This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Bowerbirds, India.Arie, Wye Oak, Pomegranates, Tim Easton, Pretty & Nice, Mastodon, Kylesa
EH, WHATEVER: Cross Canadian Ragweed
VS.: Dash Rip Rock vs. The Generationals
VS.: Paul Rishell and Annie Raines vs. Barney Rogers and Russell Johnson
05.08 BOWERBIRDS @ LOCAL 506
The domain of self-proclaiming band profiles online can be awkward, but Raleigh's Bowerbirds uses its ReverbNation profile to describe its hushed, rustic tones as folk, with the qualification of "not lame and boring." No disagreement here: Phil Moore and Beth Tacular illustrate tales of conversation and conservation with his acoustic guitar and her harmony coos and accordion, accompanied by an undercurrent of unfussy bass and drum thumps. Brooklyn quintet La Strada adds cosmopolitan flair to its similarly bucolic folk through a touch of symphonic indie rock. Also with the indie pop of Moore's ex-Ticonderoga bandmate Wes Phillips. [Disclosure: Music Editor Grayson Currin released Bowerbirds' debut LP, but the band left the label in September 2007.] $8-10/ 9 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
05.10 INDIA.ARIE @ DURHAM PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
In a genre dominated by cloying sentimentality and heavy production instead of depth and consideration, it's not surprising Indie.Arie stands out. She's unique among her soul singing peers in that her career's based on the strength of her albums. She's never once clocked a Top 40 single, but she's steadily gathered gold records and Grammy nominations. Her evocative, silky smooth vocals ripple through arrangements that incorporate jazz, country, worldbeat and soul. She doesn't limit herself to romantic themes, either, as she speaks to social and political causes nearly as much as Erykah Badu. Indeed, a highlight of Testimony, Vol. 2: Love & Politics' is the flamenco-tinged "Ghetto," which considers the universality of suffering. With Kem. $41.50-$61.50/ 7 p.m. —Chris Parker
05.10 WYE OAK, POMEGRANATES @ LOCAL 506
Tonight pairs two intriguing relative newcomers: Cincinnati quartet Pomegranates mixes washes of distortion with jagged guitar lines and ringing riffs with propulsive drumming, demonstrating talent for both chunky rockers and supple atmospheric pop. Each mode comes enjoined by melancholy tenor vocals. Even more intriguing is Baltimore duo Wye Oak, whose wide-ranging debut If Children veers from simple understated folk melodies to richly layered arrangements sweetened by Jenn Wasner's willowy croon. Shrieking guitars, soaring keyboards and tremulous feedback frequently billow forth like a rose bush—full of beauty but tinged with thorns. $8/ 9:30 p.m. —Chris Parker
05.12 TIM EASTON @ BERKELEY CAFE
Roots rocker Tim Easton's had a hardscrabble career, whether busking in Europe alongside Beck, fronting the country-garage combo Haynes Boys or forging a supple country-pop blend with members of Wilco on 2001's The Truth About Us. He's got a house in Alaska and another in Joshua Tree, and he swings between those extremes just as he shuffles among country, folk, rock and pop impulses. His refusal to settle into a sound has probably cost him some acclaim, but you can't argue with his strong catalog of songs. His latest, Porcupine, may be his best start-to-finish, amping up both the guitars and the Dylan-esque vocal affectation. $10/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
05.12 PRETTY & NICE @ LOCAL 506
Pretty & Nice wants you to have fun—to see you smile, dance, sing along. That hope courses throughout Get Young, the Boston trio's 28-minute sophomore album that brims with spiky guitars, squirrelly beats and scribbled synthesizers. It's disposable, sure, but it's also an enjoyable, exuberant bit of post-New Wave revival with immediate melodies: Lead single "Tora Tora Tora" gums the subconcious with its sticky chorus. Winston-Salem duo Jews and Catholics supports, offering a glimpse at its upcoming album, due soon via 307 Knox. Expect moody, electronic-fueled chamber pop. $8/ 9:30 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
05.13 MASTODON, KYLESA @ CAT'S CRADLE
Mastodon hasn't become one of the most universally celebrated metal bands of the decade by fluke or by quick rise to the majors: Rather, over just four albums, the Georgia quartet has produced four unabashedly ambitious masterpieces, driven by musical bravado and thematic brazenness that few bands combine so seamlessly. Records about the elements (fire, sky, water, earth) become complex edifices through refracted and rebuilt histories and mythologies (their latest, Crack the Skye, takes Russian mystic Rasputin as a starting point), bolstered with heavy rhythms, swift pummel, scissoring riffs, thick churn, acoustic textures, electric oblivion and most everything in the valences. On record, Mastodon remains a band of unending surprises. Onstage, though, you'll get Crack the Skye in its entirety, trailed by cuts culled from its predecessors.
Fellow Georgia metal giant Kylesa is the meat hammer to Mastodon's all-inclusive food processor: On Static Tensions, the band's brilliant and brutal third record, the quintet pounds at expected heavy metal shapes—essentially, stoner metal with well-edited guitar ideas—with two drummers, two vocalists and two guitarists, arriving by album's end "To Walk Alone," one of the year's real heavy hits. The acrobatic instrumental tech-metal outfit Intronaut opens. SOLD OUT/ 7:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
05.07 CROSS CANADIAN RAGWEED @ LINCOLN THEATRE
Thin gruel that tastes like alt-country gone soft, Cross Canadian Ragweed is a sign country-rock's only a couple steps short of Nashville. Whether offering two helpings of clichés ("won the battle/ lost the war") instead of a chorus on "Fightin' For," courting the jam band crowds with obligatory paeans to weed, or lodging by now anachronistic complaints against the "Record Exec," there's something pat and predictable to just about every move. For 15 years, CCR's built a grassroots audience with hard-touring, so no one begrudges them their fans. Still, the band's a reminder that popular consensus has as much to do with advancement as Dubya. With Blackberry Smoke, Seth James. $14-$17/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
PAUL RISHELL AND ANNIE RAINES
From: Cambridge, Mass.
Claim to fame: Adding sex to Mother's Day
Paul Rishell and Annie Raines play smoldering country blues as if each song is their last. Rishell picks his guitar with the purpose of a condemned man or a saved soul—either way, he knows where he's going. His smokey barroom voice lingers slightly behind the beat, while Raines' harmonica playing acts like comfort, rising and squealing above the grounded guitar base. Her brazen voice and in-your-face harmonica playing can turn any saunter into a celebration. If Mother's Day snuck up on you, Raines offers a Blues Harmonica for Women workshop at 2 p.m. At SOUTHERN VILLAGE. $8-$10/ 7 p.m.
BARNEY ROGERS AND RUSSELL JOHNSON
Claim to fame: Adding violence to Mother's Day
The banjo and the mandolin: The two busiest instruments in bluegrass dig up the past in the hands of Russell Johnson and Barney Rogers. Inspired by the Civil War and their ancestors, the duo recently released an album of original songs. Rogers picks his banjo with the assuredness of a man who remembers Mars Hill picker Bascom Lamar Lunsford playing in his parlor. Strapped with mandolin, Johnson sings most of the songs with his high, clear tenor emulating the voice of an angel over the carnage of war. The Mother's Day connection? The holiday got its start here in the United States as mothers of the North and South worked for reconciliation. At the N.C. MUSEUM OF HISTORY. Free/ 3 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
SUNDAY, MAY 10
DASH RIP ROCK
From: New Orleans (by way of Baton Rouge)
Claim to fame: Humorous country-punks whose songwriting has always been smarter than its college-bar crowds
This hard-partying juggernaut brings Bourbon Street spirits to its performances, cut with enough irreverence to bleed wherever they please. Like the Supersuckers' handicapped hillbilly kin, DRR likes its country loud, fast and silly. The rootsy swing races like a nitro funny car fueled by whiskey and "high" spirits, judging from its refashioning of "At the Hop" into "(Let's Go) Smoke Some Pot," which pauses just long enough to take the piss out of jam bands. These dudes may not have matured with age, but it's brought their finest LOL release, Country Girlfriend, highlighted by "New Orleans Needs Stronger Dikes." (They suggest Rosie O'Donnell. Whoa.) At THE POUR HOUSE. $7-$10/ 8 p.m.
From: New Orleans (by way of Baton Rouge)
Claim to fame: Rising from the ashes of shambling female-led indie poppers Eames Era
After the demise of their band Eames Era, guitarists Grand Widmer and Ted Joyner dove right back into pop waters. Prickly indie guitar pretensions were left on the surface as they swum down to the warm innocent streams of '60s pop. Reaching back before Love's psych inclinations, the new band's debut, Con Law, bites on soulful horn-abetted shimmy, reels in organ-fueled, handclapping garage-pop and channels ringing Brit Invasion melodicism. The bright multi-tracked vocals highlight a disc that nods to the present with a passel of subtle background synthetics. Such fresh energy wipes away 40 years of age, making their cowpunk clown brethren seem dusty and slow in those giant snakeskin clodstompers. At THE CAVE with Eric Sommer and Reid Johnson, whose former Schooner bandmate, Tripp Cox, plays in the Generationals. $5/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
05.09 LAFCADIO @ THE CAVEFormed just a week before UNC's student-run Vinyl Records closed a competition to find its first three acts last September, Lafcadio scored a record deal with its first live performance and its three songs. They even rushed to pick out a name, which comes from the titular character of the Shel Silverstein fable Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back.
Initially a trio, guitarists/songwriters Liz Ross and Ryan Dowdy and drummer Steven Howell soon added bassist Eric Notarnicola. They've since played to a packed Local 506 for the release of its strong five-track EP, landed a slot at Shakori Hills and nearly won another competition—the Duke vs. UNC Battle of the Bands—in the subsequent seven months. Working on its full-length follow-up, the four students will take a well-deserved summer break following this show.
Don't expect that to stop them, though: Lafcadio has been winning over audiences with its lively blend of rock and Americana, voiced by Ross' soulful pipes and earworm melodies, which Dowdy follows in lockstep harmony. And it's good enough to keep just doing that. With The Whiskey Smugglers. 10 p.m. —Spencer Griffith