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The guide to the week's concerts 

This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: June Star, WCOM Acousticfest, Mount Moriah, Old Bricks, Filthybird, Elizabeth Cook, Slurpee, Leadfoot, Bad Checks, Bitter Resolve, Caltrop, Fin Fang Foom, Ritual, North Elementary, The Honored Guests, Butterflies, The Moaners, Embarrassing Fruits, Grand Champeen, Ghostface Killah, Macy Gray, Rocky Votolato, Gentlemen Jesse & His Men

VS.: Small Black vs. Fake Problems



In its 12 years of haunting clubs up and down the East Coast, Baltimore's June Star has had at least a baker's dozen different lineups. But the one constant is determined singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Andrew Grimm. A trusty brand of roots rock, his music has never sought to break ground as much as it celebrates hallowed ground. Grimm is comfortable walking where the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young (and that pair's godson, Jay Farrar) have hiked while still, across six accomplished releases, staking out just a bit of seaboard turf that's all his own. Pass the hat/ 10 p.m. —Rick Cornell


Carrboro's Elizabeth Cotten wrote her signature tune "Freight Train" while listening to the trains rambling through town. The homespace of WCOM, Carrboro's community radio station, is referred to by many DJs as the Elizabeth Cotten Memorial Studio, and courtesy of a recent move, that studio is a little closer to the inspirational railroad tracks. Plus, it now has a bathroom. But creature comforts cost greenbacks, thus the annual fundraising Acoustic Fest. Providing the music this year are jazz-leaning folk singer Louise Bendall, wife-and-husband/ voice-and-violin duo Lynn Blakey and Ecki Heins, and non-wife-and-husband blues duo Harmonica Bob and Near Blind James. Donations/ 7:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell


Three can't-miss locals—each with knockout vocalists—travel varying avenues of Americana. Heather McEntire's crisp, fragile coo cuts through the wide open spaces of Mount Moriah's rustic morass, though the slow-burning arrangements will be fuller than normal with well-traveled drummer Lee Waters and Megafaun's Phil and Brad Cook joining McEntire and longtime collaborator Jenks Miller tonight. Stuart Edwards' wavering, emotive voice is almost a dead ringer for Conor Oberst, and his Old Bricks suggest a more adventurous Bright Eyes. Greensboro's Filthybird comes with more distant roots, as Renee Mendoza's gorgeous, tender pipes tie together cosmic trips within a swirling galaxy of pop, indie rock and folk. Free/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith

click to enlarge Elizabeth Cook - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


Welder, the latest release from Nashville's Elizabeth Cook, gets its title from a line in the harrowing yet hopeful "Heroin Addict Sister." It could just as easily be naming one of the few things that Cook isn't. She's a country singer gifted enough to have earned numerous Grand Ole Opry appearances. She's a songwriter nimble enough to move from the deeply personal ("Mama's Funeral" and the aforementioned "Heroin Addict Sister") to the deeply goofy ("El Camino"). She's an interpreter comfortable with the Velvet Underground songbook. She's even a radio show host. On second thought, I bet she can at least spot weld. $13–$15/ 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell


Strap on your beer helmet and ready your air hammer for an old-fashioned Triangle rock rumble. Slurpee reunite after 16 years, reigniting their garage-glam fury in a firestorm of riffage and rhythms. The Bad Checks' mutant punkabilly blues writhes like a trouser snake living on a diet of gasoline and broken glass. Southern-fried metalheads Leadfoot fashion an anvil-dropping roar, like Thin Lizzy and Clutch making Lynyrd Skynyrd squeal like a pig. The new trio Bitter Resolve invites a contact buzz with lumbering throb. $7/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker


Asheville's Ritual opens the evening, evoking Mastodon with gruff harmonies and thick riffs split by ornate fills. Like headliners Caltrop, their heft is belied by deft melodies. The Chapel Hill foursome's blend of sludgy slog and prog-rock fluidity suggests a volcano coating the ground with thick, oppressive ash, and flashing brilliant heat and color in its cascading streams of lava. Middle band Fin Fang Foom offers complementary bulk, leaning post-rock with deliberate builds in density and brooding melody. $5/ 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed


With their shrouds of psychedelica, North Elementary and The Honored Guests make good neighbors. Their compositions possess strong hooks and mesmerizing shimmer in equal measure. North Elementary are the more steadfastly pop-oriented, though their presentation's grown idiosyncratic and grand across their six albums, culminating in their particularly warped latest, Southern Rescue Trials. The Honored Guests' trajectory's been different, pulling back from the fanciful experimentation of 2006's Tastes Change into a dark, layered sound whose tighter boundaries give new album Please Try Again greater immediacy. $6/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker

click to enlarge The Moaners - PHOTO BY MIKE TRIPLETT


This extraordinary triple bill offers The Moaners a chance to showcase their eclectic third album, Nocturnal. It mediates their bluesy aggression with greater finesse and a meditative vibe that harkens back to the moodiness of frontwoman Melissa Swingle's former Trailer Bride. Embarrassing Fruits purvey prickly indie rock with a winsome melancholy, reminiscent of '90s Merge mainstays Butterglory and Sebadoh. Austin's Grand Champeen is the biggest treat and surprise: Inspired by The Replacements ragged moxie but with bigger hooks, their rock blends the vigor of drunken garage-twang buzz and power-pop insistence. $6/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker


Def Jam Records has become increasingly known for botching careers, recently pushing Shyne and Nas to air their grievances against the label. Ghostface's seven-year run with Def Jam doesn't appear to be as tumultuous, mostly because faithful Wu-Tang heads are similar to die-hard New York Yankees fans. They'll do whatever it takes to support their "rap Derek Jeter." Via Twitter, Ghostface recently announced that his ninth LP, The Apollo Kids, will be released mid-December. For all of us in the Triangle, the LP's title should resonate, as Ghostface dropped the line "straight from Raleigh-Durham" on the song "Apollo Kids," from his 2000 sophomore masterpiece, Supreme Clientele. Raekwon rocked Hopscotch last month; this month his Wu-Tang bredren rock Carrboro. W's up! $16—$18/ 9:30 p.m. —Eric Tullis


"Beauty in the World," the first single from Macy Gray's fifth album, The Sellout, lilts and charms in mostly every way possible: Along with handclaps and roaring organ, there's a big, stomping beat, a huge, swollen chorus and some resplendent, soaring strings. And then there's Gray's verve and humor, as she playfully switches between a happiness mantra—"There's beauty in the world"—and a celebration edict—"So shake your booty." And she delivers it all with the same warmly creased voice that turned "I Try" into one of the most endearing bits of pop of the '90s. It's good to have Gray back in goofy, grinning form. $37.35/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin

click to enlarge Rocky Voltolato - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


Rocky Votolato's songs often send happily mixed messages. The former frontman of the driving emo band Waxwing, Votolato still sings in an earnest pine, his soft voice often coiling for a sort of Dashboard Confessional toughness. Coupled with his simple acoustic guitar patterns, his reputation as a weepy sort is easy to understand. And though Votolato sings of the hard lessons of his emotional history, his words are testaments to resilience and perseverance. Though his albums have grown a tad listless since he signed to Barsuk for 2006's Makers, the unease in his voice still somehow affords an abiding calm. With Ha Ha Tonka. $9–$11/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin

click to enlarge Gentlemen Jesse & His Men - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


The music of Atlanta's Gentlemen Jesse and his rotating cast of Men is part power pop and part punk, although that latter chunk might just be an occasional echo from Jesse Smith's work in the Carbonas. It's part Wreckless Eric and part Nerves. And it's part Teenage Kicks: UK Pop 1 (1976-79) and part Starry Eyes: UK Pop II (1978-79), both essential Rhino releases. Also on the bill are glammy fellow Georgians the Barracudas and locals Last Year's Men, whose punker pop suggests a record collection not unlike Gentleman Jesse's. $8/ 9:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell


click to enlarge Small Black - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


From: Portland, Ore.
Since: 2008
Claim To Fame: Serving as Washed Out's backing band

Though Small Black fit within the chillwave rubric—heavily processed, loop-driven music with a somnambulant drift and trebly breakbeats—there's more meat to the meal than their peers' typical thin gruel of mechanized, watercolor synth. On the other hand, auteur Josh Kolenik's wispy tenor's so slight it's nearly translucent. His sound may work within the context of the music, but it's nearly a non-entity, just a pale balloon bobbing above busy, colorful arrangements. Though the sound's nowhere close to no-fi, it's a welcome change from the shiny textures favored by the band's peers. Small Black is still minimal, but at least it supports your attention. With Class Actress and DJ Yes! Sputnik. At KINGS BARCADE. $8/ 9 p.m.


click to enlarge Fake Problems - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BAND


From: Naples, Fla.
Since: 2001
Claim to fame: Early Against Me! fascination

Though they've struggled with a similarity to their Against Me! buddies up Interstate 75 in Gainesville, Fake Problems have always demonstrated a refreshing adventurousness, spicing their folk-punk with horns, strings and more hooks than Tom Gabel ever deigned to offer. Indeed, their main similarities were hard strummy chords and Chris Farren's hoarse punk growl. That changed on Real Ghosts Caught On Tape, where Farren discovered his singing voice, while the band mothballs the vigorous attack for anthemic indie pop whose spirit (much more than sound) resembled Gaslight Anthem. Confronting the pain of youthful self-discovery, its maturity, beauty and emotional ballast blow a hole in Small Black's trendy triviality. With Gay Blades. At LOCAL 506. $8–$10/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker


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