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The guide to the week's concerts 

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This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: American Gun, The Ramblers, Portastatic, Wye Oak/ Pontiak, Devon Williams

EH, WHATEVER: Stuck Mojo, Rooney, Mindless Self-Indulgence

VS.: The Old Ceremony vs. Annuals

SONG OF THE WEEK: Centro-Matic's "Quality Strange"



"It was an American gun, raised on promises." Forgive the paraphrase, but it fits this youthful Columbia, S.C., quintet with sights set on ground similar to that claimed by Tom Petty's brand of Southern rock. It's a promised land where hooks meet non-radio-shy production and talk about cool records. But like any band since, say, 1993 with even a whiff of rocking roots in its sound, they also owe at least a little to that avuncular St. Louis band with an actual gun song in its catalog. And not just because of their mutual "Moonshiner" covers, either. $3/ 11 p.m. —Rick Cornell


The Ramblers, aka the Original Red Clay Ramblers, aka Mike Craver, Bill Hicks, and Jim Watson: That means reliving the eclectic '20s and '30s by way of the '70s in the '00s. In addition to the difference between the shows of then and now cited by Hicks—"There were a lot more young people in the audience back then"—there's also a good chance you'll hear songs from the guys' innumerable solo and side projects. 10 p.m. —Rick Cornell


Under the bold direction of Aaron Greenwald, Duke Performances continues to make the right links with the city and region around the school. Today, Merge Records—an absolute first-tier independent label based at the corner of Mangum and Chapel Hill streets in downtown Durham—enters the evermore inclusive fold via co-founder Mac McCaughan, who's led Merge, Superchunk and Portastatic for nearly two decades. With a steadfast rhythm section, a violin and a guitar rig that largely forgoes the distortion of Superchunk, Portastatic sounds like McCaughan's softer side, and—with its woozy tropicalia and shuffling indie rock impulses—it mostly is. But, even while working an acoustic guitar, he's able to channel the ire and unease of "Slack Motherfucker" into songs like "Through with People" and "Autumn Got Dark." For more Merge, see Wye Oak at Local 506 tonight. $5-$10/ 7 p.m. —Grayson Currin

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If Children, the debut from Baltimore co-ed duo Wye Oak, spins like an indie rocker's well-conceived mixtape, mining minds as appreciative of Yo La Tengo's Heart Beating and John Cale's Paris 1919 as they are Sonic Youth's Dirty and The Spinanes' Strand. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack are multi-instrumentalists and thoughtfully romantic lyricists, and their songs—which cut from clangorous, feedback-laced anthems to lilting, winking pop in matters of moments—wear both traits proudly. New Thrill Jockey signees Pontiak pull upward from darker depths—Black Sabbath and Comus, namely—to something Dead Meadow may have written if inspired. $8/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin


Lavender Diamond guitarist Devon Williams gets help from bandmate Steve Gregoropoulos with strings on his solo debut, Carefree, which delivers a blend of jangly, shimmering indie and Bacharach-inspired '60s pop. The frontman of late teen pop-punk trio Osker, Williams' solo material shares an elegant sophistication with his other band, though more understated and balanced by frequent (folk) rock-driven forays. Williams' breathy, mumbly-mouthed delivery and moody atmospheres hint Dean Wareham, though the pulse is stronger. Indeed for all the texture, there's a crispness to the songs, owing mostly to well-crafted arrangements. $8/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker



Neither swallowing your pride nor giving up old dreams comes easy. It's time for Stuck Mojo, formed nearly 20 years ago in Atlanta as one of the first rap metal acts, to do both: Though longtime vocalist Bonz left the group in 2005, the remaining Mojos stayed stuck in their own shit, recruiting fanboy Lord Nelson to pick up the microphone and drop political verses about American acceptance and hood proprietary rights on the abhorrent Southern Born Killers. But Lord Nelson sounds like he stopped listening to rap in 1991, as his flows and rhymes are too stiff to be bitten. His teeth and spit are so dull, he's still gnawing at Public Enemy. Has another band inspired wishes for a Limp Bizkit reunion? 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin

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The cover of Rooney's latest album, Calling the World, is the perfect snapshot of the band's self-image: It's so concerned with embodying a cheesy '60s pose, you'd expect the characters to spring off the printer and start singing about cellophane flowers and ranting about free love. And the band delivers exactly the kind of blanched sunshine pop you'd expect. When done well or creatively, it can work, but Rooney sucks the magic out of the kaleidoscope. Their melodies are simple and boring, their vocal harmonies are uninventive and contrived, and there is nothing lurking beneath the surface. Maybe it's not insincere, but it's unimaginative on any rubric. With Locksley and The Bridges. $13-$15/ 7 p.m. —Kyle Rosko


Mindless Self-Indulgence delivers on its promise, producing electro-industrial throb that makes Thrill Kill Kult seem sophisticated and inspired. Their last turgid nut log floated up the charts powered by constipated goth synths ("Straight to Video") and insipid darkwave sado-masochism ("Shut Me Up"), sadly failing to deliver on either titular tease. With The Birthday Massacre and Julien-K (featuring members of Orgy. Ha!). $17.50-$20/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker


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From: Chapel Hill
Since: 2004
Claim to fame: Suave songs, xylophone solos and lyrics in Mandarin

The Old Ceremony is a big, symphonic pop band with six members, but the band's sound is surprisingly intimate considering the size of its lineup. Offering up a vast array of styles (starting with an unlikely trinity of McCartney, Cohen and Sinatra, dipping down to South America, heading to Asia...), The Old Ceremony also mixes rock instrumentation with occasional xylophone solos from Mark Simonsen and playful moments with clavinets and trumpets. This is a very tight, nuanced pop band that sticks to its melodies, only taking pause for some of the wittiest stage banter around from frontman Django Haskins. One of the best local draws, and made for a bar setting like THE POUR HOUSE. With Max Indian at 10 p.m. for $6-$8.


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From: Raleigh
Since: 2003
Claim to fame: Album covers in neutral colors and big sounds

Annuals is a big, experimental rock band with six members, and the band's sound is appropriately chaotic and colorful given the size and young exuberance of its lineup. Instead of offering up catchy folk-pop songs and dressing them up with traditional symphonic flourishes, Annuals pit their beautiful melodies and catchy strumming against weird noises—and lots of them. For the most part, great songs are there, but they'll be alternately blasted straight to you or mostly hidden from you. If you're patient enough to wait out the noise collages, you'll be treated to some great moments from a talented emergent band. In any event, it will be interesting to see how their bombast plays in the more subdued, seated confines of THE ARTSCENTER. With Lonnie Walker at 9 p.m. for $10-$12. —Kyle Rosko


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