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Soundboard: May 12-18

Recommended and notable shows, including Cola Freaks, Woods of Ypres, James Blake, Childish Gambino, and more

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Cola Freaks

Woods of Ypres


Alien Queen: The Concert

David Davis & the Warrior River Boys

Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs


Young Widows


James Blake

John Tchicai & the Engines


Kelley Stoltz

Twilight Singers



Childish Gambino



COLA FREAKS This band from Aarhus, Denmark, took its name from "Cola Freaks," a song from a 1979 EP by fellow Danes Lost Kids that appeared on a Killed by Death comp in '93, and the shoe fits. Their songs are energetic late-70s-inspired punk rock, refreshingly devoid of the gauzy reverb that's so fashionable nowadays, and none of them lasts much longer than three minutes—you could easily sneak a Cola Freaks track onto one of those legendary comps, and no one but joyless punk-collector nerds would be the wiser. Since forming in 2006, Cola Freaks have released a slew of seven-inches and toured with (and backed up) Jay Reatard; last month they released their self-titled debut LP stateside on Douchemaster Records. Songs like "Uppers and Downers," "Kniven," and "Under Vand" will pogo around your brainpan for weeks after you hear them, even if you only speak American (the band sings in Danish). They show that, despite the recent popularity of bands fond of ten-minute psych-drone jams, a simple, succinct, well-written song can trump all the effects pedals in the world. —Brian Costello Fossils and Claw Toe open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, $8.

WOODS OF YPRES I'll bet most of us have at some point wanted to pull a Tom Sawyer and listen to what people would say at our funerals—and the greatly exaggerated rumors of Woods of Ypres's demise that circulated last year (with a bit of encouragement from the band) gave this Canadian doom-metal outfit something like that opportunity. Seeing people mourn the group was enough to make front man David Gold, who'd moved to Kuwait temporarily for business, decide to keep it going. Of course it didn't hurt that Earache Records picked up Woods of Ypres last fall—the label plans to reissue all their prior albums as well as a forthcoming fifth. Woods of Ypres IV: The Green Album, which originally came out in autumn 2009, is already available on deluxe double vinyl with a T-shirt. It's a long journey through many types of terrain, from chilly, mossy forests to unending badlands of hardened black lava—and if occasionally the world-building slips, so that you feel like you might glimpse suburbia through the trees, it helps to follow Gold's powerful but downcast baritone, which is more than a little reminiscent of late Type O Negative front man Peter Steele. It's a good strong anchor for a band brought back from the brink of extinction. —Monica Kendrick Killer Moon and Intercontinentalballisticmissile open. 8 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, $15, $10 in advance. 17+


Alien Queen - TIMMY SAMUEL

ALIEN QUEEN: THE CONCERT Jaded with classic-rock laser light shows? Tired of tribute bands? The Scooty & JoJo Show's Alien Queen might appear to be the next logical evolutionary step in the quasi-ironic appreciation of rock greats, but there's more than that going on in this crazily slapstick take on the first two Alien movies—which, in case the name didn't clue you in, is performed as a musical consisting of songs by Queen. Though it seems like nothing more than a late-night stoner joke played out to an absurdly elaborate and expensive conclusion, it makes statements about sex and gender I won't even begin to unpack—I think the concept of the "wet nightmare" might come into it somewhere. The company first inflicted the vision of creator and director Scott Bradley on the world this past winter in a successful run at Circuit Nightclub, and now the band and cast from that run—led by Ryan Lanning, who plays Ridley, aka Ripley in the movies, a role originally intended for a male—will reconvene at Metro. They're joined by some truly terrifying puppets and really brilliant costumes that bring H.R. Giger's alien designs to shimmying, ridiculously sexual life (that's Bradley in the Alien Queen getup). This one-night-only revue reprise of the play will also feature some new songs—or rather classic songs the first version didn't use. —Monica Kendrick Brilliant Pebbles, Mystery Key, and DJ Reaganomix open. 9 PM, Metro, $20, $16 in advance. 18+

DAVID DAVIS & THE WARRIOR RIVER BOYS Mandolinist David Davis has been leading the Warrior Mountain Boys for more than 25 years, and for the duration he's cleaved to the bluegrass fundamentals he learned in childhood. His uncle Cleo Davis, also a mandolinist, was a longtime member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, and the younger Davis began playing music when he was eight. At 24 he formed his own band, and since then he's spent a lot more time on the road than in the studio; the band's most recent album, 2009's Two Dimes & a Nickel (Rebel), is only its fifth. On Two Dimes the band focuses on new rather than classic material, even re­inventing "Blue Ridge Mountain Skies" by the Marshall Tucker Band. But despite the recent vintage of the tunes, Davis never wavers in his commitment to the hard-core sound institutionalized by Monroe—the Warrior Mountain Boys want nothing to do with the antiseptic slickness that infects so much contemporary bluegrass, preferring concise, high-octane solos and gritty vocal harmonies. —Peter Margasak Jon Langford & Skull Orchard open with an acoustic set. 8 PM, American Legion Hall, Evanston $20.

Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs - TROY MARTIN
  • Troy Martin
  • Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY & THE BROKEOFFS Holly Golightly admits that her music hasn't changed much since she started out with Thee Headcoatees in northern England two decades ago. "I'm proud to say that I don't think there's been much development at all, really," she declares in the press materials for her terrific new album, No Help Coming (Transdreamer). She's selling herself short, though. In the 90s Thee Headcoatees played a raw mixture of stripped-down garage rock and girl-group pop, but with her "band" the Brokeoffs (solely consisting of guitarist, drummer, and singer Lawyer Dave), she leans toward primitive, rural country and blues. It is true, though, that Golightly's fascination with American roots music has never wavered; it remains so strong that she moved from the UK to remote Madison, Georgia, four years ago. The new album's ramshackle arrangements accommodate seductively simple hooks and a kind of sneak-up intensity, and Golightly's seemingly average voice veers from detachment to piercing focus and back again, teasing tuneful accents out of the stern, archetypal melodies and adding a layer of spookiness that's all her own. Though she's been playing this music for 20 years, Golightly makes it feel magnetic—even fresh—with her subtle melodic prowess and peculiar charm. —Peter Margasak Jon Drake & the Shakes and the Singleman Affair open. 9 PM, Beat Kitchen, $12. 17+


YOUNG WIDOWS Young Widows' third full-length, In and Out of Youth and Lightness (Temporary Residence), burns slow. Its predecessor, 2008's Old Wounds, was tense and often frenetic, heavy with the fuck-yous and jolts of noisy, angsty posthardcore these Louisville dudes had established as their idiom—but that album's counterbalancing undercurrent of gloomy stoicism and icy command comes to the fore on the new record. In and Out of Youth and Lightness is very much a black-suit, black-shirt, black-tie affair, with a serial-killer cool reminiscent of labelmates the Black Heart Procession—you might not be infatuated within the first 90 seconds, but give it time and it'll hypnotize you. Evan Patterson's drawling vocals creep along with a kind of Nick Cave panache as his delay- refracted guitar snakes through nine cavernous songs that average five minutes each (compared to less than three on Old Wounds). Only "Future Heart" and "Miss Tambourine Wrist" sound at all urgent or anxious. I can imagine some fans bailing on account of this album— especially if they got into Young Widows via the knotty racket two of these guys used to make in Breather Resist—but the band's increasingly sinister tone shows them moving forward, into territory that's like something from a Grimm's fairy tale gone horribly wrong. I know I'm cool with it at least. —Kevin Warwick My Disco and 97-Shiki open. 9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, $10.


James Blake
  • James Blake

JAMES BLAKE I'm unfamiliar with the finer points of dubstep, but it was still pretty easy for me to learn that most purists in the genre see James Blake as a charlatan. His transgression? After a couple of insular-sounding, relatively stylistically orthodox EPs, he pushed toward pop on his self-titled debut album for Universal Republic. The LP was the first music of Blake's I heard, though, and judged on its own terms (rather than on dubstep terms) it's pretty great. It grabbed me on first listen and has grown more resonant with repeated spins, reminding me of the homemade late-90s electronic soul of fellow Brit Lewis Taylor. Blake isn't a particularly strong singer, and calling his lyrics slight is probably too kind, but he works around his limitations brilliantly—he uses multitracked vocals, some of them nonverbal, to harmonize with himself, creating rich layers of multicolored sound. The album prompted me to dig up his earlier recordings, where he made a herky-jerky mix of chopped or electronically tweaked samples of his voice and fractured, stuttering electronic beats. He's retained that production style as he's moved into actual songs, often going so far as to rework chunks of his straighter dubstep material. Though his tunes are still extremely simple, often consisting of little more than a single line repeated ad infinitum (this guy doesn't worry about bridges), they're definitely tunes in a way his old tracks aren't. Blake's vocal melodies and programming—beats, synths, even some actual piano chords—greatly enhance each other, turning his rhythms into hooks and his singing into a vivid, intricate abstraction. I don't know if he can pull this stuff off live, and it's possible that the album's connection to the rapidly evolving aesthetic of dubstep will make it sound hopelessly dated in a year, but for now I'm a believer. —Peter Margasak Active Child opens. 8 PM, Lincoln Hall, sold out. 18+

JOHN TCHICAI & THE ENGINES Great Danish reedist John Tchicai appears on important recordings by Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, and Archie Shepp, and he's long been just as comfortable playing standards as he is freely improvising, never settling into any particular sound—but because this makes him hard to pigeonhole, he's often overlooked in discussions of the legends of free jazz. To curious listeners, though, his flexibility makes his work more valuable: the brilliant multilinear improv he played with trombonist Roswell Rudd on the front line of the New York Art Quartet with (last year Cuneiform provided a reminder of the group's potency by releasing a batch of live 1965 recordings as Old Stuff), the hypnotically beautiful music he made with South African bassist Johnny Dyani, the simple treatments he gave the music of Thelonious Monk on the straight-ahead 2009 quartet record In Monk's Mood (Steeplechase). For this rare Chicago performance, part of the ongoing tenth-­anniversary celebration of the Hungry Brain's Transmission series, Tchicai will place himself another intriguing context as a guest with local quartet the Engines—trombonist Jeb Bishop, reedist Dave Rempis, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Tim Daisy. According to Bishop, they've adopted a new MO since the release of their second album last year: instead of using written charts and fixed arrangements, they've memorized a collection of simple melodic ideas and relatively worked-out pieces without using sheet music, and onstage they improvise the structure of their sets. Anyone can call a tune at any time, even the middle of another one, and the band can move into and out of free playing at will. This kind of loose, spontaneous approach requires a lot of trust and familiarity to work, so the Engines have provided Tchicai with sheet music to bring him up to speed; he may also bring some of his own music for them to play. Whether he does or not, sparks will fly. —Peter Margasak 10 PM, Hungry Brain, $15 suggested donation.


KELLEY STOLTZ Kelley Stoltz is one hell of a mimic. His latest album, last year's To Dreamers (Sub Pop), kicks off with some power chords that channel the Who so perfectly you'll want to smash your air guitar by the end of the first verse. Other songs emulate the finer moments of the Go-Betweens, Tom Petty, and Ziggy-era David Bowie. Of course, he'd be nothing more than a cover-band MVP if he didn't bring something new to the table; he may use other peoples' licks as bait, but the hooks are all Stoltz. Not only are his tunes downright indelible—in 2007 the bouncy "Birdies Singing" made for an unusually memorable Regions Bank commercial—but they come loaded with lyrics that present new twists on two of the oldest subjects around, falling in love and loving someone who's fallen out of love with you. Stoltz is also an admirer of headliners Echo & the Bunnymen—in 2001 he recorded Crockodials, a note-for-note remake of the band's first album—but you can bet he and his backing trio won't dip into that songbook tonight, not with the Bunnymen scheduled to play the original Crocodiles and its even better successor, Heaven Up Here, back-to-back. —Bill Meyer Echo & the Bunnymen headline; they're also in this week's Artist on Artist (see page B7). 7:30 PM, the Vic, $30. 18+

TWILIGHT SINGERS Greg Dulli is still the reigning king of the Sad Bastards—no one doubts that. The man could give a gut-wrenchingly cathartic performance singing a page of the phone book. The only potential fault with his recent output is that it's been almost too Sad Bastardy, to the point where the only appropriate listening situation involves a very large bottle of very cheap whiskey and a darkened room—see Saturnalia, the 2008 album he and fellow gloom peddler Mark Lanegan released as the Gutter Twins. Luckily Dulli has rediscovered the right ratio of misery to flat-out hedonism with Dynamite Steps (Sub Pop), his return to the Twilight Singers project, and the results are as familiar as the sound that made all us miserable fucks—and apparently more than a few coke-addled strippers—fall for him back when the Afghan Whigs dropped Gentlemen. The album swaggers more than it sulks, starting with the disco-fied stomp of the opener, "Last Night in Town," slinking through a five-song block of Whigs-like narco-soul, and closing with the unexpectedly transcendent title track. —Miles Raymer Margot & the Nuclear So and So's open. 9 PM, Metro, $21. 18+


ACRASSICAUDA You've seen the documentary (Heavy Metal in Baghdad), you've read the articles, and now you can meet the actual band. After stints in Syria and Turkey, Iraqi metal band Acrassicauda were granted refugee status in the United States in 2009, making them eligible for green cards after one year. (In a 2010 interview with the Village Voice, they complained that the process had been a struggle.) Formed in Baghdad in 2001, the thrash-metal quartet has a remarkable backstory involving explosions, power outages, risk to life and limb, and economic hardship, not to mention the difficulty of keeping a band of refugees together through three countries (kind of makes the usual excuses you get for band entropy look like weak sauce, doesn't it?). Unsurprisingly, Acrassicauda have few official recordings, but last year's four-track EP, Only the Dead See the End of the War (Vice), shows a hungry, ruthless intelligence. It's only natural to read grim determination into anything these guys play, but their rugged, gritty riffs sound like they've plugged their will to survive directly into the soundboard. —Monica Kendrick Althawra opens. 7 PM, Empty Bottle, $8. Acrassicauda also plays twice Thu 5/19: first a free, all-ages in-store at 5 PM at Record Breakers with openers Human Stew and Unlawful Traditions, then a $10 21+ show at 11:30 PM next door at Reggie's Music Joint with openers Pig Champion. The Music Joint concert is free with a wristband from the Septultura show at Reggie's Rock Club that night.

CHILDISH GAMBINO Donald Glover seems amiable enough; on the NBC comedy Community, he makes the charismatic character of Troy Barnes even more appealing with his down-to-earth charm. But the knowledge that he can be genuinely likable—and that he's written for 30 Rock—just makes his foray into hip-hop as Childish Gambino all the more disappointing. He cranks out dim-witted tunes that try to sound smart by packing in an absurd number of forced or even nonsensical pop-culture references—including self-referential jokes like "NBC is not the only thing I'm coming on tonight." The EP he self-released in March is inane and overproduced, and its lyrics are almost enough to make me ashamed to be male: if he's not bragging about how hard he fucks women ("I'm hard in the paint like I fuck her on her period"), he's complaining about how hard women have fucked him over ("'You are the bestest, I will obey you' / These words I wrote for you when you were fuckin' other dudes"). It's a shame, really, because Glover has a lot of magnetic cool, and he's confident enough on the mike to make the EP's standout tune, "Freaks and Geeks," at least listenable. I don't expect the rapping to be the high point of Glover's performance here—fortunately, he's also doing stand-up and showing videos of his sketch comedy. —Leor Galil 8:30 PM, Park West, sold out. 18+

  • Christina McCord
  • Donkeys

DONKEYSDonkeys revamp their sound on their second album, Born With Stripes (Dead Oceans), largely ditching the late-60s retro moves in favor of something more contemporary. Unfortunately, that means they sound like Pavement most of the time—and when they don't, they're still holding tight to sonic relics, like the inept sitar playing on "West Coast Raga." All the same, there's a shaggy-dog charm to their music; it's comfort food, even though it's not too nutritious. —Peter Margasak Advance Base and Algebro open. 9PM, Schubas, $10. 18+

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