cazis Bulgarian pop star Azis is an excellent student of the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna, but his own brand of calculated outrageousness leaves theirs in the dust. Born and raised in Sliven, a city in the heart of the country with a large Rom population, Azis started out as a standard-issue singer of chalga, a Bulgarian pop form. He has a sublime voice--a vibrato-rich falsetto, flawless pitch control, and a high, keening tone--but he failed to score hits until he transformed himself into one of the most arresting transvestites ever to grace a stage. He's outfitted himself in heels, boas, and colorful saris, bleached his hair platinum blond, and waxed his body, but his shtick goes even further. In his outlandish videos he constantly toys with his sexuality, getting affectionate with beefy bodybuilders, scantily clad centerfolds, and people of indeterminate gender with bulging muscles and bad makeup; one scandalous video featured several black men licking milk off his body. On a live DVD I've seen, his singing is overshadowed by the dance performances, and some of his songs are the worst sort of Eurotrash pop--overwrought ballads featuring production tricks that were passe here a decade ago. But his best stuff, particularly the 2003 album Na Golo (Sunny Music), is a stunning synthesis of Gypsy singing, eastern European folk forms, Arabic pop, and Indian bhangra. (Bollywood is clearly a major inspiration.) This is his U.S. debut. a 8 PM, Hanging Gardens Banquets, 8301 W. Belmont, River Grove, 866-386-4586, $50-$100. --Peter Margasak
bound stems Appreciation Night (Flameshovel), the full-length debut from this local band, has a drunken-master quality--its 15 kitchen-sink pop songs reel and lurch, and not always in predictable ways. The keys, samples, and drums sometimes give front man Bobby Gallivan a little too much padding to bounce against, muffling him when he ought to be front and center--he's like a street preacher fighting to be heard over circus clowns and fire-truck sirens. But the busy sprawl of the record is its own pleasure. The Metal Hearts open the first show, which is all-ages, and Asobi Seksu headlines the second. a 7 and 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. --Monica Kendrick
THE RASMUS This Finnish band didn't spark the resurgence of romantic pop-metal they were clearly hoping for--their 2003 album, Dead Letters, flopped in the U.S. But they're still trying. The dirty secret of this kind of music is that it involves a lot more work than it sounds like: last year's Hide From the Sun (out in the States next month on DRT Entertainment) has its soaring qualities, but occasionally you notice the cables and wires behind the band's attempts to make the music sound effortless. Escape From Earth, Shades of Fiction, and On the Front open. a 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $10. A --Monica Kendrick
teitur This Dane from the Faeroe Islands is often compared to David Gray, but his forthcoming album, Stay Under the Stars (Equator Music), proves he's more than just a sensitive pop singer--his melodies are far richer and more indelible, recalling Rod Sexsmith's oddly shaped hooks. There's plenty of easygoing acoustic strumming on the album, but Teitur throws a curveball with a string-laden cover of "Great Balls of Fire," transforming the tune into a baroque melodrama, while "Boy, She Can Sing!" is an ebullient valentine driven by a simple piano riff, hand claps, and foot stomps. Swedish singer-songwriter Tobias Froberg opens. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $13 in advance, $15 at the door. --Peter Margasak
ctetine, yellow swans CSS and Bonde do Role may be getting credit for kicking off the first wave of Brazilian gender-fuck spunk-funk carioca, but they're both essentially Tetine cover bands. Think Diplo's boosterism alone is the reason favela-hump is the new death disco? Nope--you got Tetine to thank for that too. Often overlooked and unknown outside of taste-making circles, the duo's been active as shit since 1995, releasing eight albums, curating several comps (including last year's Brazilian no-wave primer The Sexual Life of the Savages on Soul Jazz), producing 20 short films and music videos, and hosting a biweekly radio show for Resonance FM in their adopted home of London. Their latest, L.I.C.K. My Favela (Slum Dunk) is wall-to-wall with sassy party jawns, grrrl-queer liberation polemics, and Miami-bass boom. --Jessica Hopper
Psychic Secession (Load), the latest from Portland duo Yellow Swans, is the kind of album you sink into and have a hard time coming out of, one so violently invigorating it can change your mood from dreamy to despondent to hostile to emboldened and back again. It's an industrial wasteland littered with rusty hinges, discarded pipes, dental drills, and cow carcasses, and no matter what narratives you wind up spinning as it stretches out before you--think of it as Rorschach noise--in the end they'll always turn out evil. A translucent spider slowly weaves a shimmery web in a dark corner of the woods; a river of lava flows beneath the ever-shifting tectonic plates of a preprehistoric earth; time suddenly reverses and fog is sucked back into a bay; a piece of awful machinery stirs to life after years of neglect, and once it's in motion there's no stopping whatever horror it was designed for. --Liz Armstrong
This show is part of the Adventures in Modern Music festival; see page TK for a complete schedule. Tetine headlines, Colleen plays third, the Yellow Swans play second, and Spires That in the Sunset Rise open. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.
rosanne cash Between the spring of 2003 and the spring of 2005 Rosanne Cash lost her mother (Vivian Liberto Cash Distin), stepmother (June Carter Cash), and father (Johnny Cash). So it's no surprise that her latest album, Black Cadillac (Capitol), is suffused with themes of loss, memory, and perseverance. "Now one of us gets to go to heaven / One has to stay here in hell," she sings on the title track, addressing her father, while on "Like a Wave" she intones, "I gave my love and it rolls like a wave / Back through history / On past the grave." Cash's lyrics are filled with details about her family, but that never keeps the songs from feeling universal--their poignance transcends her own experience. The music is an elegant brand of contemporary folk rock that effortlessly draws from blues, bluegrass, and Celtic strains. a 8 PM, Lund Auditorium, Dominican University, 7900 W. Division, River Forest, 708-488-5000, $37-$47. A --Peter Margasak
cOM, PAUL FLAHERTY-FRANK ROSALY DUO Bassist-vocalist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius, once two-thirds of the mighty Sleep and now both halves of the duo OM, named their latest album, Conference of the Birds (Holy Mountain), after a 13th-century Persian Sufi epic whose title is more often translated as "The Parliament of the Birds." To my ears "conference" has a sort of fluorescent-lit office-bound quality to it, but there's nothing else mundane about the album: Cisneros and Hakius may not have the maniac energy of Sleep guitarist Matt Pike, who now fronts High on Fire, but their long-haul focus produces its own kind of catharsis. Om's 2005 debut, Variations on a Theme, was three sprawling tracks of cyclical, hypnotizing grind, tight but sludgy, with Cisneros delivering his philosophical-psychedelic lyrics with the same chilling, tranced-out affectlessness Ozzy Osbourne managed at his most doped-up and visionary. The two tracks on Conference of the Birds, each more than 15 minutes long, build on this pretty damn fundamental fundament by stretching toward a firmament. Both words and music seem to be trying to paint an outer landscape, not just an inner one--a battle in the desert, an imam calling from a mountain, an opium den on Planet Heavy--and the whole thing's more open, fluid, and expansive. --Monica Kendrick
PAUL FLAHERTY improvises his music completely in the moment, but that's not to say there's no history in it. His woolly sound, honed in decades of wee-hours sessions on the streets of his native Hartford, Connecticut, owes an obvious debt to the old-school energy music of the late 60s: like Albert Ayler and Peter Brotzmann, the 57-year-old alto and tenor saxophonist plays overblown, rippling lines with enough force to ventilate your best Kevlar vest. On his recent solo CD, Whirl of Nothingness (Family Vineyard), he punctuates coarse, furious flurries with brief interludes of tender lyricism, which only serve to intensify the impact of the mayhem around them. Flaherty's fond of drums-and-sax duos and has sustained a long, well-documented relationship with Randall Colbourne; more recently he's been recording and touring with Chris Corsano, who accompanied him at his Chicago debut two years ago. For his second trip to town Flaherty will work with local drummer FRANK ROSALY, whose dynamic and energetic playing with the Rempis Percussion Quartet suggests he's got the chops to match the saxophonist's ideas and the stamina to keep up with him. --Bill Meyer
Om headlines; Subtle, the Punks, and the Flaherty-Rosaly duo open. This show is part of Adventures in Modern Music; see page TK for a complete festival schedule. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.
parissa & the dastan ensemble Iran remains a tough place for women to break through as artists--female live performers tend to be frowned upon--but Parissa is one of the few who have been granted the privilege of touring abroad. She's an astonishing singer, and on the recent Gol-e Behesht (World Network)--recorded with the Dastan Ensemble, one of the country's greatest classical groups--she navigates a series of gorgeous classical works and Sufi pieces with grace, profound emotional control, and flawless intonation. Persian classical music has been passed down as an oral tradition and is distinguished by intense improvisation, and while it has little or no harmony, heavily embroidered lines played on long-necked lutes (tar and setar), spike fiddle (kemence), and a short-necked lute (barbat) give it a meditative focus. Parissa has a stunning rapport with the group, whose members--including barbat player Hossein Behroozi-Nia and percussionist Pejman Hadadi--expertly shadow her elegant, zigzagging lines. a 8:30 PM, Ryan Family Auditorium, Northwestern University, 2145 N. Sheridan, Evanston, 312-437-4726, $30-$40. A --Peter Margasak
sadies Capable of backing both R & B neolegend Andre Williams and Neko Case, this quartet is far more versatile than the usual Americana combo. (I'm defining "Americana" loosely--they're Canadian.) On their latest project, the forthcoming sound track to Ron Mann's documentary on hot rodder and illustrator Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Tales of the Rat Fink, they're the little black dress of bands--their surf-cum-rockabilly-cum-honky-tonk sound is appropriate for nearly everything. Last month they released a blistering two-CD live set, In Concert Volume One (Yep Roc), drawn from a pair of Toronto shows last February and featuring cameos from pals like Case, Kelly Hogan, Jon Spencer, Jon Langford, and former Clyde Federal drummer Mike Bulington. The show kicks off with a screening of Tales of the Rat Fink at 9:30 PM. See also Thursday. Spencer's group Heavy Trash opens. a 11 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. --Monica Kendrick
glenn kotche & nels cline We have Wilco to thank for making guitar god Nels Cline a more regular presence in town, where he's hooked up with fellow guitarist Jeff Parker and others in the local improv scene. Best heard live, Cline has a gift for playing a kind of damaged scree that makes Sonic Youth sound like a hammy jug band. Kotche, the other member of Wilco with a pedigree in experimental music, makes his home behind a monster drum kit, where he'll go from delicate to pummeling using everything from mallets to mbira. They'll each play a solo set, then play as a duo. a 7:30 PM, Black Orchid, 230 W. North, 312-944-6200 or 312-559-1212, $20. --Jessica Hopper
cSTEINSKI, HAMID DRAKE-WILLIAM PARKER DUO Steve Stein, aka STEINSKI, became one of the most influential figures in hip-hop almost by accident. In 1983 Tommy Boy Records sponsored a remixing contest to boost the sagging sales of a 12-inch called "Play That Beat Mr. D.J." by G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid. Stein and his pal Doug DiFranco (aka Double Dee) had their way with the track, winning the contest with a compositional patchwork of samples that was a quantum leap beyond the usual purloined bass lick or drum break--they treated sampling as an art form in its own right, not just a utilitarian shortcut, and paved the way for radical turntablists like DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. Their entry, "Lesson One: The Payoff Mix," includes everything from bits of Culture Club's "I'll Tumble 4 Ya!" to Humphrey Bogart quotes from Casablanca--unlike most remixers of the day, Steinski didn't stop with Top 40 radio when he went hunting for samples, and he worked to keep them pertinent to the song's lyrics as well as its musical direction. He and Double Dee created two more "lessons" before parting ways in 1985, one a salute to James Brown and the other a compact history of hip-hop, but due to problems with sample clearance none of the three has ever been legitimately released. Though Steinski continues to work as a remixer and is still wildly talented, he'll probably never top that initial salvo--once you've fired a shot heard round the world, it's tough to make a bigger noise. --Peter Margasak
If there's a groove that bassist WILLIAM PARKER and drummer HAMID DRAKE can't make their own, I haven't heard it, and they're equally masterful in the free fall of meterless total improvisation. Their empathetic and fearless accompaniment of fiery saxophonists like Peter Brotzmann, Fred Anderson, and Kidd Jordan has made them one of the most celebrated rhythm sections in free jazz, but the best window on their versatility is the 2001 disc Piercing the Veil (Aum Fidelity), their debut as a duo. Playing not just trap set and double bass but a myriad of exotic percussion and wind instruments, they summon the sort of spiritually conscious third-world vibe once explored by Ed Blackwell and Drake's old mentor Don Cherry. Drake and Parker recently recorded a second album, which should be available early next year, and while neither is a stranger to Chicago stages this is the first time they've played here as a duo. --Bill Meyer
Steinski headlines, Drake and Parker play third, Bird Show goes on second, and Kayo Dot opens. (Trapist, originally in the second slot, canceled shortly before press time.) This show is part of Adventures in Modern Music; see page TK for a complete schedule. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15.
cTurAndot Lyric Opera's current production of Puccini's final opera is a theatrical tour de force. The sets and costumes, designed by artist David Hockney, are exquisite, and the music is perhaps Puccini's best--certainly his grandest. Set in ancient China, the story concerns Princess Turandot, an icy virgin who must marry the prince who answers her three riddles correctly. Suitors who fail are beheaded, the fate of many already, as the gruesome opening scene depicts. In the performance I saw, soprano Andrea Gruber was formidable in her portrayal of the princess--even though her enormous sound wasn't always pleasing, she was convincing, and the chill in her voice suits the character. Vladimir Galouzine's robust, darkly colored tenor brings an effective machismo to the part of the suitor Calaf. He did cut short the last note of the opera's best-known aria, "Nessun Dorma," and his volume could have come down more often, but when the two leads sang together it was spectacular. Soprano Patricia Racette, excellent as the tortured slave girl Liu, was mesmerizing in her pivotal third-act aria. Turandot hasn't been produced here since 1997--another reason not to miss this. Bruno Bartoletti conducts. See also Wednesday. a 2 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $42-$179. --Barbara Yaross
cCURSIVE, THERMALS Cursive's 1997 debut, Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes, was so grossly pregnant with cliches--dramatic stops and starts, romantic travails painted in big tragic strokes--that it took me eight years to give the band another chance. I jumped back in with last year's The Difference Between Houses and Homes, a collection of singles and unreleased tracks from 1995 to 2001, and while the whole thing was still heavy on the emo, the songs had gotten classier as the years progressed--all it took was the addition of some strings and a little restraint. It sounds like Cursive are making a concerted effort to turn a corner on their newest, Happy Hollow (Saddle Creek), a vague political parable about the suffering of a small town in Wal-Mart America. Front man Tim Kasher has finally stopped singing about his divorce--religion, patriotism, and family are the discernible themes--and with a five-piece horn section stepping in for the violin, the band lays down a rollicking bit of gone-funky that takes big cues from the Dismemberment Plan. --Jessica Hopper
The feminists were right when they said the personal was political, but with the generation of protest singers now coming of age it seems the personal is the only politics they know. The songs they write about being pissed at Bush are only slightly more valid politically than songs about being pissed at girls. What we need are more musicians who make the personal political in the way Hutch Harris of the Thermals does. His band's newest, The Body, the Blood, the Machine (Sub Pop), is a terrible idea on paper--a pop-punk concept album about life under a Christian fascist regime--but it works. The unexpected tempos and textures get some credit, but the lion's share goes to the lyrics. Harris never allows his theocratic future to veer off into bad sci-fi; like any good fictionist, he uses the premise to examine the inner lives of his characters. And if what he reveals provokes a shock of recognition in his listeners, some of them might be scared into action. --Miles Raymer
Cursive headlines, the Thermals play second, and Ladyfinger opens. a 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $17 in advance, $19 at the door. A
lambchop One of the things I like best about Nashville's Lambchop is the schism between the band's elegant, soulful, neatly orchestrated country-pop and the unlikely things that come out of Kurt Wagner's mouth. On "I Would Have Waited Here All Day," a track from the group's new album, Damaged (Merge), he warbles, "You're dripping wet from a midday shower / Soon you'll be drying off your dick." (He originally wrote the song for the recent comeback album by country-soul singer Candi Staton, but Mark Nevers--who produced both her album and Damaged--declined to play her the tune.) The album's more intimate than its predecessors, but Wagner still sounds bitter--there's a melancholy air to even the carpe diem sentiments in "A Day Without Glasses," about a fleeting romance. Musically Lambchop's more accomplished than ever; at this show the band, already six pieces big, will be joined by Austin's Tosca String Quartet. Hands Off Cuba opens. a 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $17.50. A --Peter Margasak
cMY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND One of the most arresting records I've heard this year is Bring Me the Workhorse (Asthmatic Kitty), the debut album from My Brightest Diamond--aka New Yorker Shara Worden, who pits her restrained, pitch-perfect singing against churning, magisterial rock grooves. She's studied opera and her range and intonation prove it, but she also understands rock just fine, and she can wail with the best of them; her vocals remind me of LA folkie Mia Doi Todd with a touch of Polly Jean Harvey's anthemic roar. On the sinister stomp "Freak Out" she veers from low-register growling to almost squeaky shouts, but that movement never feels like an empty gesture; she's tracing the emotional torpor of the song. Worden is also a terrific guitarist, laying down angular riffs and elongated single-note lines that pay little heed to rock convention, and her arrangements include some exquisite string parts. Her band opens for Sufjan Stevens at this show; she'll return to headline Schubas on November 11. a 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. A --Peter Margasak
leather uppers When Toronto's Leather Uppers started out they were proudly anachronistic, both musically and sartorially--the early 90s weren't exactly the time for 60s-style matching suits. Nowadays they're less a breath of fresh air than just two more faces in a crowded field of rattling, greasy, distorto-riffic garage-rock duos. But the playfulness and energy on display on their new album, Bright Lights (Goner), suggest they don't fear the competition. LiveFastDie and Birthday Suits open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick
cTurAndot See Sunday. a 2 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $31-$136.
you say party! we say die! Kids in the Pacific Northwest are doing a real nice job mixing their politics and their partying. Case in point: Vancouver's You Say Party! We Say Die! The song "The Gap (Between the Rich and the Poor)," from 2005's Hit the Floor! (Sound Document), is so catchy that "The gap, the gap, the gap, the gap, the gap, the gap, the gap, the gap between the rich and the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor, the poor" might end up the year's most unlikely dance-floor chant. Bang! Bang! and the Groodies open. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 at the door, 18+. --Miles Raymer
cMELVINS Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, the core of the Melvins for more than 20 years now, run their band like a Mongol horde--sweep down on your enemies from both flanks at once, change tactics constantly, and know when to kill everything in your path and when to settle down and impregnate a few locals. (It's amazing how many bands have a little Melvins DNA in them somewhere--figuratively speaking, of course.) In the past couple years they've collaborated with Jello Biafra and dark-industrial pioneer Lustmord, and last spring they released A Live History of Gluttony and Lust (Ipecac), a blistering revision of their 1993 Atlantic album Houdini with Trevor Dunn on bass. Recorded this summer and forthcoming next month is (A) Senile Animal, a spectacular curveball: ordinarily a trio (with one of about a zillion different bassists), the Melvins have become a quartet, absorbing both members of the pummeling bass-and-drums duo Big Business. Yep, two drummers--Crover's a righty, Coady Willis of Big Business a lefty, and word from Dale is that they'll be sharing his big toms between them, moving like mirror images of each other on the unison parts. No band with Crover in it can be said to need a second drummer, but Willis isn't just gilding the lily--the seismic rattling and thundering beneath Buzzo's sinister slabs of rubbery riffage sounds like the hoofbeats of a dread army pouring over the hill. Big Business and Ghostigital open. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $17.50. --Monica Kendrick
sadies See Saturday. Heavy Trash opens. a 9 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $15.
TEAM DRESCH Team Dresch probably did more than any other band of the 90s to obliterate both the stereotype of lesbians as humorless folkies and the idea of punkdom as strictly straight space. But their music was never limited by identity politics: 1994's Personal Best in particular was loaded with so much speed, skill, and wit that it forever laid to rest the slightly bigoted notion that queercore's appeal was purely demographic. And unlike so many other records that seemed revelatory at the time, it still holds up. Team Dresch broke up in 1998, but since the spring they've played a select few reunion dates--which have gone well enough that they're talking about doing a full-scale tour next year. This show is part of Estrojam; see page TK for a complete schedule. The Tuna Helpers, Gina Young, and Andrea Gibson open; Donna Dresch and Jenny Hoyston (Erase Errata, Paradise Island) will spin at an afterparty. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, 18+, $14.50. --Monica Kendrick