Music » Our guide to this week's shows

The guide to the week's concerts

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This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Cults, Lonnie Walker, Sharon Van Etten, Diana Ross, Terry Tuff, The Gibson Brothers, The Love Language, Telekinesis, Mi Ami

VS.: Pontiak vs. Harvey Milk

VS.: Snake Oil Medicine Show vs. March Madness

SHOWING: Hand Prints: The Gig Poster Work of Justin Helton



YES, PLEASE...

03.10 CULTS @ LOCAL 506

This summer will be an interesting one for Cults. Almost exactly a year ago, the anonymous New York duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion put four songs on the Internet—led by the aestival anthem "Go Outside"—and followed the subsequent online buzz to big tours, a five-piece band and a major-label contract with Columbia Records. Cults' self-titled debut LP, scheduled for May release, maintains the band's mix of clever, complicated arrangements muted by the sort of warm lo-fi production that defined the greatest girl groups. But the beats seem too small for either indie dance parties or mainstream radio, meaning Cults will either change the way your FM dial sounds this summer, or be chillwave's first victim of major labels hopping trends too soon. The fantastic, audacious Sun Airway opens with Small Black. $10–$12/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin

03.10 LONNIE WALKER @ SLIM'S

Dressed slightly sloppy and with messy curls, Lonnie Walker frontman Brian Corum conveys an appropriate visual representation of his quintet's wild sound. They bound from sprawling vistas covered in plaid to the rickety folk-punk that races alongside Corum's poetic fount. SXSW-bound New York tourmates Dinosaur Feathers and Motel Motel are kindred spirits. Hinting at Vampire Weekend, the former's sunny '60s splendor overflows with lo-fi charms, while the latter manages to incorporate spiraling post-rock riffs, rustic Americana shuffles, processed vocals, explosive melodies, swelling orchestral strings, reverb-laden harmonies and digital blips into something simultaneously organic and progressive. $5/ 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith

Sharon Van Etten - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

03.11 SHARON VAN ETTEN @ KINGS

While Sharon Van Etten's modestly uncapitalized epic is a short album (clocking in at eight tracks and a mere 32 minutes), doing justice to its scope and grandeur requires copious use of the Caps Lock key. On only her second LP, Sharon Van Etten blows the doors off the flattering girl-with-a-guitar comparisons she earned for 2009's Because I Was In Love, revealing an adventurous and restless musical spirit that's a perfect match for her bell-clear voice and unflinching candor. She might speak softly, but Van Etten's songs are some of the biggest sticks around. Ava Luna and The Tender Fruit open. $8–$10/ 9:30 p.m. —David Raposa

03.11 DIANA ROSS, TERRY TUFF @ DURHAM PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

She may not be the Queen of Soul, but Diana Ross is arguably the biggest soul-pop diva to emerge from Motown. The leader of the Supremes enjoyed success as an actress as well as a pop singer, and though her commercial career has had its ups and downs since her prime, she's found her way back into the spotlight during every decade since. Though closing in on her 67th year, Ross still possesses a powerful, distinctive voice. This performance is part of her More Today Than Yesterday: The Greatest Hits Tour, which began last summer to very positive reviews. $40/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker

03.12 THE GIBSON BROTHERS @ BERKELEY CAFE

Eric Gibson's clear voice ascends the peaks of the traditional bluegrass quintet to find heartache, melancholy nostalgia and joyous hope. After all, high tenor vocals embody a sense of longing that defines bluegrass as much as the banjo does. Those high vocals are most effective, though, when rooted by something deeper, like Leigh Gibson's more resounding voice. Though different, the brothers' voices share a quality that makes their harmonies really stand out. The Gibson Brothers won a 2010 IMBA Award for Song of the Year, and released their 10th album, Help My Brother, last month. Mostly originals, the new record also includes songs by other great brother groups The Louvin Brothers and Jim and Jesse McReynolds. $12–$15/ 6 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey

03.13 THE LOVE LANGUAGE, TELEKINESIS @ LOCAL 506

"Dreaming of the coast of Carolina/ Dreaming of all the ways you will smile," sang Seattle one-man rock band Michael Benjamin Lerner, or Telekinesis, on his 2009 Merge debut. Though certainly not carefree, Lerner's first album was mostly bounds and smiles, a series of long-distance love letters to a girlfriend on the other coast. As its name might presage, 12 Desperate Straight Lines is the other end of that relationship, the breakup that caused him to run his bass through distortion and write a dozen stormy songs. Lerner's still got an ear for the sing-along, but the resilience and lift of his older work has, at least temporarily, given way to dealing with heartsickness. That means he's made a fitting tourmate for labelmates The Love Language, a band that turns the exigencies, anguish and embarrassment of love into soul-girded garage rock anthems. They sell out the Cat's Cradle, but tonight they'll headline this sold-out show. 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin

03.14 MI AMI @ NIGHTLIGHT

When Jacob Long, bassist for San Francisco trio Mi Ami, split with the band late last summer, the prospect of the act forging ahead as a duo seemed perplexing. For years, it had seemed confounding that Mi Ami's athletic, aggressive jams—math rock high on Afrobeat, reggae and liters of adrenaline, but certainly more immediate and infectious than that sounds—could be played by three people, let alone two. Last year's Steal Your Face at first felt busy enough to be noise, with layers intersecting so much and at such odd angles that chaos could be the only answer. Beneath the sheets of sound, there were songs and melodies that, given time, would eventually set their hooks deep. Tonight Daniel Martin-McCormick and Damon Palermo try to make Mi Ami work as a duo. $tinkworx brings the beats in the opening slot. $5/ 11 p.m. —Grayson Currin


FRIDAY, MARCH 11

PONTIAK

From: The hills of Virginia
Since: 2005
Claim to fame: Three brothers named Carney

The Southern boys of Pontiak have never found an easy audience: Though they've been a band for far less than a decade, they've crawled through the most turbid folk, charged with deliriously fuzzy rock and sprawled into lysergic, electric epics. Their stylistic range hasn't been easy for critics to label and for fans to latch onto, but their five albums have been case studies in movement and momentum. Pontiak's a restless band with an unabashed interest in exploring the heavy sounds it can weld together; thankfully, they have yet to reach the boundaries of those territories. White Hills and Horseback open this excellent triple bill. At NIGHTLIGHT. $7/ 9:30 p.m.

VS.

HARVEY MILK

From: Athens, Ga.
Since: 1992
Claim to fame: Southern metal weirdos for all time

The Southern men of Harvey Milk have never found an easy audience: Though they've been a band on and off for nearly two decades, their fucked-up mix of sludgy metal, math rock and straight-ahead rock 'n' roll menace—not to mention their confounding blend of sinister seriousness and beer-land goofball humor—has earned them little more than a cult following and a legion of influence. But Harvey Milk's steely tension and spitball release makes for an endlessly interesting discography, full of unexpected twists (see the guitar solos slathered across Life ... the Best Game in Town) and undeniable anthems (see all of last year's malevolent A Small Turn of Human Kindness). With Dark Sea Dream and Systems. At the CASBAH. $10–$12/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin


SATURDAY, MARCH 12

SNAKE OIL MEDICINE SHOW

From: Asheville
Since: Late ’90s
Claim to fame: Progressive Appalachian and reggae fusion

This matchup doesn’t test the quality of your taste. Rather, it’s a choice of which musical realm you prefer to enter. Asheville’s Snake Oil Medicine Show is an Americana/ jam band grab bag more polished than their eclecticism might suggest. The band meanders through a revved-up bluegrass revival akin to Old Crow; energetic spells of stateside reggae and jamming push attention spans but rarely venture into overreaching ham. The effect is much like wandering through an Appalachian craft fair. You get a small taste of each artist’s talents, then move on to the next stall. At THE POUR HOUSE. $10/ 10 p.m.

VS.

MARCH MADNESS

From: Raleigh (mostly)
Since: 2008
Claim to fame: Bangin’ beats—some slow, some fast

March Madness, on the other hand, is an electronic music showcase sponsored by Back2Wax. It sports two rooms, each displaying four acts working in different styles. The drum-and-bass room is highlighted by Raleigh’s Wally D, who puts together satisfying and professional examples of the subgenre, matching tenacious, fast-paced beats with intricately laid-out melodic bits and exceedingly well-timed sound effects. The dub room does equal justice to the headier, more laid-back style. Led by Psylo’s glitchy, hyper-rhythms, the lineup emphasizes how entrancing this luxurious technique can be. Adventurous banjo or throbbing bass: your call. At BERKELEY CAFE. $5/ 10 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence


SHOWING ...

03.12 HAND PRINTS: THE GIG POSTER WORK OF JUSTIN HELTON @ AMPLIFIED ART

Opening just four months ago in Raleigh's City Market, Amplified Art is a welcome addition to the Triangle arts scene. Housing hundreds of gig posters—in addition to music-related shirts, jewelry and artwork—the gallery also hosts live performances, rockumentary screenings and open-mic nights. This month's exhibition features Justin Helton, the sole proprietor of Knoxville's Status Serigraph and the creative director at AC Entertainment, which co-produces Bonnaroo and Big Ears. Alongside dozens of designs for The Avett Brothers, Helton's done work for The Black Keys, My Morning Jacket, Ween, Wilco and Phish, among many others. Tonight's opening reception begins at 7 p.m. with an acoustic performance from Raleigh's Debonzo Brothers. —Spencer Griffith

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