HABIB KOITE & BAMADA 2/20, OLD TOWN SCHOOL OF FOLK MUSIC Guitarist and singer Habib Koite, a griot’s kid from western Mali, is currently leading his ensemble on a monthlong sweep of U.S. cultural capitals and college towns in support of the new Foly! Live Around the World (World Village). On the double CD (recorded, despite the title, at shows in Europe) the six-piece band consistently finds its way to a meditative zone, often stretching songs to twice their studio length. Otis Taylor (see Critic’s Choice) opens. LIGHT FM 2/20, SCHUBAS These locals rank high on the Why Don’t They Have a Label Yet? list. They’ve been gigging around frequently for over three years and released a very promising debut EP in 2002. Some of those songs are reprised on Light FM’s first full-length, This Is the Beginning of My Golden Age, and they’re worth hearing again, but the new ones are even better. Guided by dead-on songwriting instincts a la the Cars or the Cure, the band offsets the catchy with the dark and heart-wrenching, backing unshakable melodies with unexpected grandeur. Yeah, I know, it’s early yet–but I think this’ll hold up as one of the best pop records to come out of Chicago this year. The show is a release party; Midstates and the Penthouse Sweets open. SUMMER HYMNS 2/21, SCHUBAS As a follow-up to last year’s well-received Clemency, this Athens sextet just released an EP, Value Series Vol. I: Fools Gold (Misra), and it’s that rare kind of outtakes-plus record that’s just as rewarding as the “real” albums (the next one of which is due this summer). Deliberately unfocused, sweetly lazy, this stuff wanders around a sunlit landscape somewhere between Robert Wyatt and Yo La Tengo: melodies trail off, guitar lines converge gently against a keyboard backdrop. Centro-Matic headlines; the Pale opens. rromantics, CHESTERFIELD KINGS 2/22, DOUBLE DOOR Maybe the wheel does need to be reinvented every so often, whenever some new generation decides that tank treads or sleigh runners are the thing and rides them till they wear out. Garage rock is the wheel in this case, and the Chesterfield Kings helped reinvent it the first time, back in the late 70s and early 80s, when only a few dedicated misfits weren’t lining up to try out those fancy new synth-pop stilts. That revival stayed so far below the radar for so long that even the most attentive of the new garage brood can be forgiven for figuring the Kings disbanded years ago. So it’s fitting that last fall’s The Mindbending Sounds of…the Chesterfield Kings (Sundazed) is titled like a debut. Garage patron Little Steven produced and plays on one track, and his syndicated radio show is sponsoring part of this tour, which has the Kings supporting, of all bands, the Romantics. Don’t expect a straight-up nostalgia set from the headliners: despite their flirtations with cloying pop (am I the only person who’s always hated “What I Like About You”?), the Detroit band’s roots are in garage, and reportedly they’re showing. The Lust Killers play first. ZOX 2/22, SCHUBAS Born in a dorm at Brown and working the jam circuit out of Providence, this summery-sounding band sets a new bar for good-natured stiffness on its debut, Take Me Home (Armo). The identifying trait is the sound of violinist Spencer Swain, who gets the brightest, cheeriest tone I’ve ever heard from a rock fiddler–at first I was tempted to FedEx the guy a distortion pedal. But he suits the group well: their giddy mix of ork pop, jam pop, and extremely white reggae plays shamelessly to fans of cutesy college rock. Inspirational couplet: “It’s so hot outside I could fry an egg / But I’m eating Taco Bell and getting high instead.” OFFWHYTE 2/24, BOTTOM LOUNGE Considering that this local underground hip-hop hero’s new album, The Fifth Sun (Galapagos4), was inspired by Aztec and Mayan apocalyptic prophecy, a surprising sense of joy comes through in the nimble grooves and the way he gets his five-dollar words to shake every syllable they’ve got. Follow it and it’ll lead you to the subtext of these novelistic, poetic, and essayish jams: an exhortation to get your consciousness in the air before it’s too late. Also playing this show–which kicks off Galapagos4’s Submerged State Tour–are Qwel, Meaty Ogre (both of whom guest on Offwhyte’s album), Mestizo, and Robust, whose new Potholes in Our Molecules should help him shake off that unjust novelty tag he got from Freelance Gynecologist a few years back.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.