A-TRAK Montreal-born turntable prodigy Alain Macklovitch, aka A-Trak, made his name at the tender age of 15 when he won the 1997 DMC world championships. Seven years later Kanye recruited him to be his tour DJ (a post that's since been filled by Chicago's Million Dollar Mano). Macklovitch has roots in traditional hip-hop—all the way back to the genre's birth—and in his mixes there's a particularly strong hint of abstractionists like Steinski. But over the past few years he's fallen hard for dance music. His DJ sets, remixes, and original tracks—not to mention his work running the Fool's Gold label with fellow DJ Nick Catchdubs—have played a major role in American rave culture's recent leap from near extinction to a level of popularity that probably exceeds its peak in the 90s. Last year Macklovitch teamed up with rave legend Armand Van Helden under the name Duck Sauce, producing a couple singles—"Anyway" and "Barbra Streisand"—that quickly became must-haves for the Serato-and-glow-sticks set. He also recently collaborated with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, a move that for some reason superstar DJs continue to think is a good idea. —Miles Raymer Kid Sister and Gaslamp Killer open. 9 PM, the Mid, $20.
BABY DEE Baby Dee might be famous thanks to her sassy, campy persona, her fascinating backstory (the phrase "transgender street performer" tends to turns heads), and the enthusiastic endorsement of some well-connected friends (Will Oldham, Andrew W.K., David Tibet), but her stunning musicianship proves she deserves to be. Her new album, Regifted Light (Drag City)—recorded in three days at Dee's Cleveland home last winter, produced by Andrew W.K., and played on the Steinway piano he gave her—is almost entirely instrumental. Dee's piano playing takes center stage, and she imbues the whole record with a pastoral, hymnal quality. I can imagine at least two of the vocal songs, "Regifted Light" and "Brother Slug and Sister Snail," rising up to the stained-glass windows of a very openhearted and inventive sort of church. Her delivery is dramatic and clearly stage-conscious, and on several tunes (the title track, "Brother Slug and Sister Snail," "On the Day I Died") it also carries a reverent, spiritual intensity—a consciously earnest formality that's just breathtaking. And when she lets her prankster side out to play on "The Pie Song," it makes the loveliness of her voice almost unsettling—it's as if Vaughan Williams managed to work one of Queen Elizabeth I's favorite songs about farting into a romantic suite. —Monica Kendrick Loto Ball Show opens. 9 PM, Hideout, $12.
DESTRUCTION Destruction helped pioneer thrash metal (and by extension death metal) back in the early 80s, when a New Wave of German Heavy Metal arose that could've become as dominant as the British one a few years earlier—sadly, it didn't, though Destruction and their peers Kreator and Sodom were nonetheless hugely influential. The band recently released their first studio album in three years, Day of Reckoning (Nuclear Blast)—with their fifth drummer, Vaaver, making his first appearance—and I'm not going to be able to put it down for a while. It's fast and brutal for sure, but also a little bit fast 'n' bulbous, if you follow me. One doesn't usually look to thrash for the kind of musical surprises that make heshers stop windmilling their hair and prick up their ears, but there's a fair amount of wit and playfulness here—the swift, weirdly Big Black-ish breakdown in "Armageddonizer," for instance, is cooled off by a wet swirl of guitars that works like sulfuric acid. Not every track is a home run, but if your idea of a respite between explosions is a reliable, banging riff (mine is), Day of Reckoning won't let your buzz fade. Oh, and the limited edition has a faithful, face-melting cover of Dio's "Stand Up and Shout." —Monica Kendrick Heathen, Warbeast, Art of the Flesh, Souls Demise, and Savagery open. 7 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, $20, $17 in advance. 17+
FACE TO FACE Last summer, one night of drunken YouTubing and googling for RapidShare links led to several months of reacquainting myself with the pop-punk records I used to love but haven't touched since I reached the age when people tend to abandon pop punk for less ridiculous things. Turns out a lot of them still hold up—and that includes Big Choice, a 1994 LP by Face to Face, who formed in 1991 in Victorville, California and plan to release their first album in nine years, Laugh Now, Laugh Later (Antagonist), later this month. The highest point on Big Choice is the band's epic sing-along alt-rock radio hit, "Disconnected," but the whole album is filled with huge hooks, slick, studio-enhanced hardcore pop, and uber-positive bro-losophical lyrics about shit like keeping it real and believing in yourself. —Miles Raymer Strung Out, the Darlings, Black Lungs, and Artist Life open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, sold out. 17+
- Andrea Faught
- Dead Rider
DEAD RIDER On The Raw Dents (Tizona), the second Dead Rider album, Todd Rittmann has perfected his post-Bowie lounge-lizard croon—it's more expressive and controlled, which in practice tends to mean "stranger and sleazier." (The band used to be called D. Rider, but Rittmann got tired of explaining what the "D." stood for.) He oozes the kind of creepy charisma that you can tell right off means trouble, and trouble definitely comes—when the stumbling swagger of "Two Nonfictional Lawyers" stops dead for 30 seconds of maniacal cackling and queasy dive-bombing strings, for instance, or when "Mother Meat" dissolves into chaotically tumbling drums and distant, unhinged screaming. Rittmann's unctuous, mannered vocals slither through the band's menacing, off-balance art-rock, which gets a lot of its flavor from the drumming of Matt Espy and Theo Katsaounis—skeletal but heavy, it's full of sideways accents, surprising displacements, and odd drawn-out triplets. (They take turns on the record, but Espy will be behind the kit for this show.) Multi-instrumentalists Andrea Faught (also of Cheer-Accident) and Noah Tabakin lay down eerie keyboard textures, growling synth bass, and plangent, unsettling horn charts—Faught plays trumpet, and Tabakan occasionally adds a squealing saxophone solo. But Rittmann and his guitar claim the foreground with warped classic-rock heroics, which sound startlingly fresh in Dead Rider's off-kilter songs. Though there's no shortage of rock bands making music that's ugly, brutal, or weird, I haven't heard anything this sinister in a long time. —Peter Margasak Microwaves open. 9 PM, Quenchers Saloon, $5 suggested donation.
NEIL YOUNG Neil Young has always been an ornery cuss, and on the 2010 solo album Le Noise (Reprise) he had even better reasons than usual. The deaths last year of two of his longtime collaborators, guitarist Ben Keith and documentary filmmaker Larry "L.A." Johnson, cast a pall over the record—as does the continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq and the beleaguered economy. Even "The Hitchhiker," written mostly in 1975, manages to seem apropos with its meditation on Young's own selfishness and self-medication during his early years of rock stardom. Nearly all the songs contemplate mortality, whether that means cleaving to loved ones as the sun sets or raging at the destructive, self-absorbed behavior all around—and Young doesn't spare himself in that indictment. He plays most of the tunes on a single electric guitar, using the kind of big, lumbering, distortion-bathed chords that beg for a bludgeoning Crazy Horse treatment, and producer Daniel Lanois leavens the gauzy murk of his usual style by adding noise and grit to Young's primitive attack with postproduction looping and processing. As opening track "Walk With Me" winds down, screaming flashes of white noise cut, and on "Peaceful Valley Boulevard" fragments of the vocals reappear in isolation, haunting Young's ringing guitar like specters. —Peter Margasak See also Saturday. Bert Jansch opens. 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, $43-$253.
BACHELORETTE New Zealand's Annabel Alpers, aka Bachelorette, closes her new self-titled album with "Not Entertainment," where she admits to her embarrassment at writing songs about the everyday, then signs off with what sounds like a farewell: "Thank you for listening / I hope you got enough from this project to make it worth your while and mine." There's nothing quotidian about what she creates, though. She overdubs her voice in gorgeous harmony with itself, singing delicate melodies that bring an ethereal grace to her music's mechanical beats and pulsing synthesizers—an organic sound unmoored to any genre or time period. As she did on previous record, 2009's My Electric Family, Alpers has enlisted help for Bachelorette, after doing everything herself on 2005's The End of Things and 2006's Isolation Loops (both of which Drag City reissued on vinyl just last year). An obsession with technology marks many of her lyrics, though lately she's veered away from that in favor of seeking simple truths. On "Grow Old With Me" she sings, "I think maybe we will be happy / If we choose to admit stupidity / Then we'd only find dishonesty a bore." And on "Polarity Party" she weaves together those two threads, using science metaphors to describe a burgeoning relationship: "Do the dance / In opposition and attraction / Like magnets in oscillation." —Peter Margasak Peter Bjorn & John headline. 7 and 10:30 PM, Lincoln Hall, 7 PM show 18+, 10:30 PM show 21+, 10 PM show sold out.
CALLE 13 It's hard to believe that the Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 started out making reggaeton—on their fourth and latest album, Entren Los Que Quieran (Sony Music Latin), rapper Residente (Rene Perez) and musician and producer Visitante (Eduardo Cabra) churn out a range of sounds and styles that practically mocks the limitations of that genre. "Baile de los Pobres," which features some nifty beats from Diplo, collides classical Arabic strings with punchy horn licks that split the difference between Mexican banda and Balkan brass. "Vamo' a Portarnos Mal" juggles searing hard-rock guitar and hyperactive programmed merengue rhythms, and "La Bala" hijacks the twangy guitar and whistling from Ennio Morricone's spaghetti-western soundtracks. Brazil's Maria Rita, Colombia's Toto la Momposina, and Peru's Susana Baca pitch in on the chorus of "Latinoamericano," while Seun Kuti joins the group on the Afrobeat-driven "Todo Se Mueve." Residente's hectoring raps tie it all together; album by album, his lyrics have evolved from obnoxious jokes into political invective, and on the new one he critiques the capitalist co-opting of pop in "Calma Pueblo" (with psychedelic guitar courtesy of the Mars Volta's Omar Rodriguez) and decries the harshness of class disparities on "Baile de los Pobres." —Peter Margasak Benjamin Anaya y Los Extraños Unidos and Los Vicios de Papa open. 8 PM, Congress Theater, $18. A
- Sarah Cass
LAKE Bless the scene in Olympia, Washington, for keeping sweetness and earnestness alight in the underground. The gentle spirit Beat Happening begat more than 25 years ago (if you actually knew who Beat Happening were before Kurt Cobain went public with his fandom, you are either old or twee) labelmates Lake nurture today. The band's 2009 album Let's Build a Roof is like pre-Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac without the horniness, and their new full-length, Giving and Receiving (K Records), is whisper-delicate 70s astral folk, with electric piano, vocal harmonies, and shy but almost danceable beats. "Mother Nature's Promise" is about exactly what its title promises, and on "The Stars" Ashley Eriksson sings about how the stars "will never deny your friend request." It's so very corny, but also a reminder that you should probably step away from the Tumblr page, go outside for a romantic nature walk, and, like, hold an animal's hand or something. Lake would probably consider that mission accomplished. —Jessica Hopper Baby Teeth and AgesandAges open. 8 PM, Schubas, $10, $8 in advance.
JONATHAN RICHMAN From the beginning of his career more than 40 years ago—whether he was squaring the freaks with the precise Modern Lovers order of songs like "I'm Straight" and "Modern World" or extolling the glories of Stop & Shops and Massachusetts's Route 128 in "Roadrunner"—Jonathan Richman has embraced a Yankee contrarianism that's come to define him. By ignoring trends and faithfully upholding his own gosh-wow aesthetic of stripped-down, generally happy-footed rock 'n' roll, Richman has avoided the ignominy of, say, playing "Pablo Picasso" on the Riot Fest nostalgia circuit—and earned a devoted following along the way. With an oeuvre full of Dodge Veg-o-Matics, lonely financial zones, and Venice Beach rooming houses, Richman—for all the catchy-fun dance-worthy goofiness of his shows—is matched only by Ray Davies in his gift for finding beauty and transcendence in the ordinary. Though he's just a few days shy of 60, Richman tours as relentlessly as ever, and his most recent release, last year's O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth (Vapor), is familiar yet refreshing, full of perfectly Jojo numbers like the hilarious high school memoir "My Affected Accent," the earnestly romantic "It Was Time for Me to Be With Her," and a gentle yet direct request to wallflowers and buzz killers called "If You Want to Leave Our Party, Just Go." —Brian Costello 8 PM, Hideout, sold out.
TITLE TRACKS Who knew that the angular cacophony of dearly departed D.C. postpunk band Q and Not U was hiding the makings of a solid garage-pop group? Turns out drummer John Davis has a knack for fuzz-inflected, no-frills rock: he's now the front man of the trio Title Tracks, and his jangly guitar and dyed-in-the-wool punk spirit buoy their lively, hooky sophomore record, In Blank (Ernest Jenning). It's such a sunny album that I'm half hoping the band will bring some long-delayed spring weather with them on this visit. —Leor Galil Malaikat dan Singa headlines; Title Tracks and the Field Auxiliary open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle.
CANDY TOWN Sean Guinan, son of painter Robert Guinan and brother of comic artist Paul Guinan (creator of Boilerplate), had every reason to stick with the visual arts, and sure enough he's worked as an illustrator and spent years in indie films, where his efforts display a finely honed retro aesthetic. But then his first album, a collection culled from his films and TV work called Letters From Candy Town, set him on the path to playing music onstage. Candy Town is part band, part neo-vaudevillian thingamajig, with strict choreography and direction, mime makeup, and a heavily stylized Brechtian vibe. You probably think you've seen or at least heard this before—via Tom Waits, say, or the Dresden Dolls—and you'd be partly right. But Guinan is still building his board-walking empire from the vintage shoes up, and he's doing it with good steady old-fashioned gigging, picking up players like moss as he rolls along. —Monica Kendrick Izzy & the Kesstronics and the Real Jane Martin open. 8 PM, Martyrs', $7.
- Anna M. Campbell
TUNE-YARDS On paper the defining characteristics of Tune-Yards make for a pileup of quirkiness that could choke Wes Anderson. The solo endeavor of a New England bohemian and former nanny named Merrill Garbus, it relies heavily on lyrics that read like journal excerpts, field recordings from Garbus's day-to-day life, and offbeat, vaguely retro instrumentation that includes ukuleles, a string bass, and a sax section. It's eccentric stuff, right down to Garbus's preferred stylization of the name, tUnE-yArDs—which the Reader fortunately has no truck with. But on record Garbus's music is deeply fascinating, shot through with enough actual weirdness and serious experimentation to banish any comparisons to The Royal Tenenbaums from your brain. Her 2009 debut, Bird-Brains, is a winner largely because of its inventiveness and unpredictability, and her recent Whokill (4AD) would be good even if a run-of-the-mill rock band performed it. Garbus has become a serious songwriter, and her vocal melodies are just as compelling as her chopped-up tapes of conversations or the spoken-word interlude where she meditates on what not having more black male friends says about her as a person. —Miles Raymer Buke & Gass and Prussia open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, sold out. 18+