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Friday 2

BODEANS Summer festivals and "pavilions" are the natural habitat of this Milwaukee institution, which is pushing a new album, the two-CD set Homebrewed: Live at the Pabst (Back Porch). The record collects their greatest hits in a way that's so frighteningly slick that it doesn't sound "live" so much as "high-definition"--anthem after anthem arrives in wave after climactic wave. Listening to two discs straight left me feeling seasick. Los Lobos opens. 7:30 PM, Charter One Pavilion, Northerly Island at Burnham Harbor, 312-540-2000 or 312-559-1212, $39.50. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

GRAFTON The term "hard rock" has been too tainted by half-assed radio acts to mean what it once did, but hard rock, in its proper form, is just what these Ohioans play: sped-up, wall-crawling blues licks, 70s boogie sounds unfiltered by the rose-colored headphones of nostalgia, and street-level accessibility. They're touring behind a limited-edition vinyl-only EP, Majesty Shakes (Dead Canary). The Its headline and the Rebel Angels open. 10 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444, 18+, $8. --Monica Kendrick

THE SEA, LIKE LEAD; SHARKS & SEALS Guitarists Todd Mattei and Joe Tricoli, who first played together as two of the many revolving-door members of Tim Kinsella's bands Joan of Arc and Friend/Enemy, formed SHARKS & SEALS as an outlet for their own improvisations. Clearly they felt that the melodic fragments they came up with were fit to be saved for posterity, but most of the dozen pieces on their debut, It Used to Be Knobs and Machines and Now It's Numbers and Light (Brilliante), sound unfinished. Their guitar landscapes--acoustic arpeggios, jagged string scrapes, warm elongated electric lines, volume-pedal washes--are consistently interesting and detail-packed, and Mattei's digital processing adds some additional colors and rhythms. The problem is Tricoli's tepid, shapeless singing--he often comes across like a kid making up a tune off the top of his head, and Kinsella's assured guest vocals on "Argentine" only make him sound worse. For this performance the two are joined by upright-bass player Dave Osborn and computer musician Rick Gribenas. --Peter Margasak

Ever since Hurl and Don Caballero shoved off for Chicago, Pittsburgh hasn't produced much in the way of muscular rock. But THE SEA, LIKE LEAD (the name comes from a Juno song) sticks close to the template of epic drones and burly posthardcore those groups established. On the new self-released EP The Memory Is a Labyrinth, the guitars drift and then run concentric, effects-laden circles around the manic pummeling of the rhythm section, building up tension before a swift howl rips it all down. --Jessica Hopper

The Sea, Like Lead headlines, Sharks & Seals play second, and Russian opens. 8 PM, Spareroom, 2416 W. North, www.spareroomchicago.org, $6. All ages.

Saturday 3

SWORD HEAVEN The two scruffy dudes in this Columbus outfit make a holy racket: one scrapes together two telescoping metal pipes that he wears slung over his shoulder like a guitar or beats a door-size piece of contact-miked sheet metal; the other stomps through the audience with a string of cymbals tied to his leg like tin cans on a dog's tail or pounds on drums rigged with triggers that set off piles of noise samples. And both of them look and sound like cavemen--the only vocals are grunts and yells. This combo of Mad Max futurism and prehistoric chest-thumping adds up to something stormy and ominous: swooping sustained tones like out-of-control Tibetan singing bowls, wicked percussive shudders, hollow metallic shrieks that reverberate back into themselves. But it all just hangs there, never breaking or resolving--after a while it feels like a heavy meal you can't wait to shit out. Also on the bill are the Dead Sea, Behold! the Living Corpse, Bloodyminded, Coughs side project Total Recall (in their last performance), and DJ sets by John Olson and Mike Connelly. 9 PM, Nihilist, 2255 S. Michigan 4E, 312-567-9407, $5 suggested donation. All ages. --Liz Armstrong

Sunday 4

HIGH ON FIRE, YAKUZA As a selfish fan, I wish High on Fire would tour a little less and record a little more, but they're welcome to placate me with stopgaps like the new Live From the Relapse Contamination Festival. Recorded in 2003, it seems like it's from longer ago than that--little of the material on this year's Blessed Black Wings had yet made its way into the set. Nevertheless, this is very much the band that blew me away in February with its relentless pacing, drums clattering like some stampeding herd of unimaginable beasts. Metal at its very best, High on Fire transforms the phrase "brutal elegance" from hyperbolic abstraction into straightforward description.

Also on the bill for the final night of Electric City Rockfest is the ever-mutating Yakuza: these locals won't release a new album until next year, but they've kept their hand in with an impressive array of side work, including a death-metal project with veterans of Corpse Vomit and a collaboration between singer-saxophonist Bruce Lamont and avant-hip-hop geniuses Dalek.

High on Fire headlines, Bible of the Devil plays third, Yakuza plays second, Minsk opens; DJ Velcro Lewis spins. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12. --Monica Kendrick

REEL BIG FISH This decade-old SoCal outfit plays a blowsy brand of ska punk, managing to sound stiff legged and falling-down drunk at the same time. On their latest, We're Not Happy 'til You're Not Happy (Mojo/Jive), they dial down the horns a little and throw in a few covers, but they're still joyously serving anybody who wants to have a good time hating on exes, music-biz types, and whoever else thinks they're in charge. Catch 22, A Wilhelm Scream, and Whole Wheat Bread open. 6 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $22.50. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

Tuesday 6

HORNS OF HAPPINESS This band is essentially a solo project for Aaron Deer, who also plays in John Wilkes Booze and the Impossible Shapes. Last year's A Sea as a Shore (Secretly Canadian) is bursting with lush, if not downright overgrown, psychedelic pop; featuring what sounds like a gajillion instruments (banjo, organ, melodica, sax, and guitars, just for starters), Deer's tunes have an Elf Power-y sweetness set off by the occasional sour bite. For this show Deer will be joined by drummer Shelly Harrison. Static Films, Drakkar Sauna, and Elephant Micah open. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. --Monica Kendrick

Thursday 8

BBQ, DEMON'S CLAWS He sang lead as Creepy in the Spaceshits and played drums as Mark Sexareeno in Les Sexareenos, and these days Canadian garage-punk icon Mark Sultan is doing both--and then some--as the one-man band BBQ. He sings, slings a mean guitar, and plays kick drum, snare, and tambourine with his feet--and though you'd never mistake him for a three-piece, the righteous trash-can soul on his debut LP, Tie Your Noose (Bomp), is enough to fuel an all-night shimmy-shack dance party. --Jessica Hopper

Fellow Montreal miscreants the DEMON'S CLAWS, touring behind their self-titled debut on Dead Canary Records, have discovered one of the great open secrets of neoprimitivism--that you don't have to stick to just one bygone decade when you pillage the past. The locomotive rhythm of "Hypnotize" is a little bit CCR and a little bit Velvet Underground, but it also has a jumpy, bluesy swing and a lick of insouciant rockabilly--and the boys sound so delighted with its headlong coal-burning chug that you'd think they were born back when folks were still awed by trains. --Monica Kendrick

BBQ headlines, the Demon's Claws play second, and Vee Dee opens. BBQ also plays Friday, September 9, at the Beat Kitchen. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.

POPSICK In June Ian Adams--who left the Ponys a few months before they put out their sophomore album, Celebration Castle--debuted his new outfit, Popsick. (The moniker was also the name of the record label he operated in the early 00s while playing in the boy-girl duo Happy Supply.) He was joined by Jeremiah McIntyre, late of the Afflictions and Entertainment, and a rhythm section made up of Countdown bassist Steve Denekas and Red Eyed Legends drummer Paul John Higgins. Adams cheekily described Popsick's sound to me as an unlikely hybrid of the Minutemen and the Byrds--"We're just really trebly," he said. But he's clearly absorbed a few ideas during his time in the Ponys; his new songs incorporate elements of gnarled garage, off-kilter pop, and tortured new wave. The band's already doing some reshuffling: Saturday's show at the Electric City Rockfest (see Dirtbombs Critic's Choice) will be its last with McIntyre, who's moving to Nebraska to finish college. Adams will keep the band going as a three-piece, and plans to change its name to the Submarine Races. Whale Horse and Hard Place open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $6 in advance, $8 at the door. --Bob Mehr

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