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Friday 1

ERIN MCKEOWN On her 2003 album, Grand, singer-songwriter Erin McKeown assembled a bold, quirky mix of pop, folk, and rock, playing up the jazzy qualities of her voice and expanding the range of her remarkably sweet, elastic singing. On her new album, We Will Become Like Birds (Nettwerk), her voice is still great and her curvy songs are still crammed with wonderfully slippery melodies, but she and coproducer Tucker Martine seem determined to cram them into a radio-friendly alt-rock box. The studio pros playing on the tracks give the album a depressing uniformity, and McKeown's once irrepressible muse now sounds stifled. Rachael Yamagata headlines. 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages. --Peter Margasak

NERVOUS RETURN This LA quartet rocks almost every conceivable punk, postpunk, and glam cliche on its second full-length, Wake Up Dead (La Salle), but derivative music like this has its pleasures: you know all the spots they'll hit, but what's satisfying (more live than on record) is when they hit them, how, and in what order. Unibrow headlines, Nervous Return plays third, Vacation plays second, and Favorite Saints open. 10 PM, Gunther Murphy's, 1638 W. Belmont, 773-472-5139, $7. --Monica Kendrick

STARLISTER Last summer in this paper, I wrote about Starlister front man Loren Wilson, who used statistical software to analyze record reviews on Pitchfork, generate guidelines for writing critic-pleasing songs, and whip up some would-be critic-pleasing songs of his own. Starlister's "If I Leave Without You," a track on Hyde Five, a compilation released in April on Wilson's Mr. Hyde label, wasn't written with the help of algorithms. But if they ever do come up with songwriting software that gives instructions like "1) Steal the beat from 'Jungle Boogie' 2) Overdub six Kevin Shields-like guitar parts over it and 3) Imitate Michael McDonald as faithfully as possible," I'd at least download a free version to tinker with. Scotland Yard Gospel Choir headlines; Summer at Shatter Creek opens. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --J. Niimi

TOOTS & THE MAYTALS Frederick "Toots" Hibbert sure got the red-carpet treatment when True Love (V2) came out last year: the celebrity-drenched album helped score the reggae pioneer a Saturday Night Live slot with the Roots and Bootsy Collins ("Toots, Roots, and Boots"), a Grammy, and a Bonnaroo set. But while it's very nice to see the man get his due, I'm looking forward to a Toots & the Maytals album that's 100 percent Clapton-free. Steel Pulse headlines. See also Saturday. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $29.50 in advance, $31 at the door, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

WOVEN HAND For my money, 16 Horsepower was one of the greatest alt-roots bands ever, playing its creepy country-rock on a smartly choreographed array of instruments and with an urgency reminiscent of SST cowpunks the Divine Horsemen. The band broke up in April, so front man-guitarist-violist David Eugene Edwards has returned to this side project, which he started when 16 Horsepower went on sabbatical in 2001. Woven Hand is pretty much Edwards solo with some assistance from a rotating cast of friends, including ex-Slim Cessna's Auto Club drummer Ordy Garrison, and its latest release, last fall's Consider the Birds (Sounds Familyre), isn't terribly unlike Edwards's old band. But by using fewer elements, his songs come off a little sadder and sweeter, more personal and elegiac. Cracklin Moth and Tom Brosseau open. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12. --Monica Kendrick

Saturday 2

MICHELLE SHOCKED & THE MIGHTY SOUND I don't know what compelled Michelle Shocked to release three new CDs simultaneously on her own Mighty Sound label, but it's a lot to take in all at once: a disc of sad and strange breakup songs, a fumbling but earnest homage to Mexican music, and an all-but-inexplicable collection of western-swing versions of Disney film music. She's selling them together at a discount as a box set titled Threesome, but you'd have to be pretty die-hard to want all of it. 9 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $22 in advance, $25 at the door. --Monica Kendrick

TOOTS & THE MAYTALS See Friday. Steel Pulse opens. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $29.50 in advance, $31 at the door, 18+.

Sunday 3

HIVE MIND You know, I've spent years trying to persuade people that drony noise is actually very beautiful music, in a cool and astral but also very lush and sensual kind of way; if one just makes a little effort to attune oneself, it's really very energizing and lovely, etc, etc. Then these Detroit analoggers show up to undo all my hard work. Ridiculously prolific (a steady stream of limited-edition CD-Rs and small-label releases emerges from their perpetually pulsating cloaca), terrifyingly dense, and good-naturedly evil, Hive Mind claim to be going for pure ugliness--and they're succeeding wildly. This is still a rich, meditative listening experience, but if I had to put it into experiential terms I might start with being a child poking a particularly ripe bit of roadkill with a stick. Or being the roadkill. Or being the mass of maggots. Workbench, Aaron Dilloway, Bloodyminded, and Climax Denial open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $7. --Monica Kendrick

Monday 4

MOBY If Moby the superstar DJ saved your life in '92 or Moby the techno-bluesman saved your soul in '99, maybe you'll resent Hotel (V2), a trifling if insinuating act of cross-promotion between him and the W Hotels chain. But if, like me, you think the tricky little oddball has a knack for generating a consistent mood without sacrificing nuance, you'll value the melancholy in his ambient pop almost as much as the bitterness in his ambient punk on 1996's Animal Rights. This show is part of Taste of Chicago; for a complete schedule see page 37. 3 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus & Jackson, 312-744-3315. Free. All ages. --Keith Harris

Tuesday 5

PETER HIMMELMAN BAND This LA singer-songwriter-guitarist is 45 years old, which I find hard to believe--I mean, hasn't he been around forever? Maybe it's just that he seems to be everywhere: he dabbles in film, TV, and children's music and still finds the energy to make his own records, which are funny, piercing, and have a bone-deep R & B sensibility that's unusual in confessional pop. His latest, Imperfect World (Majestic), uses Hammond organ and spastic, aching guitar to express, among other things, a naked lament for his late sister and a defiant cry to God. David Singer & the Sweet Science open. See also Wednesday. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508 or 312-559-1212, $25. --Monica Kendrick

SPINTO BAND Using the Flaming Lips and Pavement as models, this Wilmington septet dredges up some solid pop hooks on its recent Nice and Nicely Done (Bar/None). But in aping the indie rock that was hip back when they were prepubescents--the band's members are all around drinking age--they also bring back the unrestrained spazziness that was too often a by-product of it. You have plenty of time, boys--no need to sprint through songs crammed with every idea you've got. Coltrane Motion headlines, the Spinto Band plays third, Bikini Carwash Company plays second, and Statue Park opens. 8:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444, $6. --Peter Margasak

Wednesday 6

PAT BENATAR & NEIL GIRALDO Pat Benatar and her husband, guitarist Neil Giraldo, repeatedly turned down VH1 before finally agreeing to do a Behind the Music episode in 2001: they thought their story was too boring, what with no rehab or tragedy. In fact the couple still happily balance family life (they have two daughters) and comfortably busy careers. Benatar's string of hits trailed off in the late 80s (a failed 1993 comeback album was titled Gravity's Rainbow; she's yet to tackle Finnegans Wake), but her early signature tunes still hold up. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" was criticized for supposedly encouraging domestic violence (though it was originally written from a male perspective by Canadian songwriter Eddie Schwartz, inspired by a therapy session that involved punching pillows); it had a second brush with controversy more recently when it made Clear Channel's alleged post-9/11 no-play list. The song showcases Benatar's awesomely can belto vocals (the young Patricia Andrzejewski was admitted to Juilliard to study voice), matched by a classic searing solo from the hubby. Oppera opens. See also Thursday. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $39.50. --J. Niimi

PETER HIMMELMAN BAND See Tuesday. David Singer & the Sweet Science opens. a 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508 or 312-559-1212, sold out.

HUNCHES Last year's Hobo Sunrise (In the Red), the latest album from this Portland quartet, is so overheated and humid that the very thought of playing it in July seems to add insult to injury. But it's worth the sweat: the band joyously pushes garage cliches to their noisy limit, then subverts them by revealing a pop-loving heart at just the right moment. The Hot Machines and the Busy Signals open. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $10. --Monica Kendrick

Thursday 7

PAT BENATAR & NEIL GIRALDO See Wednesday. Oppera opens a 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $39.50.

IN GOWAN RING It's really long past time that indie-music culture got over its snotty attitude toward other varieties of geekery: lefty/hippie, pagan/SCA/Ren Faire, SF/fantasy, etc. Underground folk generally leads the way in bridging these insignificant gaps, and In Gowan Ring, the singular vision of a man calling himself B'eirth, transcends them entirely. This music was at one point distributed by World Serpent, and so B'eirth gets lumped in with Current 93 and related apocalyptic folkies. That's not necessarily misleading, but he's more like the missing archetype that Donovan was the watered-down pop version of: sweet but arcane in his use of traditional instruments both reconstructed and invented, and sinister but accessible in his gorgeous, slightly droney medievalisms. Nick Castro, Traveling Bell, and Singleman Affair open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick

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