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The guide to the week's concerts 

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This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Ethan Master of the Hawaiian Ukulele/ Native Sound, Birds of Avalon/ The Cartridge Family, Regina Hexaphone, Benefit for Cy Rawls: The Magic Babies/ Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies/ more, Cary Fridley & Down South, Oxford Collapse, Howlies

VS.: John Mayer vs. Flock of Seagulls ↦ friends

INTRODUCING: Blood Red River

SONG OF THE WEEK: Blanket Truth's "Hanging Out"



Ethan Master of the Hawaiian Ukulele sometimes switches the ukulele out for a guitar, but he always wears board shorts and a lei. The stripped down look mirrors the stripped down sound of ukulele and voice, and a funny guy in a bathing suit quickly becomes vulnerable and touching. Baring his chest and his feelings, the Austin-based singer-songwriter delivers simple, upfront and charming lyrics. Reflecting on the good parts of a relationship gone bad on "The Part I Like," Ethan sings, "I like the part where we get enchiladas and go bowling." Joined by the feel-good piano pop of Winston-Salem band Native Sound. 9:30 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey


If Tropical Storm Fay indeed stalls elsewhere, four Triangle favorites will gather for a Thursday evening concert at Lichtin Plaza, the two-acre space outside of the Progress Energy Center. Most of these should be familiar: Birds of Avalon catapults into classic rock bliss with guitar-monies and big soul rhythms; The Cartridge Family totes the organ into the pub, swigging and singing in gruff measure; Violet Vector & the Lovely Lovelies heads back in time with blissed psychedelic pop; Chapel Hill newcomers The Huguenots lets harmonies chime in beneath skinny-tie, big-heart hooks. This free bill is a heads-up play by the same folks who offer Artsplosure. Music goes from 5:15-10:45 p.m. —Grayson Currin


Yes, true to the band's fourth syllable and thanks to a knack for gentle rhythms and pastoral arrangements, Regina Hexaphone has always been able to bewitch. But recent outings have—glory be!—unveiled plenty of crunch and frolic amid the spell-casting, providing a whole new reason to get hooked. Schooner, who recently toured north with the Hex, opens on this "Local Beer, Local Bands" night. 10 p.m. —Rick Cornell

click to enlarge Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies
  • Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies


This could be considered a pure sugar cane pop bliss installment of the Rawls benefits series. Where the Babies exhibit signs of British flair (handclaps and ooh ah harmonies intact), the Lovelies tap the bubblegum vein directly. Do the swim at 10 p.m. and chip in $5. —Chris Toenes


Cary Fridley first hit radar as a member of the Freight Hoppers, a young band playing old music. The Hoppers' take on traditional string band music was faithful and high-spirited, making them nearly a punk band in the burgeoning alt-country world. Fridley now leads Down South, an outfit that celebrates the next couple of generations of sounds that sprang from trad roots embraced, with reverent echoes of Bob Wills and Patsy Cline. See for details. $15/8 p.m. —Rick Cornell

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Bits, the fourth album from Brooklyn indie rock trio Oxford Collapse, isn't the band's best, but it does suggest fertile new ground for an act that seemed tired of indie rock perfection (which is what they offered) before it was time to tour its excellent third full-length. Excellent musicians and provocative arrangers all, the members of Oxford Collapse try new things for Bits, be it the string section of "A Wedding" or the funk-and-riff of "John Blood." The swings are occasionally misses, making Bits mostly transitional. The band doesn't forsake its long-time strengths completely, though: "Young Love Delivers" and "For the Winter Coats" still deliver wit and aplomb in meticulous anthem form. Brooklyn's Love as Laughter jumped Sub Pop ship for Holy, its debut on Isaac Brock's Glacial Pace imprint: Still, Sam Jayne's songs sound alternately like perfectly quiet rooftop daydreams or headphone sing-alongs for busy city streets. $10/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin


This Atlanta quartet's '60s garage rock is so energetic it's nearly power pop, an idea reinforced by the prolific backing vocals. After forming last August, the band traveled to California this spring to record its forthcoming debut, Trippin' with the Howlies, with Kim Fowley of The Runaways. The vocals hint at a glammy strut reminiscent of the New York Dolls, while the guitars betray an occasional Southern-rock twang. The varied arrangements are united by a gift for memorable melodies and strong vocals. It's territory that sounds pretty familiar by now, but it's handled deftly and with enough pop savvy to transcend formula. With Giant Tigers. 10 p.m. Also, look for the band with Blood Red River (see below) and The Barberries Monday, Aug. 25, at Slim's. —Chris Parker v

Wednesday, August 27

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From: Connecticut; now splits time between New York City and Los Angeles
Since: 1998
Famous for: Elevating sensitive acoustic blues to a fast food item

Mayer's mellow, rootsy, blue-eyed soul-pop has the same consistent, vaguely flavorless appeal as McDonald's hamburgers. As a double quarter pounder tastes like food, Mayer sounds almost like distinct music, but the longer you chomp or listen, the sensation flees completely. Not to impugn Mayer's impulse, but he's the Matthew McConaughey of rock, unchallenging and pleasant to look at without much ability to convey anything complex (though he's a fine guitar player). No complaints: For every Kandinsky there are thousands of "Dogs Playing Poker." Or "Your Body is a Wonderland." At WALNUT CREEK AMPHITHEATRE with OneRepublic. $30-$50.50/ 6 p.m.


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From: Liverpool
Since: 1979
Famous for: Bad hair, drum programming and mechanized, reprocessed R&B

The collective careers of the bands on the Regeneration Tour—these Seagulls, Human League, ABC, Naked Eyes, Belinda Carlisle—have been dead longer than Night Ranger's for equally good reason: Some fashions look frightful from the proper temporal distance. Yet it takes a stake through the heart to stop old hitmakers from touring (or a well-timed O.D., and, as Alice in Chains indicates, sometimes that doesn't work). Can you blame them for returning, moldering like zombies, after the Killers and other Indiana Jones-sorts desecrated their graves? Those not blinded by nostalgia or Rogaine fumes will gag at the thought of '80s British stabs at synthetic soul. Someone should knock them out, even if it's not Connecticut Clapton. At KOKA BOOTH AMPHITHEATRE. $35-$60/ 6 p.m. —Chris Parker


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Blood Red River terms its surf garage rock action/ adventure music. "You could definitely see us in the soundtrack to a movie, either a '60s surf movie or a B-rate horror movie or a Tarantino movie," explains bass player and sometimes singer Chris Pope, aka Chris 13. Lyrics tend to take a backseat to urgent guitar solos and pounding grooves that make you want to move. A go-go dancer (who played cowbell) used to be a part of each Blood Red River show, but the band is currently looking for a replacement.

The band does OK on its own terms, though: Listening to Blood Red River borders the adrenaline rush that comes with catching a big wave, gut-level enjoyment that has to do with existing in the moment. Together since 2004, the Durham quartet says it's mostly looking for a good time. "It's really not about a lot of money or anything like that. We really just want to have fun and be able to play fun shows for people." Though the band has a record done, it's primarily concentrating on live shows right now, looking for its favorite fan reaction: "This is something I don't hear every day ... and I like it." More indie garage retro sounds come from two Atlanta bands: The Barberries offer up gritty, psychedelic rock, and The Howlies deliver songs from a garage decorated with posters of The Beach Boys and The Stooges. 10 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey


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