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The guide to the week's concerts 

This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Kooley High, Irata, Stephaniesid, David Karsten Daniels, The Heartless Bastards, Mad Tea Party, Unrest, Cage, Twin Tiger, The Kingsbury Manx

VS.: Yarn vs. Red Hot Poker Dots


click to enlarge King Mez - PHOTO BY D.L. ANDERSON


This is the second hometown show for Kooley High since the playful hip-hop collective headed north last month to find fame and fortune (it hopes) while repping the Triangle in New York. Already, the city has taken note: Reviewing a recent show, one Brooklyn blogger called it "the start of something that will spread quickly into house parties, clubs and local stages around New York." Savvy, streetwise emcee King Mez holds court with the authority his royal name suggests, spitting harrowing scenes of domestic violence and deadly car accidents against lighthearted flows on sneakers, skating and aimless cruising. Free/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith


It's an evening for moody, taut music. The bill's headlined by a pair of propulsive, widescreen instrumental acts, Irata and Gray Young. Greensboro trio Irata brings a menacing, muscular sound that leaves bruises, built around heavy, undulating rhythms and serrated plumes of guitar. It's interspersed with moments of quietude, which serve only to make the rest more punishing. Gray Young has similar sinew, but its arrangements aren't as lumbering or lingering. A typical song lasts less than four minutes and possesses a melodic core that warms the entire composition. Opener It's Just Vanity makes dreamy math rock, while Gods of Harvest's pretty, vocal-driven indie pop is the anomaly. $5/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker

click to enlarge Stephaniesid - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


Lilith Fair's Raleigh date has been canceled, but Stephaniesid carries the flame with a lively character reminiscent of the festival's early days. The trio alternates between fun, melodic neo-soul and pre-Y2K alt-rock, a little like Jill Scott singing for Garbage, or The Cardigans if they formed in Detroit. There's some requisite Asheville-style whimsy, but it doesn't distract. Listen for "Hey Hey Hey (It's Gonna Be Ok)," where Stephanie Morgan's playfully syncopated vocals ride the smooth analog warmth of Chuck Lichtenberger's keys. The Boathouse All-Stars and Cosmic Ray Liotta provide horn-driven jazz swing, or a middle ground between Glenn Miller and a New Orleans funeral. Also, Jar-E. $5–$7/ 9 p.m. —Corbie Hill


During his time in North Carolina, David Karsten Daniels made idiosyncratic, futuristic indie rock with Go Machine before recording Sharp Teeth, his promising solo debut for British indie Fat Cat. The follow-up, Fear of Flying, seemed appropriately named, but it at least necessitated some sort of sea change for Daniels: That comes with I Mean to Live Here Still, a trans-American collaboration between Daniels, now in San Francisco, and Richmond brass band Fight the Big Bull. Built on moments of tortured exclamation that border on religious wailing and played with brazen disregard for indie rock custom, Still is the sort of risky move that doesn't always pay off. But when the horns are howling just so, and Daniels quavers with resilience, it's a triumphant conquest. With Bright Young Things. $7/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin

click to enlarge Peter Wolf Crier - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


"Nothing seems the same," sings Erika Wennerstrom on a relative slow burner from the latest Heartless Bastards release, 2009's The Mountain. Thankfully, the remark is more a concession that the band's grown up than a warning that it's radically changed. Wennerstrom still howls, pushing the band with guitar playing that aims for alternately pummeling and transcendent, bluesy garage rock. This time around, though, the sound's been expanded with mandolins, banjos, strings and steel guitars. But it's an evolution, not an abandonment of the swagger and power that first brought them to our attention. Sharing the bill, Jagjaguwar newcomers Peter Wolf Crier pair acoustic intimacy with jarring percussion. On the debut Inter-Be, the guttural and ghostly collide into sad-eyed, distortion-thick, vulnerable tunes. Also, Alaskan quintet The Builders and Butchers. $12–$14 / 9 p.m. —Ashley Melzer


Retro rock can be divisive: If one decade is the pinnacle of pop, the next might be the end of days, and vice versa for the next listener. But multiple generations might agree on Asheville duo Mad Tea Party. The hyper jangle of Ami Worthen's electrified ukulele adds '60s pop glee to the rockabilly swagger of Jason Krekel's guitar. Greensboro's Pinche Gringo lacks such nuance, but his songs—slabbed in distortion—are just as catchy. Now You See Them opens. $7/ 10 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence


Other bands better represent the political and socioeconomic underpinnings of the American post-punk (as in, after punk rock) underground. But when it comes to exemplifying the creative spirit that drove that particular engine, there aren't many groups better than Unrest. The group began as a catch-all outfit where Teenbeat Records head Mark Robinson and friends got to muck around with post-punk (as in, after Gang of Four), hardcore, funk, bubblegum pop and whatever else they could get their hands on, for better or worse. One minute, they offered an interminable spoken-word piece about Sammy Davis Jr.; the next, they offered a not-unfaithful cover of "21st Century Schizoid Man." On 1991's Imperial F.F.R.R., the kitchen-sink shenanigans suddenly stopped. Instead, the trio (Robinson on guitar, with drummer Phil Krauth and bassist Bridget Cross) perfected an aesthetic that focused Robinson's rampant eclecticism into skittish pop tunes, their sweetness seasoned with just the right amount of bitter. It's this configuration that's reuniting in honor of Teenbeat's 26th anniversary. While songs like "Cherry Cream On" and "Isobel" are what most people think of when remembering Unrest, it's the group's entire body of work—warts and all—that's worth celebrating. With Bossanova and True Love Always. $15/ 8:45 p.m. —David Raposa

07.12 CAGE @ LOCAL 506

Ready for the return of rap-rock? It's re-emerged as those who pioneered East Coast underground rap have grown disillusioned and begun seeking new shores. Tracing a path blazed by Atmosphere, full backing bands and guitar-driven compositions are becoming de rigueur, like folk-punk for aging hardcore kids. Cage has never been content to sit still stylistically, and his bid to escape the backpacker ghetto, last year's Depart From Me, is largely successful. Former Hatebreed guitarist Sean Martin gives it bite, and Cage's lyrical outlook continues to mature as he looks to outgrow "Captain Bumout" and decides that "Fat Kids Need an Anthem," too. With Hate Your Guts and Timmy Wiggins. $9–$11/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker

click to enlarge Twin Tigers - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


Yes, Athens quartet Twin Tigers are among the legions to suddenly rediscover shoegazing. Their interpretation isn't as overdriven by drone as some acts (see Black Angels), and though the prickly buzz tends toward mid-tempo throb, the rhythms are brisker than you'd expect, tightening the tension. Singer Matthew Rain's brash baritone swaggers like The Cult's Ian Astbury, a gruff skywriter that wafts and drifts like smoke. Locals Lake Inferior's two EPs have dabbled with proggy sway and, more recently, burbling electro-pop. $8/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker

click to enlarge The Kingsbury Manx - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


Given the circumstances of a largely after-work crowd sipping its own beer, eating its own snacks and toting its own children to cheap shows on a wide lawn, Duke Performances' Music in the Garden series attracts surprisingly reverent and attentive audiences. That condition is crucial for tonight's performance by The Kingsbury Manx, a Carrboro quintet whose dreamy, sad-smile pop is often understated but never underdeveloped. A lattice of sly wordplay and intricate parts (hidden keyboard lines and slightly shifting rhythms) that suggest the craftsmanship and detail of a sand sculptor, The Manx's tunes wait calmly for your adoration, sparkling in the pale glow of sunset. This band and this series are two of the area's true musical treasures; tonight, during the Manx's "These Three Things," they waltz. $5–$10/ 7 p.m. —Grayson Currin


From: Brooklyn
Since: 2006
Claim to fame: Tuneful folk-rock with a strong bluegrass influence

Blake Christiana formed Yarn after he grew tired of the rootless grind of his jam band, Blake & the Family Dog. He hoped to make actual songs, and he's succeeded on Yarn's three albums, writing music with an inviting pulse, a warm presence and foot-tapping energy. They know restraint, allowing the songs to breathe their mix of traditional instruments and bright pop hooks. It's undeniably catchy roots music, but as sharp and polished as its execution is, it suffers from a crowded marketplace. The slick mandolin and dobro work's admirable, but you'd be hard-pressed to pick Yarn and its threads out of a lineup. With Town Mountain. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $8–$10/ 9 p.m.


From: Melbourne, Australia
Since: 1998
Claim to fame: Rambunctious, irreverent country-rocking spiritual kin to SCOTS

The Poker Dots had Yarn at "G'day." Their approach mirrors SCOTS in the easy manner with which it moves through rockabilly, country and bluesy rock. Their versatile style gives the albums a nice flow, particularly the latest, Swampy Tonk Avenue. Frontman Ray Dee Ator's sandpaper vocals keenly contrast upright bassist Lil'Odette's bright alto. The music overflows with ramshackle charm, suggesting a thigh-slapping moonshine-fueled hootenanny that lasts until dawn. What's more, their wit's the right cross after the music's steady jab of groovy energy, unleashing humorous paeans to lesbian friends, PBR and chicken. Yarn can't beat the Poker Dots' straight flush; they'll surrender to the Aussies' pizzazz like the rest of us. With New Town Drunks and Fantastico! At LOCAL 506. $5/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker


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