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The guide to the week's concerts 

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This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Tinsley Ellis; Wilco, Bon Iver; Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, Jeff Crawford; Starmount, Whalewatchers; The Pneurotics, Mystery Road; Tubers; Weedeater, Black Cobra

EH, WHATEVER: 2 Skinnee J's

VS.: Dirty Little Heaters vs. The Moaners

VS.: Cass McCombs vs. The Hold Steady

INTRODUCING: Lemming Malloy

SONG OF THE WEEK: Black Cobra's "Omniscent"



This from my friend Phyllis, who used to catch Tinsley Ellis frequently when she lived in his homebase of Atlanta and who doesn't unpack the word "amazing" (once, let alone twice) unless someone's worthy: "He is an amazing guitar player, just amazing, and he puts on shows that simply don't quit." Ellis' electric guitar adventures thrill followers of blues and rock, as well as their hyphenated hybrids. And, apparently, he'll keep you out all night. $18-$22/ 9 p.m. —Rick Cornell

click to enlarge Wilco
  • Wilco


Tonight, the pristine lawn and luxurious pine needles of Cary's Koka Booth become NPR's Field of Dreams : Since 2001's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco has continually sanded the edges, forcing experimental wizards like drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline to play more economically, orthodoxy subsuming innovation. Still, Jeff Tweedy's weary voice sits nicely against the precision of Wilco 2006-08. Similarly, Bon Iver became the solo branch of Raleigh-via-Wisconsin quartet DeYarmond Edison in 2006: While the rest of that band has ventured outward as Megafaun, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon turned inward, treating his enigmatic tunes with minimal accompaniment and lonely falsetto pleas. His debut, For Emma: Forever Ago, recently placed sixth in an NPR album-of-the-midyear poll, ahead of My Morning Jacket and just behind Juno. Quintessential late-summer outdoor bill. $22.50-$37.50/ 7 p.m. —Grayson Currin


They're a couple for Americana's homecoming court, emanating inviting, upbeat warmth over ambling, rootsy twang. Strains of rock and country blend as easily in Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion's music as their intertwining vocals—his high and lilting, like Neil Young, hers earthy and warbling, like Emmylou Harris. Echoes of her family's politics creep into songs like the title track from 2005's Exploration, but they more frequently offer relational vignettes. Local opener Jeff Crawford's smart, pretty, understated folk-pop is also featured Thursday at Tir Na Nog. $10-$12/ 8:30 p.m. —Chris Parker


A compelling band of juxtaposition, Raleigh's Starmount outfits the familiar—there's the moan of an arid pedal steel guitar, the steady pluck of an upright bass, the casual movement of restrained drumming—with the alien skin of atmospheric electronics. Listening to their instrumental reflections is like watching an old film (think of Morricone and Mingus as the directors) projected through a colored lens. The Whalewatchers wend through affable indie rock with mild guitar distortion, tasteful keyboards and lyrical adult irritability. $3/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin


Blue jeans and even-tempered rock 'n' roll never go out of style, changing little through the years and finding appeal through comfort. In like fashion, The Pneurotics maintains an air of easygoing familiarity. Crisp guitars, rolling drums and Rich McLaughlin's steady vocals give the band the just-so fit of an old pair of Levi's. Durham's Mystery Road, ostensible Drivin' N' Cryin' fans, opens. 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed


Saint Augustine, Fla.'s Tubers sprouts concise, nervy post-punk, getting to the point quick and sharp, angular guitars and marching drums pushing the motion along in tense, terse movements. But listen for the chances they take, especially in a perfect tune like "The Other Half": Juxtaposing four instrumental portions with three vocal portions and a bass solo with a hook, it builds, crests, collapses and repeats twice in under three minutes. A textbook of momentum, these guys. Also, Saint Aug.'s similar (possibly slower) Alligator and Raleigh's Like Hell I Will. $5/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin

click to enlarge Weedeater
  • Weedeater


For towns known for tourist traffic and vacation guides, Wilmington and San Francisco manage quality exports with Weedeater and Black Cobra, dual earaches who disregard politeness and purity in their dense metal paroxysms. Our own Weedeater is a fit of Southern aggression, vocals spat over throbbing bass, wall-of- pressure guitar and split-sticks drums with enough force to suggest an eviscerated epiglottis. Last year's God Luck and Good Speed was a curious beast, its big bass riffs flexing around necks like veiny hands and forearms, only to let go without moment's notice. Tourmates Black Cobra seemingly never leave the road, as though the duo had rather chance it in dingy dives nationwide than risk collapsing into the Pacific with its native California: The band's blitz is a bit thinner and faster than that of Weedeater, but it will rattle your 208 bones (especially the six in your two ears) none the less. With Broadslab. $10/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin



Perhaps 2 Skinnee J's held some (bong)water in the '90s, when the band could still cash in on the memory of rapcore originators like the Beastie Boys. The J's punctuate a frenzied mix of squalling power-riffs, anthemic choruses and waves of synthetic keys with ridiculous costumes and theatrical stage shows (a giant bunny, I remember). But, during yet another reunion tour, the J's return to rehash their ripped-off jibe with a higher ticket price and an exaggerated ego. I'd rather see Limp Bizkit reunite, really. $22-$25/ 9 p.m. —Kathy Justice


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From: Chapel Hill
Since: After a hiatus, 2007
Claim to fame: Rugged garage-blues grime stains

One sometimes imagines musicians as Rocky Balboas, running through their own dilapidated hometowns honing their skills. Dirty Little Heaters frontwoman Reese McHenry has that eye-of-a-tiger hunger, judging from her passionate shrieks and feral guitar swipes. McHenry's primal bluesy vocals suggest Janis Joplin fronting the Seeds, emanating ne'er-do-well angst that refuses to surrender even against overwhelming odds. The new lineup's muscular rhythms come courtesy of two area ringers—profligate drummer Dave Perry and bassist Rob Walsh, alum of his own gritty garage combo The Spinns. Not to be underestimated. With The Suburban Sweethearts at SLIM'S in a special show staffed by Chapel Hill's The Cave. $3/ 10 p.m.


click to enlarge 08.06mushearingaid_moaners.gif


From: Chapel Hill
Since: 2003
Claim to fame: How White Blood Cells might've sounded without the Y chromosome

You might say the Heaters and Moaners are day and night, the former relying on asphalt-melting heat, the latter, dark, bump-producing psychedelic emissions. Kin to the same blues-based momma, The Moaners' guitars peal like nitro funny cars laying rubbery, rippling grooves fermented with slide and wah guitar licks. The band works at a deliberate pace, marching through syrupy rumble led by singer/ guitarist Melissa Swingle's detached delivery, undulating alongside the guitar's distorted throb. Drummer Laura King's tight enough to seal Paris Hilton's lips, and together their chewy blues nougat boasts caramel viscosity that's addictive. One of the best bands in town. With Sixgun Lullaby at THE CAVE. $5/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker


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From: Los Angeles via Baltimore
Since: 2001
Claim to fame: Pretty songs inspiring more genuflection than feeling

Cass McCombs isn't much for directness: Feints, finesse and flanking maneuvers shape his MO, offering oblique, arty self-consciousness wedded to downbeat indie pop. His distant, dyspeptic croon clings dispassionately to melody just above burbling guitars and keyboards, as though he might let go any moment. On his latest, Dropping the Writ, McCombs' gentle intimacy recalls Iron & Wine indulging Elliott Smith's Beatles fascination, streamlining and simplifying his sound after 2005's idiosyncratic, over-produced/-wrought PREfection. The sometimes inscrutable lyrics contribute to a melancholy drift of intellectualized disinterest like Pavement discussing semiotics with Galaxie 500. With Viking Moses at LOCAL 506. $10/ 9:30 p.m.


click to enlarge 08.06mushearingaid_holdstea.gif


From: Brooklyn by way of Minneapolis
Since: 2003
Claim to fame: Rose from ashes of cult fave Lifter Puller to surpass itself

If, instead of union halls and Jersey shores, Springsteen's characters hung with hoodrats, subsisting on a steady diet of drugs, alcohol and ill-fated hook-ups, they could've met in a Hold Steady song. Mining a similar vein of hope-tinged regret, frontman Craig Finn spins florid tales of suburban debauchery and post-graduation restlessness from a bed of bar-band bluster. The guitar-driven attack of the early albums has given way to more keyboards, heightening the Boss-like sensibility. But instead of elegies to a "Promised Land," the band's latest celebrates the struggle to Stay Positive. Tonight, gut punches of recognition trump fancy phrasing. With Loved One at CAT'S CRADLE. $15-$17/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker


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When Jay Cartwright smashed his keytar across the Local 506 stage last July, he thought he was done with music. Well in advance, his band of the last six years, Eyes to Space, had announced the gig would be its last stand. Cartwright was satisfied with the result and ready to move on: "I thought I had tapped out everything I had to say with music," Cartwright remembers. "I thought, 'Well, OK, this is where I should probably stop and pursue another interest.'"

Little ever ends that easily, though: Cartwright and Eyes to Space bassist Wendy Spitzer soon began playing in one another's new bands, and Dylan Thurston—their old drummer, who thought he'd skip town after Eyes to Space ended—decided to stick around. Joseph Mazzitelli, a younger guitarist who'd been a fan of Eyes to Space from the beginning, joined.

Sonically, Lemming Malloy isn't far removed from the crew's prior work: Keyboards unfold in wide melodies alongside Cartwright's slightly diffident vocals, while electric guitar, bass and drums prickle underneath. But Cartwright's newly literate, parable-driven songs about self-reflection and self-actualization are worth renewed interest. Which, should you get confused tonight, may explain the band's steampunk-crafted outfits and instruments... With The Travesties and Weatherkings. Free/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin


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