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The guide to the week's concerts 

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This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: The Dirtbombs/ Kelley Stoltz, Dale Watson, FrequeNC Records, Inflowential, Hell's 11th Birthday Party with Auxes & Shag Athlete, The Frequency

EH, WHATEVER: Howlin Rain

VS.: Vienna Teng vs. David Dondero

INTRODUCING: Pico Vs. Island Trees

LAST WEEK'S PARTY: Battlefield Band

SONG OF THE WEEK: Gary Louris' "Vagabonds"


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What these bands know about music would fill a record store. Stoltz plays idiosyncratic, hook-laden British Invasion-influenced pop with a tincture of psych, like GBV dosing out on Syd Barrett. Stoltz's vintage vibe is well matched in the Dirtbombs, who'd inhabit the basement, hosting a fight club with gritty garage, proto-punk and classic R&B/soul slugging it out. Frontman Mick Collins embodies cool with a sneer or croon for any occasion. It matches his band's Motown sleekness and V-8 power perfectly. The band's latest, We Have You Surrounded, is its rawest yet, sporting a cleverness that keeps the band fresh in well-trodden territory. $10/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker


Dale Watson's classic country vernacular rings authentic, as he traverses the expanse from honky-tonk and Bakersfield country through rockabilly to the Sun Records sound of Johnny Cash. Last year's From the Cradle to the Grave is a fine survey study in it all. His baritone's richer than Trump, and its homespun wisdom infinitely more appealing. $12-$15/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker


It's not a hard sell to those who already know, but this is an all-star lamplight lineup for the local FrequeNC electronic what's-it imprint. Two of the label's stable represent here: Augusta, Ga.'s Invadurrz bring some serious blippy bass electro (think Newcleus' "Jam on It" screwed down tight); Datahata loads all the fuses for some funky techno. Work in $tinkworx on the house side, and heavy-dealing disco DJ Morelli of New York, and all bases are covered. DJ Family Vacation presses play first. $6/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Toenes

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Inflow hasn't played its hometown in months, but the group has been steadily building a buzz that has made them Raleigh's preeminent hip-hop crew and (inexplicably) N.C.'s only representative in a nationwide mtvU contest. It's deserved: The group's clever rhymes run the gamut from Ron Burgundy references to the disparity between rich and poor. Welcome back. $12-$15/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith


In Hell, they celebrate every year's anniversary of badness. This one's highlighted by something relatively new in the basement-dwelling bar's history: live bands. They've also gone through a makeover, so seeing a band play in the far corner of the room may be a change for some of the old-timer Hellions. Auxes pushes the size envelope, too, with six guys—Dave Laney, Pete Wagner, Ben Davis, Mike Triplett, John Crouch, Noah Leger—who are all alums of local and/or Chicago rock groups like Milemarker, Fin Fang Foom, etc. Shag Athlete kicks it off. 10 p.m. —Chris Toenes


L.A. group The Frequency goes for the well-mined atmospheric groove. It moves gradually, hovering without quite taking off or coming completely down. With a comfort zone between seemingly endless head-nodders built on organ and synthesizer elements and ebullient spacey pop, The Frequency glides along on a Pink Floyd cloud of smoke, guitar fluttering in the fore, the touchstones becoming obvious. $8/ 9 p.m. —Chris Toenes


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Which Howlin Rain will we get tonight? The band who's all but stripped Comets on Fire guitarist Ethan Miller's songs of all their acid-and-hash glory on second LP and debut for Rick Rubin's American, Magnificent Fiend? Or the band that sounded like it fell asleep listening to Anthem of the Sun on a front porch, then woke up, brewed thick coffee and recorded one of 2006's best rock albums? Or the band that recently released two 20-minute hallucinatory instrumental cuts on the High Point-based Three Lobed? Pray hard for either (both?) of the last two. But No. 1 just released one of the year's biggest disappointments. With Nightstick and Stratocruiser. $8/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin


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From: Saratoga, Cal.; calls Brooklyn home
Since: 2001
Claim to fame: One-time Cisco Systems software engineer

Classically trained pianist Vienna Teng studied computer science studies at Stanford and even joined Cisco before abandoning it for music five years ago. Her albums have steadily increased in sophistication and nuance, graduating from tender, atmospheric piano lilt into dense chamber pop. Teng demonstrates nice range on her third and latest, 2006's Dreaming Through the Noise, sampling country waltz, cabaret slink and jazzy bossa nova. Her arranging skills and songwriter savvy continue to grow, as she lurks just below the "chick pop" radar, ready to leverage her talent, smarts and increasing craftsmanship. While still a bit precious around the edges, she promises more substance than Tristan Prettyman. At Deep South the Bar. Free/ 8:30 p.m.


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From: Duluth, Minn.; calls Wilmington, N.C., home
Since: 1993
Claim to fame: Inspired Conor Oberst's vocal style during the Commander Venus days

This road-wizened troubadour has steadily climbed the songwriting ranks in the decade since his band Sunbrain's breakup. Oberst imitates Dondero's tenor warble, but sadly never replicates his wry lyrical perspective. Like the Texas country songwriters, Dondero shares a fascination for the sad, lonely and ill-begotten who shine with heroic resilience, be they the waiter fighting off muggers with his wine key or the drunk jackpot winner out-schemed by a felonious casino queen. His easy-going insouciance says he'll "play it as it lays," because he may not have luck but he'll enjoy it anyway—exactly how a loser always stays on top. Ding ding ding! At LOCAL 506 with Dawn Chorus and Wood Ear. $8/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker


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When guitarists Bryan Carter and Jeremy Bullock formed Pico Vs. Island Trees after a seventh-grade talent show, they never imagined they'd end up sharing quarters with pop star Aaron Carter, dining at posh restaurants showcased on MTV's The Hills and brushing elbows with Maroon 5. But when the bluesy, breezy melody of the band's song "Saying the Opposite" caught L.A. producer David Kershenbaum's ear on XM radio, Pico got an offer to record on the West Coast.

"We were all in college at the time and trying to figure out if we wanted to stay in school and do the whole weekend warrior thing. That got hard 'cause we weren't growing," says Carter. "We were just relearning songs when we played together."

The band logged eight months developing their pop sensibilities and sound in Los Angeles before heading back home to Raleigh. But now, they've relocated to Nashville, which seemed like the perfect setting to put down roots while finishing the next album. Pico returns for a Triangle homecoming with Modern Skirts and The Honored Guests. $8-$10/ 9:30 p.m. —Kathy Justice


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In Carrboro for the first time since 1986, Battlefield Band spent the evening catching up as old friends. The group kept the night light-hearted and fun, joining the crowd during intermission and leading a drinking song for an encore. Half-smiles and deliciously cheesy humor added poignancy when juxtaposed with slower tunes about immigration and war that are, as the band joked, "of no relevance today." A fitting end to the ArtsCenter's second Celtic Music Series. —Andrew Ritchey


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