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Mon 7/30: Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang at the Empty Bottle
Sierre Leone expat Janka Nabay is the self-proclaimed king of bubu—his plugged-in adaptation of the traditional processional music of his homeland's Temne population. As I write, "To distinguish himself from his rivals in a Freetown music contest in the mid-90s, he drew upon on bubu's skittering, high-velocity rhythms; his performance caused a sensation, and before long he was a local star." He fled his war-torn country and eventually formed a band with a crew of Brooklyn musicians, who join him on his first visit to Chicago.
Tue 7/31: Nachtmystium at Reggie's Rock Club
On their new album Chicago black-metal veterans Nachtmystium pull back from the stylistic experimentation of their past couple of records. Writes Monica Kendrick, "Their new sixth full-length, Silencing Machine, is a return to basics, and Nachtmystium's 'basics' include an industrial influence, which they've definitely let off its leash to play—much has been made of how the nonalbum track 'As Made' sounds like late-80s Ministry, and 'Decimation, Annihilation,' which is on the album, kind of does too."
Wed 8/1: Merle Haggard at the Congress Theater
Miles Raymer praises Merle Haggard as one of the prime forces pushing country music into the rock 'n' roll era, and many years later he's still got it. As Raymer writes, "Over the past decade or so Hag's gone back to basics: on album after album, the latest being last year's Working in Tennessee, he's alternated between tributes to formative influences such as Bob Wills and sparse, folky ruminations on mortality and music that are easily among the best things he's ever recorded."
Wed 8/1: Alabama Shakes at Metro
Lollapalooza takes over Grant Park on Friday, and a lot of the festival's performers are playing more intimate club shows over the next five evenings. Alabama Shakes, led by charismatic singer Brittany Howard, kick things off with this sold-out gig Wednesday. They're one of the year's great success stories, and the music on their debut album makes it pretty obvious why they caught on. As I write, "Her no-holds-barred approach—full of growls, whoops, slurs, cries, and a sort of post-Billie Holiday vibrato—feels like overkill on some of the lesser material, but it helps her make the best songs, such as 'I Found You,' 'Hang Loose,' and 'You Ain't Alone,' sound like instant classics."