CHARLES BRADLEY In 1962, when Charles Bradley was 14 years old, his sister took him to hear James Brown at the Apollo. The show made a big impression on him, but it would be decades before he’d be able to show the world just how big. In the intervening years, Bradley moved around the country, making a living as a cook and devoting his spare hours to music; he eventually developed a James Brown tribute act where he called himself “Black Velvet.” He lived in the Bay Area for 20 years but in 1995 moved back to New York, where in 2000 Gabriel Roth—brain trust and main producer of Daptone Records—caught his act at the Tar-Heel Lounge. Bradley was in particularly low spirits because his brother had recently been shot and killed, and Roth was just the man to help him ease his pain with music. Roth introduced him to guitarist Thomas Brenneck, who enlisted Bradley to work in his funk band the Bullets; Brenneck went on to form the Budos Band, and his friendship with Bradley led the singer to a collaboration with a similarly eclectic instrumental funk group, the Menahan Street Band. Earlier this year Daptone subsidiary Dunham Records released No Time for Dreaming, Bradley’s long-overdue debut, where the influence of prefunk James Brown rubs shoulders with traces of Bobby Womack (though Bradley has a much raspier voice). In “Heartaches and Pain” Bradley’s lyrics recall the death of his brother, and “Why Is It So Hard?” is a musical travelogue of his struggles. It’s knockout record, one my favorites of 2011, and yet another A&R coup for Roth—after Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, Bradley is the third veteran singer he’s rescued from certain oblivion. For his Chicago debut Bradley will be backed by members of
the Budos Band and the Menahan Street Band. The Budos Band headlines. 9 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600, sold out, 17+. —Peter Margasak
LOWLow have never directly addressed America’s current wars in their music, but the noise-scoured songs and struggling spirit of their two previous albums, The Great Destroyer and Drums and Guns, reflect the creeping violence and moral quandaries of life during wartime. The new C’mon (Sub Pop) is all about picking up the pieces and carrying on, whether the strife’s really over or not—they even seem to be walking away from their fight to upend their sound, returning to the familiar slow and sparse Low style. On “Done,” guitarist Alan Sparhawk sings as a man who’s still wandering in the desert but ready to come home. On “Witches” he wants to swing a baseball bat at everything that dogs him, but his own kids cheer him when he makes his peace. The songs sung by drummer Mimi Parker (Sparhawk’s wife) imagine a path out of turmoil without shortchanging the painful conflict that persists; on “Especially Me,” tears of heartbreak help bring a couple together again, but the longing for reconnection isn’t more important than telling the truth. The sonic experimentation of Low’s previous efforts has been replaced by a renewed focus on one of the band’s core virtues: Sparhawk and Parker’s gorgeous harmonies. C’mon was recorded in a century-old cathedral, and the couple’s voices sound big enough to fill it all by themselves. Gaberdine opens. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $18, $15 in advance. —Bill Meyer
PAK New York multi-instrumentalist and one-man jazz-prog maelstrom Ron Anderson has been leading PAK for more than a decade now, but it’s far from his only project (he recently reactivated the Molecules and has an occasional playdate with his Japanese soulmates Ruins), and even a player of his boundless energy can only juggle so many swords and flaming torches at once. Consequently the new Secret Curve (Tzadik) is only PAK’s third full-length—and it sounds like Anderson, drummer Keith Abrams, and multi-instrumentalist Tim Byrnes have been hoarding sounds for the occasion. Everything comes at you hard and fast—dazzling guitar lines dart through time signatures that feel like algebraic equations, and dumbfounding profusions of notes add up to grand, cryptic gestures. It’s as if a swarm of bugs has been harnessed to pull a chariot, with Abrams’s clattering drumming suggesting the cadence of a million tiny feet. Mayor Daley headline; PAK and Wrekmeister Harmonies open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $7. —Monica Kendrick
DANILO PEREZ For nearly two decades Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez has been one of the most exciting keyboardists in jazz. His sharp musical intelligence allows him to connect disparate traditions by sussing out their commonalities—rarely more thrillingly than when he located the Latin American rhythms in the music of Thelonious Monk on 1996’s Panamonk. Over the past decade, however, his best recordings have been with the Wayne Shorter Quartet; for his occasional solo albums, he’s tended to work on huge canvases, often smothering the music with his ambitions. That’s certainly the case with last year’s Providencia, which is larded with epic, multipartite compositions and overdone arrangements. Perez is best when he stays focused, like he does on “Galactic Panama,” a trio cut with guest saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa—its fiery volatility complements the embroidery of feverish Panamanian rhythms onto a jazz cloth. On “Bridge of Life,” by contrast, an interruption by classical chamber instruments (flute, oboe, bassoon, French horn, clarinet) saps the music’s vitality; other pieces pack in so many ideas that they start to meander. Luckily, for this engagement Perez is playing in his long-running trio with bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz, the context where his complex ideas come across most clearly—his astonishing virtuosity, rhythmic mastery, and improvisational spark don’t need elaborate arrangements or guest musicians to take flight. See also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $30. —Peter Margasak
BLACK LIPSThe Black Lips were bound to settle down and mellow out eventually, and not just because the inexorable passage of time tends to leach the rowdiness out of people—they were at risk of being banned from every rock club on earth, if not ending up prematurely dead. Though they’re now less likely to piss in each other’s mouths onstage, the Black Lips are no less exciting; when they tamed their antics, they made it that much easier to notice that they’re a ridiculously good group of musicians. Most of the forthcoming Arabia Mountain (Vice), produced by Mark Ronson, remains seriously under wraps, but the songs the band has released into the wild thus far contain some of the cleverest and most memorable hooks of their career. If the woozy, MDMA-glamorizing “Modern Art” is any indication, even a relatively sedate Black Lips are more decadent than many modern acts ever get. Vivian Girls and Outer Minds open. 7 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600, $15. —Miles Raymer
CHANCHA VIA CIRCUITO Buenos Aires DJ crew Zizek Urban Beats Club have earned their reputation transplanting well-traveled cumbias into the digital era, jacking up the already frenetic beats with booming bass and hypnotic loops. But on the recent Rio Arriba (ZZK), charter member Chancha Via Circuito, aka Pedro Canale, reaches for something broader and more meditative. He remixes traditional folk tunes sung by Jose Larralde (“Quimey Neuquén”) and Miriam Garcia & Alicia Solans (“Pintar el Sol”), respecting the heart of the acoustic performances while undergirding them with a firm rhythmic musculature. His original tracks sometimes tap into folk traditions from the Andes and Bolivia—and even when they don’t, they’re much calmer and slower than ZZK’s typical bangers, casting a kind of sedative spell that warps the rhythms of cumbia, dub, and dancehall. El G and Sonorama open. 9 PM, 8fifty8 Lounge, 858 W. Lake, 312-455-2776, $15, $10 in advance. —Peter Margasak
ELEVENTH DREAM DAYEleventh Dream Day cut the new Riot Now! (Thrill Jockey), their first album in five years, in a single day, and its raw, rugged sound recalls the midnight-hour immediacy of their 1988 debut LP, Prairie School Freakout. Douglas McCombs’s bass playing and Janet Bean’s drumming are much more precise now than they were back then, but front man Rick Rizzo provides a perfect counterbalance with his guitar—despite the eloquence that his playing has developed over the years, at its heart it’s still post-Neil Young gutbucket. His creaky guitar noise gets a dose of almost angelic grace, though, from harmony vocals by Bean and guest Sally Timms. Rizzo is smarter and wiser than he was in the late 80s, if no less cynical, and the new album meditates soberly on the helplessness so many Americans feel as they lose faith that the country’s democratic system will ever include their voices. He wants to shake up the complacent (on “Sonic Reactor” he shouts, “Riot, riot now!”), but feelings of futility or weary resignation generally win out (“Free fall is the best / It’s when you can rest,” he sings on the sweetly melancholy “That’s What’s Coming”). Even the glint of optimism on “Divining for Water” is hardly encouraging: “What’s left behind / Might be enough / But it’s going to take a whole lot more than luck.” There is something hopeful about the record, though, and it’s the fact that Eleventh Dream Day have held onto their love for playing for nearly three decades—listen to Riot Now! and you can feel it yourself. As usual Eleventh Dream Day is joined by keyboardist Mark Greenberg, who’s become a more or less permanent member; the 1900s open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $14, $12 in advance. —Peter Margasak
KEN MODE When I stumbled across KEN Mode (KEN stands for “Kill Everyone Now”) in 2008, not long after the release of Mennonite, it was thanks to an automated Facebook recommendation—evidence enough, I think, that this Winnipeg trio weren’t getting the attention they deserved. Their Unsane-possessed noise rock boils with vitriol, sure, but it’s eloquent in its rage, with an expansive harmonic vocabulary and a sophisticated ear for structure. Since Mennonite came out, KEN Mode have signed with Profound Lore (which is on one of underground metal’s great hot streaks) and recorded their fourth full-length, Venerable, with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou at his infamous GodCity studio—I can’t imagine the whole “not enough attention” thing being a problem much longer. “Book of Muscle” opens the album with a crushing rumble of bass and drums, while front man and master riff maker Jesse Matthewson swallows the mike, his vocals a distorted howl of pissed-offedness. Venerable is first and foremost about the bricks-through-your-boss’s-window jams, but Matthewson and his brother Shane, the band’s drummer, have the technical prowess to keep the ferocity crisp and focused—and the occasional brooding moment, like the eerie instrumental “Flight of the Echo Hawk,” adds depth to the power. Judging from the lineup for this show, the Mutiny is gonna be a smoldering crater come Saturday. The Chicago Thrash Ensemble headlines; Fuck the Facts, Bongripper, and KEN Mode open. 9 PM, Mutiny, 2428 N. Western, 773-486-7774. —Kevin Warwick
DANILO PEREZ See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $30.
TV ON THE RADIOCanceled. It’s strange to see TV on the Radio—a rock band that’s made an art out of not acting like a rock band—succumb to the typical manifestations of musical middle age. After the breakthrough 2008 album Dear Science, they took a hiatus and went their separate ways. The lead singer spent his downtime making cameos on other musicians’ songs. The tech-minded ideas guy did production work for other people. The guy with the quirky hairstyle cut his hair. Multiple side projects sprung up, to mixed reviews. Now the members finally get back together, and the results have some of TVOTR’s most avid fans saying “Hmm” when they hoped to go “Oh my God.” That’s not to say that the brand-new Nine Types of Light (Interscope) doesn’t have its high points. “No Future Shock” shows off their twitchiest postmillennial funk, and “Will Do” is simply one of the best songs they’ve ever written—it makes me want to cry, and not in a bad way. Yet most of the record has the sparkless feel of a band playing by rote. I may be holding them to a ridiculously high standard, but it’s their own fault for having previously made such goddamn great records. Glasser opens. Canceled. TV on the Radio bassist Gerard Smith died of lung cancer April 20. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out, 18+. —Miles Raymer
JACQUES DEMIERRE & VINCENT BARRAS In the 90s Jim O’Rourke caught some flak for playing accordion instead of guitar on a Mats Gustafsson gig, but for him exploring new turf was part and parcel of his improvisational ethos. Something similar might be said of this performance by Swiss pianist Jacques Demierre, who’s spent much of the past decade establishing himself as a player of great range and curiosity—tonight he won’t even be touching a piano. Demierre is best known as an improviser—he played Chicago in 2003 in an excellent trio with bassist Barre Phillips and saxophonist Urs Leimgruber—and within that world he’s covered a lot of territory. On the 2008 solo album One Is Land he creates billowing clouds of low-end rumbling on one piece with a heavy foot on the sustain pedal, and on the other he goes to town on the piano’s innards; on last year’s Brain & Balls BBQ (Creative Sources), a collaboration with percussion duo Buttercup Metal Polish, he rides the violent ebb and flow with post-Cecil Taylor clusters. Here’s he joining a fellow Swiss, performer and historian Vincent Barras, to perform a sound-poetry work called Voicing Through Saussure—an entirely vocal piece that involves stretching, manipulating, and elaborating upon the sonorities of the Indo-European tongues that linguist Ferdinand de Saussure isolated in his studies. If you’re reading this on Wed 4/20, you may still be able to see Demierre and Barras perform Voicing Through Saussure for free at 8 PM in the U. of C.’s Bond Chapel, 1025 E. 58th. 8 PM, Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N. Ravenswood, 773-769-1069, $10, $7 students and members. —Peter Margasak
MARTHA’S VINEYARD FERRIES Bob Weston (Shellac, Volcano Suns, Mission of Burma) and Elisha Wiesner (Kahoots) started Martha’s Vineyard Ferries in summer 2009 as a “fake joke band,” in Wiesner’s words—Kahoots is based mostly on Martha’s Vineyard. But before long they enlisted Chris Brokaw (Come, Codeine, Pullman) to play drums and holed up in Chicago to write and record some for-real songs. Last year Sickroom released the EP In the Pond, four blasting, flinty tunes that recall the mid-80s heyday of Boston’s underground rock scene, when groups like Volcano Suns (pre-Weston), Salem 66, the Neats, and Christmas juggled sharp humor, postpunk noise, and brooding melodies. In the Pond is the best eight minutes of straight-up rock I’ve heard all year—most younger bands could learn something from its concise, terrific songwriting. These are the trio’s first Chicago shows; see also Tuesday. Stnnng headlines; Martha’s Vineyard Ferries and the Gary open. 8:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $10. —Peter Margasak
DANILO PEREZ See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $30.
STEVE IGNORANT Born out of the London squats in the late 1970s, art-punk collective Crass were both very much of their time and well ahead of it. Cofounders Steve Ignorant and Penny Rimbaud never quite fit with the working-class (or wannabe working-class) nihilism of, say, the Sex Pistols, being both extremely idealistic and a little too literate for their own good. Due in large part to Crass’s influence, punk aesthetics and politics increasingly absorbed anarchist philosophy, social-justice activism, and elements of neo-Fluxus street theater and culture jamming—within the punk community, pacifist/vegetarian/collectivist thought started to become a norm in its own right, not just a consequence of rejecting the norms of the larger society. The band’s praxis actually started to overshadow their music, and they probably didn’t mind too much . . . at least until their breakthrough third album, 1981’s experimental Penis Envy, which pissed off oi-machos (who needed it simple) as well as British censors (who still had teeth). Crass proper called it quits in 1984, but front man Steve Ignorant has performed the band’s music intermittently since then (to the disapproval of Rimbaud). I’m with Ignorant on this one. Though the collective may be gone and the times may have changed, Crass’s songs still deserve to be aired onstage. Nonetheless, Ignorant says this “Last Supper” world tour will be the final time he’ll perform them live; his last-ever show is set for November in London. Jewsus opens. 4:30 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775, $25, $20 in advance. —Monica Kendrick
BOOKER BROWN Memphis-based vocalist Booker Brown released A New Beginning (Steel Groove) in 2007, and at the time I reviewed it for Living Blues magazine. The album is crudely produced but vividly emotional, and I guessed that “the excitement and intensity of a live setting might just be what he needs to showcase his gifts to their best advantage.” Little did I know. The performance I saw Brown give in a nondescript South Memphis motel lounge last summer rivaled anything I’ve ever seen from a deep soul artist. Coaxing the house band into a 6/8 ballad pattern reminiscent of Sam & Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” he improvised an extended meditation on love, loss, and freedom, ascending from a coruscating whisper into a hellfire-to-heaven scream as he pieced together a portrait of a tormented spirit desperate with yearning and faith. He finished with something I wouldn’t have dreamed possible: a version of “A Change Is Gonna Come” so thoroughly recast that it almost eclipsed Sam Cooke’s gold-standard original. Where Cooke had sung it in the voice of a careworn pilgrim bound for glory, Brown portrayed a cornered man too desperate to worry about existential niceties: his voice, exploding with anguish and fury, sounded like nothing so much as a fist in the face of God. Memphis singer Soul Child headlines; Brown, Jo Jo Murray, and Sidney Joe Qualls open. Mister Lee emcees. 7 PM, the Zone, 16300 Dixie Highway, Markham, 708-369-0998, $30, $25 in advance. —David Whiteis
DANILO PEREZ See Thursday. 4, 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $30.
MARTHA’S VINEYARD FERRIES See Saturday. The Gary and Wereworm open. 9 PM, Quenchers Saloon, 2401 N. Western, 773-276-9730, $5 suggested donation.
GOBBLE GOBBLE Give a hardcore kid a sampler and he’d probably hope to pull off something that sounds like Gobble Gobble, the ecstatic electro-pop project of punk expat Cecil Frena. Frena earned his DIY stripes in Alberta, Canada, with Snic and Gift Eaters, and the spirit of those old groups is alive and well in the hyperactive energy and jittery, fuzzed-out synths of his solo act—not to mention his falsetto vocals, which sound like an ambulance siren. Frena dropped Gobble Gobble’s lo-fi debut, Neon Graveyard, in 2009, then released three seven-inches last year whose jubilant songs seemed to leap into the clouds. Live, he incites a dance-floor frenzy with the help of three tutu-wearin’ dudes who double as his backing band and stagehands—they provide extra percussive oomph with a homemade drum kit and a couple hockey helmets (played while still on their heads, of course), pitch in on synth and sampler, and use everything from a leaf blower to a giant green tarp to entertain the sweaty crowd. It might not sound like a hardcore show, but the kids can’t seem to get enough of it. Glitter Bones, U.S. English, and Rites open. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, 18+. —Leor Galil