Friday8Archers of Loaf
Jerry Lee Lewis Postponed till December 9
TINARIWEN While the world's been watching the Arab Spring, the western Sahara has been going through another season of unrest. Things were too dangerous to ship a mobile recording rig to Tinariwen's de facto home base of Tessalit, Mali, so instead this band of Tuareg nomads decamped to Djanet, Algeria, to make the forthcoming Tassili (their first album for Anti-). In some ways, it's a back-to-basics effort for the group; they put away their electric guitars, sat around campfires working out all-acoustic arrangements of new and old songs, and recorded them in a tent. Tinariwen's songs lose none of their power unplugged, and the patient, pungent acoustic picking is every bit as compelling as the skirling jams they uncork in concert. Even though the band dialed things down, Tassili does have one hallmark of a big-label debut—high-profile guests. Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, both of TV on the Radio, sing on five tunes, most notably adding an English-language hook to "Tenere Taqqim Tossam" (which is otherwise sung in Tinariwen's native Tamashek). The Dirty Dozen Brass Band lends a Crescent City funeral vibe to "Ya Messinagh," and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline contributes atmospheric licks to a few songs. Tinariwen's lineup changes with each tour, and this time they're a five-piece led by singer-guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who appears to have soldiered through the health problems that kept him home a few years ago. Opening the show is AfroZep, who play Led Zeppelin songs rearranged in the styles of Afropop icons like Fela Kuti, Franco, and Thomas Mapfumo. —Bill Meyer 8 PM, Lincoln Hall, $30.
ARCHERS OF LOAF With reunion fever still in full swing, the question we should ask isn't what 90s alt-rock bands are going to reunite, but which ones won't. That's a tough call to make, considering that Blind Melon and Sublime both have shows in the Chicago area this summer despite the fact that their lead singers died more than 15 years ago. It was probably inevitable that North Carolina's Archers of Loaf would get back together to tour behind an upcoming series of reissues on Merge (starting with Icky Mettle on August 2). And it seems equally inevitable that the band's two Chicago shows are going to be monsters, so maybe this isn't the right place to be griping. When I saw them back in the mid-90s, they started their set with everybody but the drummer simultaneously jumping two feet into the air, and they kept that energy going for a solid hour. If Archers of Loaf can manage to be even half as exciting now, it'll well be worth the price of admission. —Miles Raymer See also Saturday. Blank Banker opens. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, sold out. 17+
CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WITH ANDRE WATTS Andre Watts's lifelong association with Franz Liszt began in childhood, when his mother tried to inspire him to practice more by reading him stories about how hard the composer had worked. It may have done the trick. In 1962, at age 16, he gave a performance of Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic that was so impressive it launched his international career. Tonight, in honor of the bicentennial of Liszt's birth, Watts returns to Ravinia, joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Lizst's bravura-filled Piano Concerto No. 2 and two of the composer's solo pieces—Un Sospiro, one of his loveliest, with a rather Chopin-esque melody, and the fiery, technically demanding Transcendental Etude No. 10. This concert also features Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture and one of the 20th century's most pivotal works: Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913). Written to score a ballet depicting a fictitious pagan ritual in which a young girl dances herself to death to appease the god of spring, it starts with an exceptionally high bassoon solo, then launches into primitive, barbaric polyrhythms and dissonances that remain exciting a century later. Christoph Eschenbach conducts. —Barbara Yaross 8 PM, Ravinia Festival, $10-$70.
YOB Oregon doom-metal mystics Yob broke up in 2006 after a ten-year run, and Mike Scheidt—the band's guitarist, vocalist, and sole constant member—started a new group called Middian (and later Age Eternal). Yob's reunion a couple years later wasn't originally intended to be permanent, but it led to a contract with Profound Lore and a well-received "comeback" album, 2009's The Great Cessation. Their sixth full-length, Atma, is due in August, and it'll be worth the wait—a 55-minute, five-song monster, it's fulfilling, weighty, richly textured, and flat-out lovely all the way through. Not to downplay the fat, roiling riffs, but a huge part of what makes this band so special is the vocals: doom metal is full of front men who are better off not trying to sing properly (and who don't), but Scheidt's power, reach, and heartfelt expressiveness are downright moving. It's like some mad-scientist Sabbath fan took DNA from Ozzy, Dio, and Ian Gillan to create the perfect shrieking, trilling, wailing Frankenvoice. —Monica Kendrick Dark Castle and Indian open. 10 PM, Subterranean, $12. 17+
BOMBINO Among the fixations of Seattle's Sublime Frequencies label are raw sounds from the Sahara, and last year it released Guitars From Agadez Vol. 2, a schizophrenic collection by Niger's Group Bombino—essentially guitarist and singer Oumara "Bombino" Moctar and whoever's around. The first half, culled from archival tapes, is gentle and mostly acoustic, but the second—recorded live by label producer Hisham Mayet—is electrified, primitive, and furious. I like both, but judging by Bombino's excellent solo debut, Agadez (Cumbancha), he's more interested in the former. He recorded it in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Agadez, Niger, with players from Niger and the States, and it recalls the music of Mali's mighty Tinariwen—hardly surprising, given that Bombino is also Tuareg. He layers acoustic and electric guitar parts, undergirded by syncopated clapping, hand percussion, and lean bass lines, to form a rhythmically intricate lattice of propulsive licks, acid stabs, and snaking leads. Agadez sounds slick compared to the amped-up half of the Sublime Frequencies disc, but that only goes skin deep—Bombino's clenched, nasal singing perfectly complements the restrained, meditative music, leaping out of the hypnotizing grooves with the force of a spell caster's incantations. This is his first visit to Chicago. Today's set is part of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan. —Peter Margasak See also Sunday and Monday. 11 AM, Lakeside, 8555 S. Green Bay, 800-594-8499 or dmbcaravan.com, $85, $195 three-day pass.
DOPE BODY After just a few seconds of the screeching, bombastic stomp that opens Nupping (Hoss), I was a fan of Dope Body. This Baltimore noise-punk band creates a primal, perverted racket that mixes distortion-encrusted postpunk, riff-heavy rock 'n' roll, snarling grunge, and even bits of Fugazi and early Red Hot Chili Peppers—heck, I think I can hear some hip-hop and soul in there too. It's a ripping record that absolutely demands to be played at excessive volume. Every year there are a few albums I stumble across accidentally and end up falling in love with, and Nupping (which came out in May) is definitely one of 2011's crop. So imagine my excitement when I learned that Dope Body, who've been festering in the Charm City warehouse scene for a couple years, have two earlier releases under their belts—the 2009 cassette Twenty Pound Brick and a 2010 split with New York sludge act Orphan called Self Entitled. It's like finding a buried stash of pirate booty marked with a big red X, except the treasure chest is filled with berserk, boisterous bros instead of Spanish doubloons. —Leor Galil Liturgy headlines. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, $8.
KID CUDI Between Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (released last fall on Universal), Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the slew of tracks they've worked on together, it seems like the two rappers are involved in an amicable arms race to see who can write the song that most accurately re-creates how it feels to do expensive drugs at 5 AM in a boutique hotel room packed with starry-eyed models. If that's the case, Cudi's got the lead; the lush Mr. Rager has an elegant feel to it, with clean, modern lines smudged with just enough sonic dirt to give it a decadent edge. For his sake (and ours) I hope he doesn't follow through with his plan to release a full-on rock record this year. —Miles Raymer Kid Cudi plays the second day of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan. The Dave Matthews Band headlines; Kid Cudi, Ben Folds, Umphrey's McGee, and others open. Noon, Lakeside, 8555 S. Green Bay, 800-594-8499 or dmbcaravan.com, $85, $195 three-day pass.
JERRY LEE LEWIS Postponed. Jerry Lee Lewis's two most recent studio records are poorly conceived collections of duets with rock and country stars decades his junior, many of whom aren't fit to empty the Killer's spittoon. (His last proper album, Young Blood, came out in 1995.) Last year's Mean Old Man (Verve) includes a duet with Kid Rock on "Rockin' My Life Away" that's an inadvertently hilarious study in contrasts: the Detroit knucklehead invokes Steven Tyler's screech with all the subtlety and soul of a cinder block, while Lewis uses his preternatural gift for phrasing to illustrate the don't-give-a-fuck essence of rock 'n' roll without breaking a sweat. Lewis's talent is baked into his bones; he still has it because he's still alive. At 75, he can sing his ass off, and he remains as menacing as Iggy Pop, G.G. Allin, and Eugene Robinson rolled into one—even without the threat of violence. Openers Ken Lovelace & the Memphis Beats will also back Lewis; his sister, Linda Gail Lewis, plays a supporting set as well. Update: Jerry Lee Lewis has fallen ill, and this concert has been postponed till December 9. All tickets already purchased will be honored on the new date. —Peter Margasak Ken Lovelace & the Memphis Beats and Linda Gail Lewis open. 6:30 PM, Congress Theater, $25-$90.
ZOE MUTH On her second album, Starlight Hotel (Signature Sounds), Seattle's Zoe Muth wears her love for classic honky-tonk on her sleeve, but she's not on some tedious retro trip—rather than singing in the brash style you'd expect given the flavor of the music, she's almost demure. Mariachi horns spice up the opener, "I've Been Gone" (a la Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire"), and concise solos on pedal steel and Dobro deftly frame her sweet voice, but Muth's lyrics are thoroughly contemporary. On "If I Can't Trust You With a Quarter (How Can I Trust You With My Heart?)" she dismisses a potential suitor after he uses her money to pick a lousy song on the jukebox: "When you said you'd never heard of John Prine / Well I knew right away you weren't worth my time." Her voice is sweet, and she shapes her words precisely but softly, articulating them without crisp edges—she sounds a little like a cross between Iris DeMent and Emmylou Harris. She has yet to develop a really broad expressive range, so she sometimes comes off a little one-dimensional—but given that she's got all the other pieces in place, I expect that one to follow soon. —Peter Margasak Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound headlines. 8 PM, SPACE, $15, $12 in advance.
EMMYLOU HARRIS A few years back Emmylou Harris played at Farm Aid at Live Nation's big shed in Tinley Park. When she first took the stage—with nothing more than her acoustic guitar, a sideman playing electric, and her gorgeous, gorgeous voice to placate several thousand hippies and hillbillies well into an afternoon of imbibing—I was worried for her. I shouldn't have been. Harris has a reputation for winning people over in tough situations, and she's earned herself a spot in the country-music pantheon despite two big strikes against her: she entered the style through the side door as an amateur, with no history in the stuff, and she did so at the side of Gram Parsons, a man Nashville had no idea what to do with. Compared to winning over the entirety of the country-music world, a couple thousand drunk Dave Matthews fans was nothing. Harris has been releasing solo albums at a staggering pace since 1969, and her most recent, Hard Bargain (Nonesuch), is beautiful—but fans of her Bright Eyes cameos who are looking to get their minds blown are encouraged to seek out 1978's Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town. —Miles Raymer Harris plays the third and final day of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan. 11AM, Lakeside, 8555 S. Green Bay, $85, $195 three-day pass.
MOUNT MORIAH It's gratifying to hear artists playing to their strengths. Heather McEntire's previous band, Bellafea, was fine, maybe even great at times, but her new group, Mount Moriah, is a minor revelation. Maybe it's getting older that's drawn her toward down-home, countrified, night-time music (you can only punk till you puke for so long), or maybe she's just figured out what best suits her voice. More than suits—illuminates. On the Chapel Hill duo's self-titled debut (on Holidays for Quince Records), McEntire uses her voice how it was clearly meant to be used. So lonesome and sweet, it gets stronger and twangier at the top of her register—the comparisons to vintage Dolly Parton are justified. Mount Moriah aren't full-tilt country, though, as they flirt with something darker, even morose. The duo's other half, guitarist Jenks Miller, is handy and knows how to draw McEntire's voice toward unexpected melodies. Tonight's gig is a night off from their tour with the Indigo Girls, on which they're playing a number of zoos. —Jessica Hopper Judson Claiborne opens. 10 PM, the Whistler.
JOLIE HOLLAND I've always found Jolie Holland's weird hybrid strain of Americana attractive on paper. Literate, confident, and knowledgeable about her source material, she's able to make music that sounds contemporary by mashing up bits of old jazz, country, and blues—and her bizarre vocals are just as thorough a hodgepodge. The regular comparisons to Billie Holiday aren't without merit, but on Holland's new album, Pint of Blood (Anti-), the Lady Day influence is only one quirk among a slew of swoops, curlicues, hiccups, catches, and other eccentricities of phrasing. If I didn't have the lyrics to prove otherwise, the way she twists, elongates, mumbles, and aspirates her words would lead me to assume she was singing in an unfamiliar tongue. Though Holland's vocals are definitely an acquired taste, I think I may finally be acquiring it—the new album is terrific, an elegant stroll arm-in-arm with the music of the first decade of the 20th century, laced with bleak, poetic lyrics that lend a melancholy edge to the beauty. —Peter Margasak Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside open. 8 PM, Lincoln Hall, $14.
MOUNTAIN MAN Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath met as students at tony Bennington College a few years ago and began harmonizing together for kicks in their dorm rooms. Eventually they went public and formed Mountain Man, and last year they released their first album, Made the Harbor (Partisan). None of the women is an exceptional singer, and their harmonies aren't exactly groundbreaking; what makes the group compelling and fun is the sense of camaraderie they exude and the palpable joy in their voices. Aside from a cover of the early Don Redman jazz tune "How'm I Doin'," the songs are originals, but they sound as archetypal as any public-domain number—all the different genres and melodic ideas the group plays with are old and familiar. Sarle, Sauser-Monnig, and Meath nonchalantly collide old-timey music, jazz-age hep harmony, and even Renaissance madrigals, but because they're not trying to duplicate any one style, they never fall into a dusty cubbyhole and get stuck. Sparse acoustic guitar occasionally traces chord changes under the singing, but for the most part Mountain Man is pure, infectious a cappella. —Peter Margasak Gaberdine and Ever Isles open. 8 PM, Schubas, $10.
- Reverend John Wilkins
REVEREND JOHN WILKINS Preacher and singer John Wilkins probably couldn't downplay his roots even if he wanted to. His father was the great bluesman Robert Wilkins, an ordained minister who famously wrote "That's No Way to Get Along" (aka "Prodigal Son"), which the Rolling Stones covered on Beggars Banquet. The younger Wilkins, born in 1943, grew up in Memphis and got started in music in the 60s, playing guitar behind soul great O.V. Wright and working in the M&N Gospel Singers. But since the 80s he's been a full-time man of the cloth, serving as pastor of Hunter's Chapel Church in Como, Mississippi, onetime house of worship for the likes of Mississippi Fred McDowell and Otha Turner. Earlier this year he released You Can't Hurry God (Big Legal Mess), a knockout blend of Mississippi blues and guitar gospel. He gives a powerful reading of "Prodigal Son," replete with deft fingerpicked filigree, and tackles McDowell's classic "You Got to Move" (another tune covered by the Stones). But to my ears his best performances are on soul-streaked gospel material like "Jesus Will Fix It," the title cut, and "I Want You to Help Me," where an organ-stoked band shimmies at the border of sacred and profane. On these tracks Wilkins's voice, propelled by a great call-and-response chorus composed of his two daughters, sounds a bit smoother. For this gig he leads a quartet with guitarist Jake Fussell and bassist Eric Deaton (who both play on the album) plus J.D. Mark of Wiley & the Checkmates on drums. —Peter Margasak Reggie's Music Joint, 8 PM, $10.