Most people don’t know it, but the unassuming Tara Key is one of the most spectacular rock guitar players alive: the many times I’ve witnessed her frenetic, near-implosive power have been some of my greatest live-music thrills. Not the typical guitar hero, Key is scrappy and self-taught, but by extending her “mistakes” she’s forged an instantly recognizable style, not flashy but intense. After starting out with Babylon Dance Band during the early-80s Louisville punk-rock explosion, she earned most of her laurels in the New York-based Antietam, whose highly idiosyncratic art punk is marked by a hyperactive, almost suffocating rhythmic attack, Key’s oblique melodicism, and guitar extrapolations ranging from slow burn to inferno. Although the band has a new record out–Rope-a-Dope (Homestead)–and she’ll be backed by Antietam bassist Tim Harris (her husband), Antietam drummer Josh Madell, and the band’s former bassist Wolf Knapp, this is a Tara Key show. Last year she released Bourbon County, a striking solo effort that focused on her more lyrical side, and out soon is Ear and Echo, a more directed solo outing of forlorn introspection, brooding instrumentals, and a dark tunefulness. I’m sure there’ll be some of Key’s signature trial-by-guitar, but more intriguing is the chance to get a glimpse of her gentler, if no less intense, side. Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Michael Galinsky.