EMILY HAINES & THE SOFT SKELETON Emily Haines, the brassy front woman of Toronto band Metric, is best known for inflaming audiences with her frenetic energy and her high kicks in impossibly short skirts. But on the 2005 Metric album Live It Out she revealed an introspective side: some of its piano-tinged songs are outright solemn, reflecting the unexpected death of her father, poet Paul Haines, in 2003. He'd collaborated with pianist Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt of the Soft Machine, both among Emily's childhood heroes, and his way with language has worked its way into her piquant lyrics and adroit delivery. Though her solo debut, Knives Don't Have Your Back (Last Gang), shares some of the thoughtful melancholy of Live It Out, the string and horn arrangements feel weightless and wondrous, a little like Sparklehorse--not at all by coincidence, since Haines is joined on the record by Sparklehorse multi-instrumentalist Scott Minor, as well as members of Broken Social Scene, Stars, and Metric. The road band for this tour is Minor on drums and the Silver Rockets' Paul Dillon on bass. Tall Firs open. a 9 PM, Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, 773-472-3492, $17, $15 in advance. A --J. Niimi
chaptic & david daniell I neglected to mention Haptic in a November column on Chicago's drone music scene--an unfortunate oversight, because the trio's piece "Danjon Scale," on a split 12-inch with the Milwaukee duo Mouths released last year by the British label Entr'acte, is among the most striking displays of sustained texture in recent memory. Adam Sonderberg and Joseph Mills operate various acoustic and electronic devices (everything from samples and oscillators to hurdy-gurdy) while Steven Hess handles percussion; the sound they create together is hypnotic and seamless. For live performances they customarily invite an outside musician to join them, and for tonight's show they've invited two: Mark Solotroff of Bloodyminded and guitarist David Daniell. The concert begins with a solo set at Heaven by Daniell--a member of San Augustin and various Rhys Chatham ensembles and a recent transplant to Chicago--whose new solo album, Coastal (Xeric), is also devoted largely to drone. For three of the four tracks the various instruments creating the drone are mainly unrecognizable; on the fourth, a lovely piece called "Sunfish," Daniell weaves multinote licks on acoustic guitar, pedal steel, and violin (courtesy of guest Erin Boyette) into a different yet equally powerful drone sound. After his set Daniell will play with Haptic, who immediately afterward will lead the audience upstairs to Enemy and play a set there with Solotroff. a 9 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-342-4597, and Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee, third floor, 312-493-3657, $7. A --Peter Margasak
mission of burma The 2002 reunion of this legendary Boston art-punk band was an unlikely proposition, but if you listened to them play for just 30 seconds it was hard to believe they'd ever gone away. Since then they've decided to dig in their heels and stick around. On Obliterati (Matador), their second full-length in three years (but only their third proper studio album since 1982), they sound as restless and hungry as they did in the early 80s but informed by two decades of musical progress. In late November the DVD version of the Burma documentary Not a Photograph, which is packaged with some wonderful concert footage, hit stores, which seems to be the occasion for these dates. Pinebender opens. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $23, $22.50 in advance. --Monica Kendrick
never enough hope Two years ago Toby Summerfield, bassist for the instrumental rock band Crush Kill Destroy, enlisted a slew of his pals to perform and record an extended composition he wrote called Never Enough Hope. I missed the concert, but the recording is finally seeing the light of day as a self-released CD-R. It's an ambitious work: a tidy chunk of minimalist rock with different licks, instruments, and dynamics unfolding every few minutes. At 40 minutes it doesn't always sustain a high level of interest, but the musicians keep it alive with style and surprising precision. This week some of the original participants will join a cast of new faces in a 20-piece lineup that includes two drummers, two vibraphone players, and a bass saxist; they'll be performing the piece along with some new material. Tonight is the first of three shows; see also Saturday and Sunday. Son of Gunnar, Ton of Shel and Locks open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Peter Margasak
andrew bird At this rare intimate-venue show (which sold out rather quickly) Andrew Bird will be previewing songs from the forthcoming Armchair Apocrypha, due out on Fat Possum in March. If the live versions of the new stuff available online are any indication, the new record (recorded with collaborator Martin Dosh) might be as stubbornly eccentric as it is lush and pretty. Paulina Hollers open; Rudy Day and Dreamberg DJ following Bird's set. a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $16, sold out. --Monica Kendrick
cpaul metzger Twin Cities multi-instrumentalist Paul Metzger has played thrashy, jazz-influenced rock with TVBC on and off since the late 80s, but as idiosyncratic as that band's material can be, it pales next to the solo music Metzger's unveiled in the past couple years. His CD Three Improvisations on Modified Banjo (Chairkickers' Union) owes more to Indian ragas than American mountain music. He's fitted his instrument with 21 strings--including several resonating, or sympathetic, strings--and for the album's opening passage he uses an E-Bow to create a sound like a cross between a musical saw and a bansuri, or Indian bamboo flute. After working that tone into quivering, uncoiling shapes for four and a half meditative minutes, he starts plucking and striking the strings while rapping on the banjo's surfaces, sounding much like a one-man duet of tabla and santoor. On "August," his side-long contribution to a recent Roaratorio split LP with the duo of Ben Chasny and Chris Corsano, Metzger plays a guitar with a similarly large complement of strings, which he's further customized with the guts from a couple music boxes--their stark chiming provides a succinct counterpoint to his dramatic flamenco-style strumming and swooning slide licks. Metzger's Chicago debut is part of the second weekend of the ongoing multidisciplinary presentation "Impossible Cities: A Utopian Experiment" (see Theater), which begins at 7:30 tonight. He opens on tabla with the Forgotten Works, an acoustic duo with guitarist Erik Wivinus, then headlines on banjo. He'll play longer sets solo and with Wivinus on Sunday at the Empty Bottle; see separate Treatment item for details. a 9:20 PM, Peter Jones Gallery, 1806 W. Cuyler (second floor), 312-458-0566 or 773-472-6725, $15. A --Bill Meyer
mucca pazza It can't be easy herding this many cats, never mind finding room for all of them on a stage, but self-described "circus punk marching band" Mucca Pazza operates with a degree of precision and organization that would make a high school band director swell with pride. On their self-released debut, A Little Marching Band, they go to ridiculous lengths to achieve maximum sound density: the usual brass, woodwinds, and percussion get piled onto by accordion, strings, and nearly anything else you can find in a halfway decent music store. The band's raucous and giddy live shows are so unabashedly dorky that by the end every member of the 30-strong lineup winds up coming off cooler than you'll ever be. This show is part of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival; see page TK for a complete schedule. Office, the God Damn Doo Wop Band, and Tigercity open; Major Taylor DJs upstairs. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, 18+, $15. --Monica Kendrick
never enough hope See Friday. a 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee (2nd floor), 773-342-4597, $7. A
cscroat belly Bloodshot Records says on its Web site that this legendary Kansas band's 1996 debut, Daddy's Farm, might be "the most polarizing record we've ever put out." Well, I can understand that--nobody ever threw a scarier shot of alt into alt-country than Scroat Belly, a bloody-mouthed, poo-flinging, bottle-smashing bluegrass-based nightmare that infused your basic Flatt & Scruggs high-speed plucking with metallic violence and a sort of PCP-flavored anarchy that at times recalled early Butthole Surfers. They didn't sound like hillbillies so much as punch-drunk Huns. Their wizardly chops meant they could clean up and play nice when they wanted to--but they rarely wanted to. (Split Lip Rayfield, where a couple members ended up, maintains much of the Scroat energy but little of the unpredictability.) Tonight's reunion show continues a series of benefit concerts and fund-raising drives for singer-guitarist Kirk Rundstrom, who is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer and has no health insurance. Devil in a Woodpile opens. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15. --Monica Kendrick
UNIQUE CHIQUE On their new Ethica EP (Loose Tooth), these locals sound kind of like the Changes' little brothers--their indie soft rock is all jazzy chords, twinkling arpeggios, and rapturous vocal harmonies. Like the songs on their 2005 full-length, It Never Fails Forever, the seven tracks on Ethica stretch out to four and a half minutes on average, as opposed to the pop standard of three or so--another thing these guys have in common with the Changes--but the concise EP format makes it feel more like an alpha nap than a sustained languid mood. Cola Wars headline and Unique Chique plays third; Modern Temper and Honeybear Wild open. a 8:30 PM, Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln, 773-549-5549, $7. --J. Niimi
varttina Finland's Varttina, the popular face of the Scandinavian folk revival, has transformed itself dramatically over its long career: formed in the early 80s as a children's folkloric vocal ensemble, the group pared down its membership and added a rock-inflected rhythm section to the riffing accordion and sawing fiddle. Varttina has continued to develop, working more and more originals into its repertoire and experimenting with electronics and dance-oriented beats, but what hasn't changed are the female vocals at the music's core. On the group's latest album, Miero (Real World), Susan Aho, Mari Kaasinen, and Johanna Virtanen sing fiercely feminist lyrics in their trademark close harmony, with pinpoint precision and a tone that cuts like a knife. I find the production too slick and the rock flavor too strong, but there's no quibbling with the power of the singing. a 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $22, $18 kids and seniors. A --Peter Margasak
cLANG LANG WITH MUSICIANS FROM THE CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Like Icarus, pianist Lang Lang may have risen too fast, the burgeoning of his immense physical talent--Barenboim once said he must have an extra finger--outstripping his development as a musician. His ability to satisfy critics seems almost inversely proportional to his ability to excite the public. He can be overly flamboyant, yet his extraordinary technique, enthusiasm, and sincerity keep him engaging. Chamber music could be a healthy challenge, forcing him to listen and rein in his exuberance for the good of the ensemble. Here he joins CSO members Yuan-Qing Yu (violin), Yukiko Ogura (viola), Kenneth Olsen (cello), and Michael Hovnanian (double bass) in performing Schubert's Trout Quintet, a joyful piece that reflects the composer's youthful delight at vacationing in the Austrian countryside. Composed for an amateur cellist, it contains wonderful writing for the cello, which is freed by the presence of the double bass to soar melodically. The concert opens with Mozart's Divertimento in E-flat, a masterpiece for string trio in which the voices of the violin, viola, and cello are interwoven to perfection. Elegant, inventive, and profound, it ranks with his best chamber work. a 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $31-$68. --Steve Langendorf
cpaul metzger See Saturday. Forgotten Works and Relaxation Record open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7.
never enough hope See Friday. a 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.
ccause co-motion!, tyvek, the blankket Brooklyn spasmodics CAUSE CO-MOTION! kick up a brisk racket that recalls 80s shamble pop like the Television Personalities or the Pastels. On their new Which Way Is Up? seven-inch (What's Your Rupture?) and last year's vinyl EP This Just Won't Last (so far they've only released seven-inches and EPs, in keeping with their hit-it-and-quit-it MO), front man Arno Kleni sings with such guileless dorkiness and infectious enthusiasm that you wish he were your roommate, so you'd never be depressed or bored.
Detroit four-piece TYVEK recorded their no-fi debut, a self-titled seven-inch for X! Records, on a cassette four-track, then mixed and pressed it at a total cost of $739. The B side, "Honda," has an invigoratingly sloppy, thrown-together feel, like the band formed five minutes before the red "record" light came on with every intention of breaking up when the song ended. They've got a seven-inch coming out on What's Your Rupture? and share a guitarist with no-wave primitives Little Claw, who are putting out an EP on Ecstatic Peace.
THE BLANKKET is Steven Kado, onetime member of the Hidden Cameras, current member of Ninja High School, and cofounder of Toronto's Blocks Recording Club, which has released discs by Fucked Up and Final Fantasy. Kado refers to his one-man show as "karaoke" and won't spill the beans about his Chicago debut, except to say he'll "probably be doing something with rice."
Pyrite headlines; Cause Co-Motion!, Tyvek, and the Blankket open. a 8 PM, Ronny's, 2101 N. California, 773-235-6591, $5. --J. Niimi
cjoe lally Joe Lally has long been idolized for his awesome work as Fugazi's bassist, but when he emerged as a singer and songwriter on the band's later albums, most people were caught off guard (myself included). In the context of punk's premiere bombast, his jangly cooing made for some real WTF. Fugazi hasn't made an album or played a show in more than four years, but Lally did recruit Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto (among a who's who of old-school D.C. megatalent) to pitch in on his first solo album, There to Here (Dischord), released in October. And while the record strikes some familiar notes--you can definitely hear how integral Lally has been to Fugazi--ultimately these jams are all his own. Bluesy and blessedly awkward, they verge on low-key psych before detouring into someplace colder and spookier and staying there. Lally may not be much of a singer, but his visceral, unvarnished vocals are a good match for his brooding, sociopolitical lyrics. For this show Lally will be backed by Capillary Action, who play their own set in the second slot of this four-band bill; Bird Names play third and Them, Roaringtwenties open. a 9 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, 18+, $8. --Jessica Hopper
QUATRE TETE These locals are actually a power trio, pardon their French. They self-released their debut, The Marvel of Specialization, in late 2003, and they've been working on a follow-up ever since. In 2005 they cut a five-song demo with hoarse vocals, walloping drums, and chugging neo-metallic guitar that bring to mind Rye Coalition, but after those sessions longtime drummer Andrew Coon quit, and front man and guitarist Mark Bartak and bassist Becka Joynt nearly packed it in. Fortunately they found a replacement, and now they're returning to the studio (with Bob Weston, who recorded the demo) to redo some older tracks and lay down new ones, including several of the short, mathy instrumentals they refer to as "gamelans" (which they eventually hope to release on a separate EP). They're currently without a label but hoping to have the full-length out in the spring. Grinner headlines, Quatre Tete plays second, and Gyre opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. --J. Niimi
cRON SEXSMITH Toronto's Ron Sexsmith has such an unassuming way with a melodic hook that it's easy to take his sublime craftsmanship for granted. Though at this point (he's in his early 40s) it seems unlikely he'll ever become a big marquee name, he's one of the strongest pop songwriters of the past decade. Time Being (released in the U.S. by Ironworks, a label owned by Kiefer Sutherland and Jude Cole) reunites him with producer Mitchell Froom, who oversaw three of his finest earlier albums, and on it Sexsmith stays true to form: he's an eternal romantic, and sees love as the one thing that can break through the misery and pain of everyday life. "Jazz at the Bookstore," about how the hot-blooded music of years past gets repurposed as aural wallpaper for yuppie coffee boutiques, is about as far as he strays from that territory into anything like social commentary. But Sexsmith's lyrics are secondary to his gentle but indelible melodies--he's like a less nasal, less verbose, less spiteful Elvis Costello. Kim Taylor opens. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $18, $15 in advance. --Peter Margasak
the bomb Recently back from a tour fraught, as tours often are, with medical and automotive drama, Naked Raygun veteran (and sometime reanimator) Jeff Pezzati and his squad of somewhat younger guys (including the rhythm section from the Methadones) will soon begin recording the follow-up to 2005's remarkable Indecision (Thick). It'd be a shame if these guys got lost in the shuffle of fourth-generation pop-punk acts, since they play a powerful variant of the style--smart, literate, couched in 80s-underground-rock tunefulness, and redolent of hard-won adulthood. Four Star Alarm (led by Bomb guitarist Jeff Dean) and Textbook open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. --Monica Kendrick