SAMANTHA CRAIN Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter Samantha Crain has toughened up her sound on her recent second album, You (Understood) (Ramseur). The drums hit harder, the guitars are louder, and the band sound is denser, but her loopy, beguilingly eccentric voice remains the focal point, its quivering vibrato, airy curlicues, and giddy swoops pushing and pulling on the slippery folk-rock melodies. Crain has called the album’s lyrics an “attempt to preserve her contact with some human beings, 16 to be exact,” but they’re not as impressionistic as that might suggest—”We Are the Same” describes the selflessness and self-absorption of a new romance with carefully considered precision, and it’s all the better for it. Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles headline. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12. —Peter Margasak
HOLE Of the many roles Courtney Love has played, in rock and out of it, her most recent incarnation is her most rock ‘n’ roll yet. She’s going where no female rock star has gone before: the latter-day Jim Morrison zone. Love is a nouveau Lizard Queen for the queens and the real bitches, with a little showbiz-weary, end-of-the-road Judy Garland grand dame thrown in for good measure. Her new band and record can’t hold a candle to Hole in its grunge prime, but there is something genuinely satisfying in seeing her soldier on, defying her haters and the burden assigned her as widow of the dead genius. Foxy Shazam opens. The same bill also performs at the same venue Wed 7/14. 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 866-448-7849, $35, 18+. —Jessica Hopper
ORCHESTRE POLY-RYTHMO DE COTONOU Formed in 1968 and an institution in their native Benin for decades, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou existed for most of that time outside the world-music circuit, their music and reputation largely confined to Africa. But since 2003 that’s been changing, thanks to astonishing reissues of their vintage work like last year’s excellent Echos Hypnotiques (Analog Africa), which collects tracks from 1969 through ’79. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo’s mastery of a broad range of styles popular in West Africa—Afrobeat, Congolese rumba, even a kind of mutant funk based on Beninese vodoun rhythms like sakpata and sato—is so confident and complete that it can sometimes sound like you’re listening to four or five different bands. And no matter what its flavor, the music bursts with ferocious rhythms, soulful singing (both frenzied call-and-response chants and sculpted melodies indebted to American R & B), and some of the fieriest psychedelic guitar playing ever recorded on the continent. Most of the songs have astringent, crosscutting horn charts and inventive counterpoint on organ or analog synth—the group’s lineup has often tipped the scales at more than a dozen—but they’re just icing on the cake given the unearthly things Orchestre Poly-Rythmo can do with guitars and drums. They began their first proper tour of Europe last year, and now they’re finally hitting the States. Only four original members remain, including lead singer Vincent Ahehehinnou and the group’s founder, guitarist and saxophonist Melomé Clement, but I’ve been privileged enough to hear some new as-yet-unreleased recordings and I can say with confidence that the current ten-piece version of the band hasn’t lost a step. There’s no show this year I’ve looked forward to more. La-33 opens. 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan, 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak
CANDY CLAWS In a world where the Rentals’ second record got the audience it deserved, a capsule description of this Colorado group—a duo plus six touring members—could simply say their music is like Seven More Minutes drenched in post-Animal Collective mushroom psych and be done with it, and people would just know that that was a great sound. But we don’t live in that world, so I suppose I should add that the group’s approach to synth-heavy pop finds the beating heart within their oscillators, that their boy-girl vocals summon a very specific kind of complicated bittersweet feeling without any noticeable effort, and that “Snowflake Eel Wish” (from last year’s Indiecater LP In the Dream of the Sea Life) is the type of thing you’d put on a mix tape for someone hoping it would be the one song they’d really fall for. Aras & the Volodkas, Brother George, and Brutal Beatings open. See also Saturday. 9 PM, the Cave, Serbian Cultural & Arts Center, 448 W. Barry, 773-549-9690 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Miles Raymer
CANDY CLAWS See Friday. Best Coast, who are in town for Pitchfork, headline; Candy Claws and Bird Talk open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12.
CAP’N JAZZ Even when it appeared they’d never reassemble, no subsequent project—not even Joan of Arc—could ever quite outrun the shadow of the good Cap’n. That’s the cross you bear when your troubled-teen band was the Fugazi of the western suburbs, midwestern emo’s alpha and omega. After a decade-plus of goading, the boys—now grads and dads—are back, and if the surprise show I saw at the Empty Bottle this spring is any indication, they’re as mercurial as they ever were. They blazed through those basement hits with the old hardcore fury and adulthood’s new precision, with front man Tim Kinsella keen and punk petulant, screaming like a kid again. Gauge and Plague Bringer open. See also Sunday. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, sold out, 17+. —Jessica Hopper
E.T. HABIT Local four-piece E.T. Habit includes two former Detroiters—front man Christmas Woods, who also drums in Mickey, and Billy Hafer, the phenomenal drummer for Human Eye—and the band’s future-primitive yawp would fit right in with the Motor City’s ever-daring millennial art-skronk scene. (The other two members are bassist Jason Sublette, formerly of Ga’an and Mayor Daley, and guitarist Alex Nova.) You get the feeling these guys like hanging out and jamming not so much because they’re looking for a creative outlet or a way to work out some stress, but because they want to find their own psychic Solarises—places where reality becomes exactly what’s in their minds. Powered by Hafer’s monstrous drumming—and by reverb and delay pedals cranked up far enough to skull-fuck the space-time continuum—E.T. Habit’s shimmering Hawkwindy space-rock (with song titles like “Mutating Under the Microscope” and “The Drift of Ethereal Dunes”) is a welcome new addition to Chicago’s underground. It’ll be interesting to see how this band evolves. Pop. 1280 headlines. 5 PM, Permanent Records, 1914 W. Chicago, 773-278-1744. —Brian Costello
TOM PETTYTom Petty was already a full-fledged rock ‘n’ roll god when he joined the Traveling Wilburys dream team in the late 80s, and his 2002 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside the Heartbreakers was the very definition of no duh. And good thing, because it takes an ironclad record of making legendary music like Petty’s to withstand a tragedy like “Don’t Pull Me Over,” from the new Heartbreakers album, Mojo (Reprise). An unbelievably ill-advised attempt at reggae that offends on any number of levels—beginning with its Casio-preset toss-off arrangement and ending with Petty’s approximation of Sting’s approximation of a Jamaican accent—it’s terribleness so pure and unalloyed that it’ll make you reconsider how bad bad really is. But goddammit, it’s Tom Petty, and the rules say that if you write “American Girl” then you get a free pass forever. Drive-By Truckers open. 7:30 PM, United Center, 1901 W. Madison, 312-455-4500 or 866-448-7849, $49.50-$125. —Miles Raymer
TESCO VEE’S HATE POLICE Little kids should be aware there’s more to their teachers than meets the eye, right? Former grade-school teacher Tesco Vee is a witty and prolific producer of all sorts of things that little ears should never hear, particularly in his role as front man for the infamously obscene Meatmen. The hardcore zine he started in the late 70s with Dave Stimson, Touch and Go, grew into a label that became a legend—though it’s possible that some of Touch and Go’s more respectable acts might not choose to remember the label’s origin in the mind of the man who wrote “Tooling for Anus,” “Crippled Children Suck,” and “1 Down, 3 to Go” (the Meatmen’s tender tribute to the late John Lennon). The Meatmen are still active (and their songs will make up half tonight’s set), but Vee is taking his Hate Police on the road to promote the release of Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ‘79-‘83 (Bazillion Points), a fat volume of grade-A music history that’s still a ripping good read three decades later. You might want to hide it from particularly delicate children, though. Vee and the book’s editor, Steve Miller (formerly of Touch and Go bands the Fix and Blight), will give a free reading at 7 PM at Quimby’s, 1854 W. North. White Flag, Das Kapital, and Fester open at the Abbey, and the first 50 people through the door get a free copy of the Meatmen DVD The Devil’s in the Details. 9:30 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-463-5808 or 866-468-3401, $14, $12 in advance, $10 with proof of Pitchfork admission. —Monica Kendrick
CAP’N JAZZ See Saturday. Gauge and Tongues open. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, sold out, 17+.
KENGE KENGE This Kenyan ensemble, which began its life as the backing group for a state-sponsored choir and became Kenge Kenge in the early 90s, has a fascinating but peculiar take on benga music, the guitar-driven dance style that arose in the mid-20th century and has dominated Kenyan pop since the 60s. Benga evolved in part from the traditional music of the Luo, one of the country’s largest ethnic groups, and Kenge Kenge purposely undo some of that evolution, using ancient Luo instruments instead of rock-style drum kits and electric guitars—on the group’s 2007 debut album, Introducing Kenge Kenge (Introducing), electric bass is the sole concession to modern music technology in a lineup that includes orutu (fiddle), asili (flute), oporo (horn), and nyangile (gong) as well as a heap of traditional percussion. Unison vocals create rich melodic patterns, and the lush sonic fabric woven by the front-line instruments sparkles with high harmonies. Yet Kenge Kenge’s rigorous, minimalist dance music, with its irresistible bumping rhythms and cycling grooves, is not only folkloric but thoroughly contemporary. The beats are tightly layered and intricate, and there’s something about their hypnotizing relentlessness—and the group’s rough-hewn, homemade sound—that recalls Congolese group Konono No. 1 (see Monday). These shows are Kenge Kenge’s Chicago debut; the early set is part of Evanston’s Ethnic Arts Fest. 5 PM, Ethnic Arts Fest, Dawes Park, 1700 Sheridan Rd, Evanston. Also 8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, 847-492-8860, $22. —Peter Margasak
KONONO NO. 1 It’s almost certainly impossible for Congolese likembe band Konono No. 1 to strike Western ears as a dazzling revelation with the new Assume Crash Position, not the way they did when they broke out internationally five years ago—especially since their label, Crammed Discs, has since released recordings by other Kinshasa bands, like the Kasai All-Stars and Staff Benda Bilili, that also update traditional styles with jerry-rigged amplification and homemade instruments. But for their second proper album Konono No. 1 have updated their sound, albeit subtly; working again with producer Vincent Kenis, they’ve added electric bass, guest vocalists, and deep in the mix some electric guitars (including a cameo by Manuaku Pepe Felly of Zaiko Langa Langa). The band’s founder, Mawangu Mingiedi, has built a number of new likembes, tuned differently to increase the music’s range of tone colors and harmonies (their thumb pianos tend to have at most a dozen or so keys apiece), and for the first time Konono has used conventional amplifiers in addition to their own gear, which reins in the frying distortion that helped define the band’s sound, making those extra notes a bit easier to hear. But the frenetic, kaleidoscopic grooves that give Konono such spell-casting power remain. When the group debuted in Chicago five years ago, the songs all stretched far longer than their album versions, and though the players themselves were hardly dynamic onstage, if you were watching them instead of surrendering your higher brain functions to the dense throb of the music, you were missing the point: this is street-party stuff, and your attention is supposed to be on all the other dancing bodies around you.
The new record may be a little cleaner and
more varied in sound, but nothing has changed
at its heart. Kid Sister opens; see also Tuesday.
6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan; 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak
DARREN JOHNSTON See Wednesday. Johnston plays in a series of ad hoc groups with Anton Hatwich on bass, Jason Adasiewicz on drums (rather than the usual vibes), and other locals to be determined. 9 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, $7 suggested donation.
KONONO NO. 1 See Monday. I Kong Kult and DJ Warp open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $20.
ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI Googling “Ariel Pink godfather of chillwave” doesn’t just make you feel like the single most ridiculous person using Google at that moment. It also turns up about 50,000 results. The epithet makes some sense, as his older songs like “For Kate I Wait” seem to have set the template for the lo-fi electro-pop filled with heavy nods to New Romantics that this season’s most popular blog music is built on. But genre tags don’t stick to Pink for long—he tries on and discards stylistic signifiers with an admirable disregard for aesthetic consistency. On the new Before Today (4AD) he adds psychedelic grunge, Francophile garage rock, and arch Bowie-style operetta—along with handfuls of other sub-subgenres—to what was already a long list that includes Donovan-ish candy folk and slow-jam R & B. Pink’s one of the only true not-giving-a-fuck eccentrics working in indie rock today, and I look forward to seeing what future fads will be credited to him. Puro Instinct and Magic Kids open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $14, $12 in advance, 18+. —Miles Raymer
GOOD FOR COWS, DARREN JOHNSTON When drummer Ches Smith and upright bassist Devin Hoff started their duo GOOD FOR COWS in the Bay Area in 1999, their music leaned toward jazz—particularly Monk, Mingus, and Coleman. Hoff now lives in Chicago and Smith splits his time between California and Brooklyn, and the group’s fifth and latest album, Audumla (Web of Mimicry), takes a big leap away from jazz into sludgy metal and noise. Both members have impressive rock pedigrees, and sound perfectly at home in this new territory: Smith has played with Mr. Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3, Hoff has backed Mike Watt and Carla Bozulich, and both have done stints in Xiu Xiu. Hoff switched to electric bass in Good for Cows when he found it difficult to compete with Smith’s bludgeoning sound, and Audumla is a mercilessly heavy record. Its ultra low-end lines and gut-rumbling beats mostly grind along at a crawl, and when they speed up, they’re almost blastbeat fast. Though the music no longer sounds anything like jazz, there are still extended passages of improvisation—Hoff drops choked lines into the Sabbathy “Fafnir,” and Smith cycles through different rhythms like a DJ switching between tracks on “Solfell (Mountains on the Sun).” —Peter Margasak
Canadian-born trumpeter DARREN JOHNSTON settled in San Francisco in 1997, and he called one of the groups he formed there Reasons for Moving. It included two Bay Area improv elders, guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist Larry Ochs, and two excellent younger players then living there, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Ches Smith. (Smith is a regular collaborator of Mary Halvorson’s, Hoff has played with Nels Cline, and their duo together, Good for Cows, headlines tonight.) In other words, Johnston is willing to travel—or even pull up stakes and move—in order to work with the best. This is his third visit to Chicago in the past 12 months, and this time he’s recording with four locals—vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Nate McBride, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and drummer Frank Rosaly—and playing this gig with them between two days of studio sessions. Johnston is eloquent and versatile, equally persuasive in the rock-damaged free improv of Reasons for Moving and on the intricate contrapuntal compositions of his 2009 album The Edge of the Forest (Clean Feed). He promises to keep the writing simple for this band, which he’s christened the Implosion Quintet: “It’s not that they can’t read everything I give them,” he says. “It’s just that what they do with a simple idea and a lot of freedom is completely amazing.” —Bill Meyer
Good for Cows headlines; Johnston’s quintet plays first, and DJ Mark Ferguson of Hard Boiled Records spins soundtracks between sets. Johnston also plays on Tuesday at Elastic with a series of ad hoc groups; see separate List item for details. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8.
LISANDRO MEZA Button accordionist Lisandro Meza has been one of the biggest names in Colombian cumbia for more than five decades. His stripped-down, countrified music often employs ensembles smaller than typical in cumbia, where groups of five or more are the norm—usually he’s joined by a guiro player and a drummer and perhaps a bassist—and though this style is sometimes called vallenato, he insists the name is a misnomer and that such a subgenre doesn’t exist. Meza’s songs are compact and propulsive, and he gives them a crackling energy with fluid, high-octane accordion patterns; his clear voice carries excitement and even joy with laconic, economical ease. On an early-70s track that surfaced on the excellent recent collection Palenque Palenque: Champeta Criolla & Afro Roots in Colombia (Soundway), he experiments with James Brown-style funk and Afrobeat, but it’s an anomaly—most of his recordings stick to a traditional approach that might sound tired if he weren’t such an infectious, effervescent performer. 8:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $30, $28 members, $26 seniors and children. —Peter Margasak