A complex situation with layers and subtleties more intricate than soundbites and slogans can indicate, the civil war and genocide that threatens 2 million people in Darfur continue to demand a stronger international response three years after the crisis began. Last week, The Washington Post reported that the rebel factions throughout Western Sudan are now involved in infighting. This could hinder eventual peace talks with the central Sudanese government and an end to the conflict.
Perhaps it seems like a four-band bill at the Cat's Cradle—even if four of the best bands in the state constitute it—is a bit tardy, especially after 100,000 people congregated on the National Lawn a year ago, demanding help for Darfur. Still, when the situation shows no ultimate sign of resolution and is only getting worse, late is much better than never. Saturday's $5 cover benefits the Save Darfur Coalition, an assembly of 170 international organizations working for relief in Africa.Portastatic (Midnight)
What started as Mac McCaughan's moody, introspective bedroom side-project has changed in tone since Superchunk's indefinite hiatus. The early tender, often synth-driven vignettes such as "Skinny Glasses Girl" and "Hurricane Warning (Ignored)" gave way to more rocking numbers as Portastatic became a live concern, and the most recent release, Be Still Please, brings McCaughan's sweet balladry into focus with some of the prettiest music he's ever made. Beyond his now wide catalog of stylistic approaches, McCaughan has a fine gift for metaphor, whether that means wondering if "San Andreas" is responsible for a lover's recalcitrance or having breakfast with an apparition of his past on "Registered Ghost." —Chris ParkerDes Ark (11 p.m.)
Aimee Argote likes the strong stuff. Her effective, wrenching songs wrestle the emotions of things going from bad to worse, like when you want to shout at the sky. Thing is, when she's belting it out in bluesy moans and glass-popping screams, you can tell that stuff is likely still fresh on her mind, maybe still smarting. Sleater-Kinney drew armies to them by talking about these things, too, and Argote's work has a similar magnetism, whether she's going solo with a banjo or with her new, D.C.-based quartet. She can exorcise with empathy. To wit, as a young woman in her late 20s recently said on Des Ark's Web site, "This is the music that keeps girls like me alive and fighting. Good god damn." —Chris ToenesWork Clothes (10 p.m.)
With the intimacy of marriage serving as the backbone to their music, Carrboro-based duo Jenny and Lee Waters—or Work Clothes—cradle hushed confessions with atmospheric pop built with folk whispers and spatters of dark psychedelia. Their first full-length, These Are the Shoes We Wear, exudes the sleepy simplicity of late-night talks and murmured secrets amid the harsh realities of an unforgiving world. These songs are all etched hums and strums, offering a resilience floating high in the sweet everything of sound. With their band intact, this Waters pair is a dream. —Kathy Justice
As The Strugglers, Randy Bickford remains a victim of indie rock circumstance: A Drag City acolyte who pairs taut, emotional and ponderous narration (not unlike Bill Callahan) with a vivid sense of sturdy, near album-rock construction (not unlike Jackson Browne), Bickford has never been risky (or gimmicky) enough for the kids and never marketed to the alt.country adults. He's toured Europe twice and signed to an important European independent label, but I still can't promise his forthcoming The Latest Rights will make him a star. But I vow this. When most of the stuff on your iPod has been revealed as retro-hawking or disingenuous schtick, Bickford's best lines will still be relevant and devastating, baking under the pale glow of his perfect Virginia tenor. —Grayson Currin