GREG DULLI On the Afghan Whigs’ 1993 masterpiece, Gentlemen, front man Greg Dulli presented himself as a raging, coked-to-the-gills embodiment of the male id, as toxic to female bystanders as he was to himself. By most reports it was a fairly accurate portrayal at the time, and in any case it earned him a reputation that’s defined his public persona ever since. So it’s surprising to hear him duet with Ani DiFranco, whose name is shorthand for liberal-artsy 90s feminism; she joins Dulli and his current group, the Twilight Singers, on “Blackbird and the Fox,” a teaser track from the band’s forthcoming Sub Pop album, due early next year. But Dulli (not to mention DiFranco) has mellowed over the years. His debauched facade, like that of his adopted part-time hometown of New Orleans, has acquired a certain elegiac, patinaed grandeur, and he’s developed the ability to move a listener just as profoundly with a subtle purr as he ever could with a drunken roar. For this, his first proper solo tour, he’ll be performing material from the Twilight Singers, the Afghan Wigs, and the Gutter Twins (his duo project with Mark Lanegan). Former Shudder to Think front man Craig Wedren opens. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 877-435-9849, sold out. —Miles Raymer
FOUR TETFour Tet‘s latest, the remix collection Angel Echoes (Domino), is longer than the record it draws from, nabbing the handful of high points from There Is Love in You and training them under new management. Featuring remixes of “Angel Echoes” by Caribou and Jon Hopkins—as well as previously vinyl-only remixes of “Sing” and “Love Cry” by Joy Orbison, Roska, and others—it sexes up the most idyllic indietronica qua techno of 2010. On There Is Love Four Tet, aka Kieran Hebden, backs away from his kitchen-sink collagist’s approach and moves toward a more focused and strictly rhythmic aesthetic that’s closer to traditional techno. That’s not to say he’s gone retro—he pulls moodiness and space from new sources like dubstep and chillwave, so that his music amounts to the sort of reserved and classy London club cool-out that makes sense coming from the polymathic producer, DJ, and rocker. Matthew Dear and Jon Hopkins open. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $21, 18+. —Jessica Hopper
PATTY LOVELESS Last year veteran country singer Patty Loveless released Mountain Soul II (Saguaro Road), an official sequel to the 2001 album on which she smartly and successfully retreated from Nashville radio formula and drew inspiration from bluegrass—a shift she made in the immediate wake of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? mountain-music craze. But Loveless has already proved she’s no carpetbagger by making unofficial companions to Mountain Soul that stick to an acoustic sound and contain tunes, both new and vintage, that pay tribute to timeless country verities. On 2008’s superb Sleepless Nights she put her spin on honky-tonk, and the latest record blurs genre lines by opening with a take on “Busted,” a Harlan Howard vehicle that both Johnny Cash and Ray Charles turned into a hit in 1963. Choices like this suggest Loveless is less concerned with stylistic distinctions than with simply singing good songs from throughout country music’s long history. Radney Foster opens. 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $38, $36 members, $34 seniors and children. —Peter Margasak
MASSIVE ATTACKMassive Attack were never the most visionary act tagged with the ridiculous-in-retrospect label “trip-hop.” That would be fellow Bristolians Portishead, who were always a mile out and to the left of the pack. But they frequently came closest to the genre’s platonic ideal: a dark, heavy, and extremely synergistic commingling of hip-hop, reggae, techno, soul, dub, and postpunk. Though Massive Attack peaked in 1998 with the gloss-black bong rip Mezzanine, which hasn’t gotten any less stunning with age, they’re not operating too far below that level today. This year’s Heligoland (Virgin) isn’t as pleasantly, suffocatingly dense as Mezzanine, but it shows that the group—now stripped down to a duo—have moved beyond collaging genres and on to building an organic, beat-heavy style of their own. And their instinct for picking guest vocalists remains sharp: Heligoland features contributions by TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, reggae legend Horace Andy, former Mazzy Star vocalist Hope Sandoval, and onetime Tricky collaborator Martina Topley Bird (who also opens the show). 8:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 866-448-7849, $40, 18+. —Miles Raymer
JEFF MILLS People looking for virtuosity in the art of DJing tend to get distracted by flashy turntablists with hyperspeed fingers and bags of tricks like behind-the-back transformer scratches. But to a large extent that approach depends on gimmickry, not substance, and Chicago’s Jeff Mills proves it by standing dead still over three turntables, a mixing board, and a hulking early-80s TR-909 drum machine, shaping minimalist beats like some sort of techno-era conductor presiding over a machine quartet. It’s no coincidence that Mills is one of the only DJs to collaborate with an orchestra—France’s Montpelier Philharmonic on the 2006 album Blue Potential—and make it sound natural. Though lately Mills has seemed to be concentrating less on his music and more on Gamma Player—a fashion and design venture he launched with his wife, which likewise promotes a clean-lined and minimal futurist aesthetic—the GP boutique closed last month. That might mean we’ll be hearing more from Mills soon, but either way, aficionados of techno and dance music in general should consider attendance at this gig mandatory. Tyrel Williams opens.
10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140, $20, $15 before midnight. —Miles Raymer
TARBABY Anchored by the trio of pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Nasheet Waits—a coterie of topflight horn players have helped out over the years—this jazz collective thrives on challenging listeners’ assumptions. On “E-Math,” the vamping polyrhythmic shuffle that opens Tarbaby‘s knockout new album, The End of Fear (Posi-Tone), a spoken-word collage mixes mathematical equations and terse criticisms of the soullessness of contemporary jazz—lines like “Where’s the melody?” or “Swing is over.” The 11 complex and metrically daring pieces that follow don’t always swing or have hummable melodies, but the group makes its mastery of jazz’s building blocks—and the emotion at the heart of its music—perfectly clear. The three core members contribute pithy original tunes like “Brews,” a blues by Revis that pushes and pulls the busy groove with fizzy deconstructionist glee, and “Hesitation,” a tense, brooding ballad by Waits. Just as revealing of the band’s broad aesthetic are the covers it plays, which include pieces by Fats Waller, Bad Brains, Sam Rivers, and Andrew Hill; the latter is an especially powerful influence. For these shows, Tarbaby’s Chicago debut, veteran alto saxophonist Oliver Lake—who appears on The End of Fear alongside guests Nicholas Payton and J.D. Allen—will join Evans, Revis, and Waits. See also Saturday.
8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12. —Peter Margasak
BIG FREEDIA For more than two decades now New Orleans has had its own indigenous strain of stripped-down, partycentric hip-hop, loosely analogous to Baltimore club or Miami bass. Bounce, like those styles, is simple, bass-driven, and relentless; it relies heavily on a tiny handful of songs for its samples and breakbeats, and the rapping is usually more call-and-response than narrative. But 12 years ago bounce headed down a path of its own when a drag queen named Katey Red took the mike at an underground club, unwittingly launching a phenomenon that’s become the face of the genre to the rest of the country. In sissy bounce, as it’s usually called (the artists don’t tend to use the term or consider their music a separate subgenre), openly gay and transgendered MCs hold court in front of all kinds of crowds without facing the kind of homophobia that’s so widely tolerated in hip-hop. Big Freedia (pronounced “Freeda”), one of the biggest stars of the style, is six foot two, gay, and identifies as female despite looking, sounding, and dressing like a man (albeit a rather fabulous one with a shock of colorfully dyed hair). New Orleans has always been hospitable to gay or cross-dressing entertainers—its wild costumed carnivals and parades have institutionalized playful inversions of all sorts of social rules—and at Big Freedia’s shows women, mostly straight, dominate the dance floor, often doing a hypersexual dance called “pussy popping” where they bend over and shake their asses in ways that don’t always look mechanically possible. Her lyrics are mostly crude, aggressive chants about sex or regional pride (the music’s usually too fast for much else), but they’re sung from a female point of view and flip hip-hop’s norms on their head. Freedia’s performances usually last 25 minutes at most, and considering the critic-defying simplicity of bounce and the incredible energy level it maintains, that’s probably just about right. She’s accompanied here by her DJ, Rusty Lazer. Capsula and FM Supreme open; the Queerer Park DJs (Black Gold, Barbara Butch, and Unisexy), Zebo, and Rhated R spin. This show is part of the Decibelle Music & Culture Festival. From 5 till 6 PM Black Noise Productions (500 W. Cermak, suite 405) will host a dance workshop taught by one of Big Freedia’s dancers, Miss Altercation; admission is a $5-$20 suggested donation. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. —Peter Margasak
BASEBALL FURIES The Baseball Furies moved to Chicago from Buffalo in 2001—right as Chicago’s garage-punk scene was reaching its high-water mark—and broke up in 2005. Along with bands like Milwaukee’s Mistreaters and Detroit’s Clone Defects, the Furies put the claws and fangs back into a kind of punk rock that had, by the end of the 90s, become a self-satisfied secret club of wallet-chained bores. Live, the Baseball Furies were a consistently fantastic collision of fiery intent and anti-bullshit directness. They never stopped to tell you what the next song was about or that they had merch for sale; they came onstage teetering on the line between sober and drunk and played each napalm-scorch of a song like it was their last, and when the set did end, there was never a “thank you”—you don’t thank somebody for surviving a beatdown. But the excruciating waits between Furies records (their swan song, Throw Them to the Lions, only finally came out last year) and the band’s decision to call it quits just as many of their scenemates were finding a wider audience meant they never quite got their due. Since the breakup the members of the Baseball Furies have played in bands too numerous to name here (and bassist Jim McCann is now partner and bar manager at Longman & Eagle), but tonight’s one-off reunion show is a fine opportunity to see where it all got started. In the spirit of the evening, the Brides—the notorious garage band that Ross Fisher (Dirges, Mother of Tears) and Dan Lang (Vee Dee) played in as teenage suburban miscreants—have reunited too, and will provide main support. Ramma Lamma opens and the Get Drunk DJs spin. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. —Brian Costello
JON MUELLER AND OLIVIA BLOCK Milwaukee percussionist and composer JON MUELLER has come a long way since his days in Pele, and he’s been on a roll for the past few years, creating distinctive experimental music that makes no concessions to his indie-rock past. For his latest salvo, The Whole (Type), he creates massive, dronelike sounds from multiple fast-moving parts. Whereas Mueller’s landmark 2008 album Metals (Table of the Elements) was a percussion-only reimagining of heavy metal, the new release takes folk music as its point of departure—namely simple hammer-dulcimer patterns that open and close the recording and elsewhere create a kind of shimmering whirr among snare-drum rolls, high-speed tom patterns, and looped vocal chants. The four pieces drift slowly by incrementally varying one component or another and consistently cast a powerful spell. In support of the album Mueller has created an aesthetically similar but totally new work called “I Almost Expect to Be Remembered as a Chair,” which uses snare, recorded gong, and voice; he reshapes it according to the physical properties of each venue. As a bonus track for The Whole, Chicago sound artist OLIVIA BLOCK has made a 31-minute remix by rearranging elements from the album (as well as her own piano playing) into something entirely new—it’s not just looped bits of the original atop a beat, like most remixes, but an epic journey with a couple of huge ebbs and flows of its own. Though Block doesn’t radically transform any individual sound, she handles them the way a composer works with instrumental voices. Rather than re-create that remix today, she’ll present a piece using different recordings she’s made of Mueller, which she says will be “staggered, or slightly altered in some way” and mixed with the manipulated output of a prepared Autoharp. 4 PM, Saki, 3716 W. Fullerton, 773-486-3997. —Peter Margasak
TRISTAN PERICH Lately New York electronic-music composer Tristan Perich has been challenging himself to work with ultralimited means, and his latest piece, 1-Bit Symphony (Cantaloupe), uses only simple waveforms controlled by a single bit—their only possible states are “on” and “off.” Though it comes in a standard CD jewel box, there’s no disc; instead the box contains a battery, a switch, a fast-forward button, a volume knob, a headphone jack, and a microchip that generates the music each time the device is turned on. It’s not only a sleek, lovely object but also a sly commentary on the cheapening of recorded music in the Internet age (though of course people have recorded the chip’s output and illegally posted it on the Web). Perich employed similar technology for his 2006 album 1-Bit Music, but its compositions are relatively primitive; this time he’s written code for a five-part work that lasts about 40 minutes before the final movement enters an infinite loop. Naturally the sonic palette is very narrow, and the tinny electronic tones can be ear-drillingly unpleasant through headphones, but the symphony is a sophisticated piece of music, with genuine thematic development and exposition—Perich’s low-rent minimalism harks back to the DIY spirit and raw energy of early Philip Glass or Terry Riley. For this show he will “perform” 1-Bit Symphony (basically, he’ll hook the box up to a sound system and turn it on) and accompany it with live video synthesis—on a bank of five cathode ray tubes, one of which will be projected on a large screen, he’ll create low-resolution black-and-white images by feeding the tubes’ electron guns one-bit streams of control data. The concert is free, but space is limited; RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. 8 PM, Graham Foundation, Madlener House, 4 W. Burton, 312-787-4071. —Peter Margasak
TARBABY See Friday. 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $12.
EARLY MAN On the recent Death Potion (The End), engineered by Jack Endino, this LA-based band mixes dirty Sabbath grooves and unabashed tributes to thrash-tacular 80s metal like early Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth (right down to the sneering Dave Mustaine-style vocals and hokey lyrics). Aside from the occasional snazzy guitar solo or Bruce Dickinson-inspired high note, the album is blunt and straightforward—guitarist-vocalist Mike Conte and company chuck bricks of melodic metal riffage at your head faster than you can dodge ’em. Straight-up speed is Early Man‘s bread and butter, and songs like the battering, relentless “Someone Else’s Nightmare” make me want to cheerfully smash anything in arm’s reach. Conte parted ways with longtime drummer Adam Bennati just five days before this tour, and bassist Tim Rampage took that as his cue to leave. But Conte, second guitarist Pete Macy, and two last-minute substitutes—bassist Ryan Chamberlain and drummer Jabari Parker—have managed to work up an abbreviated six-to-eight-song set. Evile, Bonded by Blood, Woe of Tyrants, Lord, and Vicious Attack open. 7 PM, Reggie’s Rock Club, 2109 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $15, $13 in advance. —Kevin Warwick
JAZMINE SULLIVANJazmine Sullivan opening for Mary J. Blige is a perfect tonic for those who miss old Mary—you know, Mary before she said no to more drama, back when all her songs had at least one verse about all the crying she’d been doing. Sullivan has a very Mary-esque combination of intensity and vulnerability, and their big, throaty, gospel-trained voices are not dissimilar. Judging by the second single off Sullivan’s forthcoming Love Me Back (J Records), the Salaam Remi-produced “10 Seconds,” Remi is banking on nostalgia for Mary’s old material as well, but in aiming for its melodrama and pop slickness he creates something bland and generic—a strange direction to choose, given that Sullivan racked up seven Grammy nominations with her previous album while sounding much less derivative. She fares better under the administration of Missy Elliott, who’s been championing her since the lost Jive album she made as a teenager. On the tracks Elliott coproduces, she keeps Sullivan sounding like herself, even surrounded by the snappy throwback beats that have become a Missy trademark. And when she sounds like herself, she’s the best new thing to happen to R&B pop radio in years. Mary J. Blige headlines; Sullivan and Miguel open. 7:30 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, 312-462-6300 or 866-448-7849, $71.25-$138.98. —Jessica Hopper
OLOF ARNALDS, DOUG PAISLEY It’s pretty hard not to think of Joanna Newsom the first time you hear Icelandic singer OLOF ARNALDS—she sings with a similar childlike whimsy, and her arrangements use kalimba, acoustic guitar, and banjo in ways that recall Newsom’s harp playing—but it’d be a mistake to let those similarities stop you from digging into her fantastic new album, Innundir Skinni (One Little Indian), or its great predecessor, Vid og Vid. Arnalds has been turning up on U.S. shores for a few years now, both as a touring member of Mum and as a contributor to the clever Balkan-flavored outfit Storsveit Nix Nolte, but her solo work surpasses anything she’s done in those contexts. Her music is gentle, intimate, and eccentric, but it isn’t just about atmosphere—Arnalds’s strangely lovely melodies, marked by slow arcs, sudden loops, and energizing drops, always claim center stage. She plays guitar, charango, violin, viola, and piano, among other instruments, and her band includes guitarist and bassist Skuli Sverrisson and ubiquitous, empathetic multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily; the organic ebbs and flows, warm colors, and complementary timbres of their arrangements frame Arnalds’s voice beautifully, and several tunes add gorgeous vocal harmonies, including “Surrender,” to which Bjork lends her trademark cries and murmurs.
On his lovely second album, Constant Companion (No Quarter), Toronto singer-songwriter DOUG PAISLEY delivers his pretty, unadorned melodies with a relaxed yet thoughtful calm and a weathered quality you’d expect from someone decades his senior. (He’s about to turn 38.) Leslie Feist provides backing vocals on one song and duets with Paisley on another, and the Band’s Garth Hudson plays organ elsewhere; those high-profile guests never eclipse Paisley, though, whose patient sound has been attracting comparisons to the likes of James Taylor and Cat Stevens. But I don’t like those guys, and I really enjoy Paisley and his lived-in voice—he keeps reminding me of Michael Hurley, if Hurley had a more stable pitch center and a polished backing band. His gentle folk-rock, which would seem corny in less assured hands, sounds a bit lost in time, but he proves that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Arnalds headlines and Paisley opens. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. —Peter Margasak
BAND OF HORSESBand of Horses leader Ben Bridwell, the lone constant in this six-year-old group, recently moved back to his native South Carolina, and on this spring’s Infinite Arms (Columbia) he’s once again leading a very solid—if differently populated—lineup. The romantic fire of the Horses’ first two albums is somewhat settled down on their third, but the sweet harmonies and southern-rock guitar licks remain intact—the bluesy end result could’ve come straight out of Laurel Canyon during the slow shift from the 60s into the 70s. The Besnard Lakes open. 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 866-448-7849, sold out. —Monica Kendrick