apples in stereo, tullycraft The APPLES IN STEREO toured last year in advance of their new album, and now they're out again behind it; given that it's been five years since the previous record, they probably feel they've got to work overtime to shift the consensus backstory from "whatever happened to?" to "long-awaited return." New Magnetic Wonder not only took nearly two dozen musicians to make, it came out on three labels at once (Yep Roc, Elephant 6, and Simian, a pet project from geek's-geek celebrity Elijah Wood). Thankfully, the Apples' playful willingness to stick their collective neck out at awkward angles hasn't suffered at all from the hiatus, or from all the cooks in the kitchen: their glistening, giddy, ELO-worshipping tunes make, as always, a charmingly odd fit with their three-quarters-assed experimentalism. In other words it sounds like they never went away. --Monica Kendrick
Indie-pop legends TULLYCRAFT are probably best known for their 1995 anorak anthem "Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend's Too Stupid to Know About," which captured the dogmatic antimainstream ethic of the time in dumbfoundingly dorky couplets like "Well, he can keep the Lemonheads and Weezer he gave you / 'Cause you and me got Heavenly and Nothing Painted Blue." This terminally coy lyrical bent, together with the band's somewhat dubious technical abilities and Sean Tollefson's squeaky, love-it-or-want-to-stab-him-in-the-head-with-a-barbecue-fork singing voice, were Tullycraft's way of drawing a line in the sand and became a kind of boldness in their own right. The 2005 disc Disenchanted Hearts Unite (Magic Marker) tempered the twee-as-fuck aesthetic a bit with tighter playing, stronger hooks, and much improved recording values. --J. Niimi
The Apples in Stereo headline, Casper & the Cookies play second, and Tullycraft opens. a 8:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $14, $12 in advance, 18+.
cJIMMY BURNS From the 50s into the 70s, this guitarist and singer performed in doo-wop, folk, and soul acts (his 60s and 70s discs on USA, Tip Top, and other local soul labels are collectors' items). That kind of resume might make you wonder if Burns isn't just a stylistic opportunist, but it's helped give his blues work--his primary output for nearly 30 years now--the range that's its strongest suit. His well-tempered baritone can sound alternately vulnerable and harsh, and his guitar playing combines the pop-tinged jauntiness of his soul days with a pungently bluesy mix of declamatory chords and sharp-toned, string-bending leads. He's been making records for Delmark since 1996, and while the latest, Live at B.L.U.E.S. (for which I wrote the liner notes), focuses on mainstream modern-day blues, there are also some rootsy flashbacks ("Miss Annie Lou," "Country Boy in the City") and savory dollops of fatback soul ("No Consideration"). It's all held together by Burns's ebullient personality and unassuming craftsmanship. He's got a regular engagement Wednesdays at Kingston Mines; see separate Treatment item for details. a 9:30 PM, B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted, 773-528-1012, $10. --David Whiteis
cmartin carthy, eliza carthy, and tim van eyken The surge of interest in British folk music over the past decade has led to the resurrection of several careers, including those of fascinating artists like Vashti Bunyan and Bert Jansch. But the music never really went away, and few have so steadfastly carried the torch through the lean times as the superb family band Waterson: Carthy, members of which will be performing as a trio in this rare Chicago appearance. (Singer Norma Waterson, who's been playing with members of her family in various combinations for more than 40 years, has unfortunately dropped off the bill.) Guitarist and singer Martin Carthy, perhaps best known as a member of Steeleye Span, has long trafficked in obscure, traditional songs, but he doesn't get hung up on preserving every period detail. With daughter Eliza Carthy on fiddle and mandolin and Tim van Eyken on melodeon, the focus instead is on impressively lean arrangements and lovely vocal harmonies. a 7:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $20, $16 kids and seniors. A --Peter Margasak
rob crow Rob Crow's new Living Well (Temporary Residence) in some ways follows the MO of his two previous solo releases, 1996's Lactose Adept and 2003's My Room Is a Mess--it favors short vignettes over the meticulous, baroque constructions of his main band, Pinback. But it's less schizoid, closer to the experimental prog-pop of other Crow groups like the late Heavy Vegetable and the long-dormant Thingy, and it partakes of some of Pinback's subdued melodicism. This tightened focus may have something to do with the fact that Crow can now get his riffs in and rocks off with Goblin Cock, his dress-up-metal side project, but whatever the reason, Living Well is the first Crow solo record that feels like an album rather than a catchall for his idle (albeit inspired) home noodlings. Make Believe and Sharks and Seals open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. --J. Niimi
ettes My deep dislike for Los Angeles is probably what makes it hard for me to believe that's really where the Ettes are from. That and the overdriven stomp of their full-length debut, last fall's Shake the Dust (Sympathy for the Record Industry), which sounds more like Memphis garage than the shiny, vacuous haircut rock LA is famous for. Scrape off the Ettes' carefully applied vintage grime, though, and you'll find a pop band not too far removed from the female-fronted new-wave groups that helped the city's music scene--and even Top 40 radio--kind of kick ass for a minute back in the early 80s. Garage purists put off by the Ettes' overall prettiness and majority girliness (two members out of three!) might change their minds after hearing them beat the hell out of the Reigning Sound's "We Repel Each Other." The Fake Fictions, Pyrite, and the Singles open. a 9 PM, Ronny's, 2101 N. California, 773-235-6591, $5. --Miles Raymer
cgewandhaus orchestra of leipzig The Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig began as 16 musicians from a merchant concert society organized in 1743, but its roots go back to Telemann and Bach. It also collaborated with Mozart and premiered major works by the likes of Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms. Mendelssohn led the Gewandhaus in the first performance of Schumann's First Symphony, and 166 years later the orchestra is bringing it to Symphony Center. This limited yet invigorating work is free of the emotional turbulence found in much of Schumann's piano music, and it can sweep the listener away. The second work on the program, Mahler's Fifth Symphony, is one of his most popular, yet it's difficult to get right. Though Mahler's writing is striking, the piece can sound like a collection of ideas he did better elsewhere--even the incredibly moving adagietto seems a precursor to the Ninth Symphony's incomparable last-movement adagio. Conductor Riccardo Chailly has long been an advocate of Mahler's music; his recent live recordings with the Gewandhaus, of Bruch and Mendelssohn, reveal a beautifully blended sound, with sections speaking as part of a whole.
a 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $35-$79. --Steve Langendorf
cdo make say think Do Make Say Think has gotten tangled up in a few indie trends over the years: first in the post-rock craze (CRAZE!) of the late 90s and more recently in the hysteria stirred up by the Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, who reminded Americans that Canada exists and that musicians actually live there. All the while this quintet has quietly gone about its business of writing consistently powerful and soothing songs--some dense with drones, others filled with twinkling space--and wrapping them all up in a record every now and again. Their just-released fifth album, You, You're a History in Rust (Constellation), is really pretty and pleasant listening. If you enjoy Gastr del Sol, Tortoise, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, or any other band that might sample the sound of someone walking in the snow and use it in place of vocals, then boy are you in luck! Holy Fuck opens. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Jessica Hopper
RICKIE LEE JONES Everyone claims to want their artists constantly evolving and unpredictable, but it seems that a lot of the ones who actually do evolve unpredictably don't get treated terribly well--the chronically underrated Rickie Lee Jones being a case in point. In the 80s and 90s, while battling drug and alcohol problems, she still occasionally managed to produce something so wonderfully weird--1997's exotic electronic dreamscape Ghostyhead, for instance--that it was outright startling. The music world had all but forgotten she was alive, and there she was artistically thriving. Her latest, The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard (New West), is just such a brilliant oddity: based on the words of Jesus from the Gospels, it's musically audacious and adventurous, mixing mysticism and blue-eyed soul with jarring, thrilling rock textures. a 8 PM, Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $40, $35 in advance. A --Monica Kendrick
cindigo trio This group's new Live in Montreal, recorded in 2005, captures the first time its members--flutist Nicole Mitchell, bassist Harrison Bankhead, and drummer Hamid Drake--performed as a trio. That's astonishing, not just because they've collaborated so often in other groupings over the decades, but because on the CD they sound like they've spent years absorbing the material (four collective improvisations and two Mitchell originals), hovering together in that sweet spot between detailed lyricism and airy spontaneity. Mitchell is one of Chicago's most talented improvisers and well on her way to becoming jazz's greatest living flute player--great enough to redeem the notion of jazz flute for people who'd otherwise think of Will Ferrell. Here she threads skeins of melody through long-form harmonic structures and terse motific variations, while the rhythm section nonchalantly follows her complex lines as if they'd memorized the schematics beforehand, tugging and tightening where needed. Though Mitchell largely runs the show, there's plenty of space for Bankhead and Drake, whose extended solos effortlessly maintain the music's snap and swing. Live in Montreal is the third album in the online-only Paperback Series on Dave Douglas's label Greenleaf. This early show is a release party; the Jazz Jam with Isaiah Spencer begins at 9. a 6 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $15. --Peter Margasak
cmingus big band Charles Mingus was a paradigm-shifting bassist, a volatile bandleader, and a quite readable author. But it's his skill as a prolific and visionary composer, of everything from tough and tender ballads to rollicking jazz anthems, that has allowed the Mingus Big Band to remain fresh and viable for the past 15 years. Though Mingus did write large-ensemble material, the MBB works instead from new arrangements of small-group classics like "Boogie Stop Shuffle" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" as well as lesser-known masterworks such as "Free Cell Block F" and "Cumbia & Jazz Fusion." Mingus's widow, Sue, directs the band, continually reconstituting it by drawing from a pool of former Mingus sidemen--trumpeter Jack Walrath on this tour--and recruiting such excellent young soloists as saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy, and pianist Orrin Evans. Take-no-prisoners music may not strike you as the first thing you want to hear in the morning, but that only makes this "jazz brunch" performance all the more unusual. a 1 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $20. --Neil Tesser
cPLASTIC CRIMEWAVE VISION CELESTIAL GUITARKESTRA,
PRIMORDIAL UNDERMIND Given how much Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, contributes to the Chicago music scene, it's nice to see the scene give back--in this case, by finally making his quixotic dream of leading a psychedelic guitar army come true. (Krakow says he tried nearly ten years ago at Roby's, but the show was canceled.) Last month, in an e-mail calling for participants in the PLASTIC CRIMEWAVE VISION CELESTIAL GUITARKESTRA, he explained that he intends the performance to be a "sonic exorcism on the evil that rules this land in the key of the almighty E." He also strongly encouraged "devotional attitudes, flowing robes, sunblindness, fever dreams, chaos magick," and the use of modestly sized amplifiers--as the guitarkestra (or Krakowkestra, as I prefer to call it) has gathered momentum, he's had to start asking people to bring extension cords and power strips too. I'm sure he's only half joking when he says he hopes the group doesn't knock out the power for the whole block--at last count he had more than 50 guitarists signed up to contribute to the mighty drone, including Bobby Conn, Ben Vida, Rob Lowe, and members of Coughs, the Dials, Dark Fog, and White/Light.
These days PRIMORDIAL UNDERMIND main man Eric Arn (late of Crystalized Movements, the 80s New England psych band that also spawned Magic Hour) lives in Vienna, Austria, but he's still got a second home of sorts in Austin, his favored haunt for most of the past eight years. That's where his band recorded its latest album, last fall's Loss of Affect (Strange Attractors Audio House), which covers all your basic flavors of mind alteration: trippy and spacey, heavy and crunchy, jarring and dissonant. (The current tour features the American players from those sessions.) Primordial Undermind's lush psychedelia seems to hail from an alien opium den, where avant-garde films screen on the stamped-tin ceiling, rusted-out robots learn folk dances, and the proprietor--who likes to tell the story of how he stowed away on Sun Ra's spaceship as a kid--is constantly changing the wallpaper by snapping his fingers.
The Krakowkestra headlines, Primordial Undermind plays second, and Screaming Yellow Zonkers open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick
cJIMMY BURNS See Friday. This is a regular weekly gig. See Friday. a 9:30 PM, Kingston Mines, 2548 N. Halsted, 773-477-4646, $12.
elana james Following a stint in Bob Dylan's touring band, Elana James has stepped forward with a self-titled solo album whose un-Dylan-like tone suggests that the hot jazz and western swing of her former group, Hot Club of Cowtown, still course through her veins. She sticks primarily to brisk waltzes and two-step grooves, tackling Duke Ellington alongside her own material, though there are a few surprises: "All the World and I" has a chill Carter Family vibe, for instance. Her thin voice doesn't add much to the tunes, but she does play a mean fiddle. Bruce Robison headlines.
a 8 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $15. --Peter Margasak
cmv & ee In an interview in January's issue of the Wire, Matt Valentine posited a personal variation on Duke Ellington's famous pronouncement that music is either good or bad: "It's either sound with a fuckin' message or it's wimpy." Valentine and his fellow singer, multi-instrumentalist, and messenger Erika Elder have amassed an impressive discography that includes stacks of CD-Rs on their private Child of Microtones imprint, deluxe-edition LPs on an assortment of tiny labels, and a new album called Green Blues on Ecstatic Peace that's been sucked into Universal's distribution pipeline. Taken a track at a time, their output is befuddling: I can't find the common thread that might connect a gorgeously lyrical 12-string guitar fantasia, a wobbly Canned Heat-style boogie, a feedback excursion that could be the missing link between the final tracks of the Grateful Dead's Live Dead and Sonic Youth's Evol, and a take on Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" that wanders so deep into canyons of echo it sounds like an outtake from Sun Ra's Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy. In concert these apparent contradictions often manifest themselves unpredictably. I've heard Valentine and Elder sound gentle or wild, openhearted or indifferent, simply marvelous or really bad--but never wimpy. Taken as a whole, their work seems to envision a synthesis of many strains of American outsider music--one that finds strength in diversity and solace in disorientation. Dirty American Organ, the duo of Scott Tuma and Matt De Gennaro, plays second, and Tirra Lirra opens.
a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Bill Meyer
nightingales It seems like by now we should've run out of great unsung bands to pull kicking and screaming out of the past, but apparently they're a renewable resource. The UK's Nightingales, veterans of punk's first wave, evolved into a jittery and electrifying postpunk act of the Beefheart-Pere Ubu school. Pets of John Peel, they gigged like crazy and released a slew of singles--along with three albums--before calling it quits in the late 80s. In recent years Cherry Red gave their old LPs the grand-reissue-campaign treatment and, lo and behold, the Nightingales arose from the dead. Last year's comeback album, Out of True (Iron Man), practically bent the space-time continuum with its invocation of the heady days of postpunk's first flush. Shopping and the Horse's Ha open.
a 8:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
ERIN McKEOWN On the terrific new Sing You Sinners (Nettwerk), Erin McKeown recovers the whimsy and rhythmic looseness that set her apart from the singer-songwriter pack when she first emerged about seven years ago. Her previous album, We Will Become Like Birds, stifled her naturally catholic tastes and impressive range by cramming her into an alt-rock box; here she busts out wide-eyed takes on a slate of pop standards like "Get Happy," "They Say It's Spring," and "Paper Moon." While many of the songs employ amped-up swing arrangements, she radically revamps others--"Just One of Those Things" becomes a murky, melancholy drone. McKeown's not a jazz singer, but I can't think of many other pop vocalists this comfortable with sophisticated melodies and an elastic sense of time. And I can't remember when I last heard someone so clearly enjoy the simple act of singing a bunch of songs. Luke Doucet opens. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. --Peter Margasak
cmy chemical romance Great concept albums like Ziggy Stardust, Sgt. Pepper's, and The Village Green Preservation Society are one of the most compelling arguments for rock 'n' roll as a legitimate art form--the serious novel to the pop single's penny dreadful. But there's something to be said for Kiss's Music From "The Elder", Garth Brooks's weird Chris Gaines thing, and all the other records where not-quite-geniuses make the leap at serious artistry and fall totally short. They may be failing, but they're failing extravagantly, and hubris is a good look for rock stars. My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade (Reprise)--an overwrought pileup of Queen-size grandiosity and mall-punk sneer with an alleged story line I still can't parse after dozens of listens--belongs somewhere between column A and column B. Nothing on the album is as brilliant as the lead single, "Welcome to the Black Parade," but the band has enough charisma to keep even its boldest, worst ideas--like the beer-hall sing-along with Liza Minnelli on "Mama"--from crashing and burning. Rise Against opens.
a 7:30 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont, 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212, $30. A --Miles Raymer
cyo majesty If there was any justice in pop music, the Yo Majesty refrain "rub on my monkey" would be as established in the lexicon as "get your freak on" and "chirp back." So far the Tampa Bay trio has remained an Internet phenomenon, a favorite of MP3 bloggersteins and UK online-radio DJs quick to realize that a shoulda-been hit like "Kryptonite Pussy" was more than just novelty flash. Shunda K, Jwel B, and Shon B have been rapping together since 2000, but they still have the freshness of isolated amateurs, coming up with their own nasty and slightly peculiar catchphrases rather than sticking strictly to convention. And even in the moments you've heard before--"Club Action" features a chorus of "fuck that shit" shouted over some Florida electro-bounce--Yo Majesty is so confident and ferocious you'd think they invented it all. They rarely play outside their home state; luckily they've included us on their current four-city tour. E6 headlines, Lee Foss plays third, Yo Majesty plays second, and Matt Roan opens. a 9 PM, Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W. Grand, 312-666-1695, $5. --Jessica Hopper