THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE If the best New Year's Eve celebrations are special events meant to coronate the calendar's shift in high fashion, The Foreign Exchange's year-ending show in Durham is in a league of its own this year. The wide bill brims with talent, from the rap of emcees Toon and the Real Laww to the jazz of trumpeter Al Strong. Yolanda Rabun—a lawyer who released two stellar soul albums in as many years and played several large roles in local theater as mere hobbies—shares time with DJ Apple Juice Kid, who's been busy with an ambitious project to build music production studios in third-world countries.
But the clear focus remains The Foreign Exchange, the preternaturally professional soul outfit of velvet-voiced singer (and former Little Brother leader) Phonte Coleman and Dutch producer Nicolay Rook. After meeting on the Internet and making their first album by international file-sharing, The Foreign Exchange was slow to build or premiere its live shows. In the years since, though, they've turned this franchise into an old-fashioned revue, with covers and interludes and guests galore. Admission includes a breakfast buffet on New Year's Day, helpful for sopping up those bubbles. MONDAY, DEC. 31, at THE COTTON ROOM. $70–$300/8 p.m.
HEADS ON STICKS & JUAN HUEVOS
Chapel Hill rapper Juan Huevos stars in Bad Economy, a new "short musical epic" made by longtime local musician, visual artist and impresario Neil Prewitt. Ostensibly a film about the quest to become an artist in a society whose creativity can be hidebound by professional school ambitions and desk-job doldrums, Prewitt shot Huevos' songs against a green screen, dropping Huevos' image into hilarious and telling settings. Tonight, Prewitt will show the film before Huevos performs his often absurd and consistently amusing songs. Prewitt will then provide projections for Heads on Sticks, the propulsive and muscular Raleigh rock band that arrives at a strange and alluring nexus of post-punk, New Wave and psychedelic radiance. SATURDAY, DEC. 29, at KINGS. $6/10 p.m.
MAKE, SOLAR HALOS
Tonight's triple bill won't be the last night at Raleigh's DIVEbar before it closes on New Year's Eve, but it will be the club's last offering of what it's regionally famous for—metal shows. Chapel Hill's MAKE gets evermore provocative by continuing to spread its tendrils beyond mid-tempo metal maul and toward more experimental approaches, including blackened atmospherics and long-form, triumphant composition. The kindred spirits of Solar Halos are one of local music's most exciting additions this year, giving Sleep-like menace a welcome veneer of urgency thanks to the irascible howl of frontwoman Nora Rogers. Kentucky's Stampede begins the ritualistic grieving with a rumble worthy of Sabbath and Motörhead worshippers. SATURDAY, DEC. 29, at DIVEBAR. Free/10 p.m.
THE LOLLIPOPS & MORE
For the third consecutive year since reopening on Martin Street, Kings Barcade will once again make excellent use of its downtown Raleigh location to throw a multimedia, multitier party. As First Night Raleigh, the city's official bash, counts down to midnight just around the block, Kings throws a miniature variety show of its own, with multiple DJs upstairs and downstairs in Neptune's Parlour (including First Friday favorite Jon Yu) and comedy acts throughout the evening. The real beacon tonight, though, are The Lollipops, a band high on excitability and big on unavoidable melodies. Though they tend to shamble on record, they prefer to charm on repeat once they hit the stage. MONDAY, DEC. 31, at KINGS. $8–$10/9:30 p.m.
"The most arduous task of my life." In a promotional video that former Spinns frontman Todd Colberg used earlier this year to raise funds for a book he'd written about his life on the road with his old garage rock renegades, that's the phrase he used to describe writing the book. After he says it, however, he pauses, picks a quick blues riff from his acoustic guitar and realizes it's likely a lie. "Except possibly the material that's inside of the book. That was pretty arduous, too." In their prime, The Spinns were a nasty, belligerent trio, high on the promise of girls named baby and parties lasting forever. This week, they'll put their other projects on hold (including Bitter Resolve and Pinche Gringo) to reunite for two shows. I recommend seeing them at The Cave, the underground crucible from which their big, dumb fun once came and went. SATURDAY, DEC. 29, at THE CAVE. $5/10 p.m.
GHOST TO FALCO, THE MERCATORS
With most touring acts off the road and one-time locals returning to see family members, the holiday season tends to result in bills as strange as this: Durham's The Mercators afford George Thorogood-sized sass to swiveling and slinking rock 'n' roll. Meanwhile, Ghost to Falco, on seasonal loan from the Pacific Northwest, documents emotional turmoil with strange sonic shifts of plunging gusto and cowering delicacy. Headliners Ye Olde Shoppe don't get out much, but their shimmering indie radiates like an overlooked jewel between the bedrock of American Music Club and Radar Bros. FRIDAY, DEC. 28, at LOCAL 506. $5/9 p.m.
TOM MAXWELL, SARAH SHOOK
Kingdom Come, last year's LP from former Squirrel Nut Zipper Tom Maxwell, is as wonderfully strange as you might expect: Jazz and blues brush up against heartland rock and cabaret verve, while anger and resentment share a track list with romance and adoration. More interesting than the band he left, Maxwell remains worthy of your attention. In recent years, Pittsboro's Sarah Shook has evolved from an overly lachrymose singer-songwriter sort to a dignified honky-tonk bandleader; tonight, she'll handle those country numbers solo with her shadowy purr. THURSDAY, DEC. 27, at TIR NA NOG. Free/10 p.m.
THE HACKENSAW BOYS, DANNY BARNES
They've backed Charlie Louvin, collaborated with Modest Mouse and toured with Cake, a triptych of symptoms pointing to The Hackensaw Boys' central aim—dressing up hillbilly music with big string-band flair. With a homemade percussion rig and a live presentation that suggests vintage Avetts, The Hackensaw Boys aim to recharge old Americana music through both goof and glee. Opener and former Bad Liver Danny Barnes is a genuine folk-rock weirdo, a banjo player who manipulates the instrument into rock 'n' roll shapes, supporting songs that are at once sentimental and realistic, detail-heavy and incredibly empathetic. Friday, Dec. 28, at Cat's Cradle. $15/9 p.m.
AMERICAN AQUARIUM, TIM EASTON
American Aquarium returning from a tour and playing in Raleigh is a certain section of the city's Thin Lizzy refrain, their collegiate homecoming, their open-mouthed Times Square kiss on Victory in Japan Day: The boys are back in town, and the whole crowd supports their agenda of drinking, cursing and singing at once. South Carolina openers Dangermuffin make music that sounds like Sperry Topsiders, for better and mostly worse, while first act Tim Easton is worth the cost of admission himself. His sandpaper voice gives his excellent portraits equal parts grit and grace. Show up early. FRIDAY, DEC. 28, at LINCOLN THEATRE. $12–$15/9 p.m.
Charlottesville singer-songwriter Caroline Spence makes the same economical and graceful folk-rock that's turned Nashville's Caitlin Rose into a possible star. As dependent on pop's affability as country's lust for love, Spence's music is a simple and affirming delight. She's joined tonight by John Prine adherent Rob Nance and peppy Durham country-swing-dance band Corn and the Colonels. THURSDAY, DEC. 27, at CASBAH. $5/9 p.m.
STAYING IN ON NEW YEAR'S EVE
Yes, it will be crowded, and yes, folks will act like idiots, but this year's musical New Year's Eve offerings are pretty spectacular. From The Foreign Exchange's soul throw down to Orquesta GarDel's salsa party, from The Pinhook's wild dance night to The Wusses' soft rock spectacular, you can choose your own adventure in anticipation of the New Year. So go out, see your favorite, toast at midnight and take care of one another.
Whether posting photos or sharing bootlegs, a concert is now an invitation to entertain online. Consider the webcast, the act by which a show—a momentary gathering of thousands of people—is broadcast to folks with nothing better to do on a Friday night. Then consider Phish's four-night Madison Square Garden webcast, in which one of the world's biggest live bands will prompt devotees to stare at a screen rather than go see a show. LINCOLN THEATRE broadcasts tonight's stream live; other people everywhere will live their lives in real-time, 3-D display. Sunday, Dec. 30. Free/ 7:30 p.m.