This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Butane Variations, Watershed, Patty Hurst Shifter, Leon Russell, L in Japanese Dance Party
EH, WHATEVER: Yeasayer, Big Head Todd & the Monsters
VS.: Lotus vs. Six Organs of Admittance
SONG OF THE WEEK: Delta Moon's "Money Changes Everything"
01.16 BUTANE VARIATIONS @ MARVELL EVENT CENTER
New York's Butane Variations has a ramshackle twinkle, in that its music—rustic but polished, acoustic but electrically augmented—is like anti-folk that cares for its appearance. Images are comic and tragic, specific but open, and the music simple but thoughtful. Two chances to see a great band with a bright future: The Variations also play Jan. 17 at Nightlight with Doly Toro. —Grayson Currin
01.18 WATERSHED @ SLIM'S
When it's peaking, the sound of Columbus, Ohio's Watershed sports the arena-sized pop/ rock hooks and dynamics of Cheap Trick with the threat of chaos around the edges a la The Replacements. Nice combination. With Monty Warren & The Friggin Whatevers. $3/ 10 p.m. —Rick Cornell
01.18 PATTY HURST SHIFTER/ MODERN SKIRTS @ THE POUR HOUSE
Raleigh roots-rockers reach a new pop apogee on "Promiscuous" from their latest EP. The dulcet jangle, bittersweet sexual anguish and woo-hoo harmonies suggest several Twin Cities bands aping Badfinger. Modern Skirts' crafted indie pop shimmers, rings and twangs. $6-$8/ 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
01.19 LEON RUSSELL @ THE ARTSCENTER
Leon Russell has become such a fixture at the American Roots Series that the series logo could be a top hat over dark glasses and a blizzard of white hair. But Russell's appearances are more than annual picnics for the LeonLifers set. They are genuine and loud rock/ roots revival meetings with a piano and five decades of songs (a couple of which are sturdy threads in America's musical fabric) at the heart. $31/ 8:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell
01.20 L IN JAPANESE DANCE PARTY @ CAT'S CRADLE
L's hip-hop production skills are well known around these parts. He's worked with Social Memory Complex and Cesar Comanche, but tonight he hosts a dance party as a benefit for the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, which provides shelter, food and services for the homeless and needy in Chapel Hill. Show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $10 ($8 advance). —Chris Toenes
01.17 YEASAYER/ MGMT @ LOCAL 506
Baltimore/ Brooklyn back-and-forths Yeasayer brandish a few dozen sounds you may love—gamelan, screeching Neil Young, keyboard-float Pink Floyd, arena rock monstrosity and so forth—in a diluted distillation that's at turns ineffective or irksome. Sonically, Yeasayer isn't far removed from the Technicolor melodic phases of TV on the Radio or the hard rhythm-versus-smeared sound technique of Animal Collective, but its apocalyptic images emerge from its sonic mess without much punch. For bloggers, this may be "out music." I'd rather stay in. Same for MGMT, New York nothings with major-label moneys who fall in the same why-does-this-matter genus. Chapel Hill's Soft Company is the better band on the bill. $8-$10/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
01.22 BIG HEAD TODD AND THE MONSTERS @ LINCOLN THEATRE
Eleven albums into a career that's 15 years removed from 1993's platinum sales, this Colorado-based trio committed a cardinal rock sin when it ripped the name from Pat Benatar's 1980 album, Crimes of Passion. Irony or veneration? Doesn't matter, as the band forgot to five-finger some of the rock queen's fire, too, instead focusing again on overly cared-for guitars and recycled riffs they've utilized for two decades. With a new keyboardist/steel guitarist on the Todd team, one can only hope the new album, All the Love You Need—WHICH THEY'RE GIVING AWAY IF YOU SIGN UP FOR THEIR MAILING LIST—is more inventive. Your odds would be better if you'd just learn poker. $20-$22/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 23
From: Philadelphia via Indiana via Colorado
Claim to fame: Dance music: no laptops
How do you like to lose yourself? Philadelphia five-piece Lotus makes dance music from a rock-band set for the jam-band crowd. Foregoing laptops for guitars, drums, bass, extra percussion and an array of keyboards, Lotus stretches small themes into umpteen-minute romps. Lotus is less beat-bombastic than Sound Tribe Sector 9 and less anthem-aimed than Perpetual Groove, and its blend of forms can be intriguing, especially when it eases synthetic, ambient washes between micro-house beats, eventually opening it up into slightly aggressive solos. They're fine musicians, but—as far as grand conceptions or unique angles go—Lotus' imagination is a little less than overwhelming. Take your pick: Groove and go home after Lotus, or get teased and taunted by Chasny. With Telepath at CAT'S CRADLE. $14-$16/9:30 p.m.
SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE
From: San Francisco
Claim to fame: Still a Comet on Fire
How do you like to lose yourself? Six Organs is the ever-evolving work of songwriter, soundsmith and guitarist Ben Chasny, the band's sole constant. Chasny came of age digging into avant realms from around the world, using Sun City Girls records as springboards into Current 93 (a band he has recently joined) and Bert Jansch. Chasny is a fiery guitar player who tries what you least expect—long-form acoustic excursions, juggernaut gyrations through drones, perfectly neat ballads. That said, his latest album, Shelter from the Ash, is staid and neat to the point of boredom, though its highlights—Chasny's winsome harmonies with his girlfriend and Magik Markers member Elisa Ambrogio—are some of the more beautiful in his catalogue. Ambrogio joins Six Organs tonight, so expect passes of pretty folding into snarling anti-forms. With Boyzone at LOCAL 506. $8-10/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
1.19 EBERHARDT @ NIGHTLIGHT
"The first time I performed in public was in English class after I'd missed an assignment," remembers Rebekah Meek, also known as Eberhardt. "The teacher asked us to turn in a poem, and I asked her if I could sing instead ... I kinda liked it."
Meek kept her songs mostly to herself for the better part of a decade. Then, two years ago, she linked with Colin Booy to form Eberhardt, creating a sound she calls "swampy" from drums and guitar—"kind of a dark atmospheric sound with a lonely cabin and whiskey bottles clanking in the background."
After Booy left the band in December, Meek began working on new material she describes as a little alt.country. "It's not all about dead sailors and broken relationships anymore, and the sound is brighter," she says. Saturday night's show will reflect that change with the addition of Midtown Dickens' Kym Register on pedal steel, The Future Kings of Nowhere's Mike Hacker on washboard, and Heather Williams on mandolin. The band's untitled EP will be released in March. With Harmute, Israel Darling and The Nothing Noise at 9:30 p.m. —Kathy Justice