ASG AT THE MAYWOOD
Bad news comes in threes: Late last year, the area's music scene confirmed that adage when a triptych of bad booking stories broke just before the holidays. Tess Mangum Ocaña, long responsible for turning The ArtsCenter of Carrboro into an interesting listening outpost, had been laid off. DIVEbar and Volume 11—long the region's two strongholds for heavy music—would shut their doors with the arrival of the new year. Requisite scene-is-dead proclamations ensued.
But this time, good news comes in twos. In the space that once belonged to Volume 11, the minds that once ran DIVEbar launch The Maywood this weekend. Redesigned to be more intimate and acoustically conducive to cranked amps, The Maywood promises DIVEbar's same slate of free weekend shows, coupled with some bigger touring bills. The bar's recruited good company for its christening in ASG, the Wilmington trio that all but disappeared after a series of sneering and swiveling rock records for Volcom Entertainment. They've returned with Blood Drive—their first album in six years, their first for Relapse Records, and the best work of their career. Blood Drive taps into the recent successes of Southern metal, trussing the architectural splendor of Baroness to the leaden buoyancy of Torche. Newly infectious and energized, ASG seems poised and able to thrill with riffs and to hold in thrall with hooks. Both Blood Drive and The Maywood have arrived at the perfect time. Saturday, March 23, at The Maywood. Free/10 p.m.
"I might surprise you and rise to the occasion now and then," sang Zac Pennington years ago. "Flesh of my flesh, don't hold your breath." Such self-effacement from the leader of Parenthetical Girls runs as a thread through the mound of material the band's released during the last decade, but don't put too much faith in it: With a cadre of collaborators, Pennington has built pop songs with classical audacity and postmodern inclusivity, turning his askance examinations of the world into five-minute symphonies. Pennington's music has never moved beyond its cultish clutch, in part due to its unwieldy sophistication. But don't be bullied from the depth; these songs almost always rise. With Cassis Orange. Thursday, March 21, at Local 506. $8–$9/9 p.m.
JAMAICAN QUEENS, JAVELIN
Don't be alarmed if you initially abhor Jamaican Queens. The Detroit trio's collages of Southern hip-hop, blog-band indie pop and art-rock noise are unlikely enough to be discomfiting. But stick with these songs and hear them as the output of one new band and not the input of a dozen different strains, and the grandeur of these tunes should become apparent. In recent weeks, Wormfood, their self-released debut of "trap pop," has gone from something I readily dismissed to one of my favorite records of the year. The same can't be said for Hi Beams, the new effort from former party starters Javelin. Cousins Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford largely trade in their hyperactive stream of samples for stilted pop songs, ostensibly aiming for airplay but arriving flatly at awkward. Bubbly, bass-loving producer Raleigh Moncrief, from Sacramento, opens. Wednesday, March 27, at Kings. $10/9 p.m.
During the last decade, subdued sound explorer Benoît Pioulard has worked largely in layers, surfacing fragments of songs in webs of field recordings or building magisterial drones from strangely interconnected elements. Pioulard (or Thomas Meluch, the musician behind the moniker) recorded the new Hymnal after a move to England and the death of three grandparents. It maintains the heavily textured element of his past, as though you're always finding these songs through a sea of scrims. But Meluch's ostensibly grown more comfortable with letting the core of these pieces survive—the pop moments here are resplendent, the long and ecclesiastical hums uninterrupted. With Heads on Sticks and Feltbattery. Saturday, March 23, at Casbah. $8/9 p.m.
NORTON RECORDS BENEFIT
When Hurricane Sandy ripped north along the East Coast late last year, it didn't pick its targets, flooding not only subway systems and city streets but also cultural institutions and industrial warehouses. The warehouse of Norton Records, the label responsible for promulgating the weirder and woolier sides of rock 'n' roll for the last quarter-century, was both, serving as a trove of musical ephemera and the imprint's back catalogue. Since October, the label has slowly salvaged its old stock, started to manufacture new editions and press on with its initiatives. But Norton still needs help. This fitting fundraiser bill comprises the pugnacious acoustic sass of New Town Drunks, the wild ricochets of Blood Red River's sleuthing proto-rock and the devilishly dexterous instrumental covers of Phatlynx. Infidels open. Friday, March 22, at Local 506. $10/9:30 p.m.
Before he heads to Carrboro to talk about the steel guitar, Telecaster wizard Bill Kirchen brings his steady band, Too Much Fun, to Raleigh. Kirchen's playing is the embodiment of both tone and technique, with his elegant licks and quick transitions produced in a way that his music epitomizes at least one definition of electric guitar sound. He's a master storyteller, too, fond of relaying the tales of the legends and losers he's met along the way. Thursday, March 21, at Berkeley Cafe. $15–$18/8 p.m.
NEO CONS, DOUBLE NEGATIVE
Bay Area crew Neo Cons march ahead at a hardcore clip, with a thick bass rumble adding the anchor beneath guitar that slashes through riffs and bleeds into noise. But the quartet's best tunes pinball through shout-along refrains, allowing a takeaway amid the kinetic thrum. Double Negative's aggression could be said to take no prisoners, while Whatever Brains' mix of punk, pop, noise and no wave spectacularly hordes most any influence you can name. No Love opens. Wednesday, March 27, at Slim's. $7/9 p.m.
JEWS & CATHOLICS, GHOSTT BLLONDE
Jews & Catholics were once a duo of upright bass, guitar and drum machine, but a recent decision to induct a proper drummer adds a heft that better behooves their application of shoegaze weight to strange-angled structures. The night's other new trio, Ghostt Bllonde, routes simple pleas and progressions through a thicket of frayed nerves. Somehow, their discordant harmonies and belligerent rhythms funnel back into memorable songs, hitching near-madness to a reliable post. Also, Celebrity Jeopardy. Thursday, March 21, at Tir Na Nog. Free/10 p.m.
It's been three years since Durham band Humble Tripe debuted with Counting Stars, a 12-track beauty of ruminative and romantic folk led by the sterling voice of Shawn Luby. After several lineup embellishments, Humble Tripe finally began to tease a new record last year, releasing performance video of a wondrous new tune called "November." Over time, Luby has only grown into his warm warble, a voice that blurs the line leading toward falsetto. Justin Robinson & The Mary Annettes headline. Friday, March 22, at Kings. $10/8:30 p.m.
JENNY BESETZT, LOLLIPOPS
Last year, Greensboro band Jenny Besetzt released Only, a debut LP that belied the band's newness by turning somewhat simple songs into gorgeous evening horizons, radiant orange exploding into fading cerulean. The record went largely overlooked, but your fanfare is better late than never. Raleigh's frenzied Lollipops headline, while Baltimore's sparkling-and-skewed guitar trio Wing Dam opens. Friday, March 22, at The Pinhook. $6/10 p.m.
The Revivalists are the kind of American band that has to be from New Orleans. Built for descriptors such as "melting pot" or "gumbo" and made to spread the slogan "Music is the universal language," The Revivalists pep very standard rock songs with all manners of saxophone solos, soul swagger, organ vamps and showman struts. If ever there were a theme park version of New Orleans, The Revivalists would be the house band, reserving their best patois for the highest-paying guests. Tuesday, March 26, at Southland Ballroom. $10–$12/8 p.m.
If you search Google for information about Queensrÿche's upcoming tour, you'll be confronted with two equally appealing choices for click-throughs—queensryche.com and queensrycheofficial.com. The first belongs to the version of the band featuring singer Geoff Tate; the latter belongs to the version of the band featuring singer Todd LaTorre and plays in Raleigh this week. Both will tour this year. Both will release new albums this year. Both need to give up this pitiful charade, take the plunge, and start new bands. Saturday, March 23, at The Longbranch. $29.50–$200/8 p.m.