output, or how that output was merely good after a string of unbelievable jams, don't forsake a chance to see one of the most exhilarating live bands at work, especially since they've slowed their touring to a mere putter. The last time I saw Lightning Bolt, a sea of several thousand sweaty kids pushed against one another in a collective throng of near-chaos, the serrated screams and enormous beats seemingly pushing the fans around by sheer volume. Clang Quartet and Yohimbe open. $10–$12/9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
08.24 STAG @ CASBAH
Snatches of Pink frontman Michael Rank and Patty Hurst Shifter guitarist Marc E. Smith exorcise the debauched and bedraggled spirit of Stonesy country rock in STAG. While Rank's adoration of Keith Richards is well-documented, this project's a little different. Pedal steel provides ample atmosphere, while acoustic guitar points to a—dare I say—mature outlook. It feels like Saturday night's turned into Sunday morning; the cleansing rays of the new day find him badly beaten but not broken, cup of coffee and world-weary smile at his lips. Free/5 p.m. —Chris Parker
08.28 FANG ISLAND @ KINGS
Not even half the songs on Fang Island's Major break the four-minute mark, yet this Brooklyn trio packs bite-size jams with heroic prog guitar, multiple hooks and ever-escalating bliss. These dudes make a joyful noise, indeed; hell, praise bands wish they sounded this good. High, clear vocals suggest a much happier Sunny Day Real Estate, while dual guitars flit around each other and through bouncing percussion. Irish instrumentalists Adebisi Shank take the dance rock of comparable acts like El Ten Eleven and inject Battles' beats-and-synth staccato, resulting in a strange dance hall vibe. $10–$12/9 p.m. —Corbie Hill
08.29 TOM MAXWELL, RANDY DEAN WHITT @ MOTORCO
Between Randy Dean Whitt and Tom Maxwell's collected ouevres, there aren't too many crayons left in the box. While Whitt is typically twangy, he extends from gentle, cello-aided Laurel Canyon folk to jangle pop. His crisp baritone's comfortable in the upper ranges, too, while the music luxuriates in the roots end of the singer-songwriter spectrum on his new album, The Outsider. Former Squirrel Nut Zipper Maxwell's obviously gifted at giving jazzy mid-century roots a modern patina, but his new Kingdom Come showcases broad tastes. The record's dark subject matter provides grist for powerful songs with emotional payload. Free/8 p.m. —Chris Parker
SATURDAY, AUG. 25
LIZZY ROSS BAND
Claim to fame: Versatile folk-blues crooner
Though she's released a couple albums that stretch the boundaries of her soulful voice, Lizzy Ross remains a guppy at her craft. Her blue-eyed shimmy is full of fire and time-tested vocal mannerisms that skirt the line between reverence and cliché. Excuse her callowness and consider her expressiveness, or overabundance of it. When the music track's sympathetic and she doesn't push so hard (as on the country-flavored "Needle and Thread"), she's actually quite endearing. Ross has a fine instrument and some inkling of an approach, but she's still more explosive young fireballer than seasoned pitcher. At SAXAPAHAW RIVERMILL. Free/5 p.m.
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER
From: Washington, D.C.
Since: Early '80s
Claim to fame: Snuck into charts during rare Nashville moment of taste
A country-folk artist like Mary Chapin Carpenter is the type Nashville usually ignores. Earnest, smart and distinctive, Carpenter's no Nice 'n Easy hair model. She arrived on the same wave that brought Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith to Nashville and enjoyed steady chart success during the early '90s. She eventually balked at Nashville's demands and left the majors for her last three efforts; she's since become a durable artist with a dedicated following. Her songs have grown increasingly literate and personal while generally drifting toward adult contemporary, though not inexorably. On 2007's The Calling, she broke out her electric guitar, demonstrating an ability to still surprise 25 years later. That gives her the upper hand over Lizzy Ross. At NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART. $20–$45/8 p.m.
CHATHAM COUNTY LINE
Claim to fame: Newgrass without pandering or jamming
Perhaps it's proximity and familiarity that make Chatham County Line so simpatico. Or maybe it's the inherent hominess of four players crowded around that single microphone. Or the way the songs balance sepia-stained nostalgia and modern sensibilities without pandering to either purists or new-to-roots hipsters. And don't forget those harmonies. While there are indeed plenty of reasons to love Chatham County Line, the foremost may be that they write good songs—with memorable melodies, subtle restraint and keen perspective on the world around them. From the twisting byways of "Route 23," over the "Rockpile" and on home with the "Speed of the Whippoorwill," CCL understand the timeless turn of the world, giving them a slight edge over Carpenter. With Tonk. At CAT'S CRADLE. $15–$18/9 p.m.
From: Weaverville, N.C.
Since: Early '90s
Claim to fame: Gruff, earthy country-blues
You might find Malcolm Holcombe where the honky-tonk meets the fertile Delta, mixing with that rich black dirt. His voice is weathered and distressed like an old country barn, and the whole enterprise shudders occasionally as though grinding human gears. This rickety structure's held together by powerful lyrics of desperation, superstition and faith. The songs on his latest, Down the River, are animated by a self-sustaining intensity, from the menacing "Gone Away at Last" (which approaches the Pentecostal fury of 16 Horsepower) to the jaded, pissed-off political stomp, "Whitewash Job." In recent years, he's released albums of rapidly escalating quality, bringing him to the brink of breakout. His great momentum, prodigious releases and idiosyncratic sound allow him to best all comers. With Jared Tyler. At CASBAH. $14–$16/8 p.m. —Chris Parker
08.29 BLOOD JAR CREEPERS @ NIGHTLIGHT
Although Blood Jar Creepers have been playing for several years, there's something about this unsettling acoustic act that suggests extreme age, as though it were born of the demented heat of some 19th-century Georgia summer. Avoiding the homogeneity of rigid traditionalism, the Creepers' desolate ballads feel like a clipped-and-forgotten branch of antediluvian music rather than a recent exploration.
"Speaking for myself only, I'm approaching from the notion that to take a too direct and 'faithful' interpretation of old-timey folk styles is just as fake as doing any kind of slick commercial revamp," says guitarist and bass clarinetist "Crowmeat" Bob Pence. "So we're taking some of the techniques and forms of what's gone before and some of our favorite types of songs—like the murder ballads and the longing-for-death gospel kinds of things—and trying to do our own little prosthetic version."
This self-described "rickety doom-folk jug band" maximizes the bleak nihilism found in some traditional numbers, mixing finger-picked guitar, disturbed woodwinds and dour boasts like "ain't much joy in life 'cept killing folks."
Pence says that feeling is echoed in the music: "Sometimes we get into more droney psychedelic freestyle territory, which one would hope instills something like a sense of dread in the listener. Or at least sounds pretty cool to some folks." With Thollem Electric. $5/9:30 p.m. —Corbie Hill
08.25 CHURCHKEY V @ THE PINHOOK
The easiest way to talk about any record label's fifth-anniversary celebration is to admit some surprise that it's actually happening. Indeed, amid the constant reports that the music industry is crashing into itself for a half-dozen interwoven reasons, the survival of labels like Durham's Churchkey is noteworthy. But consider the model: For the last five years, Churchkey—a two-man operation of best buds Kyle Miller and Steve Jones, fellows who still go to shows and rave about bands—has ignored sensible and marketable genre limitations to release records by area bands they simply like. From a roaring Spider Bags seven-inch to a bustling Future Kings of Nowhere EP, from an inaugural slab of Southern metal by Tooth to the smartly penned reflections of Wood Ear, they've captured and released some of the best documents of rock music in the Triangle in the last half-decade. What's more, they've even expanded, beginning an impeccably curated and completely free concert series this year at The Pinhook. Survive and expand.
Tonight, they'll toast with a reprisal of two of their best releases. Wood Ear's Steeple Vultures is a compelling distillation of the area's indie-rock and alt-country pedigrees, while Sunny Side Snuff, the debut LP of Last Year's Men, is about as much sad-eyed fun as you'll have with a short, simple debut. Both Churchkey albums capture a band in finest form, a fairly typical occurrence for a label now 14 releases deep into its catalogue. $5/10 p.m. —Grayson Currin