GAZA STRIPPERS 3/6, LOUNGE AX I’m always enamored of a good mystery, and no one can tell me shit about this band except that it’s the new project of former Didjits singer and guitarist Rick Sims. I do know that next week the Gaza Strippers will take whatever (probably raucous) thing it is that they do down to South by Southwest to try it out on all the schmoozeballs in Austin, so tonight might be a good night to take a chance on an unknown band with a hell of a great name. If you go, wear your asbestos hat, because Nashville Pussy headlines.

SEAM, BROKEBACK 3/6, EMPTY BOTTLE If you’re eagerly awaiting that new Seam record…well, maybe this show will take your mind off it for a while. Though the album was due out this month, the belated discovery of faulty equipment at two different studios in town will send the band packing for North Carolina to mix it next week. Down a notch on the bill is Doug McCombs, who has just released his second seven-inch single as the solo act Brokeback. For obvious reasons, Brokeback doesn’t approach the complexity of McCombs’s main gig, Tortoise–the melodies are played on a six-string bass over simple loops programmed into digital delay pedals–but there are links in both mood and material. The singles are little slices of engaging, entrancing, unpretentious pop (yes, pop) augmented by impeccable taste: the first includes a Beefheart cover, and the second deserves to sell thousands for its gorgeous die-cut sleeve alone. The Lonesome Organist and Jim O’Rourke also perform.

BOUNCING BALLS, POLKAHOLICS 3/7, PHYLLIS’ MUSICAL INN When poet Lydia Tomkiw, who was Don Hedeker’s partner in the band Algebra Suicide, moved to New York a few years ago, something in Hedeker snapped. In fact, it’s still snapping: freed from the cool literariness of that band, he exhibits the sort of manic energy usually restricted to smaller mammals with shorter life spans. While his long-lived power-pop band, the Bouncing Balls, is pleasant enough, the real treat here will be his side project, the frenzied, vaguely sadistic Polkaholics, who speed savagely through ditties like “Who Stole the Kishka” and “No Beer in Heaven”–and aren’t above polkafying a Sabbath riff from time to time.

Black Umfolosi 3/8, RUBLOFF Auditorium, Art Institute Formed in 1982, just two years after black majority rule was established in Zimbabwe, Black Umfolosi is an all-male a cappella group that performs traditional south African mbube music. Mbube–which takes its name from the title of the groundbreaking song that later became “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”–is a close relative of the style called iscathamiya, which was popularized by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and their pal Paul Simon in the 80s. It developed among Zulu-speaking migrant workers in labor camps at the turn of the century–partly in response to the popularity of touring African-American minstrel shows, which is an interesting cultural turnabout–and then evolved in an increasingly urban industrial context, much as doo-wop did in the States. The group appears as part of a series called Also From Africa, which runs in conjunction with the Art Institute’s exhibit of Baule art from the Ivory Coast. This is sort of like booking an Italian group in conjunction with an exhibit of Scottish folk art under the rubric Also From Europe; perhaps the March 31 lecture entitled “What Do We Talk About When We Talk About African Art?” will shed some light on the thinking here.

JESSE COOK 3/8, ROSEMONT THEATRE Though this Berklee-trained guitarist and his unfortunate Michael Bolton hair hang out on Billboard’s New Age chart, there are moments on his second album, Gravity (Narada Equinox), that threaten actual funk. There’s a method to Cook’s mildness–he neatly incorporates mild flamenco guitar, mild Arabic rhythms, mild hip-hop beats, and mild Latin jazz into a mildly intoxicating brew. So you toss back your glass of nonalcoholic sangria, then step into the dance (wearing sensible flats under your black lace) with a tall, dark stranger who might be handsome if he lost that baseball cap. But what the hell, it’s Sunday night and you’re feeling reckless. He plays as a guest with the Chieftains. –Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Black Umfolosi uncredited photo.