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Friday 28

THE CHICAGO DROPFEST Assembled by members of the local outfit Abstract Giants to showcase "live organic hip-hop" in the city, the compilation The Chicago Drop features ten acts that back their MCs with live bands playing a variety of styles: reggae, spirited funk, 70s R & B, laid-back jazz. The album features standout cuts from the sax-fueled combo Tabakin, seven-piece world-fusion combo Bad News Jones, and local quartet Farm Crew. The latter two groups join the Abstract Giants, Treologic, and Star People for this bill, the second of two shows marking the CD release. A copy of the album is free with advance ticket purchase; proceeds go to the American Red Cross and the American Friends Service Committee for tsunami relief. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $10, 18+. --Bob Mehr

THE LIFE AND TIMES Allen Epley introduced his post-Shiner trio in 2003 with an EP, The Flat End of the Earth (54 40' or Fight!); a full-length, Mea Culpa, comes out in June. The band's tone is mordant and insular, with a shimmering slurry of guitar bolstering Epley's voice, a dark gray strident monotone. The songs have a restrained quality that's appealing in a foreboding, Two Dollar Guitar sort of way. Sybris and Suffrajett open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $9 ($1 goes to the American Red Cross for tsunami relief). --Monica Kendrick

VANILLA ICE He's still trying, but unfortunately for Vanilla Ice nobody gives a pellet of a shit anymore. At this point Ice and his one-hit ilk are best off sticking with reality TV (VH1 recently picked him as fodder for a makeover show) and shamelessly exploitative but deliciously embarrassing nostalgia events--like, say, this gig at Excalibur's 15th-anniversary party. The event's a benefit for the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust. 7 PM, Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn, 312-266-1944, $15. --Liz Armstrong

Saturday 29

CHANGES In recent years a slew of bands has gone looking to the 80s for inspiration; I've heard enough synth pop, electro, and punk-funk lately to wonder what year it really is. The Changes, a local quartet, use other models from the decade, grafting quasi-sophisticated jazz voicings onto sickly sweet melodies. The Police are the reference most writers use to describe them--guitarist David Rothblatt plays spectral arpeggios like Andy Summers--but the sparkling pop of British acts like Prefab Sprout and Aztec Camera is just as prominent. The band is selling a self-released six-song EP with three new tracks at shows; the tunes are catchy enough, but I don't hear anything particularly interesting. The M's headline; By Divine Right and DJ Poseur open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --Peter Margasak

JOHN WESLEY HARDING The three gigs John Wesley Harding played here with Dag Juhlin and Scott McCaughey were some of the more entertaining concert events of 2004, each a barely controlled barrage of songs, jokes, and stories. Harding has cultivated that rambunctious spirit for years, and you can hear it on the recent reissue of his 1989 debut, the live It Happened One Night (Appleseed). A bonus disc of unreleased material, It Never Happened at All, collects studio tracks from the era that were ultimately shelved in favor of the songs on his 1990 studio debut, Here Comes the Groom; the backing of a variety of punk and pub-rock vets, including members of Elvis Costello's Attractions, fleshes out his cheeky ruminations on romance. Juhlin, a veteran of the Slugs and Poi Dog Pondering, opens, playing material from Into the Woods, the melodically charged solo album he released last year. 7 and 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. --Bob Mehr

TOBY SUMMERFIELD For this show, Toby Summerfield, bassist in the instrumental rock outfit Crush Kill Destroy, has assembled a large band to perform a piece about what he calls the "convergence of contemporary 'jazz' or 'new music' composition and rock and ethnic pop material." That phrase doesn't go very far toward explaining what the music will sound like, but the roster of 17 musicians is promising. The usual suspects from the local improv scene, like saxophonist Aram Shelton, percussionists Frank Rosaly, Tim Daisy, Jason Adasiewicz, and Dan Sylvester, and bassists Brian Dibblee and Jason Ajemian, will be joined by a handful of visiting artists, including Antibalas reedist and former Chicagoan Stuart Bogie. 9 PM, Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton, 312-738-2140, $8-$10 suggested donation. See also Sunday. All ages. --Peter Margasak

ATAU TANAKA Sound artist and researcher Atau Tanaka has spent more than a decade exploring the human body's potential as an instrument. Using the BioMuse, a device developed by Stanford researchers in 1989, he makes electronic music using everything from muscle contractions to eye movements. He's not the first to discover musicality hidden within our machinations; in the mid-60s composer Alvin Lucier used brain waves to create sounds. The BioMuse updates the idea by translating body signals into computer code; Tanaka has augmented it with processors that control synthesizers, so that every flex of an arm muscle generates a corresponding sound. Biorhythms, his 2000 solo album, placed some body music within a larger landscape of noisy, hard-driving techno; for this performance, his motions will trigger samples of "animals, water, machinery, and telecommunications devices." Cosponsored by the Renaissance Society and Lampo. 9 PM, Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 5811 S. Ellis, 773-702-8670. Free. All ages. --Peter Margasak

Sunday 30

TOBY SUMMERFIELD See Saturday. Trio and quartet improvisations precede the performance. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.

TRISTEZA In eight years this San Diego band has put out a string of releases that are thick with traditional Bardo Pond-ish psychedelia, but also make room for ideas about electronic music they got flipping through both Wired and the Wire. (Start with their 2000 album Dream Signals in Full Circles, produced here by Dave Trumfio before he moved to LA.) Guitarist James LaValle left the band in 2003 to focus on his outfit the Album Leaf; after a brief hiatus, Tristeza's now back and working on new material. L'altra and DJs Yves St. LeRoc & Coco LeRoc open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick

Tuesday 1

HELP! A TSUNANI RELIEF BENEFIT Mia Park of Chic-a-Go-Go hosts this particularly action-packed benefit, which uses two stages at Schubas and features 17 acts--among them Nora O'Connor, Steve & Liam of Frisbie, Scott Lucas of Local H, and the Waco Brothers--seven DJs, and auctions and raffles of concert tickets, artwork, dinners, haircuts, musical equipment, and more. All proceeds go to the American Red Cross. 6 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $20-$25 suggested donation. --Monica Kendrick

Thursday 3

GABERDINE It'd be easy to cast Gaberdine front man and onetime coffee shop crooner Mark Federighi as a poor man's Bill Callahan; they share a taste for fitful chamber pop and somnambulant vocals. But on Thin Wire Transport, Gaberdine's self-released debut full-length, the band out-Smogs Smog, flitting between dour string-laden pop and gloomy lo-fi country to create a convincingly lachrymose din. Across the 14 tracks on the album, lyrical gravitas is married to intricate melody, which frequently comes from a variety of offbeat instruments, from kazoo to toy piano. The careering, occasionally ramshackle arrangements only heighten the despairing mood. This show is a release party for Thin Wire Transport; Stephanie Morris & the Rest open. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. --Bob Mehr

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