The popular ascendance of Sigur Rós offers a reminder never to label anything as impossible. Remember, only a decade ago, Sigur Rós was, for many, a mysterious Icelandic group who followed a musical appearance in a Cameron Crowe movie with an album that sported punctuation for a title, unnamed songs, and lyrics sung in a language of the band's construction. And now, on the first day of fall, they'll play in a large amphitheater in the American South. Miracles never cease, right?
Thanks to bands like Roomrunner and Speedy Ortiz, Seattle's Mudhoney has successfully stuck around long enough to see its blessed grunge stomp cycle mostly off the radio and back into indie rock favor. In the interim, Mudhoney never stopped very much, cranking out the simple and sassy jams on which it built its (and its pals') reputation. This year's Vanishing Point is prototypical Mudhoney, with songs that tell you how it is with a howl and a sneer so perfect that you'll believe them without question. With Cheap Time. Tuesday, Sept 24, at Cat's Cradle. $12–$18, 9 p.m.
In 2011, folk-rock statesman and emotional conduit Richard Thompson was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He turned 64 earlier this year. But don't let the honors or the age lead you to believe that Thompson is somehow over the hill or has grown out of rock 'n' roll. Rather, his new Buddy Miller-produced album, Electric, finds him leading the power trio of drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk with the urgency, aim and exuberance of someone one-third his age. His words alone speak to his maturity, full of adages about tough breaks and the grit to get beyond them, but his playing and singing show no signs of senescence. Electric is a dependable record, but this material is meant for the stage. Thompson steps out in front of the orotund bass tone and the steadfast drums and leads with his six strings, electrified salvation delivered in confident and cool knots and licks. Monday, Sept. 23, at Fletcher Opera Theater. $45.25–$56/7 p.m.
More than six years have passed since the release of the last album by Schooner, the lovingly dog-eared pop act of Reid Johnson. In the interim, the band's changed cities, changed members and changed labels to now return with the wonderful Neighborhood Veins. What hasn't changed, though, is Johnson's ability to broadcast his bittersweet feelings in songs that linger in the middle distance between rock and R&B. These tunes uniformly emit a soft, psychedelic luminescence from a core of tenderness fanned by consistent turmoil. D-Town Brass, the musically ambitious horn band whose members contributed to Neighborhood Veins, opens. Also, See Gulls. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at The Pinhook. $5/9 p.m.
As an institution and a brand, Poland's death metal pioneers Vader have been at it for 30 years, plying necrotic and heretic screeds over guitar leads that flicker like hellfire and drums that bruise like fists. Piotr Wiwczarek is the only remaining original member, though, joined by a crew of relative youngsters who enlisted just in time for 2011's delightfully stubborn and proudly old-school Welcome to the Morbid Reich. Vader marches in with a death metal horde in tow—Vital Remains, Sacrificial Slaughter, Execration and Extremely Rotten. Of the lot, make sure to see Execration, a restless and ruthless Colorado crew that piles grindcore speed and crust punk corrosion into a framework strong enough to handle the load. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Kings. $19–$22/8:30 p.m.
A pioneer of the American indie rock underground, Calvin Johnson presaged the current stylistic sprawl of that scene decades ago. Not content to lead a rock band like Merge's Mac McCaughan, Johnson's many crews and collaborators pivoted from disorienting funk to ramshackle pop-rock. During recent years, he's lead the new Hive Dwellers and toured occasionally behind a handful of solo records. His 2005 LP, Before the Dream Faded, presented a perfect encapsulation of his broad interests, with his droll but strangely dreamy baritone ensconced in playful electronica, breezy folk-rock and thumping garage primacy. Greensboro's Banana Lazuli—a polyglot who sings sweetly over thumb piano and simple electronics, not unlike CocoRosie—opens. Monday, Sept. 23, at Duke Coffeehouse. $5/9 p.m.
GRAM PARSONS TRIBUTE
From all of Tres Chicas to parts of The Right Profile, The Backsliders and Six String Drag, some of the most notable names in the history of North Carolina music gather tonight to celebrate Gram Parsons, who died almost 40 years ago to the day in the California desert. The Triangle's heritage of alt-country and folk-rock owes massive debts to Parsons, of course; in only 26 years, he produced a body of work so compelling and intimate that many have spent their own careers and lives grappling with it. Three house bands and a few dozen singers will cover the sprawl of Parsons' catalog tonight, offering a fine and fitting testimonial from some of his definite stylistic descendants. Friday, Sept. 20, at Cat's Cradle. $10/9 p.m.
PETER LAMB & THE WOLVES
Humble Pie—the playful and dynamic new album from preeminent Raleigh jazz quintet Peter Lamb & the Wolves—takes its name from the downtown restaurant where the band hosts its long-running bimonthly residency. The repeating gig has served them well, as this record is a deliberate showcase for the sort of band that plays as regularly as the Wolves, capable of moving from late-night romps to early-evening drifts with ease and zeal. Pianist Mark Wells becomes a vivacious frontman for the original "Boogie Woogie Tango," while he glides with the blues on their solemn but swinging take on "Tennessee Waltz." This CD release party won't be just another gig, though: Expect guests galore and aerial dancers, welcome accompaniment for the Triangle's new jazz standbys. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Motorco. $10–$12/9 p.m.
This curious noontime concert gathers some of the Triangle's most notable roots-rock emissaries—the crooning John Howie Jr., the restless Michael Holland, the retro-resurrecting Swang Brothers—for a back-to-school bash intended for area elementary school students. It doesn't seem so strange, however, considering that Southern Culture on the Skids headline: From onstage banana pudding tosses to albums of zombie odes, Southern Culture is nothing if not perpetually down for a good time. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Cat's Cradle. $10/noon
VIRGINS FAMILY BAND, ESTON
Songwriter and bandleader Eston Dickinson is responsible for one of the year's best local surprises, an eight-song dream of gently antiquated pop called Knave of the Heart. Wry, winsome and wrestling at the threshold of loser-dom, Dickinson's tunes repave ordinary troubles with uncommon tenderness. Virgins Family Band, a young crew of musical adventurers who play jump rope with the line between indie rock and jam bands, headline. Sean Magee opens. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Tir Na Nog. Free/10 p.m.
CITY AND COLOUR
It's a wonder how some folks get famous. City and Colour, for instance, is the musical moniker of former Alexisonfire guitarist Dallas Green. In spite of the heavy pedigree and the canvas of tattoos on his body, he is essentially every maudlin songwriter you've ever heard, funneled into six strings, a few chords and a falsetto that barely registers an impression. Green is the median of every coffeeshop kid imitating Bon Iver. His backing band, a revolving door of top-notch players, can do little to lift him above a web of platitude. With Lucy Rose. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at The Ritz. $30–$32/8 p.m.
Speaking of inked sensitive types, City and Colour labelmates Twin Forks come fronted by Dashboard Confessional confessor and howler Chis Carrabba. These days, he's leading exactly what the world needs now—a folk-rock band with shout-along vocals, heavy percussion and a sliver of mandolin mixed just high enough so that you know this band means it, man. They'll be joined by Matrimony, a Charlotte group that signed to a major label and do more or less exactly the same thing as Twin Forks and every band of the ilk. With Steph Stewart. Saturday, Sept. 21, at Local 506. $12.50–$15/8 p.m.