STACEY EARLE & MARK STUART You can't tell me Stacey Earle and her collaborator/husband Mark Stuart--sincere Christians or not--weren't aware of the connotations when they called their new album S&M Communion Bread (Funzalo). (It's named for an old bakery in Nashville.) But while there's plenty of self-flagellation in their sadly sentimental tales of remorse and loss--too much, in fact, to make this a good time of any conventional sort--the gentle eloquence of their sweet country-folk gets a foot in the door of the heart and just wedges its way right on in. 7:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. --Monica Kendrick
MILK AT MIDNIGHT On their new self-released EP, Letter Bombs and Holidays, this local trio sound like they're trying to decide whether they want to be postpunk arty or postpunk poppy. Unfortunately, they don't quite have the imagination required for the former or the hooks demanded by the latter. My advice: ride those crisp, expansive, shimmering guitars and tortured-slash-ethereal vocals as far they'll go and get in better touch with your Love and Rockets side. Rockit Girl headlines, Milk at Midnight plays third, the Evil Queens play second, and Corsaire opens. a 9:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick
ATTIC TED, AIR GUITAR MAGAZINE The Texans in ATTIC TED make the fusion of New Weird America outback whooping and post-video-game, post-Merzbow electronic noise seem so natural that it's easy to forget that every good ol' boy in bumfuck doesn't have the ripped-out guts of old drum machines and Moogs lying around his garage. The title of their 2003 disc, The Bastardized Country Carnival (Pecan Crazy), is an unnecessarily literal description of their forte.
The barely coherent Pittsburgh band AIR GUITAR MAGAZINE is technically horn based--though the lineup is far from stable, you can usually count on drums, bass, and two trumpets. I'd hesitate to stress that point, however, for fear of leading you to imagine something like jazz rather than a joyously abrasive steamrolling freak show.
Attic Ted headlines and Air Guitar Magazine plays third; the Carnies and Ten-Ton open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick
BMR4 A canny local jazz quartet led by bassist Chris Bernhardt, BMR4 makes the most of its two distinguishing characteristics. First, there's the opposites-attract front line, in which the overheated tone and rough-hewn style of saxist Jay Moynihan contrast with the rich, urban-cool harmonies of guitarist Neal Alger. Second, there's the group's oceanic repertoire: songs on their upcoming album, set to come out this winter, include the Beatles' "Fixing a Hole" (the record's title track), Jackie McLean's underappreciated 1960 romp "Appointment in Ghana," and the standard "Close Your Eyes." Bernhardt and drummer Mike Rodbard punctuate a smooth, easygoing swing with plenty of rhythmic fireworks, and Moynihan has a penchant for daring, guttural timbres; for me, though, the band remains first and foremost a superb showcase for Alger, who's worked with a number of Chicago bands and has grown into one of the top soloists in the city. See also Sunday. 9 PM, Pops for Champagne, 2934 N. Sheffield, 773-472-1000, $12. --Neil Tesser
MC CHRIS This Libertyville-bred nerdcore rapper got his big break in 2001, when "Fett's Vette"--which recasts supercool Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett as a trash-talking gangsta ("Think you can cook? I got a grappling hook")--made it onto an episode of Sealab 2021. Three albums later, he's covered everything from robot dogs to Robo' trippin', but he's probably still best known for his adenoidal voice work on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup: he was whiny intern Hesh Hepplewhite on Sealab, and on Aqua Teen Hunger Force he was MC Pee Pants, a conniving, diaper-wearing, vaguely Chris Rock-sounding giant spider (who was killed and reincarnated as a diaper-wearing cow, then killed and reincarnated as, alas, a diaper-wearing nursing-home resident). His songs as Pee Pants--"I Want/Need Candy," "4 Da Shorteez"--are pretty representative of the rapid-fire, shock-and-awe jackassery on the albums. But despite the undeniable whiff of Yankovic in his pulpcult-choked rhymes, here and there they could pass for, say, MF Doom's, at least as far as their content goes--and his DJ, John Ferrell, isn't too shabby either. Tha 446 and Former Fat Boys open. 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. --Brian Nemtusak
PLANES MISTAKEN FOR STARS Too often a support act, these touring machines are headlining this summer--it's nice to see them emerge from the sea of posthardcore second-stringers, as last year's Up in Them Guts (No Idea) suggests they should. Their distinguishing feature is the density of their tangled sound; following individual threads of roaring skreek in, say, "Belly Full of Hell" is like trying to unsnag a snarl of hair stuck on a briar in a windstorm. Smoke or Fire, Glass and Ashes, and Valley Arena open. 6 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $10. All ages. --Monica Kendrick
THE WRIGHTS It'd be easy to argue that husband and wife Adam and Shannon Wright have nepotism to thank for their good fortune; Adam is a nephew of country superstar Alan Jackson, who released the Wrights' debut, Down This Road, on his ACR (Alan's Country Records) label. Jackson also guests on the album and is bringing the Wrights along as an opener for his summer tour, but the blood ties ultimately don't matter: Down This Road is one of the best mainstream country records I've heard in the last few years. The two wrote all the songs on the record, and their music draws inspiration more from bluegrass and folk than soccer-mom soft rock; Shannon strums acoustic guitar while Adam plays fluid, lyrical electric leads, and their lovely harmonies suggest what Gillian Welch and David Rawlings might sound like if they took a Music City detour. Their lyrics are mostly sweet nothings, but they get off a few zingers: in "On the Rocks," Adam charges, "I don't know why I made you my baby," to which Shannon tartly retorts, "Who you callin' baby? You made me your wife." Jackson headlines and Sara Evans plays second. 7:30 PM, Tweeter Center, I-80 & Harlem, Tinley Park, 708-614-1616 or 312-559-1212, $20-$65.50. All ages. --Peter Margasak
BMR4 See Saturday. 7 PM, Shaw's Oyster Bar, 21 E. Hubbard, 312-527-2722. Free. All ages.
PAGES Creatures of the Earth (Unsound), the debut EP from the New York quartet the Pages, is as flawed as it is impressive. Gabriel Blair and Grant Orsborn are capable of sweet and delicate vocal harmonies, and they're decent guitarists, unleashing unfussy leads that bridge Liverpool and the Delta, but their playing frequently sounds incongruous with the stiff grooves. The band's pretty melodies draw inspiration from the Beatles and the Hollies, but they're either played too preciously or bloodied by the rhythm section. Falconhawk, the Remains of Brian Borcherdt, and Nathan open. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. --Peter Margasak
DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES On last year's Our Kind of Soul (U-Watch), Hall & Oates's singular brand of pop alchemy is as conspicuously absent as the push-broom mustache that once hid Oates's upper lip. Not that the album is bad, per se; if any pop act is qualified to record an album of R & B standards like "Use ta Be My Girl" and "I'll Be Around," it's these guys. And you can argue that it's a return to their roots--Hall worked with the Philly soul songwriting team Gamble & Huff in the mid-60s while attending Temple University, where he met Oates. But on early hits like "She's Gone" and "Sara Smile" and 80s singles like "Say It Isn't So" and "Out of Touch," they weren't trying to present themselves as a straightforward soul act--their chief strength was putting tantalizing R & B signatures on soft rock, new wave, and techno pop. 7:30 PM, Skyline Stage, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand, 312-595-5022 or 312-559-1212, $55-$65. All ages. --J. Niimi
ODIORNE Sometime Mercury Rev drummer Jimy Chambers launched Odiorne as a side project in 2001 with Want Them Leaving More, an EP produced by Dave Fridmann (natch). The brand-new full-length Heavy Wish (File 13)--produced by former Fridmann assistant Bill Racine and the band--strays further afield of the Flaming Rev ork-pop nexus, but not too far. The crafty arrangements, based on guitar and piano and inflected with horns and strings, are still inlaid with psychedelic flourishes, but the songs themselves are leaner and more focused, sometimes suggesting a souped-up, stripped-down, late-shoegazer-meets-early-Britpop idiom. In conjunction with Chambers's often Gilmour-esque vocals, this makes the music feel a bit like midperiod Pink Floyd--but minus, for good and bad, the overwrought peaks and valleys. Fashion Flesh headlines, TRS-80 plays third, and the Poison Arrows play second. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401. Free. --Brian Nemtusak
THOR On the list of responses that this leather-clad former bodybuilder and shtick-metal legend is trying to elicit, I don't think warm-and-fuzzy affection is too high up there. But when I picture Thor doing his thing--i.e., bending steel bars, blowing up hot-water bottles until they burst, and having cinder blocks broken against his chest with a sledgehammer, all to the accompaniment of music that sounds rather like Warrant playing Misfits covers--that's what I feel. His existence makes me happy. I want to hug him, except I doubt I could reach around him. People were dismissing him as a campy freak show 25 years ago, but he's still here, more prolific than ever (his latest is the brand-new Thor Against the World) and an ongoing reminder that campy freak shows are, in fact, very rock 'n' roll. Danko Jones and DJ Velcro Lewis & His 100 Proof Drink open; there's also a "Thor Filmfest" before and after the show. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Monica Kendrick
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT Want Two (Geffen, 2004), Rufus Wainwright's latest release, is the second half of the baroque art-pop diptych he began with 2003's Want One. It better showcases his early classical training, particularly on the opening incantation of "Agnus Dei" and the contrapuntal, string-laden "Little Sister." But it's a postfolk family affair as well, with contributions from Martha Wainwright (his sister), Kate and Anna McGarrigle (his mom and aunt), and arranger Van Dyke Parks (a pal of his dad, Loudon Wainwright III, and a help in getting Rufus his first record deal). He played solo last year at Ravinia, regaling the audience with cheeky asides from behind a grand piano; he's joined by his band this time, but a cool lawn on a summer evening remains an ideal setting in which to enjoy his lush songwriting sensibility. Ben Folds headlines and Ben Lee opens. a 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $15-$70. All ages. --J. Niimi
DEF HARMONIC On Travel Suggestions, the 2001 debut by this Milwaukee duo, Jason Todd's sparse compelling production tweaked familiar hip-hop breaks by adding down-tempo electronica flourishes; his raps with Lunaversol, heavily indebted to Digable Planets' jazzy style, sounded almost like afterthoughts in comparison. Todd's production on Def Harmonic's follow-up, the new All These Worldz (Brilliante), is even more assured--his electro-funk concoctions could work on the dance floor as instrumentals. Unfortunately they don't work as hip-hop: compared to the stuff on the first record, they're fussed over and slick. The rhyming suffers from similar problems--often the raps sound like meticulously scripted singing, wanly blending into the tracks instead of playing off them. Walter Meego and Plane open. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. --Peter Margasak
RED HOT POKER DOTS This Australian Americana quartet keeps it surreal on Jetlagged & Jittery, its second self-released full-length: in among the country yodeling, drunken NASCAR whooping, and tragic honky-tonk tales, you get cryptozoology lessons ("Hippoplatypus") and cooking tips ("Pony Pot Pie" rhymes "onions" with "shavings from her bunions"). They generally behave like the second coming of early Southern Culture on the Skids, except with freaky double bass and Dobro on top of the usual geetar--and Lil' O'Dette can deadpan lines that would reduce lesser front women to giggles. Kristin Shout headlines and Helicopters play second. 9 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $6. --Monica Kendrick