Newish local quartet Zardoz includes members of the fallen Fighting Poseidon, but it doesn't have Fighting Poseidon's wiry tension. Instead, this band welds strains of prog technicality to thrash energy, and the result depends largely on whether frontman Cody Heckle is singing or growling. If he's singing, think Suicidal Tendencies party jams. If he's growling, think the lighter moments of Cattle Decapitation's death grind. Meanwhile, Ruscha's punk-metal hybrid sports a noisier snarl, laying punk riffs across stoner tempos and AmRep agitation, making it memorable, if by determination alone. $5/ 10 p.m. —Bryan Reed
02.13 CHIP ROBINSON, DEMOLITION STRING BAND, THE MOANERS @ SLIM'S
Mylow, the first solo record from Backslider Chip Robinson, opens with the aptly titled "Preface." It's a curious, Waits-y affair that ends with the proclamation, "If I can find my way home, maybe the Dodgers can, too." Across the rest of Mylow, Robinson looks at the challenges of making it back while crossing many torched bridges. And so it should be a compelling performance when Robinson returns to his longtime stomping grounds with this collection of songs. Making that journey south with Robinson are Elena Skye and Boo Reiners of Hoboken, N.J.'s rockin'-hillbilly collective the Demolition String Band, while another hybrid duo, The Moaners, make the trip from Chapel Hill. $3/ 9 p.m. DSB and The Pneurotics join The Moaners Friday, Feb. 12, at The Cave at 10 p.m. —Rick Cornell
02.13 KARLA BONOFF @ THE ARTSCENTER
The name Karla Bonoff is one that doesn't get much play in households of the younger set. But it does resonate with your, um, more mature demographic (of which I'm a member in good standing). We're a group that might remember fondly Bonoff's three contributions to pal Linda Ronstadt's 1976 gem Hasten Down the Wind, including Bonoff's masterwork, "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me," with those same three songs subsequently serving as the centerpiece of the winning self-titled release that soon followed from Bonoff. Her continued intelligent, inviting work over the passing years has cemented her reputation as a songwriter's songwriter. $25-$27/ 8:30 p.m. —Rick Cornell
Polarity often comes as a continuum, and tonight's three-band bill offers the evidence: Gross Ghost is an agitated four-piece, its fuzzy pop skewed by impulses both aggressive and angular. For reference, they serve up a beefy cover of Folk Implosion's "Daddy Never Understood." Meanwhile, Wilmington quartet Onward, Soldiers adds snarl to a country grace that recalls The Byrds at their most twinkling and dusty—that is, when they're not shuffling along to verbose declarations set above mid-tempo bluegrasss throb. Speaking of words, Lonnie Walker frontman Brian Corum delivers plenty of them when he sings, wrapping pedestrian images and romantic axioms into an eager pastiche. And his band's mix of country grit and indie rock erudition (think Pavement but tight, Modest Mouse but meaty) sits almost exactly at the intersection of the openers. $7/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
02.13 RAVI COLTRANE @ DUKE'S REYNOLDS THEATER
Yes, like you, Ravi Coltrane has parents and, indeed, like your friends Dylan and Marley, he's named for a musician who's built a legacy bigger than his own output will ever likely inspire. But don't let the past push you to or from Coltrane, an experienced sideman and aggressive bandleader who should be taken on his own terms. Reared on movements built on his father's innovations, Coltrane's own playing moves with daunting agility, darting through complex rhythms that rise, fall, stack and stagger as he weaves through. Tonight, for Duke's WAIL! saxophone festival, Coltrane brings a quartet that adds guitar to the basic bass-and-drums backing. $5-$28/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin
02.14 THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE @ CAT'S CRADLE
It's probably going to take some time for The Foreign Exchange to get over this year's loss at the Grammy Awards for the best urban/ alternative album, so it might be fitting for Phonte Coleman and Yahzarah to leap into a Cupid's arrow cover of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway's "Where is the Love?" in response to the group's dismissal. Don't count on it, since this year's Valentine's Day evening in Carrboro will be more about the music-loving couples that owe it to each other to attend what might be one of the final shows that the Exchange will play behind its much-lauded Leave it All Behind before they dig into the follow-up. Even if you aren't coupled up with that special someone, share some love anyway—either with another lone fan or with that beloved electro soul sound slipping from the stage. $18-$20/ 9 p.m. —Eric Tullis
Photo by Eric Mullet
02.15 TINARIWEN @ MEMORIAL HALL
Duke Performances deserves credit for scheduling Libyan band Tinariwen last year. But, barring disaster, credit for finally bringing Tinariwen—one of the best guitar bands in the world, without qualification—goes to Carolina Performing Arts. The story of the band's Saharan blues—formed in a Libyan rebel training camp in the late '70s though not exposed to Anglo audiences for another 30 years—is familiar enough. But the elegance of those arid guitar lines played by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and his surrounding trio of six-string giants cannot be overstated. This music is transfixing and transporting, a distillation of artistic commitment and catharsis so strong that it's not to be missed. $10-$40/ 7:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
02.15 TORTOISE, DISAPPEARS @ CAT'S CRADLE
Tortoise has been a band now for more than two decades, and the Chicago quintet remains one of the great groups of restless sonic explorers in music today. Arguably as pivotal to the development of American indie as it has been to an experimental scene here (and an audience for both), Tortoise has explored both moody, slow-moving themes and searing space rock, long-form collage pieces and terse impressionistic numbers. Last year's Beacons of Ancestorship does it all, exploring acoustics, electronics, rhythms and melodies in ways so counterintuitive that, after all this time, Tortoise remains largely peerless—risky, but refined. Arrive early for Disappears, a Chicago quartet that's likely to be in a lot of earbuds later this year: Their overloaded, reverb-scattered guitar and rubbery bass pulse guide songs that rattle like those of The Twilight Sad and explode like those of The Walkmen. Kranky Records—one of the few big indies still taking chances on music that could find some mainstream success (Disappears, for instance) and the willfully obsucre—will issue the band's debut in April. $15/ 9 p.m. —Grayson Currin
02.16 BREVAN HAMPDEN TRIO @ PAPA MOJO'S
Bull City's unsung percussionist, Brevan Hampden, could probably beat on a couple of empty Kleenex boxes and turn a half-crowded room into a tribe of dancing Maasai warriors or whirling bailarines de salsa. But lately it's become increasingly harder to find Hampden without his conga companions. Instead he's been the resident on the basic drum kit, patrolling Chapel Hill and Durham spots with his jazz trio, which also features the dizzying jazz crooner and pianist, Mark Wells. Hampden is determined to turn the Triangle into a place where it's common to find throngs of folks at weekly jazz sessions. Gig by gig, the music is making his mission much more tempting. Here, he'll celebrate Mardi Gras' climax, Fat Tuesday, with his band, Basher 'n Bruiser and a whole lot of Mel Melton's Cajun cooking. $5/ 5:30-9:30 p.m. —Eric Tullis
02.16 COLD @ LINCOLN THEATRE
Arriving now long removed from its 2003 "prime" as a Limp Bizkit-endorsed nü-metal band with a moderate hard rock hit and Rivers Cuomo co-write called "Stupid Girl," whatever appeal Cold once had—easily reduced to the fact that singer Scooter Ward doesn't rap or yell, but sings like Staind's Aaron Lewis—has vanished. The seven years since Cold's quickly forgotten breakout album, Year of the Spider, feels like a musical century. So shouldn't they be, uhh, frigid and buried by now? With the similarly forgettable Nonpoint. $14-$17/ 7:30 p.m. —Bryan Reed
02.11 JIMBO MATHUS & THE TRI-STATE COALITION @ THE CAVE
After years of sporadic, high-profile touring with their reunion lineup, Squirrel Nut Zippers are giving their vaudeville, swing-and-string party at least the rest of this year off. But that doesn't mean Jimbo Mathus—the Zippers' frontman and a Mississippi producer and bluesman who's seemingly never found an Americana form he didn't think he could master—is taking time off.
"I'm putting the focus back on Jimmy the Kid," says Mathus of his 2008 album from somewhere in North Mississippi, where he was raised and to which he returned in 2003. "And I've got a whole new batch of songs, too. I write all the time, so I may have some new ones written in the van by the time we get to Carolina. "
Jimmy the Kid moves from aching country moan ("Check Out Time") to raucous roadhouse narration ("Jimmy the Kid"), with dashes of funk and soul scattered between the tracks. And he aims for the same spirit with this new batch he's touting, written with his Tri-State Coalition quintet in mind. They're ready to be recorded, and now he's just waiting on his next record label deal to fall into place—this time with Silver Arrow Records, the label run by another crew of famous Southern rock advocates, The Black Crowes. The Crowes' Chris Robinson heard Mathus' tunes while on tour with Luther Dickinson, the North Mississippi All-Star who plays on Jimmy The Kid and has been collaborating with Mathus for years.
"They got to liking it, so they been talking to me back and forth," he says. "They're making plans right now." 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin