It's no mystery how this Cleveland avant-garage institution has survived for three decades, despite innumerable lineup changes, the occasional breakup, and a lack of commercial success so consistent it looks like a strategy: PERE UBU is undergirded by the iron will of front man and sole constant member Dave Thomas. Despite his rep as a prima donna--he's a perfectionist with an idiosyncratic definition of "perfect," which isn't something easily communicated to soundmen--even a bumpy Pere Ubu gig has more promise than the most inspired set from a typical headliner. Even more remarkably, Pere Ubu violates the law of diminishing returns--the band's two most recent studio albums, 2002's St Arkansas (Spinart) and last year's Why I Hate Women (Smog Veil), are possibly its best. Thomas's lyrics are threaded together by a deep poetic logic, and the chugging music, which turns on a dime between meters and textures, is both unmistakably Ubu and somehow timeless. After synth player Allen Ravenstine left in the late 80s, he became an airline pilot--I like to think that's the only way he could feel he was in command of the same kind of power. --Monica Kendrick
GLENN JONES didn't go public with his take on American primitive steel-stringed guitar until about five years ago, but he's been a devoted scholar of the discipline since the dark days of the 70s, when blow-dried New Agers nearly vacuumed out its soul. The lunar-rock version of John Fahey's "The Portland Cement Factory at Monolith, California" he recorded in 1990 with his band Cul de Sac was an early attempt to return the music to its iconoclastic roots, and he'd later collaborate with Fahey himself. Jones's new acoustic solo disc, Against Which the Sea Continually Beats (Strange Attractors), is among the best expressions of Fahey's revenant style since his death in 2001, with exquisitely expressive slide work and lyrical fingerpicked melodies rendered in a pristine, golden tone--and Jones's mastery of narrative flow makes it one of the year's best albums in any genre. JACK ROSE, a former member of the Virginia-based Pelt now living in Philadelphia, is a like-minded picker whose guttier, more aggressive sound complements Jones's elegant high--stepping rhythms on the jubilant version of their tune "Linden Avenue Stomp" from the Wire's May giveaway CD. They're splitting this set and playing a little duo at the end. --Bill Meyer
This show is part of the Wire's Adventures in Modern Music festival; complete schedule on page TK. Tonight's bill, headliner first: Pere Ubu, Ulrich Schnauss, Hair Police, Glenn Jones and Jack Rose. Jones and Rose also play Wednesday at Rainbo; see separate Treatment item. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15, $70 for a five-day pass.