cLUCKY 7S Historically the one time of year every musician in New Orleans can find work has been Mardi Gras. The fact that Crescent City trombone and tuba player Jeff Albert was in Chicago for Mardi Gras 2006, debuting this seven-piece band at the Empty Bottle, speaks volumes about the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. Albert and local trombonist Jeb Bishop conceived of the Lucky 7s as a Chicago-New Orleans partnership, but the other New Orleans musicians in the group, bassist Matthew Golombisky and drummer Quin Kirchner, moved here before the first rehearsals--only Albert is sticking it out in his hometown. (Three Chicagoans--cornetist Josh Berman, vibist Jason Adasiewicz, and reedist Keefe Jackson--round out the lineup.) Bishop and Albert wrote most of the tunes on Farragut (Lakeside Digital), recorded the same week as the Bottle show, and despite the Katrina references in titles like "504 No More . . . ?" and "Swirling," it's a lively affair, running the gamut from bold, pulsing postbop to jittery, meterless musings. Over the next week the band will record new tunes by at least four members. See also Saturday and Sunday. a 9 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $10. --Bill Meyer
walker kong A while back I heard Walker Kong's "My Photographer Friend," and it was so catchy it made me track down the 2001 album, There Goes the Sun. Unfortunately the rest of the CD was a dog, as was most of 2004's Transparent Life, which led me to believe that this six-piece Minneapolis combo was the kind of band that, like Neutral Milk Hotel and their Elephant 6 compadres, will occasionally write a hundred-dollar song but still clutter it up with the kind of superfluous arrangements (with string sections, horns, and other "chamber pop" accoutrements) that obscure the averageness of their two-buck stuff. However, the problem with Walker Kong's latest, Deliver Us From People (Magic Marker), is that the more straightforward rock arrangements don't provide quite enough distraction from their weak songwriting. Walker Kong opens, followed by Balun and Boat; Adam Fitz headlines. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. --J. Niimi
cLUCKY 7S See Friday. a 9 PM, Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak, 312-791-9050, $10.
the record low I don't know why this local quartet hasn't been snapped up by a label when far less salable and likable indie pop bands are getting record deals, but in any case they make a good test case for the equalizing effect of the Internet. The Record Low's first full-length, Here to Stay, which they put out earlier this year, can be downloaded via iTunes and Rhapsody as well as purchased the old-fashioned way. But my guess is that their flavor of record-collection rock--a weird hybrid of passive-aggressive 70s chill and teeth-grinding 80s tension, with high sweet croons and pealing guitars--will appeal to those with an appreciation for limited-edition CDs with hand-silk-screened cardboard covers. The Championship and Lesser Birds of Paradise open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick
THE SLOW POISONER Andrew Goldfarb of San Francisco once led a band called the Slow Poisoners, but gradually it dwindled: now Goldfarb writes his creepy-kooky-mysterious-and-spooky songs, sings, plays guitar and drums (often at the same time), and picks out his country-gothic mad-preacher outfits all by himself. Though he can't quite match the energy level of Hasil Adkins or the easy fluency of Robyn Hitchcock, his aesthetic, as heard on last year's Roadside Altar, finds a midpoint between the two, full of voodoo spells, surrealistic randomness, and surfabilly licks gone wrong. Goldfarb's also an amusing comics artist and sells his own patent medicine--a bargain at $3 a bottle if it really does cure barnacles, onanism, necrosis, the fits, and "disinterested bladder." Considering his nom de rock, of course, you might want to just keep it as a conversation piece. The Crying Shame headlines; Naked & Shameless opens. a 10 PM, Cal's, 400 S. Wells, 312-922-6392, $5. --Monica Kendrick
cTRAVIS Responses to Travis's fifth and latest album, The Boy With No Name (Sony), have been mixed: fans, of course, mostly love it, while NME, early champions of the Scottish quartet, gave it two stars out of ten and a brutal one-paragraph walloping. Personally, I'd say anyone who can get too bent out of shape about these guys is fundamentally misunderstanding their project. Demanding emotional depth from the band that invented the adult-contemporary-indie genre (influencing a ton of bands along the way, including Coldplay) is like trying to construct a balanced diet around doughnuts. It's telling that the record's powerhouse production team of Nigel Godrich (Radiohead), Mike Hedges (the Cure), and Brian Eno, none noted for a reluctance to get his hands dirty, left the band sounding pretty much the way it always has--that is, like the sonic equivalent of extremely high-quality tap water. That said, the lead single, "Closer," is strikingly gorgeous, like Coldplay with their more maudlin tendencies attenuated. John Paul White opens. a 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $39.50. A --J. Niimi
c Phillip Walker Guitarist Phillip Walker was born in Louisiana, but he came of age in Texas, where he was immersed in an array of musical styles--from zydeco and honky-tonk to early rock 'n' roll-. Around 1953 he moved to California, where he absorbed the smooth jazz-blues style pioneered in the postwar years by T-Bone Walker (no relation), Johnny Moore, and others. Walker recorded his first 45 in 1952 and has long been a major player on the live blues circuit, but his own discography is rather slight. On this year's Going Back Home, his first release on Delta Groove, he seems determined to make up for lost time. He plays with fire and artistry, whether invoking a 50s West Memphis juke ("Honey Stew"), updating Percy Mayfield's sardonic sophistication with a dash of East Bay funk ("Lying Woman"), or getting his 'Bone on with a deliciously wicked reworking of Champion Jack Dupree's "Bad Blood." a 10 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, 773-342-0452, $15. --David Whiteis
cLUCKY 7S See Friday. a 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.
cSCOUT NIBLETT On her early records, Scout Niblett came on like the Cat Power of the British seaside--same mumbling drawl, though not as beaten down by living--but she managed to carve out her own niche on her last record, Kidnapped by Neptune (Too Pure, 2005). Her sultry mooning was replaced with a nervous energy, as if she were finally possessed of her own ideas and couldn't wait to share them. The title track has the feel of a happy accident, a jam that quickly turned into a song, but Niblett is forceful as she lopes along, strumming a guitar over some crooked drums, knowing she's onto something sharp. She dives headfirst into the weirdness with her latest release, the three-song "Just Do It" seven-inch (Too Pure): on "Dinosaur Egg," she begs an unhatched dinosaur and a robot slave to come to life for a party, -but it's a heartbreaker, not a joke. Niblett opens for St. Vincent. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Jessica Hopper
cQUINTRON & MISS PUSSYCAT Ever see a street person whooping it up on the sidewalk, looking like he was dressed by magpies, and wonder for a second if he's got it right and everything you know is wrong? That's the feeling I get whenever I meet this industrious New Orleans couple. Quintron's a man-child scalawag, cranking out dinky roller-rink ditties, haunted-castle overtures, rumbling Swamp Thing grooves, and revivalist gospel on his customized organ, howling like a Delta blues version of Steve Perry and accompanying himself with his patented Drum Buddy. Like a silk rose with glue-gun dewdrops, his latest release, the 12-inch EP Jam Skate (Rhinestone), is tawdry and campy but with deep feeling behind it. Onstage with Quintron, Miss Pussycat is an unbridled show pony, gleefully yelling her backups and whipping her maracas around like it's the last thing she wants to do before she dies. She has her own act too--wholesome, weird, and hilarious puppet shows with animal characters who play instruments. About a hundred of her puppets will be on display together for the first time here, along with matching dresses she's made for herself. Her movie Trixie & the Tree Trunks will screen before the music, at 8 PM, and she may also put on shows between sets. Only 100 tickets will be sold, all in advance, via reversibleeye.com/events.html. The Lord of the Yum-Yum and Brilliant Pebbles open. a 9 PM, Reversible Eye Gallery, 1103 N. California, 773-862-1232, $15. A --Liz Armstrong
MUSHROOMHEAD Back when they were starting out in the early 90s, Mushroomhead were best known as a lite version of Gwar. A few years later, they became semifamous as the band that Slipknot supposedly stole their shtick from. After a couple records on Universal, they released their latest, Savior Sorrow, on Megaforce last year. But these Cleveland-based purveyors of the gleefully stoopid are still plugging away, and good for them: it's inevitable that their frat-boy rage won't always sound so buff, but when that day comes, they can at least take comfort in the knowledge that they were always better than fucking Slipknot. Mushroomhead appear as part of the Hot Topic-sponsored Sounds of the Underground tour; the entire bill, headliner first: Gwar, Shadows Fall, Chimaira, Every Time I Die, Mushroomhead, Necro, Job for a Cowboy, Amon Amarth, Darkest Hour, the Acacia Strain, Heavy Heavy Low Low, the Number Twelve Looks Like You, the Devil Wears Prada, Goatwhore, and 2 Cents. a 12:45 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-559-1212, $28. A --Monica Kendrick
c SAMBASUNDA When it comes to Indonesian music, most of us think of the gamelan orchestra--of which there are many variations--but with some 300 ethnic groups the country has much more to offer. A few years ago Smithsonian Folkways put out a stunning 20-CD overview and still barely touched on forms that had emerged in recent decades. For the past 15 years Ismet Ruchimat--a veteran of the influential Jugala Orchestra led by Gugum Gumbira, who developed the popular dance style Jaipongan in the 60s--has been making music with the 17-piece SambaSunda, based in Bandung, the sprawling capital of West Java. Ismet plays the zitherlike kacapi and writes gorgeous melodies and arrangements that imbue native traditions with a sophisticated pop sensibility. Most of the material is instrumental--flutes, metallic and wooden tuned percussion, and string instruments deliver harmonically complex layers of soothing, hypnotically rippling sound---but Rita Tila emphasizes the group's pop leanings in her arresting vocals. This is SambaSunda's Chicago debut, and considering how rare it is to hear any sort of Indonesian music here, it's just icing on the cake that it's free. a 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan, 312-742-1168. F A --Peter Margasak
PAT BENATAR With four consecutive Grammy wins and an additional four nominations, Pat Benatar owned the 80s, but sadly her legacy isn't that of an indomitable pop artist or a chart-topping feminist. Instead, she's largely thought of as a relic of the leg-warmer era. People might still be stuck on the image of her prancing with the her bedraggled girl gang in the "Love Is a Battlefield" video, but Benatar never stopped recording and touring. Tonight she'll be appearing with her husband Neil Giraldo, who's played guitar on every album she's ever made. Lennon opens. a 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $45-$47.50, 18+. --Jessica Hopper-
cGRINDERMAN Nick Cave and three of his Bad Seeds--drummer Jim Sclavunos, bassist Martyn Casey, and violinist Warren Ellis--started Grinderman as a raw alternative to their meticulous main band. My colleague Jessica Hopper has called their self-titled debut a midlife-crisis record, but it's not pathetic, as that might imply--in fact it's one of the year's best rock albums. Cave laces his lyrics about aging, impotence, irrelevance, and loneliness with morbid wit. "I must above all things love myself," he sings on "No Pussy Blues," but sexual frustration drives him to self-emasculation: "I bought her a dozen snow white doves / I did her dishes in rubber gloves / I called her honeybee, I called her love / But she just still didn't want to." Cave frequently hangs a mask of feeble machismo over this sort of desperation and bitterness, and the inarticulate aggression of his guitar work--he taught himself to play just months before making the record--reinforces that notion of masculinity as hollow display. But his noisy, ugly playing also works musically, slotting perfectly into the stripped-down songs--nobody here wastes a note. Opening are Digital Primitives, a trio of drummer Chad Taylor, reedist Assif Tsahar, and diddley bow master Cooper-Moore. a 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $26, 18+. --Peter Margasak
cTHOMAS HAMPSON American baritone Thomas Hampson has one of the world's great voices. Warm, rich, and velvety, it can range from a hushed quiver to the kind of ravishing high-voltage fortissimo needed for Wagner--he won a Grammy in 2003 for his recording of TannhŠuser. With the charisma of an opera star and the poetic soul of a lieder singer, he's a riveting performer, able to fully inhabit a role and evoke its emotional depths. Hampson has long had an intense attachment to Mahler, deepened by a series of collaborations with Leonard Bernstein: together they performed and recorded many of Mahler's vocal works during the last few years of the conductor's life, including the early song cycle Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen ("Songs of a Wayfarer"), which Hampson will sing tonight with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A story of unrequited love told in four poems by the composer, it shares many qualities with his First Symphony--folk-inspired melodies, descriptions of nature, and orchestration that covers a breathtaking range of moods. Christoph Eschenbach conducts. The program also includes Bruckner's Seventh Symphony. a 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$50. A --Barbara Yaross
cERIK FRIEDLANDER Cellist Erik Friedlander is an integral part of New York's new-music community, where his ability to improvise and handle difficult arrangements has made him a valuable collaborator for folks like John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Sylvie Courvoisier, and Mark Feldman. He's also played pop sessions with everyone from Joss Stone to the Mountain Goats. But on his forthcoming solo album Block Ice & Propane (Skipstone) he uses the cello to craft a distinctive brand of Americana--inspired, he's said, by camper trips he took with his family as a child. (His father, photographer Lee Friedlander, planned them around work assignments.) The guitar was Friedlander's first instrument, and although his arco work is great, the record's most striking passages come when he puts down the bow and plays pizzicato, getting a twangy, rolling sound reminiscent of fingerstyle guitarists like John Fahey and Leo Kottke. This music, with its parched ambience, would serve well as a soundtrack to vistas from the southwest and the Great Plains: its slow-moving melodies and hovering textures seem borne by the wind. Here Friedlander will perform cuts from the album on his own, then improvise with drummer Tim Daisy. a 10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, donation requested. A --Peter Margasak
RA RA RIOT After a postgig party in Massachusetts last month, John Pike, the 23-year-old drummer for this Syracuse chamber-pop sextet, disappeared; he was found dead the next day, the victim of an apparently accidental drowning. The band's superb self-titled debut EP, released through the Rebel Group, was set to come out the following week, and summer tour plans---a UK jaunt followed by U.S. shows supporting Tokyo Police Club and Editors---were all in place. Fortunately, they've chosen to go on: with gems like "Each Year" and "Can You Tell" to suggest their promise, Ra Ra Riot would only be compounding their tragedy if they called it a day. Mason Proper and Sleep Out open. a 9 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance, 18+. --J. Niimi
cZELIENOPLE, GROUPER Stumbling stargazers of the first order, the local trio ZELIENOPLE are not just gifted but prolific, with five releases in the past year or so, each one better than the last. If they ever toured, I imagine a lot more people would be paying attention to them. This is a release party for their latest, His/Hers: five long, scintillating tracks that blend dreamy drone folk a la Charalambides or Windy & Carl with clanging, pungent fuzz freakouts that sound like Acid Mothers Temple in a rare focused moment. Some passages are distant and wistful, as though echoing through a foggy forest, and others are thick with a cybershamanic spirituality that's just a bit vicious, like an alternate Velvet Underground where Lou Reed quit instead of Angus MacLise. With ringing long tones like Tibetan prayer bowls cranked to 11 and reverb so extravagant it's like one of Timothy Leary's metaphorical reality tunnels crystallized as an actual physical cavern, this stuff is red meat for anyone who's ever loved a band that played at Terrastock. --Monica Kendrick
I'm not sure Liz Harris was thinking ichthyologically when she named her one-woman band GROUPER, but listening to her albums is like trying to catch fish with your bare hands. The nine tracks on her full-length debut, Way Their Crept (Free Porcupine Society), sound like they started out as regular songs, but they're swimming in so much delay that you can't grasp the words or melodies--often her voice is the only instrument that's still identifiable. On the follow-up, Wide, you can tell she's singing in a language, even if you can't be sure which one, and her minimal guitar and piano lines emerge like bones showing through skin. But the mystery at the music's heart remains--proof that it's more than just the side effect of a signal processor. --Bill Meyer
This is a showcase for the British label Type, which put out Zelienople's His/Hers and two Grouper releases, the "Tried" seven-inch and an LP version of Way Their Crept. Helios headlines, Zelienople plays second, and Grouper opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8.