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The guide to the week's music 

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This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Gray Young, Veelee, Jews & Catholics, Dirty Little Heaters, Chrome Plated Apostles, Lost in the Trees, The Kingsbury Manx, Hammer No More the Fingers, Spiderbags, Estrogen Highs, The Waybacks

EH, WHATEVER: Pete Yorn, Nice-N-Smooth

VS.: Nesey Gallons vs. Lions

VS.: Corey Smith vs. The Successful Failures

VS.: Kevn Kinney Band vs. Dan Zanes & Friends



The charged atmospheres of Gray Young's often-instrumental anthems are natural showstoppers, so it's fitting that the Raleigh band should headline this bill. Suggesting Mogwai a decade ago putting its mind toward to pop concision, Gray Young heats its iron quickly, brands you with a crescendo and picks up the next piece. Their top billing shouldn't be seen as a slight against Veelee, new Chapel Hill favorites who take two simple pieces—drums and guitar—and craft genuinely addictive pop bursts. Greensboro openers Jews & Catholics take the two-piece format the opposite way, injecting its co-ed tunes with dissonance at angles. Free/ 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin


Reese McHenry channels the bloozy bluster of Janis Joplin and stomps the little pieces of her heart with steel-toed boots. Her guitar screeches like a lonely child afraid of the dark, its piercing cries chased by a bulldozing rhythm section that must demolish vacant homes by day. Its vibrancy will put the hairs on your arm at attention, filling the air with enough static current to blow a synapse. (OK, that's just a rumor.) Openers Chrome Plated Apostles ride a similarly raunchy, hard-driving blues undercurrent, fueled by the grimy slide guitar slink of Clif Mann. Also, the hard-livin'/ rockin' Needles. $5/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker

click to enlarge The Kingsbury Manx - PHOTO BY D.L. ANDERSON


On the weekend before Merge celebrates its 20th anniversary, it's certainly fitting that the Cradle stage goes to these three extraordinary locals. For any Merge early-birds, Hammer No More the Fingers' quick cuts to guitar hooks might sound a little Superchunk, but between Joe Hall's jagged guitar lines, their nods at funk and intricate placement of three-part harmonies, you're not going to mistake the stage for a time machine. The Kingsbury Manx's latest, Ascenseur Ouvert!, is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music compiled this year: The quartet's songs tuck reflections into quiet corners, illuminating the space with the soft light of keyboards and shuffling guitars. Returning from tour, expect the dozen-plus moving parts that comprise the symphonic melodrama of Lost in the Trees—strings and horns pushing below and beyond a rock band core—to fall into place. $8/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin


At its best, as on "Waking Up Drunk," Spider Bags lurches forward at an easy mid-tempo, spreading limbs into corners of country, punk and shaggy garage rock. Frontman Dan McGee makes his declarations in a bleary-eyed deadpan, staggering as his band whirls around him. "Waking up drunk makes me happy/ Lately you just bring me down," he insists. The easy assumption is that McGee's consternation here is toward a lover, but, for the sake of a Sunday night bender, let's say he's singing a few hours too early to the bosses who'll likely be greeted with the bloodshot eyes of employees under the influence of Spider Bags. The band's second LP, Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World, hits shelves Aug. 25, and it's been worth the wait. Connecticut's Estrogen Highs and Michigan's Liberty Wings open. $5/ 9 p.m. —Bryan Reed


The Bay Area's Waybacks are one of seemingly hundreds of bands—from the Avett Brothers to the Zydepunks—that look, well, way back, applying trad forms and instrumentation and then putting their own rocked-up, roughed-up, whatevered-up twist on things. The Waybacks are more eclectic than most in that crowd, though, and a bit more restless, too. That desire to keep evolving suits them well, as does the move across the years from a Young and in the Way acoustic outfit to, with the addition of the dazzling Warren Hood, a power trio with fiddle. $12-$15/ 7 p.m. —Rick Cornell



Greg Nice was the chubby rapper with the megaphonic mouth who might be remembered best as the guy who yelled "I say butter, you say Parkay!!" over a DJ Premier beat. The other guy in the group, Smooth B, raps as if the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz adopted a British accent and started battling emcees on New York street corners. This sort of matchup worked in early '90s hip-hop. Today, these two might make for marginally successful subway buskers. $18-$20/ 8:30 p.m. —Eric Tullis


Like most of Pete Yorn's 2001 debut, musicforthemorningafter, that album's "For Nancy ('Cos It Already Is)," circumscribed bombastic pop hooks with welcome tricks and puns. Even the title is a smart little statement. Yorn's lithium-leveled voice poured in through heavy effects, while the songs themselves tinkered with structure and sonics until they tottered with perfectly uncertain energy. But Yorn's fallen hard on a conservative streak for the rest of this decade, trimming the idiosyncrasies of his words and sounds until they're closer to Howie Day or an old Laurel Canyon droop. When the most interesting moment on your fourth record (which at least aims for a trick with the title Back and Fourth) puts the line "I've got what I wanted and it's never enough" above a tambourine, a polite organ peal and a nondescript harmony, you've settled. With Zee Avi. $25/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin



From: Athens, Ga.
Since: Debut due this year
Claim to fame: Elephant 6 collaborations and tours

We'd be oblivious to history to expect nothing less than a little mystery and a load of quixotic sounds from any new project with roots in the Neutral Milk Hotel/ of Montreal-spawning Elephant 6 collective. Nesey Gallons—who's often been confused with his collaborator, NMH alumnus Julian Koster—won't make us eat those words. A sunken-eyed songwriter with a tinny warble and tremulous delivery, Gallons starts softly and sparsely, his small-bodied acoustic guitar carefully creaking chords. But even alone with only his guitar, Gallons lets the motion and the action build, his notes growling with unease and his voice reaching for some emotional deliverance. Nathan Oliver opens with a solo set. At NIGHTLIGHT. 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin



From: Austin, Texas
Since: 2004
Claim to fame: A tune in Guitar Hero III

We'd be oblivious to good sense to expect to be wooed by a cover of Bob Dylan's love elegy "Girl from the North Country" by Lions—a guitar-brandishing band from Austin, Texas, that suggests, among all things adenoidal, Rage Against The Machine and Deep Purple. But Lions makes us eat those words, and it tastes better than nostalgia. Easing out of his voice's throttle, frontman Matt Drenik suggests Nada Surf's aching arches, while distorted guitars stretch out like Hill Country landscapes, rugged and alluring. In spite of the well-ridden backs they travel for originals, the songs veer surprisingly while landing a new hook about every four minutes. Durham's The Grappling Hook opens. At LOCAL 506. $8/ 9:30 p.m.



From: Georgia
Since: the late '90s
Claim to fame: Another Smitty

Let's play the name game. Corey's one of the more recent Smiths in the music world, following in the footsteps of country singer Sammi, rockabilly Warren, the incomparable Patti, Fred "Sonic," Morrissey's crew, jazz organist Jimmy and a host of others. That said, Corey Smith sounds nothing like any on that list, instead favoring a heartland/heartstrings approach that leans on soulful vocals and a sound that's half folk-rock, half bombast-free commercial country. The Randy Rogers Band and locals American Aquarium, whose wordy rustic 'n' roll works to connect the dots between Bob Dylan and Craig Finn, open. $10-$30/ 7:30 p.m. At THE KOKA BOOTH AMPHITHEATRE.



From: Trenton, N.J.
Since: 2006
Claim to fame: Opposites attract

Let's play the name game. The Successful Failures stand alongside Guns N' Roses, Violent Hippie and Led Zeppelin in the land of oxymoronic band names. But the four-piece Failures sound nothing like any of those, instead favoring a straightforward power-chord pop approach with a hint of twang and a strong appeal for anyone who's ever owned Pleased to Meet Me or Altered Beast. The band's led by songwriter Mick Chorba of the longstanding Dipsomaniacs and the head of the FDR label. Stratocruiser, with stadium-ready rock in tow, opens. $5/10 p.m. At SLIM'S. —Rick Cornell


click to enlarge 07.15mus_hearingaid_kevnkin.gif


From: Atlanta/ New York
Since: 1985
Claim to fame: Leader of Drivin' n' Cryin' offers folk music for the jaded

Kevn Kinney sounds like a city at 4 in the morning. Delivering working-class lyrics of fatigue and resiliency with a slight nasal whine, Kinney suggests a less-poetic, more pedestrian Bob Dylan. Strumming his acoustic guitar, he makes melodies of folk and alt-rock to accentuate his stories, providing hope to melancholic songs like streetlights tricking the eyes into seeing a coming dawn. Backed by bass and drums, Kinney shares the energy of a day yet to begin with his bandmates. David Titchner and Katherine Roach of Waylandsphere open. At THE POUR HOUSE. $10-13/ 10 p.m.


click to enlarge 07.15mushearingaid_danzanes.gif


From: Brooklyn
Since: 2000
Claim to fame: Leader of The Del Fuegos offers folk music for the unjaded

Dan Zanes and Friends sound like a park at noon. Drums, bass, guitar, violin, mandolin and accordion leapfrog, combining with group vocals like best friends in a sandbox. The bright and vivid tone extends across gospel, labor songs and traditional Latin American tunes. Zanes' inviting demeanor inspires excitement for exploring folk music, and his openness to fans of all ages is reminiscent of a partying Pete Seeger. While Zanes has increased his fanbase by appearing on Playhouse Disney, he doesn't play children's music as much as he plays music that seems suited for the soul—regenerative like an elongated lunch break. Family Fun Night at the N.C. MUSEUM OF ART begins at 5 p.m. $9-$18 and free for children 2 and under. —Andrew Ritchey

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