cIKE REILLY ASSASSINATION I've been interested in most anything Ike Reilly attaches his name to since I first heard his 2001 debut, Salesmen and Racists, an album that took the much-practiced and little-mastered tradition of rootsy songwriter rock and rendered it lupine and hungry again. On the new We Belong to the Staggering Evening (Rock Ridge), his third full-length with the Assassination, Reilly is again in great form, conjuring the hair-raising agoraphobic terror of the heartland's wide-open spaces (the blues-noir instrumental "Bugsy Salcido Has Fled the Desert") and tackling the unfair fairness of love and war with an affable cynicism (the angrily resigned "It's Hard to Make Love to an American"). On boozy, smoky ballads like "Charcoal Days and Sterling Nights" and short, pungent numbers like "The Nighttime Is a Liar," he sounds a bit like Faces-era Rod Stewart; thankfully, it's hard to imagine Reilly mangling standards and settling into middle age as an adult-contemporary hack. The Gwalla Gwallas open. a 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
SARAH BORGES & THE BROKEN SINGLES Most of the time, a record by a longtime indie-rock fan turned late-blooming country singer--that is, someone like Boston's Sarah Borges--turns out to be just another alt-country snoozer. But Borges's second album, Diamonds in the Dark (Sugar Hill), stands out despite covering such familiar terrain. Borges has no shortage of charisma and her band (particularly guitarist Mark Castellana) no shortage of chops. Killer tracks like her take on X's "Come Back to Me" even make me glad she has a taste for rock. a 9:30 PM, FitzGerald's SideBar, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $10. --Peter Margasak
FLESHTONES, HENTCHMEN New York indie/garage institutions the FLESHTONES have been going for 31 uninterrupted years now--apparently they knew how to keep themselves entertained during those dark decades when it seemed hardly anyone was paying attention. Sweat, a book about the band by Joe Bonomo, hits the shelves in September, and a documentary is said to be in the works; also forthcoming is a new record on Yep Roc, plus a tribute album aptly titled Vindicated!
Meanwhile, Detroit's HENTCHMEN (mere pups, only 15 years along) are so beloved as a live act they barely have to record anymore. This summer they're reminding people that they used to, putting out a new version of their 1998 EP Hentch-Forth called Hentch-Forth.Five that's expanded, remixed, and remastered (though not necessarily cleaned up). The reissue is also a friendly knew-ya-when neener-neener to Jack White, whose guest appearance is largely why some people are asking $300 or so for the original disc.
The Fleshtones headline, the Hentchmen play second, and the Havox open. a 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $12, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
cHERMAN HITSON Recently a number of Chicago soul-record fanatics have founded reissue labels, bringing belated exposure to little-known regional acts of decades past, but John Ciba isn't stopping there. Since launching his Rabbit Factory imprint with last year's terrific compilation CD The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill, Vol. 1, Ciba's helped get some of these rediscovered artists back onstage. Last week he put on an old-school soul revue in Brooklyn; today it arrives in Chicago. The lineup includes Roscoe Robinson and Ralph "Soul" Jackson, who also performed at the Birmingham Sound release show, Clarence Reid, who plays the Note later tonight as Blowfly, and a great Atlanta singer named Herman Hitson. I'd never heard of Hitson till I stumbled upon You Are Too Much for the Human Heart (Soul-Tay-Shus, 2005), a compilation of singles he cut between 1961 and '76. Unlike many soul artists he wrote much of his own material, which ranges from hard and raspy post-Otis Redding stompers to James Brown-inspired funk workouts. I don't know how his voice has held up, but at this intimate show presence will count as much as pipes. The bill, from the top: Reid, Robinson, Hitson, Jackson, and revivalists Eli "Paperboy" Reed & the True Loves. The True Loves share house-band duties with locals the Adam Fitz Band; Ciba, James Porter, Brian Poust, and Andy Dyson spin afterward. a 5 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $15. --Peter Margasak
PALOMAR With so many bands these days worried about getting people to dance, this three-ladies-and-a-dude combo from Brooklyn comes off as a bit of a throwback. Their songs have the sweet plainness of 90s indie pop, tightly focused and unadorned by anything fancier than simple vocal harmonies. Palomar have had their caffeinated, party-pouncing moments in the past, but their fourth album, All Things, Forest (Misra), is consistently grown-up and stoic, with subtle, sublime melodies and spacey organ. Say Hi to Your Mom headlines and the Satin Peaches open. See also Sunday. a 10 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10, 18+. --Jessica Hopper
lTHE SNAKE THE CROSS THE CROWN I'm a softie for sweeping, depressive folk rock, but these guys try even my patience on their second album, Cotton Teeth (Equal Vision). For nine straight tracks they sustain a mood best described as either "elegiac" or "plodding," depending on how long you've been listening, with nothing to break it up but distracting nods to their influences (the David Gilmour-esque guitar eruption on the title track, the way "Electronic Dream Plant" ends kind of like "Hey Jude"). And then at the last minute they rattle your cage with "Back to the Helicopter," an inspired bit of hair-down weirdness that leaves you wondering why they waited so long. Mewithoutyou headlines, Piebald plays third, Manchester Orchestra is second, and the Snake the Cross the Crown opens. a 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $15, $13.50 in advance. A --Monica Kendrick
c BEBEL GILBERTO On her third album, Momento (Ziriguiboom/Six Degrees), Bebel Gilberto continues to inch away from the frothy electro-bossa that established her as a coffeehouse accessory when she debuted in 2000. The rhythms of her native Brazil still dominate the airy music and her warm, hushed delivery is pure Rio, but the pan-stylistic arrangements and increased use of English suggest she's aiming at something broader; tracks include a languid take on Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and the disco-tinged "Bring Back the Love," cowritten with members of New York's Brazilian Girls. Still, I like the songs that draw on her roots best, namely her sharp cover of Chico Buarque's forro-tinged classic "Cacada" and the Cuban-Brazilian groover "Tranquilo," written by Kassin and a recent minor hit for Thalma de Freitas (both play with Orquestra Imperial, the backing band on this version). Gilberto's subtle vocals have never sounded finer, but there's a middle-of-the-road quality to the record as a whole--it feels like it was made for folks who buy their music at Starbucks. Federico Aubele opens. a 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $27.50, 18+. --Peter Margasak
PALOMAR See Saturday. This show is part of the Belmont Arts & Music Festival; see page TK for a complete schedule. a 3:30 PM, Belmont Arts & Music Festival, Damen Avenue Stage (Belmont and Damen), 773-327-5123 or rvcc.biz, $5 suggested donation. A
cVCR This dance-punk combo from Richmond, Virginia, grabbed me by the lapels with its self-titled 2003 debut. The EP showed up at the radio station where I sometimes DJ, and when I got an eyeful of the perfectly awful cover art--just the word VCR in a tacky early-80s-style font, like the logo Osco might use for a house brand ofcologne--I thought, "There's no way this can't rule." And rule it does. In songs like "Rad" (sample lyric: "Rad! / You could be rad!") and "We Are VCR," they come off like a great, unpretentious college-town party band--which is essentially what they are, except with no guitars. They've got three synth players in front of a jumpy bass-and-drums rhythm section, and with their outsize hooks and alternately sly and goofy humor, they're leagues ahead of !!! and the other self-satisfied bores clogging the genre. Side One Dummy (also home to Gogol Bordello) reissued the EP in 2005 and put out VCR's debut full-length, Power Destiny, in 2006. I've yet to catch them live, but I'd venture to say you should wear industrial--strength dancing trousers. They open for Brilliant Pebbles and headliners KK Rampage. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --J. Niimi
cemerson string quartet During its 30 years as an ensemble, the Emerson String Quartet has emulated its namesake--Ralph Waldo--by boldly establishing a distinct style. The musicians alternate first and second violin positions, play standing (with the cellist on a small podium), and deliver ensemble perfection that's truly athletic. This program sandwiches Terra Memoria, by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho--her second quartet, dedicated "for those departed" and premiered by the Emerson at Carnegie Hall on June 17--between two late Beethoven quartets. The concert opens with his Quartet no. 16 in F, op. 135, which gets one of the best performances in the Emerson's recording of the cycle: their propulsive, unsentimental style suits Beethoven's delinquent rhythms, yet they still manage a profoundly searching slow movement. The concert ends with Quartet no. 13 in B-flat, op. 130, played with its original last movement, the imposing Grosse Fuge. The Emerson's recording of this movement (published, and often performed, separately) gives coherence to Beethoven's craggy writing but misses some of its savagery. a 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$50. --Steve Langendorf
cNOAH HOWARD Some veterans of 60s energy music are banked pretty low these days, the fire in their playing reduced to a warm glow, and others have been snuffed out altogether. But alto saxophonist Noah Howard still blazes like a furnace. He debuted in 1966 with a couple incendiary recordings for New York's legendary ESP label, then in '69 joined colleagues like Frank Wright, Alan Silva, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago in Paris. He now lives in Brussels, where he runs a club called Noah's Ark and maintains his Altsax label, but he still comes to the U.S. now and then to rekindle old partnerships. He and Bobby Kapp, the drummer who's playing with him here, first recorded together at one of those ESP sessions in '66, and on their 1999 reunion disc, Between Two Eternities (Cadence Jazz), the 30 years they'd been apart melt away: Howard executes intricate figures colored by the fiery sermons and Baptist hymns he was raised with in New Orleans, while Kapp supports him with a paradoxically light touch and swinging rhythms. Estesombelo opens and Michael Columbia headlines; this is the second in the Bottle's new series of mixed bills, Music of Changes. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Bill Meyer
c mavis Staples Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., the Staple Singers went from singing gospel to "freedom songs," and with the new We'll Never Turn Back (Anti-) Mavis Staples demonstrates how those standards of the civil rights movement remain sadly relevant today. Updating the 60s protest canon, she ad-libs lyrics on some tracks, adding raw first-person remembrances of social injustice, and on others addresses current issues, such as the nation's feeble response to Hurricane Katrina, with refreshing bluntness. The songs are pure gospel and blues--Ry Cooder, who produced the record, contributes some typically swell slide guitar--but the arrangements vary to include the autumnal choral backing of South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo and some rather out-of-place drum loops constructed by Cooder's son Joaquin. Cooder's best production decision is to keep the instrumental backing lean and unobtrusive, deferring to Staples's raspy, full-blooded cry. The Blind Boys of Alabama open. a 7:30 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $20-$70. --Peter Margasak
BISHOP ALLEN Last year this Brooklyn indie-pop combo released an EP every month, from January to December--they cheated a little and used a show recording for August, but all told they put out nearly four albums' worth of tunes. Then they went right back into the studio to make The Broken String (due July 24 on Dead Oceans), the follow-up to their 2003 LP, Charm School. On catchy tracks like "Click Click Click Click" (from the new album) and "Things Are What You Make of Them" (from the old one), they capably reinterpret 60s British-invasion sounds a la the Redwalls, flavoring them with understated production trickery a la Wilco. The Teeth and Locksley open. a 7:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. A --J. Niimi
c CARLINHOS BROWN, ANDY PALACIO & THE GARIFUNA COLLECTIVE Few Brazilian musicians have demonstrated the skill and range of singer, songwriter, and percussionist CARLINHOS BROWN. He attached pop songcraft to the thunderous drumming of a Carnaval bloco with his band Timbalada in the early 90s and tackled Portuguese fado, reggae, and many of his homeland's regional styles on the first albums under his own name. Because his latest solo outings have been weighed down with pop gloss, he's been doing his most absorbing work with side projects, including Tribalistas, a stripped-down songwriting showcase with Marisa Monte and Arnaldo Antunes. Still, he's got a reputation as a great performer, and his mastery of Brazilian rhythms--plus the presence of three drummers--should guarantee that this show outstrips his poppier recordings.
A few years ago Belize's ANDY PALACIO realized that saving the vanishing musical culture of the Garifuna--a mixed race of Africans and Arawak Indians--was more urgent than cherry-picking bits of its legacy for the slick punta rock he'd spent most of the 90s making. For Watina (Cumbancha), one of this year's best albums, he brought together legendary singer, songwriter, and guitarist Paul Nabor, who's 79, with younger musicians like Aurelio Martinez, earning the project comparisons to the Buena Vista Social Club. The music is mostly acoustic, marked by gentle Caribbean rhythms, soulful, gently imploring vocals, and elaborate but unfussy guitar patterns that create a sublime melodic filigree. The melancholy beauty of "Baba" reminds me a whole lot of Compay Segundo's signature "Chan Chan."
Carlinhos Brown headlines and Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective open. This is Brown's Chicago debut. a 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan, 312-742-1168. F A --Peter Margasak
cCLOUD CULT Finally, after nearly a dozen years and seven albums, this Minneapolis entity is nearing an exposure level the Arcade Fire--a not entirely dissimilar band--seemed to reach in about ten minutes. But leader Craig Minowa has chosen his own circuitous, borderline obsessive path--one that's required him, for instance, to plant trees and buy wind-power credits to offset the energy used in recording and touring. Early on Minowa's activist lyrics were a bit too stridently concrete for his fragile psych-pop to support, but gradually he's found balance: his vision has grown more mystical, while his production style has gotten more rigorously detailed. (I won't speculate too long on how the sudden death of his two-year-old son in 2002 affected his move toward spirituality, but it hardly seems negligible.) Cloud Cult's new The Meaning of 8 (on the group's own Earthology label) takes to the air bumblebee-style, a long record supporting its improbable weight on wobbly wings. And yet: it flies. Light Pollution and Roommate open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick
SAM YAHEL TRIO On his fourth and best album, Truth and Beauty (Origin), organist Sam Yahel continues to operate outside the heavy blues and gospel style associated with Hammond B-3 maestros like Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, and Baby Face Willette. He's more like Larry Young, eschewing greasy, crowd-pleasing chord swells for dynamic, pianistic single-note lines. For the record he enlisted drummer Brian Blade, whose splintery accents add an extra level of complexity to the grooves, and saxophonist Joshua Redman, who finds room for low-down classic-funk growls in the midst of thoroughly modern-sounding arrangements. But on his current tour, opening for Steely Dan, Yahel will be backed by a standard organ-trio line-up, with guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Greg Hutchinson. a 7:30 PM, Auditorium Theatre, Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress, 312-922-2110 or 312-559-1212, $45-$125. A --Peter Margasak
c SEUN KUTI & EGYPT 80 Although his older half brother Femi has been widely celebrated as the heir to Fela Anikulapo Kuti's mighty throne, 25-year-old Seun actually seems better equipped for the job. Femi softened Afrobeat's hard edges, polishing the arrangements and cutting the jams to radio-friendly size, but Seun keeps the music raw. He looks uncannily like his father--shirtless, lithe muscles rippling on his lean frame, he commands the stage with a frenetic energy--and he sings in gruff voice as deep as his dad's. Soon after Fela's death ten years ago, Seun took over his legendary 22-piece band Egypt 80. Even with the addition of several young members, the group plays with stunning fluidity and can cut loose on extended instrumental passages; Seun himself is a killer saxophonist and as a band leader controls the ebb and flow of the music like an orchestra conductor. Also in the tradition of his father, his original tunes are blatantly political. The local house and soul label Still Music will soon release Seun Kuti & Egypt 80's first single outside of Nigeria, and we should be hearing more from them soon. This is their Chicago debut. Rich Medina spins before the show. a 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan, 312-742-1168. F A--Peter Margasak
OH MY GOD At the core a trio of bass, drums, and very distorted organ, this local band has long been committed to hypertheatrical excess--its apparent goal is to make the audience involuntarily yell its name as often as possible. On the brand-new Fools Want Noise (Split Red), they go over the top of over-the-top: with heavy guitar added to their already comically heavy sound, the stadium-rock bravado of the arrangements would now make Freddie Mercury blush. (Hell, the lyric-sheet typography alone is practically an outrage.) The key, though, is their underlying sincerity. Certain that the path to rock 'n' roll glory runs straight through all the campy chaos they can devise--which, honestly, is a little more than they can handle--they manage to crawl out the other side unscathed. Tonight is part one of a two-night release party, with openers Hard Lessons and Modern Temper; Countdown and Lord of the Yum-Yum open the 21+ show tomorrow. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
SWEET COBRA It's been three years since Praise, Sweet Cobra's excellent debut on Seventh Rule--these guys claim they have a hard time finishing songs because they're always working on so many at once. But they've finally broken their long silence, or rather shattered it with a two-ton fertilizer bomb: recent sessions at Electrical Audio with Greg Norman have produced the limited-edition Road Born Orphan EP and the local metal combo's second full-length, Forever, both on Hawthorne Street. The hammering, detuned mayhem of Forever's epic eight-minute closer, "The Motherfucker," wallops you like the carcass of a mule flung over the battlements by a trebuchet. The Party Downers and Frontside Five open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. --J. Niimi