Page Auditorium, Duke Campus—With an electric guitar and a Cockney accent, Billy Bragg sings some of the most sincere, impassioned protest songs of our time. The electric guitar follows Bragg from his rock background but sounds a hell of a lot more authentic than when a rocker decides to get "real" by going acoustic. The British accent puts Bragg in the same tradition as Ewan MacColl, who helped shape the U.S. folk revival of the '50s and '60s, by providing the clarity of an outsider. Together, guitar and voice sound like a light in the darkness, alone for the moment but confident that the truth will come along soon.
Protest songs give voice to social movements, comfort to the oppressed, and hope for the future. Bragg does this on his most recent album, Mr. Love & Justice. Simple, personal lyrics cut to the core of Bragg's appeal: More than Woody Guthrie's broadsides against institutions, Bob Dylan's dreams of disillusionment or Pete Seeger's calls for solidarity, Bragg's songs seem to care for the individual. On "I Keep Faith," he sings, "If your plans have come to nothing/ washed out in the rain/ let me rekindle all your hopes/ and help you start again." Change is brought about by individuals, and Bragg wants to give us some support to light our hearts into action. That is, vote. But first, go to the show to hear the opening gentle pop harmonies and slight twang of The Watson Twins. Tickets are $5-$34 and begins at 8 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough
Orange County Artists Guild Open Studio Tour
Various venues—This weekend marks the 14th annual Orange County Artists Guild Open Studio Tour, a chance to see more than 75 artists display the fruit of their labors in the space where they painted, sculpted, drew and/or developed it. Doors to studios scattered throughout Carrboro, Hillsborough and Chapel Hill will be open to the public, offering a rare peek at working artists in their home environments. Whether you're looking for abstract paintings, high-end jewelry, stone sculptures or end tables, the Guild has got you covered. And for those who fancy themselves to be a John D. Rockefeller in these hard economic times, the OCAG encourages visitors to speak with artists about commissioning works. Consider it an investment that isn't beholden to Wall Street. This weekend, the Orange County art scene is your oyster—every country road and cul-de-sac with an artist on the corner, Main Street. (Just be sure to print out your tour guide, and—if possible—bring a GPS device.) The OCAG is completely artist-run, with a board of directors comprised entirely of visual artists. So you know your hard-earned money is going straight to Joe. Check out their Web site at orangecountyartistsguild.com, which features a tour map, artist bios, and sample galleries. It's all free, this weekend and next, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, noon-5 p.m. Sundays. —Matt Saldaña
Duke Coffeehouse—Xiu Xiu has long taken Jamie Stewart invasively intimate confessional and luxuriated or lacerated them, pulling them to new heights with noise or order. Tonight, Stewart takes the stage solo, a welcome chance to hear his songs' fragility, and nothing more. The 9 p.m. show costs $7. —Grayson Currin
Doc Talk: Music for Film
Broad Street Café—Join a group of area documentary stalwarts for film and discussion on issues of using music in films. There will be film clips aplenty, including work by Rebecca Cerese, Nicole Triche, Jim Haverkamp, Joyce Ventimiglia, Roger Manley and Peter Friedman. Composer Scott Pearson, musician Sara Bell of Shark Quest, Jennifer Jenkins of Duke Law School and an expert in fair-use issues, and Paul Cardillo of Merge Records, will also be present to discuss issues of music in documentaries. Organizer Tom Whiteside, an expert on the earliest days of cinema, will show an 18-second movie from 1894 that is the oldest surviving sound film, as well as a 1924 clip called Ballet Mecanique, a film by Fernand Leger and Dudley Murphy, with a recreation of George Antheil's original score for percussion, airplane propellers and 16 player pianos. The event's highlight, however, is a sneak peek at Brett Ingram's Rocaterrania, a recently completed film that marks a continuation of Ingram's interest in outsider artists. The film is a portrait of Renaldo Kuhler, an uncannily gifted artist who is employed at Raleigh's N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. For more on Rocaterrania, see the Indy's recent story on Ingram's work by searching at www.indyweek.com. The event runs from 2-5 p.m. and is a benefit for the Southern Documentary Fund. Admission is free, except that you should show up at noon and buy lunch. For more information, visit southerndocumentaryfund.org. —David Fellerath