josh caterer's acoustic tribute to george jones To prep for this show, don't bother with the Smoking Popes back catalog or those Duvall records--give a listen to Josh Caterer's solo acoustic EP Why Me, a sweet and humble collection of gospel covers and traditional praise songs he recorded in the late 90s, after he flamed out, cleaned up, and found Jesus. The tradition of using standards to express oneself is more native to country than to rock, and for this show Caterer steps out of the shadow of the on-again, off-again Popes and pays tribute to George Jones, one of the genre's true masters and no stranger to the crash and burn and rise again. Rachel Ries opens. a 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $8. --Monica Kendrick
steve forbert Mississippi-born singer-songwriter Steve Forbert was in the middle of a long line of new Dylans when he released his first album in 1978, and he's still never quite distinguished himself from the crowd. His melodious tunes tend to be too sweet and resolve too neatly to bring out the tension in his raspy, Tom Petty-ish voice, and that pretty face he had as a young man didn't help. But pluck him away from the studio--where he's often been tempted by a sugar bowl of sonic refinements--and put him onstage and his songs get looser and bluesier. His new live album, the self-released It's Been a Long Time, is a career-spanning acoustic set featuring longtime musical partner Paul Errico on keyboards and accordion. a 7:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. --Monica Kendrick
chenry grimes trio with fred anderson Henry Grimes's recent return to music after an absence of more than three decades made for a marvelous story, but the really great news is that the bassist's talents remain intact. In the 50s and 60s Grimes's gift for apposite abstraction made him the first-call bassist in New York's free-jazz community, while his impeccable accuracy and vibrant tone made him a valued contributor in more straight-ahead contexts: he could fit in with leaders as unalike as Benny Goodman and Albert Ayler. Even so, after a series of misfortunes he ended up adrift in LA, sold his bass to make ends meet, and worked janitorial jobs until a social worker and jazz fan named Marshall Marrotte tracked him down in 2002. Grimes certainly doesn't sound rusty on Marc Ribot's 2005 Ayler-themed album, Spiritual Unity (Pi), nor does he sound like a sideman: his dense plucked clusters and seething bowed figures provide the center of gravity for an epic, highly emotional performance of "Truth Is Marching In." Trumpeter Roy Campbell and drummer Chad Taylor, the rest of the Spiritual Unity group, fill out the trio that Grimes brings to the Velvet Lounge. They'll be joined by tenor saxist Fred Anderson, who established an instant rapport with Grimes when they first played together, at HotHouse in March 2005. See also Saturday. a 9 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15. --Bill Meyer
cMcCoy Tyner septet With a style at once massive and ornate, McCoy Tyner easily commands a place among the ten most influential pianists of postbop jazz. Both Tyner and Impulse Records came of age through their association with John Coltrane: Tyner played in Coltrane's classic quartet, and the label released Coltrane's pioneering records of the early 60s (an era chronicled in one of this year's best jazz books, Ashley Kahn's The House That Trane Built). Few artists from those days remain active, so to celebrate Impulse artists like Pharoah Sanders and Charles Mingus--as well as capitalize on the publicity the book has received--Tyner has beefed up his terrific trio with simpatico younger musicians. Only venturesome alto saxist Donald Harrison has led an album for the revivified Impulse label, but splashy trumpeter Wallace Roney could, and unfettered trombonist Steve Turre should. Stylistically, tenor man Eric Alexander seems like the odd man out: he takes his cues from the pre-Trane mainstream that Impulse originally shunned. But all the musicians manage to tunnel their way through Tyner's thick harmonies without biting off more than they can chew. a 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $19-$79. --Neil Tesser
cPETER WALKER, JACK ROSE Though he stopped recording for nearly four decades, PETER WALKER picks up exactly where he left off with four new pieces on this year's A Raga for Peter Walker (Tompkins Square). Following the release of his 1968 record, Second Poem to Karmela or Gypsies Are Important, Walker decided to raise a family and work straight jobs, but during the preceding decade he'd played in Greenwich Village's folk scene, studied Indian classical music with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, and provided accompaniment for Timothy Leary's group acid experiments. He borrowed liberally from all those traditions on the two albums he recorded for Vanguard (1966's Rainy Day Raga was the first) but forged his own sound, playing gorgeous, meditative lines that wove together flamenco, blues, and American folk over raga structures. The new album is something of an homage--it includes pieces by artists who claim him as an inspiration, like Jack Rose, Thurston Moore, and Greg Davis--but the most gripping tracks are Walker's own. He studied flamenco music in Spain during his recording hiatus, and he has a full album of flamenco-inspired originals in the can; here's hoping it won't be another 30-plus years before his next burst of activity. --Peter Margasak
I've always loved the Virginia collective Pelt, partly because they're the avant-garde presence nearest to my hometown. But I mostly love the way their meditative long-form rambles meld the gritty textures of old-timey string music with Tony Conrad-style drone--Pelt does it better than anyone since, well, Tony Conrad. Guitarist JACK ROSE once quipped that as a solo artist he rides John Fahey's ass all the way to the bank, and I like to think he means the bank of a river, where lots of people in old songs die. His discography is mostly limited-edition releases, and for my money the best of the bunch is 2004's Apocalyps X: Raag Manifestos (reissued this year by VHF), which folds together the many dimensions of his echoing, sonorous acoustic guitar style: spare and lush, aggressive and ghostly, ancient and avant, derivative and distinctive. --Monica Kendrick
Peter Walker headlines, Jack Rose plays second, and Goldblood opens. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance.
cCATTLE DECAPITATION, LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR Proudly claiming to be "endorsed" by Clif Bar ("Ever wondered how Cattle D stays so gore night after night after night?") and selling a new Spinal Tap homage T-shirt (inspired by "recent drummer shenanigans"--now enthroned is Kevin Talley of Dying Fetus and Chimaira fame), San Diego's Cattle Decapitation occasionally flash a lighter sense of humor than their relentlessly brutal antihuman/provegetarian lyrics might suggest. And even the viscera and scatology don't always come across as particularly dark: the cover of 2004's Humanure took them to such ridiculous heights it was funny in a hysterical sort of way. But the new Karma Bloody Karma (Metal Blade) backs it down just a tad and so feels meaner and realer, and a song like "The Corpse Derrick" becomes genuinely nightmarish. With cameos by Joey Karam of the Locust and noise artist John Wiese, the record churns and growls at you as if to say that sensation of being run through a wood chipper slowly is all in your puny little head.
Along for this tour is the local band Lair of the Minotaur, which is where some of the energy behind 7000 Dying Rats went when guitarist Steven Rathbone decided to play a more epic and, dare I say, romantic style of metal, drawing almost exclusively on mythology for his themes. This spring's The Ultimate Destroyer (Southern Lord) overcomes its generic title with chewy, meaty slabs of riffery.
Cattle Decapitation and Lair of the Minotaur play an early show at Champs in Burbank, where the bill, headliner first, is Cattle Decapitation, Goatwhore, LOTM, and Daath. Then they race up to Wicker Park for the second night of Rory Lake's Battle of the Bands (see Our Town in Section 1), where the lineup is Cattle Decapitation, LOTM, (Lone) Wolf & Cub, and the Chicago Thrash Ensemble. a 5 PM, Champs Rock Room, 6501 W. 79th, Burbank, 708-233-0181, $12, $10 in advance. A 8 PM, the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-0011 or 866-468-3401, $8, $6 in advance. --Monica Kendrick
cDEVOTCHKA After years of toiling in relative obscurity, this Denver ethnic-folk/indie-rock quartet is enjoying some buzz, thanks in part to their appearance on the Little Miss Sunshine sound track. Their raucous but mellifluous take on vintage cabaret music and Gypsy jams, combined with their wanderings through Latin traditions, makes them allies of Gogol Bordello, the Dresden Dolls, and Calexico--all of whom they've shared stages with--and their playful devotion to classic underground rock makes them a natural club act (a slot at this year's Bonnaroo notwithstanding). Their 2004 album, How It Ends, is their most recent batch of originals, but early this year they released Curse Your Little Heart (Ace Fu), a six-song EP with five covers, including a traditional mariachi tune, Frank Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid," and the Velvets' "Venus in Furs." I've never heard anybody cover "Venus in Furs" properly--not even the Creatures when they had John Cale playing electric viola--but Devotchka comes within a few whip strokes. My Brightest Diamond opens.
a 9:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-6179 or 866-468-3401, $14, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
chenry grimes trio with fred anderson See Friday. a 9 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15.
cIL TROVATORE This production of Verdi's Il Trovatore, with its convoluted plot about two warring men who don't know they're brothers and who love the same woman, is filled with fantastic singing. Mezzo Dolora Zajick's portrayal of the vengeful gypsy Azucena is spellbinding from her first notes to her last glorious outburst--she moves her heavy voice with great agility and has a tremendous chest voice and a dazzling upper register. She's also a thoroughly convincing actress. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, in the role of Leonora, has a gorgeous voice with a full, voluptuous sound; her virtuosic bel canto arias are superb, and her ability to shift a single note from fortissimo to piano is spectacular. She also does death really well, writhing around onstage while singing fabulously. Also outstanding are baritone Mark Delavan as Count di Luna and bass Andrea Silvestrelli as Ferrando. Tenor Vincenzo La Scola takes over for Walter Fraccaro in the final performances, making a slightly less tender, vocally less gripping romantic lead, but he has plenty of bite and does hit the high Cs. The Lyric Opera Chorus is magnificent, as is the orchestra under Bruno Bartoletti. See also Tuesday; the final performance will be Friday, December 8. a 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $42-$179. --Barbara Yaross
cake on cake Cake on Cake is Sweden's Helena Sundin and her sweet, simple pop songs. Her unfussy layering of vocal harmonies, keyboards, rudimentary drum programming, live percussion, and countless other sounds on I Guess I Was Daydreaming (to be released by Desolation in February) might seem clunky or charming depending on your disposition. To me the results sound like early Britpop minus the breathless rock-band energy. The Attic Recordings and Satellite 66 open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Peter Margasak
boris hauf It'd be easy to assume Boris Hauf lives here, though he pays rent in Berlin--since 1999 he's made frequent extended visits, and he considers himself a part-time member of Chicago-based bands Lozenge and TV Pow. Though trained as a saxophonist, he's increasingly been represented on disc as a laptop artist, and these days his horn playing is a sort of pointillist improvisation that, like his electronic work, loosely recalls the music of Morton Feldman. Hauf's long-running group Efzeg might be his most successful endeavor: the shimmering electroacoustic drones on the new Krom (Hatology), speckled by digital crackles and gentle guitar figures, hover at the nexus of extreme minimalism and gorgeous, elliptical lyricism. On this trip Hauf will record an album with Michael Hartman of TV Pow and play two shows, both with a baritone sax borrowed from Keefe Jackson (he left his tenor at home to avoid dealing with baggage restrictions). Tonight he'll join pianist D Bayne, bassist Toby Summerfield, and drummer Frank Rosaly for a free-jazz set; Block and Tackle opens. And at a loft party next Saturday, December 9, Hauf will play with Bayne and TV Pow (expect to see some of the laptop here) and sit in with a four-piece led by local drummer Phillip Hertz; go to dbayne.com for details. a 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. --Peter Margasak
rob brown chicago quartet One of the most exciting things about the new Downtown Sound Gallery series is watching New York leaders build groups out of Chicagoans. Using musicians that don't need to be flown in obviously makes financial sense, but still it's nice to see the association between the cities flourish. Tonight's show features New York alto saxophonist Rob Brown, a terrific composer and a thoughtful, architectural improviser as well. Although free jazz is his favored milieu, Brown reveals a comprehensive postbop vocabulary even in the most unmoored settings--a la Jimmy Lyons, longtime foil to pianist Cecil Taylor.
On We Are Not Obstinate Islands (Clean Feed), the recent live improv album by the Diplomats--a trio with trombonist Steve Swell and drummer Harris Eisenstadt--Brown doesn't confuse intensity with stridency, displaying a clean, lilting tone and a rhythmically deft energy. Here he debuts a new group with bassist Nate McBride, drummer Frank Rosaly, and pianist Jim Baker. The show is free, but reservations are required. a 7 PM, Storefront Theater, Gallery 37, 66 E. Randolph, 312-742-8497. FA --Peter Margasak
STEVE EVANS QUARTET Chicago jazz vocalist Steve Evans wanted to make his second album a live club recording, but technical difficulties torpedoed the effort. So he did the next best thing by recording a live date in the studio, playing two short sets without retakes or edits. The result, the double-disc 2 Sets (released on Evans's own Kahshohou label), is a reminder that Chicago boasts a real-deal male jazz singer besides Kurt Elling. Evans swings hard with a clear tenor and plenty of sass, even on ballads, and he mixes up the standard repertoire by making room for songs by Tom Waits, Milton Nascimento, and (no less than three times) Nick Drake. This too-rare performance is a release party. a 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $6. --Neil Tesser
mannequin men "Well if you can't be with the one you love / You gotta hate the one you're with." So begins Showbiz Witch (Swamp Angel), the wonderfully bilious debut album from this Chicago scuzz-rock four-piece (whose lineup includes guitarist Ethan D'Ercole of the Watchers). For nearly three years they've been building a local following on the strength of their live shows: with songs too fucked-up and ambitious to be exactly garage and too trashy and rock 'n' rolling to pass for plain old punk, the band flails, stomps, and careens heedlessly between the two. The Fake Fictions and Shopping open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401. F --Jessica Hopper
ÁFORWARD, RUSSIA!, SNOWDEN ÁFORWARD, RUSSIA! is one of the few bands to inspire Internet-wide indie-blog buzz that's not a complete waste of time. Their first two years' worth of singles--collected, along with several album-specific tracks, on the recent Give Me a Wall (Dance to the Radio/Mute)--are full of melodic and structural tricks that make me think they could end up as good as Pulp if they manage to do something novel with their Britpop-meets-dance-punk sound. How many Bloc Parties does the UK need, anyway?
SNOWDEN's Anti-Anti (Jade Tree) is just as good as Give Me a Wall, and the Atlanta four-piece is equally likely to get lost in a crowd of similar-sounding bands--in this case Ian Curtis-come-latelies trying to jack some of Interpol's goth-sexy swagger. If anyone deserves to hate She Wants Revenge more than I do, it's these guys.
ÁForward, Russia! headlines, Snowden plays second, and Skybox opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12. --Miles Raymer
cIL TROVATORE See Saturday; the final performance will be Friday, December 8. a 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $31-$169.
andy moor & dj rupture Guitarist Andy Moor is best known for playing in three brilliant rock bands--the Ex, the Dog Faced Hermans, and Kletka Red--but he's also proved himself to be an adroit and challenging improviser unbound by genre. On Rebetika, a collaboration with Cypriot composer and electronic musician Yannis Kyriakides recently released on the download-only Seven Things label, he responds to the digital stretching and slicing of Greek folk 78s with lyrical melodies, jagged harmonics, and corrosive bursts of noise. Tonight he'll be improvising for just the second time stateside with DJ Rupture; the duo hasn't released an album yet (one is in the works), but in the live samples available online, Moor's terse, stuttering chords and scrap-metal clatter tangle with Rupture's belligerent video-game blips against a backdrop of stiff-legged dancehall beats. Herculaneum, celebrating the release of Orange Blossom (482 Music), opens, and Kevin Drumm spins between sets. a 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Bill Meyer
parts & labor Not content to be known as "that noise-punk band with the bagpipes"--a combo I'd been waiting to hear all my life, by the way--this New York trio has disposed of the instrument entirely on its new home-recorded EP, the all-electronic Escapers One (Broklyn Beats). And last spring's full-band full-length, Stay Afraid (Jagjaguwar/Brah), uses only a smidgen of that trademark sound--a droning keyboard squall threaded into the band's swollen churn 'n' grind provides an approximate substitute. Parts & Labor will play mostly "rock" material here, and drummer Christopher Weingarten is a virtually limitless power source when he's hooked up to that stuff--lately the band's frenetic music is less sound for sound's sake and more soul-stirring, verdant anthems with a bit of Zen Arcade in them. A new album is in the can, due in late spring or early summer. Maps & Atlases and Aloke open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick
craekwon Though he has two gold records to his name, Raekwon has faded into the background a bit over the past ten years, sitting at the deep end of the Wu-Tang bench and playing backup to Ghostface Killah (appearing on roughly half of Fishscale). But his 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, is a bona fide classic, a trafficking epic that paved the way for the current trap-rap phase. Raekwon's only mustered a couple of uneven LPs since, but early next year he's supposed to drop Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II (Aftermath)--and the early word is that not only will it put him back on the map, it may go down as one of the best Wu solo albums, period. That sounds like hype, but with RZA and Dr. Dre signed on as a dream production sandwich, not to mention confirmed contributions from GZA, Ghost, Inspectah Deck, and the late J-Dilla, for once it's hype worth believing. Redman headlines; Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Smif-N-Wessun, and Super Natural open; DJ Kool spins throughout the night. (Keith Murray, originally scheduled to appear, has dropped off the bill.) a 8:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, 18+, $28.50-$30. --Jessica Hopper
clemonheads, vietnam If it's really better to burn out than fade away, what can be said about burning out, fading away, then coming back to do it all over again? Evan Dando, front man of the never terribly exciting but never disagreeable Lemonheads, spent much of the 90s on alt-rock's A-list before getting tangled up in some rather public personal problems and quietly deciding to take a break for a few years. His 2003 solo comeback, Baby I'm Bored, may not have set the industry on fire, but it did prime the pump for the return of his band. The new self-titled Lemonheads full-length on Vagrant is exactly what Dando loyalists have been waiting for: a record that's such a return to form it's as if it was pulled out of deep freeze. It doesn't hurt that Dando recruited Bill Stevenson and Karl Alvarez of the Descendents to help kick out the jams--a pastime he probably learned to value all over again during his stint as a Rob Tyner stand-in a couple years back. --Monica Kendrick
When you hear "Too Tired," the first single off Vietnam's forthcoming self-titled full-length on Kemado, it's easy to assume the band has swapped its old sad swagger for lazy quietcore. But when you watch the video it's clear these guys are just drifting through a different stage of their nouveau-hippie drug pose. After locking the bed of a pickup and tossing the keys into his man purse, front man Michael Gerner walks down the street in slo-mo with the rest of his crew, a bunch of greasy, lanky, hirsute dudes in hipster scrubs lugging guitar cases and drawing long drags from their cigarettes. It's their song playing on the sound track, but you get the feeling they wish it was something off Exile on Main Street. Copping Keith Richards isn't exactly a novel idea, but few bands are doing it as well as Vietnam, morphing narcotic blues into something even more unwound and languorous. --Jessica Hopper
The Lemonheads headline, Vietnam plays second, and Hymns open; the same bill repeats on Friday, December 8. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $20.
cles georges leningrad In the past I've been a little lenient with Les Georges Leningrad: though they weren't always quite spazzy or spunky enough for me, I forgave them because they claimed a ghost as a band member and sang in made-up languages. But the new Sangue Puro (Tomlab) is a record I can get behind 100 percent--it's hysterical and evil, like a slumber party of 13-year-old girls sneaking out to TP the class nerd's house. This Montreal trio of unreformed disco-noise enthusiasts makes itchy, frantic, almost flailing music: Singer Poney P either rushes through her words or hangs on to syllables past their sell-by date, eventually drowning them in haunted-sounding distortion. She's always in the foreground, and her sickly yapping spreads germs all over the cutesy beats and curdled keyboards--the effect is simultaneously invigorating and nauseating, like woozy flu sex. K.K. Rampage and Grace Kulp open.
a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Liz Armstrong
SHADOW VIGNETTES Reedist Edward Wilkerson Jr. has a reputation for taking his time; his best-known project, 8 Bold Souls, tends to go four or five years between releases. But that's nothing compared with his wild, Ellingtonian big band, Shadow Vignettes--according to the Reader's archived music listings they've only played four local gigs in the past two decades. This concert doubles as the premiere party for Shadow Vignettes: Odd Eye o Mumbo Jumbo, a film by Jonathan Woods documenting a couple of 1994 performances with flutist James Newton.
a 7 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $20, $18 in advance. --Peter Margasak
cSKELETON KEY, THE BILLY NAYER SHOW When bassist Erik Sanko formed the low-tech, rattletrap band Skeleton Key in 1994 he'd already made a name for himself as a sideman, working with Yoko Ono, John Cale, and the Lounge Lizards, among others. While that resume should've guaranteed the group a hearing in just the right circles from day one, it wasn't until the early aughts--after a brief interlude with Capitol and a series of personnel changes that nearly undid everything--that Skeleton Key found a niche. Since stabilizing in 2002 the group has managed three splendid releases: 2002's Obtanium (Ipecac), a download-only live album recorded at the Metro in 2004, and the jangly, rousing 2005 EP The Lyons Quintette (Do Tell). Half of another full-length is reportedly in the can; the band's looking for a new label.
If all the bands that have attempted to fuse rock 'n' roll and surrealist theater have proven anything, it's that there's a fine line between a brilliant synthesis and a total train wreck. New York's The Billy Nayer Show has spent the past dozen years walking that line like a circus high wire, with conceptual conceits that nearly approach Residents territory (though TBNS radiates positive charisma rather than negative space). The 1999 album Return to Brigadoon destroyed the romantic song cycle, and 2003's almost unbearably lush double CD Goodbye Straplight Sarentino, I Will Miss You left virtually no stylistic stone unturned. What little ground the band's records don't cover its films are designed to reach: the 2001 feature The American Astronaut (released on DVD last year) is a very odd and eminently watchable noir-cum-space western starring front man Cory McAbee, who's certainly well aware that he should be acting more often.
Cheer-Accident headlines, Skeleton Key plays second, and the Billy Nayer Show opens. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. --Monica Kendrick