CHATHAM COUNTY LINE Canceled. The four members of Raleigh's Chatham County Line didn't grow up listening to old-school bluegrass, but when they first heard it, they fell in love—in fact it inspired them to start the band back in 1999. With each new album, though, the music they did grow up listening to has come through a little clearer. These days the group uses traditional bluegrass instruments—acoustic guitar, mandolin, upright bass, and banjo—to play what's essentially southern folk-rock with a rustic flavor. Their 2008 album IV was produced by dB's cofounder Chris Stamey, a paragon of southern indie pop, and for their most recent effort, Wildwood (Yep Roc), they brought in drummer Zeke Hutchins on several tracks. Leader Dave Wilson sings without a trace of the high-lonesome sound, instead betraying the influence of early, mumbly Michael Stipe. His bandmates all add harmony vocals, but they don't attempt the precision typical of bluegrass—their backups are more ragged and casual. 8 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 866-468-3401, $12. Canceled due to weather.—Peter Margasak
THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST Puccini's La Fanciulla del West ("The Girl of the Golden West") opened in 1910 to great success, but it never matched the popularity of its three predecessors, La Boheme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly. Perhaps audiences wanted their Puccini filled with the showstopping arias they'd come to love—such moments are virtually absent in La Fanciulla, where the vocal parts are more thoroughly integrated into the impressively orchestrated score, with its flavors of Debussy and Strauss. Set in California during the gold rush of the mid-19th century, La Fanciulla tells the story of Minnie, a saloon owner and gunslinging romantic who's waiting for the right man to come along—the role's a great fit for soprano Deborah Voigt, though a few of her high notes sounded a bit strident on opening night. All the locals pine for her, particularly the hotheaded sheriff, Jack Rance (baritone Marco Vratogna). But she's interested in Dick Johnson, aka the outlaw Ramerrez (tenor Marcello Giordani), who is ultimately transformed by her love. The only thing missing was at least one of the many horses Puccini insisted upon for La Fanciulla's world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera. At the end, Minnie charges in, her pistol blazing, to save her man—riding a railroad handcar. When the lovers walk off together singing "Addio," the production feels one horse short of the first spaghetti western. Andrew Davis conducts. See also Wednesday; the final performance is February 21. 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $38-$217. —Barbara Yaross
DAVID J Though he looks much the same as he did in the early 80s, former Bauhaus/Jazz Butcher/Love and Rockets bassist David J has never sat still for long. He's not just a prolific recording artist, with a discography that includes such fascinating oddities as a macabre 1981 recording with poet Rene Halkett of the original Bauhaus (the school, not the band) and an album of Crowleyite ritual music with comics writer Alan Moore—he's also a visual artist and playwright. Between his nonmusical creative outlets and the successful Bauhaus reunion of the mid-aughts, David J hasn't gifted us with hardly any of his own wry, sardonic, sinister, and sexy solo work in nearly eight years. That's finally changing, though—he's got a brand-new, partially fan-funded album, Not Long for This World, where he meditates on mortality (long one of his favorite topics), and he's already warmed up his fans with a Web-only single, "Hank Williams to the Angel of Death," and a seven-inch, "Tidal Wave of Blood" b/w "Blood Sucker Blues." DJs Scary Lady Sarah and William Faith (aka the Pirate Twins) spin. On Saturday, February 5, David J signs copies of Not Long for This World at Late Bar, 3534 W. Belmont; the event begins at 9 PM, and it's free, though there's allegedly a one-drink minimum. 10 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $10, 17+. —Monica Kendrick
DISAPPEARS Last year Jonathan Van Herik of Disappears discussed the austerity of his guitar parts with the Reader's Miles Raymer: "Every month it dawns on me that I could be playing even less," he said. On their new LP, Guider (Kranky), the Chicago quartet begin with the hyperminimalism of their 2010 debut, Lux, and pare down the songs still further, reducing garage rock to a lacerating, reverberating buzz. The band's fierce, almost metronomic rhythms inevitably attract Krautrock comparisons, but Disappears make almost no other references to the idiom. Whether a song is concise enough for the radio or stretches an epic 16 minutes ("Revisiting"), they tear into it with equal gusto and focus: coruscating, vibrato-laden guitars chug, bob, and loop while front man Brian Case repeats lyrics that sound like Zen koans, his affect alternating between hectoring drill sergeant and bored junkie. Disappears drummer and recording engineer Graeme Gibson moved to Portland after the Guider sessions last fall; for the foreseeable future Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth will fill in at shows. Brain Idea and Tyler Jon Tyler open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Peter Margasak
JASON MORAN, JEFF PARKER, KEN VANDERMARK, AND NASHEET WAITS Pianist Jason Moran had a remarkable 2010, and winning a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship wasn't even the half of it. His trio the Bandwagon, with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, released Ten (Blue Note)—the title celebrates the decade they've been playing together—which won album of the year by a wide margin in the Village Voice jazz critics' poll (and topped my ballot too). The band nonchalantly disassembles and reconstructs Moran's originals as well as compositions by everyone from Jaki Byard to Leonard Bernstein to Conlon Nancarrow, the three of them moving as a single cohesive organism under his leadership—their intuition is so finely tuned it seems like they're plugged into one another's brains. Moran also played on superb 2010 albums by Charles Lloyd, Ralph Alessi, Paul Motian, and Rudresh Mahanthappa with Bunky Green, all of whom clearly chose him for his ability to tailor his idiosyncrasies to a session. Few jazz musicians as daring as Moran ever earn such widespread acclaim—not to mention so many high-profile commissions, from the likes of the Monterey Jazz Festival and Chamber Music America—but his success has yet to blunt his curiosity. He sought out adventurous New York guitarist Mary Halvorson before she became a critics' darling, and this weekend's engagement arose from an equally unexpected collaboration. Under the leadership of Eric Revis—the bassist in Branford Marsalis's working quartet—Moran has gigged several times in New York with Chicago reedist Ken Vandermark, whose visceral style of improvisation, heavily influenced by European free jazz, places him in a different musical world. Revis can't make it for these concerts, but Waits can—he's a dynamic, explosive drummer, and he'll be joined in the rhythm section by guitarist Jeff Parker, who's equally original and unpredictable. Moran, Parker, and Vandermark will teach the group music they've written, and I expect to hear some free improvisation as well. But with such an intriguingly diverse blend of talent on display—this is almost certainly the only time two MacArthur fellows have shared the Green Mill's stage—I'd be there even if they'd promised to play nothing but Miley Cyrus songs. See also Saturday. 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. —Peter Margasak
WYE OAK On Wye Oak's 2009 album The Knot, the duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack suspend gorgeous country folk in a cloud of swirling psychedelia—one that honors the legacy of cosmic traditionalists like the Dead and the Incredible String Band while incorporating textural innovations picked up from early shoegazers. On the new full-length Civilian (Merge), Wye Oak retain Knot's elegant if vaguely antique sense of melancholy, but with less direct folk influence. "Hot as Day" is sweeping dream pop swaddled in reverb and fuzzed-to-death guitars that, in combination with Wasner's delicate vocals, bring to mind a slightly less diaphanous Lush. Toward the other end of the spectrum, the standout track "Holy Holy" is the most aggressive song I've heard from the band, with dissonant string bends and a lurching rhythm you could almost bang your head to. As interesting as their heavier experimentation is, though, the album's closer, "Doubt," provides convincing evidence that Wye Oak really don't need more than elusive vocals and Wasner's (mostly) uneffected guitar to get their point across. The Decemberists headline. 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800, sold out. —Miles Raymer
- Jesper Eklow
- Yo La Tengo
YO LA TENGO, WILLIAM TYLER Few things protect market share like consistency, but few things erode a band's greatness like going on automatic pilot—is there anything more soul killing than hearing your favorite song played by robots? YO LA TENGO have gone from strength to strength for more than a quarter century, and changing things up has kept the band sharp. The New Jersey-based trio are quite capable of playing a balanced mix of oldies and new tracks, like a typical band, but in recent years they've performed an entire set of unreleased material at the Pitchfork Music Festival, masqueraded as a garage combo called the Condo Fucks, and taken audience questions and requests during largely acoustic evenings they call "The Freewheeling Yo La Tengo." The element of chance is made explicit on this tour: each night the spin of a game-show-style wheel will determine the format of the show's first half. Possibilities include a Condo Fucks set, a selection of songs starting with the letter S, a nonmusical performance of a sitcom episode, or excerpts from the score that the band composed to accompany screenings of Jean Painlevé's marine-wildlife documentaries. The second half could be anything else. —Bill Meyer
Though he's only 30, guitarist WILLIAM TYLER is an established presence in Nashville's underground music scene—he's played in Lambchop, worked as a sideman in Silver Jews and with Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and assisted producer Mark Nevers on albums by Bobby Bare, Candi Staton, and the late Charlie Louvin. He's also released music as Paper Hats, and under his own name he put out the superb 2010 album Behold the Spirit (Tompkins Square), a gorgeously meditative collection of stripped-down guitar music that reveals him as a disciple of John Fahey. Tyler's work echoes Fahey's not only in its fingerstyle virtuosity and experimental impulses but also in its mongrel vitality. His music is rooted in Americana—mostly old-timey and blues, with a bit of ragtime—but he thoughtfully enhances his pieces with drone workouts, buzzing field recordings, and streamlined, stately instrumental passages adorned with brass, strings, and electronics. The buoyant, tuneful "Missionary Ridge" winds down with a melodic snippet that echoes the folk standard "John Hardy"; the haunting sound collage "To the Finland Station," on the other hand, combines feedback, electronically obscured violin, and hiss-bathed choir recordings, yet it still sounds of a piece with his most direct fingerpicked material. The album wanders from the familiar to the strange, treating them both with elegance and care, and in the process conveys a distinctly American quality of searching. —Peter Margasak
Yo La Tengo headlines and Tyler opens. 8:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $22.50, 18+.
EIGHTH BLACKBIRD A couple of weeks ago, Grammy-winning sextet Eighth Blackbird presented a program at the MCA called Powerful, comprising works loaded with political content—from John Corigliano's Mr. Tambourine Man (a series of new settings for Bob Dylan lyrics) to Frederic Rzewski's Coming Together (a response to the 1971 riots at Attica). Now the ensemble returns to the museum to present a flip-side program, Powerless, which focuses on pieces that shun meaning and external reference, instead aspiring to pure musical pleasure. Steve Reich's landmark 1976 composition Music for 18 Musicians—a title that couldn't be more neutral—makes an apt centerpiece. Reich became fascinated with African polyrhythms while studying them in Ghana in the early 70s, and this meticulously organized epic pairs them with equally minimalist harmonic material that's likewise engrossing and perfectly constructed. The work is built around 11 chords, each with its own dedicated movement; they convey a wide range of emotion by shifting from major to minor and precisely varying the patterns of relentless rhythmic pulses. Music for 18 Musicians is one of the masterpieces of the minimalist canon, and careful listening reveals seemingly infinite detail—individual melodic and rhythmic elements constantly evolve, even as the ensemble's total output maintains a soothing, mesmerizing cohesion. The concert opens with the Chaconne from Bach's Partita in D Minor, originally for solo violin, newly arranged for 19 musicians by Eighth Blackbird violinist and violist Matt Albert. Tonight the ensemble is joined by a raft of guests, including Third Coast Percussion; the Meehan/Perkins Duo (founding and former members of the acclaimed So Percussion); vocalists Nina Heebink, Susan Nelson, Kirsten Hedegaard, and Amy Conn; clarinetist Sunshine Simmons; and pianists Amy Briggs and Adam Marks. 7:30 and 10 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010, $28, $22 members, early show sold out. —Peter Margasak
JASON MORAN, JEFF PARKER, KEN VANDERMARK, AND NASHEET WAITS See Friday. 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.
JOAN OF ARC LIGHTBOX ORCHESTRA When you get a new promo from a band as relentlessly experimental as Joan of Arc, and the accompanying one-sheet promises that on this record they're at their "most esoteric and expansive," there's a lot of reason to be excited—and Oh Brother (Joyful Noise) is one of the group's wiggiest albums yet. Or maybe that should be "groups'," since each side of this two-LP vinyl-only release contains a 20-minute composition played by a different combination of personnel; mastermind Tim Kinsella is the sole constant linking the four lineups, which include Hella drummer Zach Hill, Lichens drone maker Rob Lowe, and local jazz-percussion monster Frank Rosaly. The individual tracks are as unpredictable as Kinsella himself; they veer from frenetic free jazz to shroomy psych-drone to contemplative fingerpicked guitar interludes. There's even an occasional bit of the angular post-posthardcore commonly associated with his name, though I expect he includes that just to tease anyone still hung up on Cap'n Jazz. For tonight's show Joan of Arc will transform itself into a version of Fred Lonberg-Holm's improvising large ensemble, the Lightbox Orchestra; as usual Lonberg-Holm will "conduct," directing the players' entrances and exits by switching color-coded lights on and off, but in a departure from the norm all 13 musicians onstage will be regular Kinsella collaborators. Litesalive and Out Like Lambs open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 877-435-9849, $10. —Miles Raymer
WAVVES, NO JOY When the indie-music blogosphere all but collapsed in on itself with the news that recently ordained noise-pop wunderkind Nathan Williams, aka WAVVES, had lost the thread in a spectacular fashion at Barcelona's Primavera Sound in 2009, you had to pause and wonder whether maybe the hype machine wasn't a little too eager to eat its young. Fortified by a cocktail of ecstasy, Xanax, and Valium that he apologized for taking in a blog post that's since disappeared, Williams was in a raging stupor, insulting the festival crowd and fighting with drummer Ryan Ulsh—and in a flash the proof popped up all over YouTube. Williams canceled the remainder of his European tour and went home with his tail between his legs. After some lineup shuffling and a bit of getting his fucking shit together, he rallied last year with the third Wavves full-length, King of the Beach (Fat Possum), his first album with a two-piece rhythm section—bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes, both formerly of Jay Reatard's band. (Hayes was replaced late last year by Jacob Cooper from the Mae Shi.) Compared to the trebly haze of the early records, it's polished and well-produced—you don't have to strain to pick out the different instruments—but it's still snarky, lo-fi punk, with the same self-deprecating lyrics you'd expect from Williams. The relative sonic clarity of King of the Beach means the songs can stretch their legs, showing off crisp, shiny hooks that remind me of the impossibly nice southern California weather that Williams loves to sneer at. There's no reason to worry that he's ditched his bratty, brazen attitude for something more grown-up, though—Wavves has been selling weed grinders as merch, for Christ's sake. —Kevin Warwick
Montreal combo NO JOY, fronted by guitarists Jasmine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd, revisit the roaring pop noise of shoegaze on their impressive debut, Ghost Blonde (Mexican Summer). They sound a bit like a blown-out, scuffed-up Lush, with their wan but pretty vocal melodies and reverbed drums submerged even further by tidal waves of six-string distortion and feedback. Tense punk riffs and huge, sweeping washes of sound—a combo reminiscent of early-90s Sonic Youth—rattle through their simple song structures like thunderstorms. Of course, no record can match the hair-raising rush of all-enveloping volume bands like this usually go for onstage—but from what I've read, No Joy can bring the pain live. —Peter Margasak
Wavves headline; Best Coast and No Joy open. 7 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, sold out.
THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST See Friday. 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $38-$217.
- Scott Kelly
SCOTT KELLY & SCOTT "WINO" WEINRICH Most metal partakes of what you might call, in Black Sabbath's phrase, "technical ecstasy"—fans are almost as likely to fetishize a band's arsenal of effects pedals and amps as they are the skill of the musicians. So naturally it's a daunting challenge for a heavy guitarist to play relatively naked and at least mostly unplugged. SCOTT "WINO" WEINRICH, best known from his time in the Obsessed and Saint Vitus and more recently a member of doom-metal supergroup Shrinebuilder, recently released his second solo album, Adrift (Exile on Mainstream), a moody, atmospheric, mostly acoustic affair. It digs down to metal's oft-forgotten roots, buried deep in the blues, and taps a wellspring of terror and daydreaming and subtle wit—I especially appreciate what he does to Motorhead's "Iron Horse." SCOTT KELLY of Neurosis, one of Weinrich's bandmates in Shrinebuilder, is likewise no stranger to the acoustic realm—his side project Blood and Time translates the cerebral grace and simmering vulcanism of Neurosis into the freak-folk medium with no loss of meaning or power. When it comes right down to it, it's not the size of the Marshall stack, it's whose fingers are on the fretboard, and Kelly and Weinrich are two of the best. They've recorded a split seven-inch for Volcom, and if all goes according to plan, copies will be available at tonight's show. Earthen Grave (playing an acoustic set) and Dolan Wayward (an alter-ego of Sweet Cobra's Tim Remis, aka Botchy Vasquez) open. 8:30 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-463-5808 or 877-435-9849, $15. —Monica Kendrick
WAVVES, NO JOY See Tuesday. Best Coast headlines; Wavves and No Joy open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, sold out, 18+.