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The guide to the week's concerts


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This week's guide contains:

YES, PLEASE: Rakim, Rhymefest, Mitch Easter, Violet Vector, The Catch Fire, Alejandro Escovedo & Lambchop, Times New Viking, Langhorne Slim, Chuck Prophet, Charles D. Speer & the Helix


VS.: Travelin' McCourys vs. Eilen Jewell and Sarah Borges

VS.: Hawthorne Heights vs. MC Chris



Back in 1985, Queens emcee Rakim Allah nominated his DJ, Eric B, for president of the free world. Yes, before Rev. Jesse Jackson and before President Barack Obama, hip-hop had already explored the notion of making a black dude commander-in-chief. It didn't quite work then, but Rakim himself soon became the man who many still consider to be the greatest emcee of all time and the unofficial president of sharp, curated lyricism. Now, with his third solo album, The Seventh Seal, scheduled to be released this month, Rakim looks to solidify his place among rap's revolving hierarchy. In case some of Rakim's new material doesn't excite you, Chicago emcee Rhymefest joins him on this tour: Count on Rhymfest to spice up the night with whatever hip-hop cheerleading he decides to venture into this time. With DJ Bro-Rabb and The Urban Sophisticates. $20-$25/ 9 p.m. —Eric Tullis

  • Lambchop


Expanding from the roots-rock world outward, Alejandro Escovedo is many things to many people—including a musical melting pot. As Ira Robbins of Trouser Press puts it, he's "a one-man travelogue of places, eras and styles." Escovedo hit both coasts in the '70s before settling in Texas, journeys that no doubt contributed to his multifaceted, multicultural approach to rock music. His sound is a study in dynamics and extremes, his work personal and profound. To witness him move from the hushed confessions of his solo outings to the beautiful thunderstorms he stirs up with various glam-twang ensembles and the speaker-trembling Buick MacKane is to be awed by his ability to revel in both the glory that's found in words and the glory that's found in noise. He's clearly signed on as a music lifer—it's not for nothing that his '80s Austin-based band was named True Believers. And though his work caused No Depression magazine to proclaim him Artist of the Decade for the '90s, last year's hard-riffing Real Animal demonstrated that he still has plenty in the tank. Sharing the bill is Lambchop, exemplifiers of the more-is-less-is-more phenomenon. Its overflowing roster somehow equates to less sound clutter and more space for Kurt Wagner's parlor room-soul vocals. At Reynolds Industries Theater. $5 (students), $22-$28/ 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell


Last week, the music magazine Paste, a terrorist haven for safe tastes, voted Sufjan Stevens' second statehood album, Illinoise, the best album of the decade. And, indeed, about halfway through the Aughties, it did seem that the sweet Stevens had made the template that would guide indie rock into the century's teens. Glockenspiel, horns, strings: Not a note fell out of place in precious, sensitive records. The nascent buzz of bands like Times New Viking, then, seems a direct reaction to such symphonic pop mannerism, a reminder that, sometimes, you just want to feel the music sizzle and pop. That's not to say Stevens' music is smarter at all, though: Beneath the everything-broken haze of TNV's latest, Born Again Revisited, songs about supreme disaffection and mid-20s disenchantment float philosophies and politics with every burnt melody. Axemen—who come from New Zealand, a country whose late '80s fuzz has a lot to do with Viking and its ilk—opens, along with Raleigh's fantastic Whatever Brains. Sorry, Sufjan, but it's the Naughties now. $10-$12/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin



Langhorne Slim has discovered a new speed. The Pennsylvanian troubadour's unhinged Americana has long come via a furiously strummed acoustic, assisted by the stomp 'n' stammer of upright bass and a bare-bones drum kit. Last year's self-titled disc and, to a greater degree, this year's follow-up have found Slim and his War Eagles shifting out of high gear with greater frequency. While Langhorne's odes remain fixed on darlings and dames, Be Set Free is gentler and at times even graceful, its twinkling piano, organ pumps and accordion wheeze necessitating the addition of fourth member David Moore to re-create its more elegant moments and subtle layers. Dawes opens with sunny indie folk from California. $13-$15/ 9:30 p.m. —Spencer Griffith


Chuck Prophet started off blending Stonesy sleaze and country-rock in the desert-dwelling Green on Red. He moved on to a couple of top-notch solo records that fell halfway between Neil Young and Tom Petty. But it was with 2000's The Hurting Business—sporting Prophet's trademark barbwire guitars with sleigh bells, samples, organs and turntables—that he found his true calling: perfecting the mix of roots, beat-heavy pop and country-soul San Fran style. It's the ideal sound for Prophet's potent lyrics (which, for the new Let Freedom Ring!, he characterizes as "political songs for non-political people"), especially when delivered in his midnight-DJ voice. $12-$15/ 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell



Given his old bootlick of a baritone, curling in a strong Southern way around barroom and bucolic scenes, it seems safe to call Brooklyn's Charles D. Speer & the Helix a country rock band. But can that reductive tag communicate the ragged electric blues charge of "Hardwood Floors" (and the stride piano jammed in every corner) or the elegant folk drift of the acoustic beauty "Elderflower"? And what of fhe mix of Black Sabbath, Charlie Daniels Band and Hawkwind that phoenixes during "Gravedigger," or how "The Fallika Star" sounds like The Grateful Dead inventing math rock—in Greece? No, country rock doesn't do that, but Speer and his men do on Distillation. After three dozen releases, this is the first-ever LP release show ever for High Point's Three Lobed Recordings. It's certainly worth the effort. Dan Melchior Und Das Menace and Hiss Golden Messenger open. 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin


It's no stretch to tag some of Robert Earl Keen's early songs as among the most enduring in the Texas music canon "Gringo Honeymoon, "Corpus Christi Bay," "The Road Goes on Forever," "Whenever Kindness Fails": Those last two were recorded by Joe Ely, which is a pretty solid Lone Star endorsement. Keeping it in state, Johnny Rodriquez and Keen's old pal Lyle Lovett have also taken a run at his stuff. Oh, and that little holiday number he penned seems to be hanging on, too. Charlottesvillians (but Texans at heart) Sons of Bill open. $22-$25/ 8 p.m. —Rick Cornell



Two decades removed from their heyday, The Cult are military MREs recovered in a Mad Max future: Stale and bland, you might eat them if you were hungry enough, but you'd never crave it. Guitars veer between chunky hard rock stabs and chiming British post-punk with assurance and strut worthy of the arena-rock act Ian Astbury's histrionic vocals (and ticket prices) ape. Too bad the charm's skin-deep and disposable. $30-$35/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker




From: Nashville
Since: Well, Ronnie and Rob have been McCourys their whole lives
Claim to fame: Extending the family tradition

This show spotlights two exceptionally talented brothers: Ronnie, on mandolin, and Rob, on banjo, are the award-winning sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, earning those nods playing in their dad's band. They've obviously got the traditional stuff down, but when the pair—along with fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram, aces both—sets out under the Travelin' McCourys banner, it's time to give a running push to any boundaries. As a result, they've jammed with Southern rockers and sacred steel artists in the name of both expanding horizons and exhilarating music. When roots run deep, they can pop up anywhere. $21-$25/ 8 p.m. At PROGRESS ENERGY CENTER'S FLETCHER THEATER.


Eilen Jewell
  • Eilen Jewell


From: Boston
Since: 2003-ish
Claim to fame: Rocking up the singer/songwriter tradition

This show spotlights two exceptionally talented (honorary) sisters. Eilen Jewell and Sarah Borges both work from a rootsy base, albeit with Jewell's more traditional and of the backroads and Borges' more alternative and of the garage. But when each released her third record earlier this year, it was the most rocking moments that claimed center stage. Jewell frequently lets her inner Kink run free on Sea of Tears, while a couple of cuts on Borges' The Stars Are Out find her waving her Joan Jett flag high. The joint results back up what I've long suspected: As songwriters and performers, Jewell and Borges can pretty much do it all. $10-$12/ 9 p.m. At THE BERKELEY CAFE. —Rick Cornell




From: Dayton, Ohio
Since: 2001
Claim to fame: Dispute with Victory Records over money after success of second album, If Only You Were Lonely

Hawthorne Heights were never the types to wow with intellect and imagination, but youth-oriented rock isn't exactly calculus. Big chords and even bigger emotions are the recipe, with subtlety or nuance maybe added as an afterthought. What Hawthorne Heights do they do well, with better hooks and less screaming than many of their emo peers. Guitars chime, while frontman JT Woodruff's corn syrup tenor flows with sentiments about girls that likely strike a chord for those still within the shadow of college, no matter how overwrought the words may be. Guitarist Casey Calvert's sudden death offered lyrical grist for last year's Fragile Future, but it wasn't not enough to break free of the band's pleasantly harmless pop/ rock niche. With Just Surrender, Monty I Am and Nightbeast at THE BREWERY. $12-$14/ 8 p.m.




From: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Since: 2001
Claim to fame: Heavy pop-culture references and a stint working on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim

Despite his pint size, you don't want to fuck with MC Chris. Though sometimes surly, he has skills to back his attitude, dropping rhymes in his helium-soaked voice clever enough to snap a synapse. His playful, childlike insouciance flits from boyhood obsessions like comic books, video games and sweets to more adult pasttimes—you know, Robitussin and pot. His swerving, airtight flow and high-pitched delivery recall Beastie Mike D, even as his goofy, absurdist lyrics suggest Weird Al with geekier fascinations. If there's a cartoonish aspect to MC Chris, he shouldn't be underestimated—he's humorous, smart and he crunches Hawthorne Heights like breakfast cereal. With Whole Wheat Bread and I Fight Dragons at CAT'S CRADLE. $13-$15/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker

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