This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: Fractal Farm, Kellie Anne Grubbs, Pin Projekt, John Howie Jr. & The Rosewood Bluff, The Moaners, The T's, Richard Bacchus & The Luckiest Girls, Nora Jane Struthers, Patty Griffin, more
EH, WHATEVER: She Wants Revenge, The Light Pines
VS.: Sam Quinn + Japan Ten vs. Country Throwdown Tour
VS.: Converge vs. Obituary
- Kellie Anne
05.27 FRACTAL FARM, KELLIE ANNE GRUBBS @ NIGHTLIGHT
Don't fear the unknown names on this bill: Fractal Farm conjures a pleasantly human mix of Pinback and Yeasayer—slightly sloppy and romantic, treating polyglot indie roarers like they're enough to save whatever it is that's gone wrong. The songs of Carrboro singer Kellie Anne Grubbs are more delicate than they are flimsy, with her big, open chords played with the lightest touch. Her voice is an oddly confident quaver, too. Slight and trickling, beautiful and direct, it's like glimpsing a gorgeous face by candlelight. Brooklyn's Haunted Ghost seems to play sketches of Panda Bear and Dave Longstreth co-writes down a hallway. Also, new Lake Inferior project Godhead. $5/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
05.28 PIN PROJEKT @ THE PINHOOK
In a recent press release, Melissa Thomas, director of the Troika Music Festival, described the bowling pins for sale at the festival's annual fundraiser, Pin Projekt, as "reconditioned." That's technically correct, yes, but these pins are better described as reimagined. Last year, the pins became a cow, a giant tribute to downtown Durham's Lucky Strike iconography, a phoenix and a kid-carrying dinosaur. Last year, two pins sold for more than $300 each, a testament to the unique vision the best artists supply to these formerly mundane objects. This year's artists include John Harrison, Steve Oliva, Matt Park, Billy Sugarfix, Wendy Spitzer, Zeno Gill, Lalitree Darnielle, Dave Rogers and Dave Alsobrooks. See the goods at 6 p.m., and begin bidding at 6:30 p.m. A karaoke party led by Red Collar's Jason Kutchma follows. Free. —Grayson Currin
05.29 JOHN HOWIE JR. & THE ROSEWOOD BLUFF, THE MOANERS @ THE CAVE
Is there a better way to celebrate the nuptials of Twilighter's Brandon Herndon then with a quartet of the area's finest acts? There's the rugged, blues-rawk rumble of The Moaners, with the possibility they'll share some songs from their forthcoming album. John Howie Jr. wraps his velveteen baritone around honky-tonk heartbreak like it's his only friend (along with that George Jones poster). Herndon's partner at the Cave's monthly Songslinger's Showcase, John Pardue, leads Puritan Rodeo through spirited country-folk with effervescent guitars. New Town Drunks' enthusiastic Latin- and folk-inflected rock shows often feel like Cinco de Mayo. This evening, like a good marriage, spans the spectrum. 10 p.m. —Chris Parker
05.29 THE T'S, RICHARD BACCHUS & THE LUCKIEST GIRLS @ THE POUR HOUSE
Given their generally limited financial resources, our local musicians are an exceptionally compassionate bunch. This benefit for victims of the Nashville flood rocks in a peculiarly Raleigh manner, highlighted by The T's, who nail it when they describe their music as something you might expect to be blasting from a Trans Am (or Firebird, circa '75–'85). Their cock-rocking, name-taking, beer-bottle-boogie suggests a stack of Thin Lizzy, AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd wax. Richard Bacchus' influences are of a similar era, but grimier and more rebellious, like The New York Dolls, Dead Boys and Richard Hell. Jammy Winston-Salem funksters DOCO also appear, along with Multiples and Five Gallon Pale. $7/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
05.31 NORA JANE STRUTHERS @ SIX STRING CAFE
Nora Jane Struthers, a Nashville songstress by way of West Virginia and New Jersey, makes a vintage, rural sound—all Kellie annemandolins and fiddles, harmonies and yodels, thistles and briers. (And contributing to that sound on her brand new, self-titled debut is an impressive array of acoustic-music-hero friends, including Tim O'Brien, Stuart Duncan, Rob Ickes and Bryan Sutton.) She also cultivates a vintage look, an elegance that manages to be buttoned-up and cowgirl casual. She even has a vintage-sounding name: Nora Jane's that wholesome, winsome young lady kissing a GI in a V-J Day photo. Everything fits, and everything works. $10–$12.50/ 7 p.m. —Rick Cornell
- Patty Griffin
06.02 PATTY GRIFFIN @ NCMA
For more than a decade, Patty Griffin's sliding, bluesy voice has been cutting through folk-rock arrangements with lyrics of pain and comfort. Her intimate songs have been covered by the likes of the Dixie Chicks, Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride and Kelly Clarkson. On her latest release, however, the singer-songwriter skips the coffee shop for Sunday morning services, using Downtown Church to explore the diverse streams of gospel music. Uncharacteristically, the LP only includes two original songs from Griffin, resulting instead in tunes that range from jumping rockabilly to early soul ballads. It's a move that further establishes Griffin as a force in the roots music world and shows off her distinctive, gorgeous alto. Country music journeyman Buddy Miller produced the album and joins Griffin onstage. $15–$30/ 8 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
- She Wants Revenge
05.30 SHE WANTS REVENGE, THE LIGHT PINES @ CAT'S CRADLE
Somewhere influence passes into slavish imitation. She Wants Revenge doesn't rip a page out of '80s darkwave as much as they attempt to photocopy the entire book. Two opportunistic thirty-something DJs wanted to cash in on the retro craze, so they copped Peter Murphy's gloomy dispassionate croon and resurrected the gothic synth throb of Bauhaus, Depeche Mode and Joy Division. The skin-deep lyrics are little more than paeans of anxious desire matching the music's derivative emptiness, putting them one step above cover bands. Local openers The Light Pines offer a touch of redemption, at least: Their bass-led tunes are sprawling, tense and intricate. $15-$17/ 9 p.m. —Chris Parker
FRIDAY, MAY 28
- Sam Quinn + Japan Ten
SAM QUINN + JAPAN TEN
From: Knoxville, Tenn.
Claim to fame: Former co-leader of the everybodyfields strikes out alone
On the heels of releasing his solo debut, The Fake That Sunk a Thousand Ships, ex-everybodyfield Sam Quinn stops in to strum his latest batch of rustic, toe-tapping mourners steeped in the influence of Neil Young. Quinn now plies his tunes with backing trio Japan Ten, accomplished names on the eastern Tennessee Americana circuit, including two former everybodyfields bandmates. They drench old and new gems in keys, fiddle and pedal steel. Though Quinn's songs ache with poignancy, he's far from a downer—in fact, his hilariously outlandish monologues are worth the price of admission alone. At LOCAL 506. $8–$10/ 9:30 p.m.
- Montgomery Gentry
COUNTRY THROWDOWN TOUR
From: Nashville, mostly
Since: First time out for this collection
Claim to fame: A slew of country hits
Carolina boy Eric Church joins fellow hitmakers Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Johnson, Jack Ingram, Eli Young Band and Little Big Town on this three-stage mega-tour, but there's a slate of underappreciated talent aboard as well—though you'll have to make it out early to catch them. Heather Morgan, Troy Olsen and Tyler Reeve have all the tools to match those big names, just without the record deals. Former bullrider turned guitar slinger Ryan Bingham co-wrote the Grammy-winning theme song from Crazy Heart, and he often sounds like he's been living the same hard life as that film's Bad Blake. Cory Branan sets acute tales as rowdy roadhouse rock and plaintive ballads. Also, Heidi Newfield, The Lost Trailers and more. At WALNUT CREEK. $21–$41/ 1 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
SATURDAY, MAY 29
From: Boston, Mass.
Claim to fame: Playing hardcore more like metal
Converge's 2009 LP, Axe To Fall, remains one of that year's best metal albums. Frontman Jacob Bannon screams like he's gargling glass shards, while guitarist Kurt Ballou mines perfect tone, even when he's flaying a squealing grindcore-pummel. The record found the band dipping into sludgy-slow passages just as ably as it lacerated flurries of speed. Converge has stayed true to its hardcore faithful while coating this latest masterpiece, front to back, with seriously brutal shredding. Perhaps it's that sonic breadth that solidifies Converge's fittingly broad appeal. Just look at the support here: Gaza makes death metal dynamic, and Black Breath finds the intersection (likely in the middle of an inverted cross) of hardcore and black metal. Also, Systems. The bill, like Converge, is a pan-metal dream. At CAT'S CRADLE. $15/ 7 p.m.
From: Tampa, Fla.
Claim to fame: Playing metal
One of the first and finest of the late-'80s influx of death metal bands from Tampa, which also includes Morbid Angel and Deicide, Obituary has proven its staying power—even if it hasn't changed much in 25 years. But back then, when everybody was playing faster to keep up with Slayer, Obituary sometimes let their riffs drag like a ball and chain. It's that dynamic—and John Tardy's acidic growls—that made Obituary relevant then. And to date, few have balanced mid-tempo stomp and callous-busting speed-solos with the brutal, oppressive effect the band trademarked decades ago. They're not risk-taking innovators anymore, but here's to veteran know-how. Same goes for the faster-paced opener, Vital Remains, who formed in 1989 and now feature Deicide frontman Glen Benton. All four locals—Age of Despair, Bloodsoaked, Morose Vitality and Atrocious Abnormality—testify to the undying influence of Obituary and the golden age of death. At VOLUME 11 TAVERN. $20/ 7 p.m. —Bryan Reed