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Music worth leaving the house for


Contributors: Rick Cornell, Grayson Currin, Margaret Hair, Rich Ivey, Kathy Justice, Chris Parker, Chris Toenes

Thursday, May 17

Jon Dee Graham, Hideaway BBQ

The last time I saw Texan Jon Dee Graham, he was the third act on a four-act bill, the lone solo artist tucked in among three hard-charging bands. That night he showed that with a big enough presence—bolstered by a sound and style that splits the difference between Tom Waits and Richard Thompson and songs exposing both raw nerves and target souls—one guy and a guitar can hold more than his own. $8-$10/ 8:30 p.m. —RC

Friday, May 18

Spider Bags, The Gondoliers, The Cave

Chapel Hill's Spider Bags revel in booze, rock 'n' roll grit and Southern swagger, with song titles like "Waking Up Drunk" and "The Bottle" summing up the sound of their self-titled Birdman Records debut record. Live, the band's apt to find slightly darker territory. The Gondoliers, with ex-Spinns frontman Todd Colberg, draw heavily from 1960s garage rock, with steady churning guitar parts and simply shouted vocals. A double CD release joint. No pun needed. 10 p.m. —MH

Robert Earl Keen, Lincoln Theatre

Lyle Lovett's neighbor while studying journalism at Texas A&M, Keen was your prototypical Austin singer/songwriter and Townes Van Zandt adherent before such a thing existed. Almost a quarter-century later, Keen's windblown characters and parched alt-country vignettes fill nine studio albums, striking a nice balance between witty ("Merry Christmas from the Family") and desperate ("Long Chain"). He's shown a knack for classic Texas country songs that speak to a larger audience than you might expect for a musician from Austin. $22/ 9:30 p.m. —CP

Asylum Street Spankers, The ArtsCenter

One of the most ribald and irreverent roots music acts at work today, eight-piece Asylum Street Spankers make acoustic songs about the good stuff—sex, alcohol, debauchery at large. They even released an X-rated album in 1999, highlighted by the jiving cut "Shave 'Em Dry." It was surprising, then, when the group released Mommy Says No!, a children's music collection earlier this year. Not shocking, though, was the inclusion of songs about boogers, lunchbox-grubbing lovers and how cool good friends are. Yeah, they've got hearts of gold, even if they have blood of chemicals and minds of mirth. As always, this'll be a party. $14-$16/ 8:30 p.m. —GC

Colossus, Thunderlip, Judas Priest Tribute, Volume 11 Tavern

Wielding axes to the skies and laying scorn on the earth, Colossus and Thunderlip are among the Tar Heel state's premier heavy metal acts. They battle with the fury of their British forefathers, pounding out speed-picked powerhouse anthems with a youthful abandon not shared by most of their Maiden-obsessed peers. To wit, a Judas Priest tribute band brings it all full circle. 8 p.m. —RI

Gigi Dover & The Big Love, Bynum General Store

Comparing Gigi Dover's sultry alto vocals to Janis Joplin's blues-inflected wail and Emmylou Harris' folk-tinged country croon comes all too easy: Borne of equal parts Southern woman and soul sister, Dover's voice undulates from a raw blues howl to a mysterious country crawl at the drop of a beat. But this grassroots gal's got more to offer than vintage vocals and country/soul crossbreeds. Her "Wooden Headed Doll" takes on a reggae-tone backbeat that breaks through Dover's Southern alt.rock mold, blending sultry sweet vocals with rhythmic funk. Pass the hat/ 7 p.m. —KJ

The Vibekillers, The Bleeding Hearts, The Cartridge Family, The Pour House

This tripleheader showcase of area bands offers rock in three flavors from the middle of the menu. There's the rootsy but not quite roots-rock of the Chip Robinson-led The Vibekillers, the jean-jacket hard rock of The Bleeding Hearts, and the keyboard-blessed pub rock of The Cartridge Family. In case you missed it, the magic word for the night is Rock, Raleigh-style. $8/ 9 p.m. —RC

Saturday, May 19

The Rosebuds, Ben Davis & The Jetts, noncanon, Cat's Cradle

Musical chameleons The Rosebuds have already transited from classic pop to country-tinged rock into synth-driven darkwave, which pretty much only leaves willfully obscure indie rock, grunge or dark metal. While Kelly Crisp might make a good Lita Ford (or a better Courtney Love), the point is they know their way around a hook and a melody, which makes quibbling about the wrapping like listening to Linkin Park. That's to say, pointless. Ben Davis' latest incarnation boasts an infectiously noisy wake like Brainiac as a new wave band ("Underdawg") or Fountains of Wayne channeling math rock ("Bouncin' Party"). $10-$12/ 9:30 p.m. —CP

The Nevers, Slim's

"From time to time I'd see our name in lights/ Every time I had a laugh," sings The Nevers' Ron Bartholomew. Chances are the Raleigh quartet won't see its moniker gleaming from atop as many amphitheaters as its Cheap Trick mentors, but the Oak City boys are having fun just grubbing change and open ears at bars from here to Budokan. Good jams. Free/ 10 p.m. —RI

Johnny Winter, The ArtsCenter

Winter got married to the blues at a very young age, and he's never strayed its side. His self-titled '69 debut was a hit, and he enjoyed star popularity for a few years before blues-rock gave way to heavy metal and soft rock. A tremendous guitarist with a gruff delivery, Winter generally avoids his rock 'n' roll past like parents with selective amnesia about their own early 20s behavior. So don't be screaming for "Rock 'n' Roll Hootchie Koo." Instead relax and enjoy one of the more soulful and proficient guitarists of the last 40 years. With Cyril Lance. $34-$36/ 8:30 p.m. —CP

Adult Film Makers, Transportation, The Cave

IMHO there is no greater garage punk guitarist in the Triangle than Clif Mann. His raw, ragged slings of anxious, grimy crunch split the difference between Thunders and Williamson, while generally performing in acts who'd get bored before they reached the song's 3:30 mark. Fronted by Rock Forbes, AFM are an adrenaline shot through the sternum, clearly designed to make your head wobble like a bobblehead during an earthquake. Transportation are Badfinger's pop hooks lightly battered in '70s rock balladry and sprinkled with Robert Scruggs' hearty indie croon. $5/ 10 p.m. —CP

Sunday, May 20

Sara Bell and Friends, The Cave

Bell's worked with bands like Regina Hexaphone and Shark Quest over the years, refining her picking and the approachable lilt in her voice, always a highlight of the Hex. Here, she's paired with former Utah! frontman Eddie Pellino. 7:30 p.m. —CT

The Watchers, Shakermaker, Betty and the Boys, L.A. Toy, Blend

The Watchers embody the slanted precision that once defined a lot of their hometown Chicago's indie-punk scene. Post-millennium, they're funking it up more, laying thick percussion over their guitar scree. It still makes for interesting issue-conscious rock. 9 p.m. —CT

The Pharmacy, Midtown Dickens, Beloved Binge, Bull City Headquarters

A band that embodies the ramshackle lovability of its Pacific Northwestern brethren in the K Records camp but takes that freeform energy on the road with bristling four-piece pop, Olympia/Seattle's The Pharmacy drops lyrical winks in sharp hooks and sharp hooks in an enthusiastic embrace of imperfection. They sound a bit like pre-Satanic Of Montreal, all dripping with sound (guitars, synthesizers, bass, drums, whatever is around) and youth. Pac-NW expats Beloved Binge and Durham's Midtown Dickens—whose excellent debut Oh Yell! was just issued by 307 Knox—are the perfect local accompaniment. Fun night. 8 p.m. —GC

Tuesday, May 22

Modern Skirts, Marino, The Pour House

Country boys at heart, the Athens-based power-pop quartet Modern Skirts grew up looking at cows and fields, but you'd never catch wind of their muddy-heeled history from listening to their sublimely addictive piano/guitar anthems. Their effervescent pop ditties shine, layered guitars and plunky pianos building into blissful pop crescendos and calling up memories of The Shins and Folds' Five. Orlando rock up-and-comers Marino share the stage. Free/ 9 p.m. —KJ

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