Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival
Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival certainly invests in its headliner: Solo guitar prankster Keller Williams, who will join The Travelin' McCourys for his Thursday night set, is a big-ticket item, as is beloved African singer Oliver Mtukudzi. But keying on the top-billed items at Shakori Hills is to overlook the essence of the festival, which uses its bucolic setting in the relatively isolated Chatham County countryside to create a wide-angled sampler of music from around the world.
The focus is local, largely dependent upon bands that call the Triangle or the greater region home. But together and separately, those acts offer a polyglot manifestation of what it means to make and enjoy music in the state. The Beast, for instance, will reprise their Big Band performance from last year, enriching their fusion of jazz, hip-hop and salsa with a 13-member ensemble that verifies the group's extreme musical fluency. Elsewhere, there's country and blues, bluegrass and newgrass, clog dancing and rave-worthy electronics, soul music and South American music. The best way to approach Shakori Hills is to pick an act or two you must see and to otherwise get lost, finding the music with open ears, not an open pocket schedule. Thursday–Sunday, April 18–21, at Shakori Hills. $15–$110
Though the implementation and results of his work can sometimes be tedious, the idea and process behind the music of Paul Miller, or DJ Spooky, is consistently fascinating. Musically, for instance, his recent work Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica was a bore, but its idea—attempting to translate the variable geography of Antarctica into a multimedia presentation of neoclassicism and video samples—was inspired and inspiring. He'll provide the nightcap for the two-day SwitchPoint conference, a convocation of designers, programmers and thinkers from around the world. With The Ayr Mountaineers and Jennifer Kelso Curtis. Friday, April 19, at Haw River Ballroom. $20–$25/7:30 p.m.
Dan & Letha Rodman Melchior Fundraiser
For the better part of three years, Durham painter and musician Letha Rodman Melchior has been battling multiple forms of cancer; during the same span, she and her husband, garage rock icon Dan, have also battled mounting medical bills. Luckily, music enclaves around the world have helped through live benefits, donated proceeds and sheer positivity. For this show, WXDU and three bands partner for a bill that'd be smart not to skip. Greg Cartwright, the Oblivians and Reigning Sound old-soul whiz, opens, while Dirty Little Heaters—itself occasionally embattled with the health woes of uproarious singer Reese McHenry—play their first show in more than three years. Charlotte trio Joint D≠ headlines with its treble-philic rumble of hardcore pummel and post-punk misdirection. Friday, April 19, at The Pinhook. $10/9 p.m.
Harvey Milk is a band from Athens, Ga., that has long specialized in oblong and eccentric rock 'n' roll that invokes stoner metal, math-rock and a jester's sense of misdirection. They're named, of course, for the San Francisco politician and gay rights activist. The cross-country conversation continues with San Fran's Prizehog, a co-ed Bay Area trio that emboldens Harvey Milk's sinew with Melvins-sized distortion and rhythmic wallop. They shift from mid-tempo plod, no-tempo drone and accelerated death metal impasses, imparting a sense of sea-legs whiplash with their righteous sense of restlessness. Royal Nites close, while the promising new Demon Eye opens. Wednesday, April 24, at Slim's. $6/9 p.m.
Here's a difficult dare: Try listening to Wheel, the forthcoming third album from New York songwriter Laura Stevenson, without being irrevocably charmed. On these 13 songs, Stevenson moves between various looks: Her tender acoustic tunes suggest Josh Ritter with their wit and narrative candor. Her full-band surges, including the excellent debut single "Runner," hint that Stevenson has matured gracefully and honestly from an adolescent love of wistful pop-punk. Stevenson works through country jostle and crooner showcases on Wheel, too, uniting the variable looks with crisp delivery and fetching tone. Wheel benefits substantially from Stevenson's smart decision to invest in increased production; the spotlight makes her ascendant. With Field Mouse and Eros & the Eschaton. Sunday, April 21, at Local 506. $10–$12/8 p.m.
Metz, Odonis Odonis
Two of Canada's best rock 'n' roll exports this decade, Metz and Odonis Odonis use loads of volume and sheets of sound toward remarkably different ends. On last year's great debut, Wet Blanket, Metz used the heft of shoegaze and the tonal quiver of Spacemen 3 to rip through triumphant browbeaters three minutes at a time. They are loud like a jet and loaded like a spring. Odonis Odonis doesn't write longer songs, per se, but their saturated psych rock defers some of Metz's need to deliver sudden gratification. They'll take a shrieking solo after a big hook rather than return to it or snap the song shut, inviting you to get lost—at least for a spell. In the opening slot, Ben Davis & the Jetts deliver appropriately urgent and overloaded blasts. Metz previews the night's show with a free 3 p.m. gig at Schoolkids in Raleigh for Record Store Day. Saturday, April 20, at Local 506. $9–$11/9 p.m.
Thrones is just Joe Preston, a big-toned bassist who has cycled in and out of several stone-and-drone outfits over the years, including the Melvins, Earth, Harvey Milk and Sunn O))). But don't equate the limited membership with limited musculature: Playing to samples of industrial-sized drums and barking out the words like a quarterback behind the line of scrimmage in the loudest arena of hell, Preston manages to be plenty punchy and punishing with his limited means. Preston's output has been decidedly low in recent years, so it's good to see him on tour again, hopefully pushing toward new material of that daunting old misanthropy. With Drug Yacht. Thursday, April 18, at Kings. $8/9:30 p.m.
The deliberate folk ruminations of Ohio's Black Swans are so moody that they make the saddest country-western songs you know seem twilit by comparison. On last year's stately and stark Occasion for Song, slow-singing frontman Jerry David DeCicca (who will appear solo tonight) explores death and lives so listless they can sometimes feel that way. There's comfort in this despair, though, like old friends meeting for a beer to admit that they've all got problems of their own. With Real Live Tigers. Thursday, April 18, at Duke Coffeehouse. $5/9 p.m.
For better and worse, Birthmarks, the fourth album from Canadian band Born Ruffians, sounds like a survey course on the sounds of indie rock. These brisk tracks have as much to do with Fleet Foxes' luxuriant vocals as with Vampire Weekend's peppy guitars, as much with Passion Pit's headlong pop euphoria as Hot Chip's engrained refrains. It's trendy but it's skilled, fresh but familiar, good but not entirely necessary. With Moon King. Tuesday, April 23, at Motorco. $10–$12/8 p.m.
North Elementary, Antique Firearms
Chapel Hill's North Elementary and Asheville's Antique Firearms apply obvious ambition to rock foundations of the classic and indie varieties. North Elementary's Wilco-isms are emboldened with a Flaming Lips sense of lift, their songs recast with the purpose of transcendence. With snappy electronics and saturating textures, Antique Firearms push their tunes squarely in the direction of the FM dial, like My Morning Jacket enthusiasts who watch The Voice for Adam Levine's flair tips. Natural Science opens. Thursday, April 18, at Tir Na Nog. Free/10 p.m.
Les Claypool's Duo de Twang
Ahh, yes, another whimsical project from that dastardly wizard of bass, Les Claypool: That is what the world needs now, isn't it? Claypool certainly stays busy with strange ideas and side projects, espousing an admirable restlessness that, unfortunately, is mimicked in his too-much-all-the-time playing. His Duo de Twang is an underdeveloped concept of funked-up, two-piece country-rock, a description that strangely makes it sound better than it actually is. Monday, April 22, at Haw River Ballroom. $22–$25/8 p.m.
Snarky Puppy, a large revolving-and-evolving collective of musicians from Dallas and New York, describe themselves as, "Music to move the brain and booty." Perhaps a different conjunction would have been necessary: When the band is most musically intriguing, their dance fever generally breaks, as they focus more on melody and texture than simple ass-shake. But when they jump back into the frenetic jam, they often lose their heads for simple, fetid funk. It's possible to have it both ways, but Snarky Puppy doesn't. Friday, April 19, at The Pour House Music Hall. $15–$18/10 p.m.