DAVID DANIELL & DOUGLAS McCOMBS, JACK ROSE Over the course of three years of gigging, both as a duo and with various drummers, DAVID DANIELL & DOUGLAS McCOMBS have transformed a familiar American electric-guitar style—the stark, dramatic desert-highway twang that connects Duane Eddy, Tom Verlaine, and Daniell and McCombs’s own groups San Agustin and Brokeback—with open minds and suitcases full of signal-processing pedals. On their debut album, Sycamore (Thrill Jockey), they use digital editing to turn segments of nearly eight hours of performances—recorded without overdubs in beautifully resonant loft spaces—into instrumental suites that feel almost hyperreal, their artificial juxtapositions and cuts often functioning like sudden close-ups in a movie. But in concert, where the two of them generally predetermine only the key they’ll start in, it’s all about the spontaneous flow from one hallucinatory atmosphere to the next. For this record-release party, they’re trying something different; instead of one drummer, they’ll have three to choose from. Frank Rosaly, Steven Hess, and John Herndon all appear on Sycamore, and tonight they’ll share two drum kits—sometimes no drummers will play, but at other times one or both kits will be occupied.
Acoustic guitarist JACK ROSE abandoned onstage improvisation when he went on hiatus from Pelt, but his aesthetic exploration remains perceptible in his studio recordings—specifically in the way he revisits certain tunes from album to album, like John Coltrane coming back to “My Favorite Things.” Rose’s iterations of “Cross the North Fork,” which he first played six years ago on Raag Manifestos (as “Crossing the Great Waters”) and rerecorded last year for The Black Dirt Sessions (Three Lobed), show him moving from overt displays of Hindustani-inspired technique and a kind of stretched-taut nervous energy toward less exotic-sounding but even more elaborate melodic shapes and a profound serenity that nonetheless ripples with intensity. And while his initial solo version of “Kensington Blues” sounds like a magisterial homage to John Fahey, the string-band take on his latest LP, Jack Rose & the Black Twig Pickers (Klang/VHF), is more about the pleasures of hanging out with your buddies. Rose’s recent albums—including a Thrill Jockey release that’s due in 2010—feature contributions from other musicians, but tonight he’ll play solo.
Daniell and McCombs headline; Rose opens. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Bill Meyer
SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE It’s hard to believe there was a time when the word “emo” didn’t carry a truckload of negative connotations, just as it’s hard to believe that you used to be able to smoke in restaurants or that people once communicated primarily by talking to one another rather than with acronyms and occasionally pornographic ASCII pictograms. Sunny Day Real Estate began their career during that forever-ago golden age and split up right as it was ending, and fairly or not they’ve received a lot of the blame for what emo has become since. They provided a good deal of the framework for what remains the preferred formula for codifying teen angst in epic rock songs—plaintive screaming, chugging guitars, abrupt transitions, as many parts as possible set to “soaring”—but even though legions of copycats have driven that formula into the ground, the band’s own records have held up fine. The first two, Diary and Sunny Day Real Estate (often called “LP2”)—both of which were just remastered and reissued by Sub Pop—are packed with moments of beauty and power that can still inspire a little sweater tugging. Sunny Day’s current reunion shows, its first since ’95 with all four founding members, coincide with the 15th anniversary of Diary‘s original release. The Jealous Sound opens. 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out, 18+. —Miles Raymer
URINALS During their original run from 1978 till ’81, the Urinals took the anybody-can-do-it ethos of punk rock and ran with it, turning a near total inability to play their instruments into a vital part of their creative process. The LA threesome reduced songwriting to its most concentrated essence—they were as starkly minimalist as Wire, without the precision—and rarely needed more than a riff or two to get their point across. Few of their songs last more than 90 seconds. The scant output of the Urinals’ first incarnation—just three seven-inches and some compilation tracks—was first collected a dozen years ago on Negative Capability… Check It Out! (Warning Label), and even today it still sounds funny and ferocious, both charmingly raw and oddly inhuman. “I’m a Bug,” covered by everyone from Halo of Flies to Chicago’s Dishes, exemplifies the band’s contrarian bent. Though the LA punk scene embraced them, it wasn’t because they tried to fit in: nobody else was singing lines like “I’m a bug / So are you, baby / I wanna use / My pincers on you.” (The song’s irresistible chorus goes “Buzz buzz.”) In 1981 the Urinals realized they’d become too competent to really be the Urinals anymore, so they reinvented themselves as 100 Flowers and created an impressive new repertoire of art-punk tunes before breaking up in ’83. In 1996 the Urinals reunited, and though guitarist Kjehl Johansen bailed two years later, bassist and vocalist John Talley-Jones and drummer Kevin Barrett have persevered, releasing What Is Real and What Is Not (Warning Label) in 2003 with guitarist Roderick Barker and now touring with his replacement, Rob Roberge. They’re not trying to fake their old primitivism, but the songs are just as blunt, direct, and brutally catchy as ever. Killdozer headlines (see Q & A); the Urinals, Mannequin Men, and Maximum Wage open. 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-463-5808 or 866-468-3401, $18, $15 in advance. —Peter Margasak
MARK MALLMAN Minneapolis piano man Mark Mallman displayed a weird kind of nards on “Substances,” a track from his 2006 album Between the Devil and Middle C—he delivered a litany of abusable drugs in pretty much the same cadence Billy Joel used to rattle off all the terrible things baby boomers aren’t responsible for in his regrettable 1989 hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Ugh, right? But if you ask me, Mallman sold it. “Substances” is typical of his stuff: he lays down sharp hooks at a perfect pace while earnestly belting out his lyrics about deranged debauchery and failed searches for the meaning of life in the urban midwest. On his latest, this summer’s Invincible Criminal (Badman), Mallman’s in excellent voice, and the songs are as catchy and desperate as ever. Bully in the Hallway headlines; Mallman and the Melismatics open. 8 PM, Reggie’s Rock Club, 2105 S. State, 312-949-0121 or 866-468-3401, $10, 17+. —Ann Sterzinger
OTIS CLAY It’s a mystery why Otis Clay hasn’t enjoyed the kind of late-career renaissance that has landed his contemporaries Solomon Burke, Al Green, and Bettye LaVette back in the spotlight. A major figure on Chicago’s thriving soul scene in the 60s, in the 70s he recorded several classic sides for the Hi label in Memphis, including “Trying to Live My Life Without You” and “If I Could Reach Out.” Though he hasn’t charted since late in that decade, he’s remained popular here and on the southern soul circuit, and in the world of gospel he’s best known for his distinctive version of “When the Gates Swing Open,” which has become a modern-day standard. Though he’s 67, Clay’s voice has lost none of its potency: grainy and taut, it combines churchy transcendence with tough worldliness, embodying the blend of fervor, grit, and sophistication particular to soul blues. This show is a benefit to help defray the medical expenses of vocalists Cicero Blake and Artie “Blues Boy” White; Blake is recovering from surgery to his leg, and White has been in poor health for a few years, suffering from at least one stroke. The evening’s bill, headliner first, is Clay, fellow Chicago soul legends Ruby Andrews and Garland Green, Stan Mosley, Deacon Reuben Burton & the Victory Travelers, Sherman “Moody” Thomas, the up-and-coming Theo Huff, and Tariq Griffin. 7 PM, Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 S. Martin Luther King, 773-521-2300, $25. —David Whiteis
DEATH I’m not sure what it says about contemporary music that a 1974 demo tape by a group that broke up more than 30 years ago and only released one single during its lifetime is a serious candidate for Best Album of 2009, but Death‘s …For the Whole World to See (Drag City) is just that fucking flawless. Dannis, Bobby, and David Hackney, brothers who grew up playing soul and R&B in Detroit, became Death in ’73 after seeing shows by Alice Cooper and the Stooges. They were black punks almost five years before Bad Brains, and their tumultuous riffs and frantic beats arrived long before the Germs pushed rock rhythms toward the furious spasms of hardcore. Death was and is a transcendent blast of what the New York Times recently called “ur-punk”—as much a missing link as Cleveland’s Electric Eels, New York’s Testors, and San Francisco’s Crime. Drummer Dannis and bassist and singer Bobby now live in Vermont and play reggae under the name Lambsbread; David died in 2000, but according to Bobby he was the band’s visionary, insisting that their master tapes be preserved because he knew people would one day come looking for them. Lambsbread guitarist Bobbie Duncan will replace him for tonight’s show at the Bottle, one of only three on the books for the reunited Death. Openers Rough Francis include three of Bobby Hackney’s sons, who were instrumental in making the reissue happen—they recognized their father’s voice on a single played at a party, then learned that the record they’d heard had become a prized collectors’ item. A documentary film about Death’s rediscovery is in the works. Tyvek plays first. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Brian Costello
SLEEPY SUN With their debut album, Embrace (All Tomorrow’s Parties), Sleepy Sun make it clear that they’ve dipped their toes in a number of tie-dyed streams. But these San Francisco stoner-rock upstarts blend their influences expertly, instead of skipping from one to the other. Their sound hovers between two centers of gravity, suspended out of time between past and present, with Sabbath-style psychedelia (and a touch of Captain Beyond flair) on one side and the droning riffs and Echoplex worship of Dead Meadow and Comets on Fire on the other. The eight imaginative songs on Embrace snake from piano-driven acoustic excursions to gritty, jammed-out guitar grooves, both draped in waves of sultry, reverb-drenched vocals. All the songs have a winding, episodic feel, with each playing foil to its predecessor, but the album peaks with the nine-and-a-half-minute epic “White Dove”—which builds up enough momentum to sustain a two-minute freak-out that piles vision-quest guitar noise atop a drum solo. Stoner rock is a genre that needs a kick in the balls every now and then to keep it from stagnating, and Sleepy Sun are here to give it one. Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound opens. 10 PM, Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 866-468-3401, $8. —Kevin Warwick
ALLEN TOUSSAINT It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Allen Toussaint to the history of music in New Orleans—and, by extension, in the rest of the country. A songwriter, pianist, arranger, and producer, he was a one-man hub of musical activity in the Crescent City during the 60s and 70s. Though he’s most fluent in soul and funk, other threads run through his work, including rhythms from rock and Afro-Cuban music, and on his latest album, The Bright Mississippi (Nonesuch), producer Joe Henry convinced him to explicitly address jazz, particularly early New Orleans jazz—a style he internalized long ago. Joined on the front line by trumpeter Nicholas Payton and clarinetist Don Byron, Toussaint struts and strolls through chestnuts like “St. James Infirmary” and “West End Blues” as well as more modern fare like Monk’s “Bright Mississippi.” The record never sounds retro, though, partly because the rhythm section has a sly, off-kilter snap, but mostly because Toussaint injects his own innate sense of gulf-coast funk and grit into his sparse vamps and rollicking solos. He leads his own New Orleans sextet here. Nachito Herrera opens. 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $28, $26 members, $24 seniors and kids. —Peter Margasak
THEE OH SEES San Francisco oddball John Dwyer has put his stamp on all kinds of subversive sounds over the past decade, from the blatty noise rock of Pink and Brown to the snotty ersatz gay techno of Zeigenbock Kopf, but with his group Thee Oh Sees he’s finally started to dig into old-fashioned pop songs. It’s gone by several names (OCS, Ohsees) and was for much of its history essentially Dyer’s home-recording project, dabbling in textural noise and meandering acoustic folk, but for a few years now it’s been an actual four-piece band. Thee Oh Sees‘ terrific 2009 album Help (In the Red) is hardly about to storm the charts, but Dwyer has overhauled the group’s lo-fi garage rock with his sharpest, tightest hooks yet. The 60s still seem to provide much of his inspiration—the primal, stomping beats, the fuzzed-out “Psychotic Reaction” guitars, the ghostly AM radio harmonies he sings with Brigid Dawson—but subtle touches like the old-timey hillbilly chorus in “Ruby Go Home,” the post-Troggs flute tooting in “Meat Step Lively,” and the faux strings in “Peanut Butter Oven” turn the Thee Oh Sees’ primitive thrum into something much more than just another Neanderthal garage retread. These songs will stick hard in your memory, as though you’d first heard them 40 years ago. The Fresh & Onlys and CoCoComa open. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12, $10 in advance. —Peter Margasak
OS MUTANTES I’ll admit I was skeptical about Haih or Amortecedor (Anti-), the first Os Mutantes studio album since 1974. What I’d heard from the legendary Brazilian psych band since their reunion—a 2006 gig at Pitchfork and a live release on Luaka Bop recorded earlier that year at London’s Barbican Theatre—was a transparent attempt to exploit their fans’ nostalgia, as toothless and soulless as a Broadway staging of their classic songs. Since then keyboardist and founding member Arnaldo Baptista has quit, and so has singer Zelia Duncan, who stepped in when original vocalist Rita Lee declined to participate in the reunion; guitarist Sergio Dias is the last key member left. But the new record shocked me with how good it was—I even felt a little bad for having such low expectations in the first place. Dias revisits the manic style hopping that Os Mutantes perfected during the tropicalia era—fellow tropicalista Tom Ze cowrote half the tunes—and his nonchalant mix of psychedelia, folk, pop, and native styles is utterly convincing. The band plays with timeless verve, and with the exception of a couple bum songs, not even the most ambitious arrangements inhibit the music’s infectious sense of joy and adventure. Deleon opens. 8:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $25, 17+. —Peter Margasak
EVAN PARKER & NED ROTHENBERG American reedist Ned Rothenberg was once clearly an acolyte of brilliant British improviser Evan Parker, but during the past decade or so he’s grown into a colleague on equal footing. Though Rothenberg has drawn heavily upon Parker’s distinctive vocabulary of extended techniques—especially circular breathing and polyphonics, both of which inform Parker’s penchant for incredibly long unbroken strings of rapidly repeated, incrementally changing figures—he’s also pursued his own interests, from Inuit music to mathematical funk. In their ongoing duo project, here making its third local appearance since 2000, they don’t mimic each other, but they inhabit a shared sensibility and improvise with a nearly supernatural level of empathy: on the superb 2006 recording Live at Roulette (Animul) their snaking phrases sometimes shadow each other precisely for several seconds at a time and sometimes form inverse complements, as though Parker and Rothenberg were chasing each other around and around a Möbius strip. With few exceptions the music is characterized by fluid, unbroken simultaneous lines—arcing, scintillating, slaloming, looping, shuddering—and even when one player drops out briefly its continuity never suffers. For more on Parker, see this Q & A. 3 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. —Peter Margasak
FRANK ROSALY Last year Chicago drummer Frank Rosaly released a homemade three-CD set of solo music called Milkwork (Molk), where he used real-time processing and blurts of electronic noise to buffett and caress intricate, fluid patterns and grooves played on drum kit, gongs, and tuned metal bowls. Recently Rosaly told me he deemed the set a failure, and though I don’t agree, I certainly don’t mind that he’s trying again. A new disc called Milkwork is due in January on Contraphonic (he’ll have copies at this show), and in its neatly structured improvisations he focuses more closely on polymetric exploration, a la Milford Graves and Jerome Cooper, using his hands and feet independently to hold down as many as four different rhythmic threads—some metered, some with only a pulse, and some with neither. In the record’s latter half especially, Rosaly leans on his electronic rig—a combination of contact microphones, oscillators, effects pedals, and analog synths—to trigger squiggly figures and long tones that intersect with his drumming. Tonight he’ll play a solo set and then join a new quintet called Oxbow for a set of his compositions; its lineup also includes vibist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke, and clarinetists Jason Stein, James Falzone, and Keefe Jackson, all on different horns. Josh Abrams spins. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $7. —Peter Margasak