Sic Alps
Sic Alps


>Critic's Choice<

Sic Alps


>Critic's Choice< Robbie Fulks

>Critic's Choice< Shams Ensemble with Ali Reza Ghorbani


>Critic's Choice<
Robyn Hitchcock & Joe Boyd

>Critic's Choice<
Rotting Christ


>Critic's Choice<
Marc Ribot


Fujiya & Miyagi

>Critic's Choice< Wanda Jackson

Ron Sexsmith


>Critic's Choice<
White Hills, Liturgy


DIPLOMATS Members of Harlem rap crew the Diplomats, better known as the Dipset, have tasted fame: the group’s most popular member, Cam’ron, owned the latter half of 2002 with “Oh Boy” and “Hey Ma,” and sometimes leader Jim Jones did the same in the winter of ’06-’07 with “We Fly High.” But as a collective, the group rarely crosses paths with the mainstream. Within the more insular world of hard-core hip-hop heads, they’re known for wearing garishly dyed fur coats and for being early adopters of Kanye’s chipmunk-soul sound, and in the 2000s they were one of the strongest and most controversial influences on the genre. They’ve been charged with a lengthy list of aesthetic and ethical crimes—including but not limited to glorifying the crack trade, promoting reprehensible “no homo” and “stop snitching” thought campaigns, and rhyming a word with itself two or more times in a row—and they’re guilty of most of them. Yet even some of the group’s harshest critics own its hypnotizing, addictive 2003 jam, “Dipset Anthem,” and will probably grab their forthcoming reunion album, Diplomatic Immunity 3 (Interscope). In terms of things that will make you hate yourself even as you gorge on them, they’re right up there with Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch Doritos. 7:30 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-1235, $20. —Miles Raymer

SIC ALPS A lot has changed lately for San Francisco’s Sic Alps. On Napa Asylum (Drag City), their first record in more than two years, they’re a trio, having added guitarist Noel Von Harmonson from Comets on Fire; they’ve ditched their shambling excursions into free jazz and unhinged psychedelia and become more or less a garage band; and they’ve begun focusing their energies into sharper, shorter tunes. (The new album’s 22 tracks total 47 minutes.) What hasn’t changed is the band’s approach to recording—they cut Napa Asylum at home with a Tascam eight-track and a couple microphones, and it’s so gleefully fuzzy and raw that it can seem sloppy, at least superficially. Sic Alps may sound like the thousandth bunch of lo-fi slackers to come down the pike, but I can’t hold the unkempt murk of their records against them: their songs have such strong melodies and skilled arrangements that they pop into my head unbidden all the time. Cave and Wet Hair open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, limited $5 tickets. —Peter Margasak


ROBBIE FULKS This release party for Happy: Robbie Fulks Plays the Music of Michael Jackson has been a long time coming. Fulks cut most of the record in 2005, then shelved it when the King of Pop was embroiled in a second child-molestation scandal. By that point some of Fulks’s Jackson covers had become live staples—particularly a wrenching take on “Billie Jean” that’s touched with Latin swing and chilly twang—and in 2008 he stole the show at the Hideout Block Party with an all-Jacko extravaganza whose “Thriller” included a crowd of zombies dancing in front of the stage and a cameo from rapper Rhymefest. After Jackson died, Fulks cut more songs, and last year he finally self-released the album. Despite the liberties he takes with some of the material, it’s an earnest tribute—with the exception of “Privacy,” which he’s transformed into a bizarre psychodrama that tweaks Jackson’s grandiose paranoia with a convulsive patchwork of artsy noise rock (ringers for that cut include Azita on vocals and Bob Weston and Todd Trainer of Shellac on bass and drums). Fulks plays some tunes straight, like the Jackson Five classic “Mama’s Pearl,” and reimagines others: “Goin’ Back to Indiana” becomes a country blues, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” a prog-bluegrass burner with banjoist Tony Trischka. The stylistic leaps can be jarring, but for the most part they just prove how strong and malleable these songs are. For this show Fulks’s band (guitarist Grant Tye, drummer Gerald Dowd, and bassist Mike Fredrickson) will have help from keyboardist Chris Neville, and singer Nora O’Connor and mandolinist-fiddler Don Stiernberg will guest. Expect plenty of showmanship: among other things, Fulks says he’s hoping to involve puppets (“like the purple ‘Ben’ rat from the Hideout block party and the Lady Di in the flowing white dress”), child actors in pajamas, video projection, and “the highly unflattering Jackson Five costumes my wife made for my even-then-middle-aged sidemen ten years ago.” His young son Preston will sing one of the ballads—because, as he puts it, “an earnest kid singing MJ songs is for some reason very moving.” This is probably your last chance to hear Fulks play this music, so don’t skip it lightly: “After the night ends,” he says, “I think I can safely say I’ll never do anything having to do with Michael Jackson again!” 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2508, $15. —Peter Margasak

SHAMS ENSEMBLE WITH ALI REZA GHORBANI Founded in 1980 by Kaykhosro Pournazeri to play his compositions for the Kurdish lute called the tanbour, Iran’s Shams Ensemble has since expanded its scope to include Persian classical music and traditional Kurdish and Sufi music. The group has played and recorded with some of Iran’s greatest singers, including Shahram Nazeri and Bijan Kamkar, and its current lineup includes four tanbour players, among them Pournazeri and two of his sons, Sohrab and Tahmoures—which is four times as many as more conventional ensembles use. (There are also two percussionists, a santor player, and a reedist on sorna and duduk.) The best reason to catch the Shams Ensemble on this U.S. tour, though, is the presence of Ali Reza Ghorbani, one of the most exciting and powerful vocalists to emerge from Iran in the past decade. His most recent album, Songs of Rebirth: Tribute to Rumi (Accords Croisés), sets the revered poet’s lyrics to music by Ghorbani, with elegant arrangements and stately melodies—and his singing is flat-out sublime. His range is huge, his pitch control is razor sharp, his piercing voice is wildly elastic and almost startlingly powerful, and he demonstrates profound fluency and creativity in the tahrir style—the Persian equivalent of operatic coloratura. The Shams Ensemble worked with Rumi’s poetry early in its career and has often revisited it, so Ghorbani is a perfect collaborator in more ways than one. 9 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th, 312-437-4726, $40-$50. —Peter Margasak


ROBYN HITCHCOCK & JOE BOYD Joe Boyd’s memoir, White Bicycles, is my favorite music book of the past ten years. His knack for being in the right place at the right time—he road managed Muddy Waters during England’s discovery of the blues, stage managed the Newport Folk Festival where Dylan went electric, and produced the first recordings by Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band, Nick Drake, and Pink Floyd—is as astounding as his failure to profit from his luck. (This is a guy who walked away from owning a piece of Abba’s publishing rights.) On the page he’s a fabulous raconteur with a well-honed instinct for where to put the tragic detail or belly-laugh-inducing punch line. But he’s no musician, and that’s where Robyn Hitchcock comes in. The singer-songwriter grew up listening to Boyd’s productions, and the two hit it off when they worked together on an Incredible String Band tribute in 2009. The Chinese White Bicycles Tour is named in honor of the book and an ISB song; the show will alternate Boyd reading from the book and Hitchcock playing the songs in its stories. 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $35, $33 members, $31 seniors and children. —Bill Meyer

Rotting Christ
Rotting Christ

ROTTING CHRIST Briefly infamous for getting booted from a festival bill with Megadeth in 2005 at the insistence of the recently born-again Dave Mustaine, Rotting Christ have traveled a long, twisted road since forming in 1987—from grindcore to primitive black metal (once they heard Venom) to sophisticated, sometimes even atmospheric black metal that reflects the current vogue for incorporating national heritage. (It helps if one’s nation has a sufficiently brutal history and appropriately ancient, badass-sounding musical traditions—not really a problem for a Greek band.) Last year’s Aealo (Season of Mist), which takes its name from a surprisingly mellifluous word for chaos or catastrophe, revels in the Greek horror tradition—it’s full of malicious gods, unavoidable tragic fates, and mournful, unearthly keening (not only is there a traditional chorus, there’s a Diamanda Galas cover that uses Galas’s own voice). This is a perfectly natural step from 2007’s Theogonia, the band’s first album to use ancient Greek, and it feels like they’ve at last earned the right to wear the mantle they were only trying on before. Melechesh, Hate, Abigail Williams, and Lecherous Nocturne open. 6 PM, Reggie’s Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $25. —Monica Kendrick


MARC RIBOT As a sideman and collaborator, guitarist Marc Ribot has lent his strings most famously to Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and John Zorn, but the list goes on and on: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, the Lounge Lizards, McCoy Tyner, Wilson Pickett, Foetus . . . you get the idea. Adaptability is his calling card. Given how many projects he has going at any given time—he’s also a key member or bandleader in Buddy Miller’s Majestic Silver Strings, who have a new album out on New West, and Los Cubanos Postizos—you wouldn’t think he’d have much time for solo work, much less solo work that requires a great deal of introspection and premeditation. But that’s just what last year’s Silent Movies (Pi) is: a haunting, lyrical instrumental record, it’s far more understated than usual for Ribot, and its wordless commentary follows images invisible to the listener that Ribot seems to see with great clarity. Some of the films he’s “scored” on this album really exist, others don’t—but all of the pieces paint vivid scenes and unspool engrossing stories. For this show he’ll perform his live accompaniment to Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length film, the 68-minute comedy drama The Kid (1921), and play a short solo set. Fun facts: Jackie Coogan, the child actor who played the kid in question, would later fly gliders for the army in World War II and costar as Uncle Fester in the original TV version of The Addams Family. 8 PM, Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse, 773-381-4554, $25. —Monica Kendrick


FUJIYA & MIYAGI “One Trick Pony,” a bonus track on Fujiya & Miyagi‘s third full-length, 2008’s Lightbulbs, inadvertently sums up the album with its title. It’s hard to follow a breakout success, and Fujiya & Miyagi have been struggling since they nailed their cool, minimalist spin on Krautrock with 2006’s Transparent Things. Even the best songs on Lightbulbs merely replicate that formula—looping synths, simple repeated guitar and bass parts, funky beats that wouldn’t sound out of place in hip-hop, and the whispered, raspy vocals of front man David Best. The most notable change to the band’s sound on that record was probably the addition of a live drummer, fourth member Lee Adams. But on their latest, Ventriloquizzing (Yep Roc), Fujiya & Miyagi have apparently decided it’s time to mess with success. Repetition still anchors their style, but they often augment the calculated simplicity of their earlier material with dense, otherworldly psychedelic sounds—Steve Lewis’s synth work is more varied than ever, which helps the songs stick in your brain instead of blending together. Ventriloquizzing may not be quite as hypnotic as Transparent Things, but it’s nice to see the band learning some new tricks. Shit Robot and My Gold Mask open; Greg Corner spins between sets. 8 PM, the Mid, 306 N. Halsted, 312-265-3990, $10. —Leor Galil

Wanda Jackson
Wanda JacksonCredit: Jo McCaughey

WANDA JACKSON If the word “brassy” didn’t already exist, somebody probably would’ve had to invent it to describe Wanda Jackson. On early cuts like her breakthrough 1960 single, “Let’s Have a Party,” she sounds like the nightmare flip side of the prim pop debutantes of her day—with a ragged, audacious voice perfect for pushing needles into the red and a taste for shit-kicking material like “This Gun Don’t Care (Who It Shoots),” which leaned heavily on the “billy” side of rockabilly. Her conversion to Christianity in the 70s and a concomitant transition to gospel music appeared to put an end to that, but over the past decade she’s returned to her roots. Jack White produced her 2011 album, The Party Ain’t Over (Third Man/Nonesuch), but thankfully he does little to rebrand her for the youth market. The cover of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” might have seemed like a hipster-baiting stunt—but only if Jackson hadn’t completely owned it. The Dexter Romweber Duo opens. 8 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2508, $25, $20 in advance, 18+. —Miles Raymer

RON SEXSMITH Ron Sexsmith has been making his sophisticated pop for two decades; he can give Elvis Costello a run for his money with his unexpected melodic shapes, and he has no equals when it comes to darkening the ebullience of a tune with stinging lyrics. But so far he’s failed to score a hit, and because he’s 47 now, that seems unlikely to change. He’s still trying for all he’s worth on his 11th full-length, Long Player Late Bloomer (Thirty Tigers), produced by hard-rock pro Bob Rock (Metallica, Bon Jovi): the rhythms are punchier than ever, and the keyboard-heavy arrangements are the slickest of his career. The album’s sound would smother a lesser songwriter, but thanks to his expert turns of phrase and beguiling delivery, Sexsmith comes out on top—not even the unusual optimism of its second half, which is dominated by love songs where late romance dilutes lifelong bitterness, can make it feel like anything but a Ron Sexsmith record. It’d be great if he could make a commercial breakthrough, but if you’ve followed his career you already know that he writes nothing but hits. Caitlin Rose opens. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. —Peter Margasak


WHITE HILLS, LITURGY Three different drummers take turns behind the kit on the latest EP from New York’s WHITE HILLS, Stolen Stars Left for No One (Thrill Jockey), including the band’s current touring sticksman, Lee Hinshaw, but it has surprisingly little effect on the band’s sound. No matter who’s playing the metronomic, trance-inducing grooves, the music’s focal point is guitarist David W.’s effects-damaged riffing and soloing—even the occasional chanted vocals are just another texture, secondary to the guitar work. On last year’s self-titled opus, W. fills the trio’s large sonic canvas with broad brushstrokes; whether performing ferocious rockers (“Three Quarters”), hypnotic, surging meditations (“Let the Right One In”), or extended, wide-open drones (“Glacial”), he uses his six-string spell casting to shape a compelling, modern spin on space-rock. White Hills have essentially been serving up the same few variations on a theme for five years, but that hardly matters when a band tears into its music with such gusto and slashing power. —Peter Margasak

Using an electric rock band as a tool to explore the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the universe went out of fashion with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. But if I’m reading them right, that’s exactly what Brooklyn’s LITURGY are up to. The group have chosen an interesting vehicle to guide their quest for satori: black metal, a punishing style traditionally guided by a relentlessly pessimistic perspective based on the premise that life is grim and can be made even grimmer with the right record collection. On their immense 2009 debut, Renihilation (20 Buck Spin), and their even better sophomore disc, Aesthetica (out in May on Thrill Jockey), they push black metal’s pummeling sonic assault past the genre-standard minor-key tremolo-picked riffing and lockstep typewriter drumming, turning both its rhythms and its harmonies into something more complicated, elastic, and transcendent sounding. The result is, in strictly musical terms, pretty interesting, but not nearly as fascinating as the feeling you might get that the point of their endeavor is to pierce the veil of Maya using blastbeats. —Miles Raymer

White Hills headline; Liturgy and the Great Society Mind Destroyers open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, free with RSVP to