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The guide to the week's concerts 

This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Phil Cook and His Feat, Sumner James, Tim Smith Band, Handle with Care Benefit, Horse Feathers, Simon Joyner, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Matthew E. White, Midtown Dickens, Southern Femisphere, Twilighter, Black Skies, Caltrop, Fin Fang Foom

VS: Delta Rae vs. Pokey Lafarge vs. Scott Miller vs. NRBQ



Two intriguing Triangle side projects await at this week's Local Band, Local Beer double feature. With the aid of his Feat (that is, his feet on percussion), Phil Cook zeroes in on the ever-present old-time and blues influence of Megafaun. His lithe and luxurious instrumentals on banjo and guitar recombine forgotten American roots into music that feels at once unique and familiar. Sumner James, the solo outlet of Bombadil's James Phillips, abandons the dramatic whimsy of his band's charming folk, opting for found-sound electronica that suggests a more minimalist update on The Books. Free/10 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence


Chapel Hill jazz vocalist Tim Smith is also a multi-instrumentalist who's made contributions over the years to area acts like Squirrel Nut Zippers, Orquesta GarDel and The Beast. He's got the sax, keyboard and flute under control, but, like most contemporary male jazz singers, his real thrill comes with the challenge of singing jazz while not sounding like a cigar bar phony. As the frontman for his eponymous act, Smith strings up his voice with a kite-like disposition—dependable mostly, but always plotting on that impulsive gust of spirit to let his singing soar. This works for jazz, sure, but it's best when Smith's band coats the genre with reggae and soul layers. That's when his voice ricochets off those horizons. $12/9 p.m. —Eric Tullis


In honor of George Harrison's humanitarian spirit (see The Concert for Bangladesh), several local acts survey the unsung Beatles' rich catalog (and notable covers) from "Savoy Truffle" to "Got My Mind Set On You." Among those lending their talents are punchy '90s jangle popsters Jeff Hart & the Ruins, sweetly crooning alt-popsters Tripp, supple autumnal orch-folkies Morning Brigade and baroque art-pop duo Prypyat. Tripp frontman Alex Wilkins organized the show to benefit SECU Family House, which provides affordable lodging to seriously ill patients receiving treatment at UNC Hospitals. $8–$12/8:30 p.m. —Chris Parker

click to enlarge Horse Feathers


"It's a hard country we made," sings Horse Feathers leader Justin Ringle on the band's latest, Cynic's New Year. Given the polarization of recent politics, Ringle has a point. Then again, with Horse Feathers things are not always as glum as they seem: Doubts and ruminations on the passage of time have their place here, but more often than not, they give way to thoughtfully lifting arrangements instead of minor-key wallowing. Ringle and his revolving cast of collaborators explore elegant melodies, and that's a gift no matter what kind of country you call home. $12–$14/9:30 p.m. —Ashley Melzer


Simon Joyner has been at it a long time; his first release was in 1993. So you might say Conor Oberst stole this Omaha fixture's thunder. They share a similar bedraggled, melodramatic singer/songwriter sensibility. Less an acquired taste than something that's had trouble cutting through the sonic clutter, Joyner's latest, Ghosts, highlights his strengths and varied sensibilities. Opening track "Vertigo" slices sideways, betraying a grimy, minimalist post-punk ethos that's followed with the Chapin-esque story-folk of "Last Will and Testament." The spare and angular ballad "Red Bandana Blues" suggests a Spaghetti Western with the spoken-sung emotional tenor of Lou Reed and the noisy tonalities of Wire. $5/9 p.m. —Chris Parker


Though The Mighty Clouds of Joy have been singing their gospel celebrations (albeit with vastly varying lineups) for the better part of a century, don't call them dated: They often flit from the traditional to the contemporary, backing their astounding voices with arrangements that push toward the edge of R&B. They've worked with big producers and stars, attempting relevancy in a field sometimes treated like a Sunday afternoon museum service. For some, The Mighty Clouds might put a bit too much polish on these bedrock numbers, sometimes focusing on individual power and modern flash, at least relative to gospel's primitive core. But the song and the singing—wow, that singing—are still there, stretching these treasured tunes along toward their most sacred ground. This is a special two-night stand for the treasured Hayti Heritage Center. $10–$34/8 p.m. —Grayson Currin


Released earlier this year on Hometapes, a Portland label with intense local ties, Big Inner is the debut album by Richmond bandleader Matthew E. White under his own name. But it would be wrong to call it White's debut, as he's spent time during the last decade co-leading the adventurous pan-Americana updates The Great White Jenkins and the versatile jazz beast Fight the Big Bull. Those experiences find their culmination in Big Inner, a wonderful entrée that broadcasts very personal feelings about history and love and family through very public arrangements, delivered by a crew consisting of a choir, a horn and strings cavalcade and a rhythm section that lets all of White's New Orleans adoration resonate. Poignant and beautiful, Big Inner is both immediate and adventurous, the kind of record that continues to unfold its nested layers of reward over time. Meanwhile, Home, the third and most recent album from Durham's Midtown Dickens, successfully captures their ascendance from a cute and quirky pair of pals playing warts-and-all ditties to a proper ensemble that highlights those previous eccentricities with more customary oomph and elegance. The seams still show, but in their current configuration, Midtown Dickens make them appear as intentional patterns in the design, not problems in the fabric. $10/8 p.m. —Grayson Currin


Charleston, S.C.'s Southern Femisphere was born out of a Weezer tribute performance a year ago. But these days, the quartet sounds instead like Pixies followers big on punk-charged rock, alternately sweet and mildly aggressive with abundant harmonies. Local quintet Twilighter—whose name perfectly fits its late-night quirks but, in the path of Twilight's teenage vampires, aren't the most easily found band on the Internet—shares that Pixies feel on eclectic indie rock that borrows elements of twang and post-punk to become thoroughly unpredictable. SoFem's fellow Chucktown act Boring Portals blasts its garage-punk into noisy shards, only to pick up the pieces with raw, retro-minded power pop. $5/10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith


Sponsored by WXYC's "Backyard Barbecue," this showcase digs into Chapel Hill's fertile hard rock underground. Black Skies solidify dense Southern sludge, fissuring their weighty distortion with quick and concussive riffs. Caltrop's music is more spacious. Tangled guitars inspired equally by blues and prog soar to incredible heights despite the group's leaden tones; it's the aural equivalent of the butterfly-winged rhino that adorns the band's most recent album cover. Depending on ominous spaces between guitar and keys, Fin Fang Foom is sleekest in its aggression. Massive shoegaze riffs are given focus through tenacious rhythms and throbbing bass. $4/5 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence



FROM: Durham
SINCE: 2009
CLAIM TO FAME: Harmony-laden folk rock siblings

As pure, crisp and refreshing as Budweiser, this Durham sextet possesses wholesome old-fashioned American charm. The Hölljes siblings (Eric, Ian and Brittany) have big voices, capable of tender subtlety and soaring bombast. Though generally country, they spend nearly as much time chasing adult pop with a predilection for blue-eyed soul. This summer's debut, Carry the Fire, was executed well enough, though it suffered from the overwrought instrumentation and emotionality implicit to attempted pop crossovers. With Jillette Johnson. At CAROLINA THEATRE. $21–$26/8 p.m.



FROM: St. Louis, Mo.
SINCE: 2009
CLAIM TO FAME: Jazzy old-timey Americana

If Pokey LaFarge hadn't been born, NPR would've created him. He epitomizes the cultured, once-again trendy brand of swinging pre-World War II Americana last championed by listeners of This American Life. Sophistication's no shame, and LaFarge plays with great feel and reverence. Still, the form's novelty's faded considerably since Jolie Holland raided it for 2003's Catalpa. After six years of recording and touring, LaFarge and his band, the South City Three, are as tight as Delta Rae is polished, but their zeal makes them sound fresher, despite the moldy source material. With the Dirt Daubers. At BERKELEY CAFE. $10–$12/9 p.m.



FROM: Knoxville, Tenn.
SINCE: 1994
CLAIM TO FAME: '90s alt-country rocker who led the V-Roys

If there were a black belt in roots rock, Scott Miller would hold it. Two decades in, he's developed into a regional treasure. He's moved on from the ragged twang of his youth into more of a folk vein, though the border's unguarded. He's always possessed an assurance with a hook, but since going solo around the millennium, he's shown increasing skill with his lyrics and storytelling, especially on the Prine-like smalltown ode, "Lo Siento Spanishburg, West Virgina." LaFarge is a rising star, but Miller's the whole package, with a craftsmanship that experience brings. With Mic Harrison. At CASBAH. $12–$15/9 p.m.



FROM: Miami, Fla.
SINCE: 1967
CLAIM TO FAME: Rollicking bar-band blues and rock

The fun-loving quartet NRBQ have more in their favor than seniority. They're the ultimate bar/wedding/cruise band, amplifying the good-time vibes with foot-tapping tunes and great, understated musicianship. Wander away from frontman Terry Adams' easy '70s cocktail boogie vocals for a moment, and you'll find a band cranking irrepressible grooves with swing. They're capable of just about anything, from dark jazz to R&B, from British Invasion rock to power pop. But what they specialize in is ass-freeing exuberance—and that's enough to turn all these others out. With Blue Dogs. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $14.50–$17/8 p.m. —Chris Parker


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