ZS, GUARDIAN ALIEN
Plain and simple, this is freak music, but it's not necessarily free: Though Zs and Guardian Alien move with the instrumental dexterity and fluidity of various improvisational ensembles and jam bands, both groups are tightly coiled and carefully created creatures. Sure, their music provides an opportunity for experiential freedom, where listeners might get lost in the wallop of Zs' repeating and bludgeoning riffs and loops or Guardian Alien's wall-to-wall fabrics of rhythm and texture. But the bands themselves are slaves to these complicated machinations, which pair extreme technicality to even more extreme bravado and imagination. These bands make music that feels like drugs, but these are high-grade pharmaceuticals, chemistry unaltered by false practitioners and uncut with additives.
Zs are something of a jazz band, having emerged in sextet form a decade ago, a period documented on a great four-disc retrospective set issued last year. Now in their third lineup, Zs are a trio, with founder and saxophonist Sam Hillmer joined by guitarist Patrick Higgins and drummer Greg Fox. This iteration is a relatively unknown quantity, though Fox shouldn't be: The formerly compulsive catalyst behind black metal band Liturgy, his drumming also leads Guardian Alien, a band that's equally fond of strange and playful sound environments and great paroxysms of abrasion, acceleration and triumph.
It's OK if you need to bow out of this one a bit early: Either band alone is a strong dose, but united, you best take care not to trip and fall. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, AT KINGS. $8/9 p.m.
MISSION OF BURMA
In the recent spate of indie rock reunions, perhaps none is more remarkable than that of Mission of Burma. The crunchy and caustic Boston band has made much more music since getting back together than they ever did in the '80s. Last year's Unsound isn't the most successful document of Mission of Burma's renewal, but it does deliver several burly, snarling sinews of their elemental aggression. And live, it makes little difference what they play—they're a wrecking ball of veteran power. With Eula. FRIDAY, MARCH 15, AT CAT'S CRADLE. $16–$18/9 p.m.
Kishi Bashi is a solo violinist with a delicate, airy voice and a station of loop pedals that he uses on stage to weave his plucked and pulled strings into tapestries and rhythms. If that sounds like the plot to an early Andrew Bird show, don't be fooled: Bashi is a postmodern stylistic plunderer who spikes his bursts of songs with spans of beat-boxing and noise, meaning he aims for triumph in moments where Bird might tremble. You might recognize a few of his songs (especially the bursting "Bright Whites") from commercials; see Bashi live, and you're likely to realize that the ingenious multi-instrumentalist is just getting started. With Elizabeth & the Catapult and Prypyat. FRIDAY, MARCH 15, AT MOTORCO. $10–$12/9 p.m.
DAYTONA, LAST YEAR'S MEN
On the Bandcamp page for Storm So Long, the year-old EP from Brooklyn rock trio Daytona, the band lists a few very basic data tags, followed by this plea: "Don't pigeonhole us pleeeeeeease." Fair enough, as Daytona's music jangles and jaunts somewhere between psychedelic drift and garage crunch, with moments of near-post-rock shimmer sidled beside power-pop zest. They're a fun group that's not vapid, a somewhat simple band that's not silly. Better, Daytona? Last Year's Men require little area introduction, but for good measure, they are a truly excellent and young group that's outgrowing the mere garage-rock confines of their debut LP. With a Greg Cartwright-helmed album imminent, this year should be better than last year for 'em. FRIDAY, MARCH 15, AT THE PINHOOK. $6/10 p.m.
Shannon Whitworth's sea change of a new record, High Tide, opens with the title track, a song about heading to the coast. The Brevard, N.C., siren used to pluck banjo in unremarkable bluegrass act The Biscuit Burners. Her subsequent two solo records have served as transitions between that and this—High Tide, an album that casts a core of songs about loving and longing in garage-rock verve, old-time soul warmth and alt-country approachability. The songs bear the loosely psychedelic stamps of producer and Floating Action impresario Seth Kauffman, but his importance here shouldn't serve as a distraction from Whitworth, who sings these simple verses as though she'd been searching for these settings her entire life. Andrew Marlin opens. FRIDAY, MARCH 15, AT THE ARTSCENTER. $12–$15/8 p.m.
Despite the singer-songwriter handle, Holly Hunt actually comprises drummer Beatriz Monteavaro and guitarist Gavin Perry. Together, the Miami duo make wordless stoner metal from uncomplicated riffs and steady boom-crash rhythms, leavened by tones so viscous that you'll think you're swimming in them. With Yohimbe, Trickery and Secret Boyfriend. TUESDAY, MARCH 19, AT NIGHTLIGHT. $5/9 p.m.
The name Morning Brigade certainly suits the sound of the young Chapel Hill sextet that takes it. Their lilting acoustic indie rock rises with the promise of a balmy Carolina dawn. It's fresh, vibrant and bright, with playful violin and piano parts flitting throughout songs written with ambition big enough to match the earnestness that seems to leap from frontman Peter Vance's throat. With Clockwork Kids, Parade Grounds and Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, AT DEEP SOUTH THE BAR. $5–$10/8 p.m.
JESSICA LONG & THE NEW KIND
Like the songs themselves, the performances of Durham quartet Jessica Long & the New Kind are coltish and fetching. Long starts from a center of Ryan Adams or Feist-like heartland rock. Like both of those songwriters, she sports a white-hot streak of gusto, too, giving her starry ballads a righteous esprit. With Israel Willett. FRIDAY, MARCH 15, AT KINGS. $8/7:30 p.m.
The solo project of former South African choirboy Jean-Philip Grobler, St. Lucia combines a love of overbearing drums and unbridled production lifted from the '80s with an au courant interest in kaleidoscopic dance music. Signed to Columbia Records, linked into a massive booking agency and expanded into a live five-piece, St. Lucia seems prepared for liftoff, if ever the weight of the hooks and the thrust of the beats can peak together. As yet, the if remains just that. Hammer No More the Fingers' Joe Hall opens with a solo set as Blanko Basnet. Also, Annuals' Adam Baker. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, AT SOUTHLAND BALLROOM. $7–$10/9 p.m.
KOBIE WATKINS GROUP
An incredibly versatile drummer, Kobie Watkins has perhaps earned the most notice for supporting Sonny Rollins, and rightly so. But his résumé is long, and his own ensemble pivots between twinkling, steady atmospheres and trouncing, sophisticated anthems. This concert is part of The Art of Cool Project's Third Friday concert series, a testament to the group's consistent programming in the Bull City. FRIDAY, MARCH 15, AT BROAD STREET CAFE. $10–$12/9 p.m.
LUCY MICHELLE AND THE VELVET LAPELLES
If the rhyme scheme of folk-leaning Minnesota crew Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles weren't a giveaway, this band makes cute and quaint music that springs forth from ukuleles and xylophones, string sections and jangling guitars. That cuteness doesn't come backed by much of a core, though, as Michelle's songs seem as devoid of experience and upheaval as her generic wallpaper coo. Combining folk tropes and common chord progressions into tunes built for primetime has become a pandemic, and Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles are simply another case study. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, AT LOCAL 506. $8–$10/9 p.m.
JASON MICHAEL CARROLL
Modern country music is the domain of sudden stars, where kids with mild accents seem to sign to a major label one moment and be filling arenas the next. Jason Michael Carroll appeared to be on such a career path many years ago, when his woeful ballad of child abuse, "Alyssa Lies," raced up multiple charts. But he slowly slid back down those same charts, with 2011's Numbers not only barely cracking the Billboard 200 but also embarrassingly bearing the logo of the company that co-released it, Cracker Barrel, on its cover. The same whims that make sudden country stars are also capable of the opposite decision. SATURDAY, MARCH 16, AT THE LONGBRANCH. $10/8 p.m.