For the week of March 2 ~ 6 | MUSIC: Get Out | Indy Week
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For the week of March 2 ~ 6 

Contributors: Rick Cornell, Grayson Currin, Rich Ivey, Kathy Justice, Chris Parker

Friday, March 2

Red Sparowes, William Elliot Whitmore, U.S. Christmas, Local 506

Boasting one-fifth of Isis, the "visual comptroller" for Neurosis and a couple ex-members of classic '90s hardcore bands (The VSS and Angel Hair, namely), California's Red Sparowes competently adds to the extraneous "post-rock" pile of the last five years. They won't win King of the Hill against recent Conan guests Explosions in the Sky, but their latest atmospheric attempt sufficiently rivals most Isis output—at least that of this decade. $10/ 10 p.m. —RI

Sparklehorse, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, Cat's Cradle

I hear a lot of hope in the sad songs of Mark Linkous, the Virginia-born frontman of Sparklehorse. Some of it stems from Linkous' past: He came of age in a punk band that missed the big time in New York and Los Angeles, but, post-band, he found his heroin addiction on the Pacific coast. Finally, just when he was seeking success in Sparklehorse on the eve of opening for Radiohead in 1996, he stopped breathing in a London hotel room. Paramedics saved him, but he nearly lost his legs in the mess. Working in Richmond and the Great Smoky Mountains for the past few years, he managed one of last year's best records, Dreamt for Light Years in the Mountain. Mournful, bright and smart, it suggests a revived expanse for its auteur and for pop in general. Few musicians fold the styles of their collaborators (Christian Fennesz, Danger Mouse, Tom Waits) into their own ideas as well as Linkous. Then again, few musicians have seen and felt as much as Linkous in the past 50 years. Don't miss this. Opener Jesse Sykes sweetens the deal. $15/ 9:15 p.m. —GC

The Kingsbury Manx, Heads on Sticks, Kings

The Manx's dreamy folk-inflected pop has all the lush shimmer of an impressionistic painting obscured by glare. At their best, the melody is insistent and relentless in its pursuit, as on "Growler in the Rumbleseat." Head on Sticks' quirky, dramatic pop suggests Jonathan Richman vamping a little Tom Waits while covering ELP's "Fanfare for the Common Man." 10 p.m. —CP

Kenny Roby, Sara Bell, Bickett Gallery

Kenny Roby's songwriting shows equal comfort with allegory and real-life directness, and his musical palette carries shades of everybody from Robbie Robertson and Randy Newman to Ron Sexsmith and Bad Brains. That combination is never anything short of compelling. Sara Bell—who's enriched the Triangle music scene with plenty of harmonic shadings of her own through Shark Quest, Regina Hexaphone, Tres Chicas and others—joins Roby. 8:30 p.m. —RC

Athenaeum, Lincoln Theatre

Formed long after Let's Active and The Connells, Greensboro's Athenaeum drew on similar roots-rock inspirations, though the production and approach are equally reminiscent of mid-'90s modern rock acts Sister Hazel and Matchbox Twenty. Despite some catchy melodies and a major label cup of tea that produced the minor hit "What I Didn't Know," they weren't able to grow beyond a strong regional act. Collapsis singer/guitarist Mike Garrigan joined up in 2001 after his own major label ordeal, and adds another strong voice and guitar. Athenaeum broke up three years ago, but they get it together tonight. $8-10/ 10 p.m. —CP

Steep Canyon Rangers, The Pour House

It's easy to latch on to the Rangers' five-piece old grass aesthetic of hard work, fast love and passionate regret. Their fast-fiddle breaks and banjo bumps are overlaid with tinny vocal harmonies, recalling their mountain-roots. They're as addictive as they are surefooted. Special guests Shannon Whitworth and John Stickley start the show off right. $8-10/ 8 p.m. —KJ

Saturday, March 3

Billy Joel, RBC Center

I'll say it: Billy Joel's creative juices dried up after bedding Christine Brinkley. He released Innocent Man with the "what-can-she-see-in-me" ode "Uptown Girl," then capped a fine 15-year run with a two-volume greatest hits set. Should've given him the gold watch then. The piano man produced three more exceedingly mediocre studio albums and mercifully retired. At his late '70s height, Joel's surly rebelliousness ("My Life," "Big Shot") and canny portraits ("Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "Don't Ask Me Why") cast him as an uptown answer to the Boss. Last week, Joel released his first new song in 14 years, "All My Life." $49.50-$85/ 8 p.m. —CP

Martha Scanlan, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Hideaway BBQ

As a former member of old-time string band the Reeltime Travelers (best known for their work on the Cold Mountain soundtrack), Martha Scanlan played the barefoot mountain priestess with grace, wrapping her husky voice around lonesome high hill melodies. As a solo artist Scanlan has transformed her image and her sound into that of a warm-hearted Americana poet. Comparisons to Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch are spot-on. Opening band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a three-piece string band from Durham, reconnect Scanlan's old-timey roots. $10/ 9:30 p.m. —KJ

Frank Gratkowski, Bickett Gallery

Hamburg-born reed player Frank Gratkowski is a mammoth of European free jazz, with the requisite festival appearances (from Prague and Odessa to New York and Vancouver) and collaborations (with Brötzmann, Vandermark and Mengelberg) one expects of such a reputation. He's as furious as he is dynamic, working through three clarinets (including bass and contrabass), alto saxophone and flute. He'll play a solo set and then join Crowmeat Bob and unnamed affiliates for a session at Bickett. Tickets are $6 for a 9 p.m. start. Gratkowski then plays the Milestones Festival Gala Concert on Tuesday, March 6 at UNC-Chapel Hill's Memorial Hall, and Nightlight with the Triangular Quartet at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 7. —GC

A Decent Animal, Slim's

A Decent Animal's delicate blend of brooding instrumentation and somber crooning could easily surpass the attempts of its contemporaries. That is, if it has any. The Charleston, S.C. trio is strikingly unconventional, as haunting as Portishead and as heady as the Three Mile Pilot but directed through a country-folk lens. Listen to "Birds" from their Rabbit Hole EP, and I dare you to disagree. 10 p.m. —RI

Shady Grove Band, The ArtsCenter

One of the many things to admire about The ArtsCenter's American Roots Series is that there's always some home-state love on the schedule, represented this week by the long-standing Shady Grove Band. You can think of these four skilled musicians, all well-versed in the music of the mountains and all musically well-traveled but with bluegrass hearts, as the sound of North Carolina personified. $15/ 8:30 p.m. —RC

EPMD, Cat's Cradle

From 1987 to 1993, EPMD stood for "Erick and Parrish Making Dollars." When the duo reformed in 1999, EPMD stood for "Erick and Parrish Millennium Ducats." Now, eight years and yet another reunion later, it should be interesting to see what words best suit the acronym. Perhaps "Erick and Parish Mild-mannered Dads" or "Erick and Parrish, Moldy Dudes?" Hopefully, neither. $20-$22/ 9:30 p.m. —RI

Sunday, March 4

Apollo Sunshine, Local 506

Comprised of three Berklee Music School dropouts, this Boston psych-pop act has digested many of the art-damaged lessons of the Flaming Lips, from fashioning gentle pop with childlike charm ("Ghost") to twinkling country-folk jangle ("Today is the Day," "Magnolia"), glazed to varying degrees with simmering garage rock sass. With Earl Greyhound. $8/ 9 p.m. —CP

Tuesday, March 6

Justin Townes Earle, Joshua Black Wilkins, Hideaway BBQ

Steve Earle's son, Justin, boasts a rich, full baritone, and his music favors traditional Americana more to country-rock. Joshua Black Wilkins' voice has a Haggard country rumble that complements the music's rock-tinged Texas twang. While Wilkins rarely rises from his chair, the threat to kick your ass is in the air. $8/ 8:30 p.m. —CP

Medeski, Martin & Wood, The Wood Brothers, Lincoln Theatre

A New York jazz trio unlike most others, Medeski, Martin & Wood takes the word fusion on a different tip, moving in a post-Miles idiom to unite soul jazz, international flavor, hard bop and free psychedelic excursions beneath an ever-evolving umbrella. There's no guarantee on what they will sound like tonight, there's little predictability to a MMW set (or their set break, which was ridiculously long last time they played Raleigh). But, if they're on, you'll know. $22-$25/ 8 p.m. —GC

Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Patrick Watson, Local 506

Elvis Perkins' new album, Ash Wednesday, is the type of album that will slap you around if you don't give it proper attention. The Brooklyn artist stands out like Waldo in a veritable Calcutta of singer/songwriters. "It's Only Me" has the rootsy directness of Freedy Johnston and Robbie Robertson's lovechild, and "All Night Without Love" comes on shadowy, like a murder ballad with a trilling violin. Stupendous. $10/ 9 p.m. —CP

The Slip, Arizona, Cat's Cradle

A recovering jam band, The Slip adopted a more pop approach on last year's Eisenhower. While as discursive as a loquacious drunk, the digressions are quirkier and dynamic instead of reliant on soul-deadening grooves. The hybridization can be intermittently interesting, and some of the band's best tracks manage to shake off their influences completely. As unremarkable as they may be on record, they're a live treasure. Beaming indie popsters Arizona fare better on tape, cadging the psych-pop of Love and an upbeat heartiness within shiny pop gems. $10-$12/ 9 p.m. —CP


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