OREN AMBARCHI In a 2002 interview for the Web zine Perfect Sound Forever, this Australian multi-instrumentalist listed some of the albums he found in his grandfather's secondhand shop as a kid that turned his head around--including an Iron Maiden sleeve with a copy of Miles Davis's Live Evil inside. Since cofounding the spastic noise-rock group Phlegm in the early 90s, Ambarchi has followed wherever his curiosity has led him, from playing microscopically detailed electroacoustic improv with the likes of Keith Rowe and Fennesz to collaborating with doom-drone disciples Sunn 0))). In fact it's the current Sunn 0))) tour that brings him to Chicago, though he won't join the band later tonight (see below) because as an observant Orthodox Jew he declines to rock on the Sabbath. But before the sun goes down he'll play a solo set of the remarkably unguitarlike guitar music documented on albums like Suspension (Touch) and Triste (recently reissued on CD by Southern Lord). In these multilayered works, he fashions deliberate, melancholy melodies from notes as soft and rounded as peeled eggs, brings them to a halt with contrary surges of swelling bass, and sprays them with Geiger-counter crackle. This is his Chicago debut. 5:30 PM, Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee, 773-235-3727. Free. All ages. --Bill Meyer
DEAD MOON, MIND CONTROLS DEAD MOON front man Fred Cole should go down in history as one of the great true believers of rock 'n' roll, having carved out a little place for himself in almost every major wave and movement since the mid-60s, from Nuggets-style psych pop to trashy late-70s punk. (Check out the long bio on his band's Web site--it reads like a spaced-out novel about late-20th-century counterculture.) But this versatile and driving garage trio, which features Cole's wife Toody on bass and drummer Andrew Loomis (who at 45 is the young'un), has steadily bobbed off the coast of Hipster Nation for nearly 20 years, doing what it does without regard to what's happening on the mainland. --Monica Kendrick
The paint-peeling retro punk on the Spaceshits' beloved first album, 1997's Winter Dance Party, is to sock-hop rock 'n' roll what a nitro-burning funny car is to a Nash Rambler. Now Mark Sultan--better known as Creepy back in those days, better known as BBQ in these--is fronting the MIND CONTROLS, a spanking-new three-piece with members of the Demon's Claws and the Confusers, and their self-titled debut on Dirtnap is like that old Rambler with a bundle of solid-fuel rockets zip-tied to the roof rack. The crude, snotty tunes pretty much erase the fine line between ruthlessly catchy and annoyingly repetitive, but what they lack in sophistication they make up for in velocity. A straight-shot listen through this record--11 tracks in just over 20 minutes--is like a round of that fourth-grade "game" where your buddy grabs you by the wrist and uses your own hand to pop you in the face. "Stop hittin' yourself, man," he says. "Why do you keep hittin' yourself?" I dunno--because it feels so good? --Philip Montoro
Dead Moon headlines and the Mind Controls play third on the penultimate night of the final Horizontal Action Blackout; the Mirrors, the Mullens, the Dutch Masters, and the Krunchies are also on the bill. 8 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600, sold out.
SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS This venerable Chapel Hill trio is starting to show signs of middle-aged band syndrome. The news page of its Web site is stuffed with baby photos, and the albums don't arrive quite as fast as they used to--their latest, Doublewide and Live (Yep Roc), is a stopgap live disc. But tap into it and you'll hear why they've earned the right to play elder statesmen. Coming up in the southern-and-proud days just after R.E.M. made kudzu-draped romanticism accessible and well before Nashville Pussy pushed tailgate-party lewdness to its inevitable conclusion, they spent a while in a comfy rut of jokey rockabilly and double entendres. But they've transcended that with sheer doggedness, in the same way that any self-respecting local-circuit band doesn't mind playing the same party with the same people for 20 years. It's a damn good party, and on the live disc they sound a little bluesier and a little more relaxed--elder statesmen don't have to sell themselves so hard. They also play Saturday at FitzGerald's. Hardscrabble opens. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. --Monica Kendrick
LIQUID SOUL You've got to give this Chicago band credit for outliving the trend it was supposed to make massive--there are now people working at the Subterranean who look like they're too young to remember the term "acid jazz." But what Liquid Soul played wasn't a new sound so much as an updated strain of kitchen-sink funk, with all the acidity coming from the thermonuclear free-jazz sax blasts of leader Mars Williams. One-Two Punch (Telarc), their fifth album and first in four years, shows the formula starting to age a bit: all the innovation is in Williams's solos and all the booty shaking is in the too-familiar grooves, and the twain don't get it on nearly enough for my liking. Plus anytime you've got to order people to dance rather than motivate them to, it's time to reevaluate. This is a release party. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $12. --Monica Kendrick
YERBA BUENA Elastic, omnivorous, and above all gregarious, the varied pan-Latin grooves that Andres Levin fashions for his high-energy group have one thing in common: a playful animation that favors friskiness over funk and foreplay over fornicatin'. On their second disc, last year's Island Life (Razor & Tie), they're too busy exploring their range to top the debut's sinuous "Guajira," but they come close on "Bilingual Girl" ("two tongues are better than one") and "Belly Dancer" (with its inflated BPMs, though, any poor girl who tries to belly dance to it is in danger of throwing her back out). 8:30 PM, Green Dolphin Street, 2200 N. Ashland, 773-395-0066 or 773-523-9335, $20 in advance, $25 at the door. --Keith Harris
EXPANSION PROJECT Despite a terrific debut album, 2004's self-released Crazy Style, this colorful Chicago quintet remains among the city's undiscovered treasures. With its two-horn front line, Expansion Project captures the sound and much of the spirit of the late-60s postbop mainstream; I'd be shocked if trumpeter Ian Torres hasn't spent a fair amount of time with Lee Morgan's music from that era, and Joshua Quinlan's work on alto sax summons some of the blowsy power Jackie McLean poured through his horn. Instead of a piano Expansion Project utilizes Don Tisch's guitar, and the slight clash of sensibilities that arrangement creates--the contemporary timbres of a guitar-based rhythm section, along with a classic trumpet-sax mesh--gives the group's music an irresistible sheen. They perform here as part of the monthly Chicago Jazz Composers Collective concert, bringing a wealth of attractive originals and improvisations that sparkle and fly. The Bob Dogan Quartet opens. 2 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $5. --Neil Tesser
PITBULL, YING YANG TWINS On his 2004 debut, M.I.A.M.I., Cuban-American MC PITBULL sounded like the guy who wanted to get invited to every party. The massive hit "Culo" tapped into the energy of reggaeton and dancehall and featured one of the album's three cameos from crunk impresario (and labelmate) Lil Jon. Pitbull can nonchalantly flip between English and Spanish, and he'll change moods just as easily, shifting from sensitive lover to smutty lothario to bling-grubbing hustler. That flexibility has paid off: last year P. Diddy tapped him to help run his Bad Boy Latino imprint. His most recent disc, last year's Money Is Still a Major Issue (TVT), is an assortment of unreleased tracks, guest spots, and remixes that includes collaborations with reggaeton stars Daddy Yankee and Ivy Queen and dancehall don Elephant Man.
Pitbull's Atlanta-based labelmates the YING YANG TWINS earned their success by thinking much more narrowly. It's all about sex for them, and their hit "Wait (the Whisper Song)" has to be the filthiest thing ever nominated for a Grammy: "Hey bitch, wait 'til you see my dick / I'ma beat dat pussy up" goes the chorus, whispered over nothing more than hand claps and low-end pings. Alas, that's a rare moment of restraint for them--they seem to prefer straight-up ranting that gets mighty tedious across the 77 minutes of last year's U.S.A. (The United State of Atlanta) (TVT). The album spawned a chopped-and-screwed version (by Michael "5000" Watts) as well as a collection of remixes and B sides, Still United. That's five versions of "Wait" between three discs, in case you just can't get enough.
Zion & Lennox headlines, Pitbull goes third, the Ying Yang Twins go second, and Dino Latino opens. 6 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-752-6601 or 312-559-1212, $35. All ages. --Peter Margasak
MARY TIMONY Three albums into her post-Helium solo career, Mary Timony is still unlocking new talents. For her most recent release, last year's Ex Hex (Lookout), she recruited D.C.-scene thunderbolt Devin Ocampo (Faraquet, Smart Went Crazy) on drums, which turned out to be a smart move; his playing is mathy and precise, and his confidence seems to rub off on Timony, who after a few subdued albums shakes off the fairy dust and starts choogling with abandon. Always an underrated guitarist, she finds a lot of different ways to show off: she'll play one-note solos and spiderwebs of Brit folk or sweep it away with a tidal-wave roar of pedal mashing, slinging the hot glissandi and generally getting the Led out. Timony recently signed with Kill Rock Stars--she's one of many acts who've jumped from Lookout Records' sinking ship--and she's coming armed with new material. The Winter Blanket and Fast Product open. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, 18+. --Jessica Hopper
ZLATNE USTE BALKAN BRASS BAND In the 90s the films of Serbian director Emir Kusturica helped break the Boban Markovic Orkestar in America, and since then other eastern European brass bands, like the Kocani Orkestar and Fanfare Ciocarlia, have followed them through the gate. But the New York group Zlatne Uste (literally "Golden Mouths"--they were aiming for "Golden Lips" and missed) has been representing the Balkan brass tradition on this side of the pond since the mid-80s, playing Gypsy classics and eastern European folk tunes with impressive verve and technique. They don't quite match the go-for-broke intensity of their European counterparts on either of the albums I've heard, but they're good enough to have been invited four times to the Dragacevo festival in Guca, Serbia--the Olympics of Balkan brass music. The band's current lineup features superb percussionist Matt Moran, whose own group Slavic Soul Party! recently played at HotHouse. Vocalist Dragan Loncar Cicko shares the bill at Zlatne Uste's first show tonight; at the later show, part of the Excalibur nightclub's "SGM" series (which stands for Serbian, Greek, and Macedonian), the band follows DJs Spaz, Ice, and Kiki, who spin dance music starting at 9:30 PM. 7 PM, Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church, 5701 N. Redwood, 773-693-3366, $20. All ages. Also 1:30 AM, Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn, 312-266-1944, $15. --Peter Margasak
EAGLES OF DEATH METAL Led by Josh Homme's high school buddy Jesse "the Devil" Hughes and often abetted by Homme himself (as well as the likes of Dave Grohl, Mark Lanegan, Brody Dalle, and Jack Black), the Eagles of Death Metal are the unapologetic apotheosis of cartoonish, self-parodying butt rock. Their new Death by Sexy (Downtown) is even more profoundly, gratifyingly vapid than their 2004 debut, digging into time-tested cliches till they yield up fossils from their primordial depths--and surprise, that ancient critter you'd always thought was scaly and cold-blooded turns out to have been a sort of bird all along. In fact it looks a bit like the hilariously bad CGI eagle on The Colbert Report. The Giraffes open and Scott Lucas of Local H spins. 9 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-252-6179 or 866-468-3401, $15, 18+. --Monica Kendrick