This week's guide contains:
YES, PLEASE: The Strange Boys, Porter Hall, Brainbows, Gardens, Shepherds, Midtown Dickens, Beausoleil, Joe Ely Band, Sun Splitter, Bridesmaid
VS.1: Title Tracks vs. Live And Let Die
VS.2: Youssou N’dour vs. Grupo Fantasma
HELPING: Circle Of Friends Benefit For Jan Johansson
- Photo courtesy of the band
- The Strange Boys
06.16 THE STRANGE BOYS @ THE PINHOOK
It's disappointing to still requisitely report that The Strange Boys are an Austin, Texas, sextet that makes garage rock with a range that runs from languid and thoughtful to sweaty and bustling, like a punk rock band shot through with an R&B heart and a poet's mind. It's disappointing not because I wish they'd break up or because I wish they'd lose a member; rather, it's a letdown that the Boys aren't more famous, an assertion confirmed by the consistent excellence of their songs and the thoughtful generosity of last year's Be Brave. Others agree: The band recently moved from one legendary label, In the Red, to another, Rough Trade. The Wigg Report and Last Year's Men open. $8/ 8 p.m. —Grayson Currin
6.17 PORTER HALL @ DEEP SOUTH THE BAR
In spite of the geographical nomenclature, Porter Hall, TN actually come from Nashville. From that, you might assume, they make country music; though correct, that genre name's a bit too limiting for the versatility of Porter Hall. Sure, the quartet plays with the occasional electric edge of today's modern, radio-ready outfits, but they generally cling to an acoustic guitar, with bass, drums and mandolin supporting songs that speak of crazy country folk and salt-of-the-Earth saviors. Indeed, Porter Hall mixes biblical salvation and secular badasses, like a shot followed by an exclamation of "amen." With Mary Selvidge and Steve Howell and the Lonesome Teardrops. 10 p.m. —Grayson Currin
06.17 BRAINBOWS, GARDENS, SHEPHERDS @ NIGHTLIGHT
Durham's Brainbows make the kind of punk that bounces around your head as well as it does a mosh pit. Their tones are only softly distorted, instruments creating conflict through melodic spark and dexterity rather than force. The snot-nosed vocals seem less angry than pensive. Detroit's Gardens are more explosive, riding pretty typical garage arrangements but bursting forth in wave after wave of tenacity. Atlanta's Shepherds upholster their punk frame with dense shoegaze-y fuzz and vocals that follow tuneful classic rock pathways. $6/ 9:30 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
06.18 MIDTOWN DICKENS @ SAXAPAHAW RIVER MILL
From Midtown Dickens via Facebook: Unfortunately - ugh - we can't play the Saxapahaw gig that the Independent Weekly listed in Hearing Aid because The Mountain Goats asked us to tour with them... Instead, Birds & Arrows are taking the slot! It should be so lovely, and we can't wait to get there soon or to the Haw River Ballroom. Saxapahaw is lovely.
As Midtown Dickens preps its third album, and first for Trekky Records, the band's growth and maturation becomes even more apparent. Beginning as a casual duo that swapped found instruments and giggled as often as they sang, Catherine Edgerton and Kym Register still stuff their songs (and shows) to the gills with charm, honesty and arresting harmonies. These days, though, they match the tunes with arrangements and instrumentation that do them justice. Expanded to a four-piece, Midtown's delicate folk has never sounded more stunning than it does now, while the gigs maintain an endearing, off-the-cuff feel that suits Saxapahaw's rustic hay wagon stage and its blanket-strewn grassy knoll. Donations/ 6 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
06.18 BEAUSOLEIL @ N.C. MUSEUM OF ART
Since 1975, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet has purveyed its brand of Cajun music. Earning a couple of Grammys along the way, the band combines the traditional Louisiana sound with other genres like blues and calypso, western swing and rock. Accordion chugs as Michael Doucet's fiddle lilts above washboard, guitar, bass and drums. Doucet, winner of a National Heritage Fellowship, even adds a little Acadian crooning to the mix, finding long tones both mournful and joyous. $13–$25/ 8 p.m. —Andrew Ritchey
- Courtesy of the artist
- Joe Ely
06.18 JOE ELY BAND @ THE ARTSCENTER
"It always begins in dusty west Texas," says Joe Ely, a dean of the Texas Country school. "There's no trees, no hills, no horizon. It's just flat and that wide open space gives me something to fill up." Raised in Lubbock and inspired by Buddy Holly, Ely rode the rails as a youth while indulging his rock 'n' roll heart. Meeting his Flatlanders mates (Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock) exposed him to folk, blues and country, sounds that came to populate his stories of windblown strangers, hard-luck losers and blue-collar grinders. He blends his influences well, equally likely to rock your heart as break it in two. $24–$28/ 8:30 p.m. —Chris Parker
06.22 SUN SPLITTER, BRIDESMAID @ SLIM'S
It's hard to say it any other way. Sun Splitter sounds rusty. Not unpracticed, but oxidized: This doom-meets-black metal is patient, abrasive and evilly lo-fi. Much like kindred spirits and Chicago scene-mates Locrian, this noisy band looks to frighten you. Bridesmaid is the sound of blown speakers. These Ohio sludge punishers feature two bong-rattling bassists, a drummer and no treble instruments. It's a thunderous, down-tempo mess, and that's OK. Durham locals Hog, whose Archetypes EP is a recent masterpiece of Southern art metal, and Raleigh's Squall round out the bill. We know it's a Tuesday night, but do it. $5/ 9 p.m. —Corbie Hill
SATURDAY, JUNE 18
FROM: Washington, D.C.
CLAIM TO FAME: Fronted by former Georgie James co-leader and Q and Not U drummer
John Davis has played and written in the mathy and dancy post-hardcore trio Q and Not U and the short-lived indie pop duo Georgie James. Title Tracks follow the latter's classic power pop agenda but focus almost solely on Davis' solo capabilities, at least initially. He assembled a backing band for touring purposes; they, in turn, helped track his latest studio album. There's no shortage of sharp pop songcraft elsewhere on the bill: Raleigh quintet Gods of Harvest wash their summery jangles in waves of reverb and sweet coed harmonies, while Trekky's Butterflies add an occasional folk approach to their lush arrangements. At CASBAH. $8-10/ 9 p.m.
LIVE AND LET DIE
FROM: Liverpool via Tucson, Ariz.
CLAIM TO FAME: Offering a lifelike imitation of Paul McCartney
Tony Kishman, a near doppelgnger for McCartney both visually and vocally, has portrayed Sir Paul in the Broadway musical Beatlemania, the Beatles tribute band Twist and Shout and the Classical Mystery Tour—a touring Beatles revue which teamed a fake Fab Four with a symphony orchestra. Live and Let Die follows the latter's concept but focuses almost solely on Macca's solo work and his Beatles tunes. Kishman is joined by his fellow imitators from Classical Mystery and the North Carolina Symphony under the direction of conductor Martin Herman. At KOKA BOOTH AMPHITHEATRE. $30–$40/ 7:30 p.m. —Spencer Griffith
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22
FROM: Dakar, Senegal
CLAIM TO FAME: Flavorful Afro-pop with a dash of Latin flair
Youssou N'Dour got his start with Super Etoile de Dakar, a group he quickly came to lead, and has done extensive solo work since. N'Dour's vocals flow like a bubbling brook, powerful and set high in his nose. The first exposure to his mysterious music leaves no question as to why N'Dour, a legend in his own right, has collaborated with the likes of Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. The exotic and unsettling qualities of his voice will shake you from radio-induced apathy. At MEYMANDI CONCERT HALL. $41/ 9 p.m.
FROM: Austin, Texas
CLAIM TO FAME: Latin funk delivered stylishly by congas, trombones, bass and vocals
Grupo Fantasma's spicy Latin jazz will take you away. Your head will go hazy in a swirl of horns as you find yourself transported from swaying in a Durham venue to swinging the salsa on a steamy Havana night. Grupo Fantasma has accrued quite the résumé, with songs featured on Weeds, a collaboration with Spoon and a recent Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album of 2010. Even if you don't know Spanish, you'll get the message. Grupo Fantasma is here to have a good time and set a spark on your heels to get you moving. At CASBAH. $12–15/ 8 p.m. —Nina Rajagopalan
06.18 CIRCLE OF FRIENDS BENEFIT FOR JAN JOHANSSON @ UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST FELLOWSHIP
By August of 2008, things weren't looking so bright for beloved musician and music teacher Jan Johansson. "At that point," explains his friend and former student Lennie Green, "it seemed clear that Jan ultimately would need a heart transplant to survive." The grim realization of the medical costs, emotional strife and physical limitations that might entail for Jan and his wife, Theresa, could have been paralyzing. But help came. Says Green, "A group of their friends, composed of students and fellow musicians, decided to provide financial and spirit-lifting support by putting on a benefit concert."
This event marks the fifth time the community has gathered in support of the couple, who now have something monumental to celebrate; as of March 19th, Johansson is the proud owner of a new heart. After struggling with his ticker for more than 10 years, the new heart is a promising restart, but it's clear, at least metaphorically, that the old one had its merits. "Jan and Theresa are two of the most loving and generous people on earth," says Green. "Helping give back to them is a great feeling, and the music and fellowship that surrounds the benefit concerts is always uplifting." Beyond just being a great cause, the event will also feature a cadre of North Carolina bluegrass talent, including Tommy Edwards, Joe Newberry, Julie Elkins, Danny Gotham, Lindsey Tims, David Tate and even a chance for you to get in on the action during the informal jam sessions. $15/ 1–7 p.m. —Ashley Melzer