- Dietra Farr
DEITRA FARR The same qualities you could use to describe the persona that blues singer Deitra Farr inhabits in song—independence, self-confidence, a refusal to play on anyone else's terms—also inform the way she deals with the music business. That might explain why, despite her international reputation and undiminished talents, she hasn't released a solo album since 2005's Let It Go! (JSP). Farr melds traditional postwar Chicago blues and fervent deep soul with modern-sounding emotional directness and a panache that few of her contemporaries can match. Let It Go! makes her case: she coaxes fatback funk out of players who usually prefer rootsier fare, like guitarist Billy Flynn, and she runs the emotional gamut from haunted urgency ("In a Dark Place") to swing-inflected joy ("When They Really Love You"). Even on her most anthemic barn burners, which she delivers with full-hearted ebullience, Farr steers clear of "blooze-mama" posturing. She's at her best live, so this all-too-rare hometown show is a must-see. —David Whiteis 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, $10.
AMY LAVERE On her third album, Stranger Me (Archer), Memphis singer and upright bassist Amy LaVere makes perfect use of the sweet innocence of her delicate voice. Though she sounds fragile if not wounded, an almost sinister fighting spirit lurks deep in her throat. LaVere seems to have written "Damn Love Song" as an act of emotional warfare, and tosses the lyrics "Here's your damn love song" at her lover with contempt. "Red Banks," written by Kristi Witt, is a modern murder ballad—the narrator offs her jealous lover before he can kill her, then denies she did him in ("He'd of killed me if I did," she explains). Her parched melodies poke at Memphis soul, but she doesn't push her thin voice to places it can't go, instead singing in a shadowy whisper—a whisper cradled by a terrific band that includes several guest horn players and resourceful guitarist David Cousar. —Peter Margasak Ernie Hendrickson opens. 9 PM, Schubas, $10.
LIMIÑANAS The most accurate tag to apply to this duo from Perpignan, France, is probably "pop band," but the Limiñanas' songs don't move from verse to chorus and back again like most pop tunes. Instead drummer Marie Limiñana and multi-instrumentalist Lionel Limiñana work more like a drone act—they'll come up with an interesting phrase and play it over and over again in a tight little loop, adding and subtracting elements along the way. But the music does indeed pop, and the addictively catchy songs on last year's self-titled album (released by local label Trouble in Mind) have pulled in a passionate fan base—as well as a boatload of comparisons to Serge Gainsbourg and the ye-ye artists of yore. —Miles Raymer Gazgaz and Tyler Jon Tyler open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, $8, limited $5 tickets. The Limiñanas also open for the Men at a free Permanent Records in-store at 6 PM.
MYRMYR On its beautiful second album, Fire Star (Under the Spire), Oakland duo Myrmyr uses violin, cello, harp, bells, percussion, electronics, and voice to create a delicate, enveloping resonance. On their impressive debut, 2009's The Amber Sea (Digitalis), multi-instrumentalists Marielle Jakobsons and Agnes Szelag enlisted guest musicians to flesh out rich orchestrations, but here they go it alone, relying heavily on live looping and only sparingly employing overdubs. Like its predecessor, the new album dissolves the lines between classical music, Scandinavian folk, texture-based experimentation, and ambience, and despite its gossamer atmospheres and unstructured feel it has some of the focus and directness of rock or pop. Moods and tone colors morph fluidly but briskly, so that the music never feels like it's simply drifting without purpose. A clear compositional logic shapes Myrmyr's frameworks and gestures, and it's audible in the careful interaction among instruments. For its Chicago debut the duo will perform two new compositions as well as "Golden Ashes," a piece from Fire Star in which thick, foreboding drones evaporate into a sorrowful melange of dulcimer, glockenspiel, cello, piano, and wordless vocals. —Peter Margasak A trio of Neil Jendon, Andre Foisy, and Mike Weis opens. 9 PM, Enemy, donation requested.
PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE SOUND Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, is well-known for promoting other artists—he runs a zine and a label (Galactic Zoo Dossier and Galactic Zoo Disk), works as a cartoonist and illustrator (the Secret History of Chicago Music, the Reckless murals, uncountable concert flyers), books shows, and spins records—but his own bands can get lost in the shuffle, even when they open for the heavy-psych heavy hitters that Krakow adores. Still, it's hard to imagine the Chicago scene over the past 15 or so years without Utopia Carcrash, the Unshown, the Vision Celestial Guitarkestra (full disclosure: I've played fiddle in that ensemble twice), and of course the Plastic Crimewave Sound, the longest-running of his groups. These mind-fucking acid punks played their first show ten years ago next week—it was at the Hideout with their spiritual sisters in the eerily beautiful avant-folk combo Spires That in the Sunset Rise—and tonight the two bands share a bill again to celebrate that anniversary. Krakow tells me that special guests will be thick on the ground: Nick Myers (Vee Dee), Velcro Lewis, Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Bloodiest, Led Zeppelin 2), sound artist Andy Ortmann (Panicsville), and the mushroom gods only know who else. —Monica Kendrick Bobby Conn headlines; the Plastic Crimewave Sound and Spires That in the Sunset Rise open. 10 PM, Hideout, $10.
DEBO BAND WITH FENDIKA When the ten members of Debo Band took the stage at Martyrs' last fall, it looked like two or three different groups had all walked out at the same time by accident. On the left were an accordionist and a couple fiddlers you half expected to play an Irish jig, and on the right was a big horn section that looked fit for a Daptone Records revue. But it was the folks in the middle—a kit drummer and a dapper young fellow named Bruck Tesfaye who sang in mellifluous Amharic—who called the tune. Founder and baritone saxophonist Danny Mekonnen convened the ensemble five years ago in Somerville, Massachusetts, to play songs like Mahmoud Ahmed's "Belomi Benna," which he'd culled from the record collection of his Ethiopian immigrant parents. Debo Band took its engagement with its material to a new level in 2009, traveling to Addis Ababa to play the Ethiopian Music Festival; while there it commenced a partnership with Fendika, a troupe consisting of two dancers, a singer, and a traditional drummer. Fendika's members have mastered Ethiopian music's intricate grooves as well as an east African dance style called Eskista (which involves at least as many gyrations of the shoulders as it does the hips), and they're a nonstop source of energy onstage—during her turns on the mike, vocalist Selamnesh Zemene matches Tesfaye's fluency and tops him in authority. Tonight Fendika's leader, Melaku Belay, will give dance lessons from 6 till 7 PM. —Bill Meyer See also Sunday and Monday. 7:30 PM, Spirit of Music Garden, Grant Park, 601 S. Michigan Ave., 312-742-7529.
MR. RUDY DAY For several years in the early 90s, Mr. Rudy Day were the de facto Hideout house band, filling out countless bills (and often stealing the show) and hosting almost as many parties, including Halloween bashes where they became ZZ Top or Hall & Oates. But they haven't played here since 2008, when front man and guitarist Andy Hopkins (Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire) moved back to his native Atlanta to attend law school at Emory. Fresh off his bar exam, he's back with his Chicago compatriots, bassist Geoff Greenberg (Hüsker Düdes) and drummer Mike Bulington (Kelly Hogan, Grimble Grumble, Prichard), to reclaim his old turf in age-old mammalian fashion: by rubbing his greasy dirty-south fluids all over it. At their peak, Mr. Rudy Day were very nearly the platonic ideal of a party band—loud, clever, sexy, adaptable, and both heavy and funky, as if Prince were fronting Molly Hatchet and writing their songs. Just like they used to, they'll play tunes from their two full-lengths, Juzzle and Duty (which many of the Hideout crowd will know by heart), and grabs from a random hat full of covers. —Monica Kendrick Alma Negra opens. 9 PM, Hideout, $8.
- Pygmy Shrews
PYGMY SHREWS When Greg Ginn started smoking tons of weed and moved from his usual Ramones-flavored fare into heavy, noisy, jazz-influenced sludge about isolation and self-hatred, lots of Black Flag's fans wrote the band off—but I'm pretty sure the members of Pygmy Shrews weren't among them. Let's just say that "Fuck the Law" (the 12-minute instrumental ripper from the Shrews' new Jack Shack LP, You People Can All Go Straight to Hell) and "Screw the Law" (the instrumental ripper from Flag's EP The Process of Weeding Out) share more than similar titles. Pygmy Shrews play dense, dark posthardcore, chock full of bad vibes and virtuoso guitar soloing. The songs are focused and nimble enough to be catchy, despite their weirdness—they've got a lot more melody than you'd expect from a band whose roster includes current and former members of Zs and Drunkdriver. Guitarist Ben Greenberg and bassist Tia Vincent play through full stacks, no matter how tiny the room, and when I saw the Shrews at Ronny's a couple years ago I half expected them to blow the doors off the place—in other words, don't forget earplugs. —Luca Cimarusti Vaz headlines; Oro, Pygmy Shrews, and Arctic Sleep open. 10 PM, Pancho's, $6.
RICK ROSS You can hear a lot of Rick Ross's 2010 album Teflon Don (Def Jam) at my house. Not only do I frequently play it myself, but a building down the block—whose residents seem partial to the cuts produced by Lex Luger—often broadcasts Ross's identity crisis to the whole neighborhood. On "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)" he invokes the real-life founder of the Black Mafia Family gang, declaring "I'm think I'm Big Meech," and the chorus to "MC Hammer" is simply "I'm MC Hammer." Ross may not be any of the things he says he is (especially not a world-class cocaine dealer who knows "the real Noriega"), but there's something immensely appealing about the fantasy and triumphalism that animate his music—Luger's beats even sound like power-up noises from a video game. Ross's most recent mix tape, Ashes to Ashes, is a drag compared to Teflon Don, but in his guest appearances over the past year—he's kept up a busy schedule—he's stolen the show more often than not. —Miles Raymer Lil Wayne headlines; Ross, Keri Hilson, and Lloyd open. 7 PM, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, $23-$169.
KMFDM Of course KMFDM can't be the same band now that they were in their 90s commercial heyday, when Wax Trax! Records was the go-to label for their flavor of house- and techno-inflected industrial music and the PVC-sheathed youth of the world looked to Chicago. (Core members Sascha Konietzko and En Esch both lived here for a while in the early 90s.) Konietzko, who's now back in his native Germany with American singer Lucia Cifarelli, is the only one left from those early lineups—Esch's militantly goofy exuberance is particularly missed—but after 17 albums he's more than earned the authority to steer this ship any way he pleases. KMFDM's latest, WTF?! (Metropolis), has the stark and distinctive Aidan Hughes cover artwork that's always made the band's records so recognizable, and it backs up its political bluster with a stew of programming, shredding, and heavy breathing. It's hardly likely to teach you anything new (I trust you were already aware that "motherfucker" was a rhythmically flawless word), but it plants its impressively polished black boots reliably on the pleasure centers of the lizard brain. —Monica Kendrick Army of the Universe, 16 Volt, and Human Factors Lab open. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, $25. 17+
SLUTEVER Philly's DIY punk scene has become ground zero for the latest emo revival, and local bands like Algernon Cadwallader play packed basements across the country. Slutever likewise hail from the City of Brotherly Love, but they're hardly trying to sound like Cap'n Jazz or the Promise Ring. On their self-released 2010 EP, Sorry I'm Not Sorry, Nicole Snyder and Rachel Gagliardi forgo jangly sensitive-boy guitars for angsty, ripping trash-punk coated with garage scuzz and topped with snotty, vaguely doo-woppy vocals. The tunes are sloppy around the edges, but not nearly as messy as the lyrics: you get a lonely pregnant teenager who resents her old boyfriend (and in fact anybody who's coupled up), an ex who bites the hand that brings him presents, and a seventh grader who blows off her homework to "fuck all night." —Leor Galil Heart Shaped Hate headlines; Slutever, Control, Absolutely Not, and the Flips open. 7:30 PM, Reggie's Rock Club, $10. 18+
DEBO BAND PRESENTS: AND LAY DUO & ZENA BEL BAND See Saturday. Tonight, in a program billed as the Debo Band Presents: And Lay Duo and Zena Bel Band, the combined Debo-Fendika ensemble will break down into some of its component parts. The And Lay Duo is baritone saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and drummer Adam Clark playing jazz-oriented music. Zena Bel Band is Debo violinist Kaethe Hostetter and two members of Fendika, singer Selamnesh Zemene and drummer Asrat Ayalew; judging from the handful of songs they played in the middle of the Debo concert I saw last year, the trio gives Ethiopian folk music a relatively stripped-down and hard-edged treatment. —Bill Meyer Joshua Abrams's Natural Information Society headlines. 8 PM, Hideout, $10.
TIM HALDEMAN, KEEFE JACKSON, JAKE VINSEL, AND MIKEL AVERY Tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman moved to Ann Arbor a couple of years ago, but because he's still a member of Matt Ulery's Loom and Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, he maintains a regular presence here. What Chicagoans don't get to see so often anymore is Haldeman in an informal, ad hoc group—which is one reason this one-off partnership with fellow reedist Keefe Jackson is so exciting. Both players are tradition-minded explorers who bring a keen historical sensibility to even their most outward-bound playing, and for this show they're joined by bassist Jake Vinsel and drummer Mikel Avery. Haldeman and Jackson will contribute original tunes to a carefully chosen slate of overlooked bebop and blues gems, including songs associated with Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Julian Priester, Jackie McLean, and Baby Face Willette. —Peter Margasak 10 PM, Skylark, $5 suggested donation.
SMOKE FAIRIES Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, aka London duo Smoke Fairies, make music that often lives up to their name—it's touched with a sort of Middle English ethereality. Their recent U.S. debut, Through Low Light and Trees (Year Seven), features plenty of full-band arrangements beholden to early-70s rock (every time I hear the start of "Strange Moon Rising," I think it's a cover of "Ohio"), but the sweet, forlorn harmonies of their braided voices are always the focal point—whether they're singing something that sounds like a medieval madrigal ("Dragon," which includes the line "Shouts in my head and the crunching of bone," is about a dragon chomping on the singer's fellow villagers) or a Summer of Love nugget. The two women have been making music together since the mid-90s, and their voices have formed a bond that gives the music much of its charm. For this tour Blamire and Davies will accompany themselves on guitars. —Peter Margasak Singing in the Abbey opens. 8 PM, Schubas, $12, $10 in advance. 18+
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS Formed in the wake of the UK punk explosion, Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers have never been considered as visionary as the Clash or the Sex Pistols, but they did loud, fast, and pissed off as well as anybody—and they made highly abrasive, extremely catchy pop songs better than almost anyone. Their landmark 1979 debut, Inflammable Material, is packed with tightly coiled, precisely machined tunes that are very close to perfect—"Suspect Device," "Alternative Ulster," "White Noise." Some of the vintage performances you can find online are straight-up searing, and judging from recent YouTube evidence, the current version of the band—despite having lost most of the original members—is still respectably fiery. —Miles Raymer Flatfoot 56 and Rambos open. 8 PM, Double Door, $17-$20.