Goodnight's Comedy Club—Mike Birbiglia has made a career out of revealing things most people would rather keep quiet. Case in point: The subject of his hour-plus of all-new material he's workshopping at Goodnight's. "I'm working on a whole new show called Sleepwalk with Me, where I go into detail about a sleepwalking disorder I have," says the 29-year-old comedian. "For a long time, I was kind of in denial about it, and that's one of the themes of my shows—how we're in denial about our various issues."
Birbiglia, who calls his blog his "Secret Public Journal," has parlayed his most embarrassing moments into a regular feature on the Bob and Tom radio show, three Comedy Central specials and, most recently, a CBS pilot with Bob Odenkirk and Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy. He says his comedy has taught him "the degree to which I push aside things I don't want to deal with."
Sleepwalk, which Birbiglia hopes to turn into an off-Broadway show and TV special, chronicles his battles with his disorder, which sometimes leads him to act out his dreams. "For instance, I'd have a recurring dream where there was an insect jackal thing hovering over my bed, and I would jump on the bed in real life in a karate pose and go, 'There's a jackal in the room!' to my girlfriend," Birbiglia says. "She got so used to it that she could talk me down: 'There's no jackal.'"
Birbiglia is excited about performing at Goodnight's and feels that Sleepwalk features "the most real and true and intense and revealing stories, but it's the funniest of my shows." How does he make his humor work? "A lot of my comedy has its roots in the fact that the joke is on myself, so that's made it easier." —Zack SmithFor more information, visit www.goodnightscomedy.com or www.birbigs.com.
R.E.M., Modest Mouse, The National
Walnut Creek—Tonight's show gathers three generations of underground crossover acts, and the quality of craft from top to bottom is actually astounding. Jangling elder statesmen R.E.M. is supporting Accelerate, the band's best album in a dozen years. Its rockier tone dissipates Michael Stipe's occasional lapses into navel-gazing mope well, while punchy pop tracks like "Supernatural Superserious" hopefully encourage R.E.M. to dig deep into its back catalog to fill out the set. Don't expect Modest Mouse—'90s indie heroes who floated into the mainstream and now include ex-Smith Johnny Marr—to do much of that. Still, a cloudy Northwestern pallor shades the shimmer and softens the band's edges of jagged guitar and percolating rhythms. Isaac Brock's mumble-shout delivery echoes the tension between the drift of dreams and the brunt of reality, reflecting his self-doubting lyrical circumspection. And, as the biz would have it, the bottom of the bill is the band that's most at the top of its game: The National's shadowy orchestral swoon is at its most modulated and balanced yet on last year's The Boxer, which forms a stylish cape around Matt Berninger's smoky baritone. Tickets range from $29-$59 for a 6:30 p.m. start. —Chris Parker
Local 506—The sun glows through a semicircle window into a tiny, cluttered room on the cover of In Field & Town, the first album in four years from Toronto songwriter Hayden Desser. Sunrise or sunset? Good question, as—from the sparkling silver drum kit surrounded by guitars to the wooded-field mural visible on one of the room's walls—the cover's scene of symbols reaffirms the record's muted intimacy and emotional ambiguity. "For everyone backed in a corner/ evacuations are in order/ and we're leaving tonight," Desser sings, his sweet tenor barely breaking beyond a whisper or the piano creep of his quiet band. In Field & Town is hopeful and haunting and at its best when it doesn't define itself either way. Minneapolis' Haley Bonar opens at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $12-$14. —Grayson Currin