ANOMOANON 6/22, HIDEOUT This deceptively laid-back country-rock band is led by Ned Oldham, who has backed his little brother Will on occasion. On The Anomoanon (Palace Records), the band's third full-length, his haunting, moon-gazing tales are given a restrained electric charge by Aram Stith's searing, elegant leads. In fact, though all five band members live in different places, they play like they live in the same house--and like they get high and discuss the meaning of life late into the night a lot. Production values aside, I can't find much on this record that gives away a release date after 1971--not even the cameo by improv guitarist Davey Williams. HEAVY DUTY FELT 6/22, MARTYRS'; 6/28, ABBEY PUB Heavy Duty Felt isn't so much a band as a catchall project title for Chicago songwriter Tony Gudwien. His album, Songs for the Week (Kitchen Sink Records), was produced by Kingsize mainstay Mike Hagler and features help from ten other local musicians, including saxist Jim Gailloreto and keyboardist Liz Conant (who'll also perform here) and violinist Andrew Bird (who won't). The sound recalls the dB's and R.E.M. and at a few moments hints at what might've happened if Tom Petty had stayed out of the stadiums. JUNO REACTOR 6/23, METRO What's interesting about "tribalism" as a modern aesthetic is that it never represents any actual tribe that's ever actually existed in any actual place: the Shango that Juno Reactor's latest album (on Metropolis) is named after isn't exactly the Yoruban thunder god--he's a sort of digital version like one of the voodoo loa who live in cyberspace in William Gibson's novel Count Zero. British electronicist Ben Watkins, who heads up this project, builds his pyrotechnic beats with an epic, multiethnic sweep that would make Peter Gabriel blush; for this record and tour he's upped the authenticity ante by bringing in the South African percussion group Amampondo. WILDBUNCH 6/23, HIDEOUT The Wildbunch are a waterspout of silliness in a sea of seriousness. Band members, veterans of the Detroit scene, take on names like "The Rock 'n' Roll Indian," "Dr. Blacklips Hoffman," and "Dick Valentine," and their Web site (www.the-wildbunch.com) is almost as much fun as their music. If you're at all interested in the sort of stage manners that are described as "antics" and "high jinks," or even if you think you're not, their sharp new-wave slapstick might just pave your alley. But if you tune out the lyrics, you might not notice they're on the verge of cracking up: on the CD-R of demos I've heard, Cheap Trick riffery and Motor City guitar shrieks rumble with Cars keyboards and disco doodles in ultradanceable rawk tunes like "MC Sucka DJ," "Gay Bar," and of course "Dance Commander." FRED EAGLESMITH & THE FLYING SQUIRRELS 6/26, FITZGERALD'S Not all former Deadheads have settled into the jam-band circuit: oddly enough, quite a few of them have latched onto Fred Eaglesmith, a friendly sounding and gifted singer of the blue-collar blues from southern Canada. Eaglesmith, who's been at it since the early 80s, is as indie as they come--recording his mordant, post-Guthrie country-folk ballads at home on his farm, releasing his records on tiny labels, traveling with his faithful band in a beat-up bus known for breaking down, and accepting mail orders for his back catalog at "General Delivery, Alberton, Ontario." But his message gets out: the Cowboy Junkies, Dar Williams, and Kasey Chambers have all covered his songs. His latest release, Ralph's Last Show (on the Massachusetts-based Signature Sounds), is a double live album that documents the last tour of his longtime bassist Ralph Schipper, who retired last year. Though two CDs could be too many at once for the unconverted, Eaglesmith's brief, homey, and affecting tunes build a momentum that makes the time pass quickly. JIM WHITE 6/27 & 28, SCHUBAS It's funny to think back on how much flak David Byrne got when he started Luaka Bop, his world-music label, in 1989--was he really a cultural colonizer or was he just prescient (or both) to go globetrotting back when most arty white boys would've guessed that the bossa nova was a car and tropicalia was an ice cream flavor? Lately Luaka Bop has skipped ahead of the curve again, ferreting out exotic artistry in such untrammeled alien locales as Florida--the home of cabdriver, male model, and singer-songwriter Jim White. A smart-ass with a big heart and one finger on his fret hand, White spins skewed southern Gothic tales in wryly titled songs like "10 Miles to Go on a 9 Mile Road," "God Was Drunk When He Made Me," and "Hey! You Going My Way??" On his second Luaka Bop release, No Such Place, they're set to tracks produced by Morcheeba and Q-Burns Abstract Message, among others, and the unlikely pairing produces pure high-lonesome pop gold. A rare example of "alt-country" that has some genuine "alt" about it. BAFFLER BENEFIT 6/28 & 29, EMPTY BOTTLE In its erudite writing and well-placed cultural zinging, sometimes the Baffler says everything I've ever wanted to scream; sometimes its insular self-righteousness makes me want to throw it across the room. Either response proves that we need it, and need more like it. Tom Frank's better pieces stood out like a beacon in Generation X's fight to define itself in the early 90s, when everyone else seemed to want to define it by demographic task force or hand-wringing editorial--from the outside. And more recently the magazine has done a good job of examining what labor relations really mean in our "global" economy, painting an ugly picture with beautiful strokes. So when the building that housed the Baffler's offices burned in April, it was a sad day for more than just the staff and its neighbors. Benefit parties have been thrown sporadically since, and this two-night blowout at the Empty Bottle has the highest profile so far. On Thursday, Sam Prekop of the Sea and Cake will perform solo, as will Freakwater's Janet Bean and All Natural's Tone B. Nimble, and Empty Bottle copilot Carrie Weston will DJ. Friday's bill is also delightfully diverse, with masked barnburners the Goblins, the Vandermark 5, Tim Midgett and Andy Cohen from Silkworm, and a DJ set by critic and avant-garde impresario John Corbett.