ELVIS COSTELLO TRIBUTE Promoter Chris Anderson used to book shows at Tommy Nevin’s Pub in Evanston, but since the bar stopped regularly scheduling live music in October he’s looked elsewhere to host his ambitious tribute shows, which in the past have honored Warren Zevon, Ray Davies, and Tom Waits. This two-night extravaganza doesn’t appear to be your usual sloppily-thrown-together talent show: each of the 16 bands has selected and (presumably) rehearsed about a half-dozen songs spanning the erstwhile Declan McManus’s career. A preliminary roster of intended covers lists some quirky selections, and some of the bands’ choices promise to be illuminating. (The Bon Mots doing “Lipstick Vogue” is a natural combo.) Performing tonight are the Bon Mots, Clyde Federal, Jay Bennett, All City Affairs, Tristen, Phil Angotti & the Idea, John Aselin, and Orphans. See Saturday for the second evening’s lineup. 9:30 PM, Viaduct, 3111 N. Western, 773-296-6024, $10. –Monica Kendrick
GASOLINE FIGHT This new local band featuring veterans of Small Brown Bike and Sweep the Leg Johnny has just released its debut EP, Useless Piece of Weaponry (Thick), and it’s a solid 20-minute start–aggressive but fluid, and with more blues in it than your usual post-hardcore boy-mosh stuff. The opening track, “Night Terrors Come and Go,” impressively packs a metal epic’s worth of sonic plot twists into its relatively compact form. The Arrivals headline, Mexican Cheerleader opens. 10 PM, Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $7. –Monica Kendrick
HUGE PONTOONS Chicago’s Huge Pontoons are a guilty pleasure for grown-ups who have Weird Al tapes hidden in their sock drawers. The band’s sole album, last year’s Honky if You Love White People (Kapi-Tel), is an obnoxious but affectionate parody of 90s metal, pop punk, and college rock–the goofy cliches are packed so densely that not even light can escape. Over thrashin’ ax, mullet-worthy drums, and the occasional low-budget synth, front man John Velousis belts out tunes like “RR2K (Race Riot 2000)” and “Taco Man” in a Kermit the Frog voice (and no particular key). For your money you get the obligatory carrying on about girls, a sprinkling of half-assed social consciousness (“There’s even evil inside a quarter pounder”), and of course loads of the shameless gooning that makes my inner 12-year-old roll on the floor: over the pummeling, boneheaded riffs of “Cookie Monster,” Velousis howls, “Oh dear God, how I long to digest a cookie / But they just fall crispily from my impotent tongue.” The Slats open. 9 PM, Underground Lounge, 952 W. Newport, 773-327-2739, $6. –Ann Sterzinger
CHARLIE ROBISON Texan Charlie Robison’s songs pile on details about rustic life in his home state, but as much as he strives for the poetry of the workaday–a la Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, or Joe Ely–the results are workaday poetry. On the new Good Times (Dualtone), Robison (who’s married to Dixie Chick Emily Robison) occupies a milquetoast middle ground between Nashville orthodoxy–like the faux-Bruce Hornsby piano tinkling on “El Cerrito Place”–and alt-country shit-kicking, further proof that balancing good taste with commercial impulses usually benefits neither. The Kevin Gordon Band opens. 9:30 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $10. –Peter Margasak
JANE SIBERRY When Canadian singer Jane Siberry emerged in the mid-80s she seemed to be firmly part of a wave of innovative folkies like Suzanne Vega, but she’s uncategorizable now. She’s made excursions into jazz, modern classical, and new age, pausing every so often to drop an unforgettable pop song like “Calling All Angels,” her 1991 duet with K.D. Lang. Rhino nicely showcased her extensive catalog on a two-disc set in 2002; her latest, Shushan the Palace (Hymns of Earth) (Sheeba), is part Christmas album, part tribute to the stately classical ballad. None of the standards featured–like “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “In the Bleak Midwinter”–have much variety either in their pace or their grand but slightly stiff backing. But what you’re really listening for anyway is Siberry’s clarion voice and her ability to hold a mood past all conceivable breaking points. Orso and Adrienne Pierce open. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $25. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
ELVIS COSTELLO TRIBUTE See Friday. Tonight’s lineup: Penthouse Sweets, Clearly & the Mainstream, Edward Burch & the Staunch Characters, John Peacock, Eva Destruction & Her Big Band, RD Roth & the Issues, Mabel, and Hot Dog City. 9:30 PM, Viaduct, 3111 N. Western, 773-296-6024, $10.
THE FLESH Though its members share a love for Serge Gainsbourg and the Birthday Party, this New York buzz band sounds more like Bobby Conn fronting the Talking Heads–with less invention and joie de vivre than that might imply. I loved the energy and tension of their first two EPs, but their earlier sharp focus dissipates on their self-titled full-length LP (on Gern Blandsten). It’s not quite a matter of the record being all icing and no cake, more that its melodrama never feels terribly dramatic. Opening for Woolworthy and Menthol. 10 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $8. –Monica Kendrick
RIVER CITY REBELS Four albums in, the River City Rebels seem eager to progress from trashy punks to trashy rock stars–agreeing to open for Velvet Revolver probably wasn’t a hard decision for these guys. Their new Hate to Be Loved (Victory) has most of the good points of G n’ R’s bitter-hearted party rock (lustiness, liveliness) and some of its bad ones (stridency, stupidity). But there’s also the occasional fist-pumping, melodic reminder of their Gun Club-meets-Joe Strummer roots, which makes me wonder if glam Americana might not make a pretty awesome genre. Street Brats, Manhandlers, and 7 Shot Screamers open. a 6 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $10. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
CARPET OF SEXY, PRINCESS I really want to like a group with a name like Carpet of Sexy, but unfortunately these two local boys–a guitarist and a drummer–are still playing the kind of yelpy, jittery, balls-in-a-vise art-rock whose deepest message seems to be that it’s pretty cool to be in a band. They’ll probably end up good in a couple years if they keep at it, and for now at least they’ve gotten rid of the unsexy swatch of carpet they played on the last time I saw them.
Local noise rappers Princess, who open the show, have already developed a personality of their own: these guys are goofy and dark, like Gonzales (remember him?), but instead of using guitar and keyboard dissonance to deflate an egomaniacal stage presence, they aim low to crank up the drama–and the humor–in their songs. Carpet of Sexy headlines, Princess plays first, and my favorite local band, the Coughs, goes on second. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499. Princess also plays Thursday at the Beat Kitchen as part of Banana King zine’s “Rock ‘n’ Read” event (see the List). Free. –Liz Armstrong
BY DIVINE RIGHT This band’s the brainchild of Toronto sonic whiz Jose Miguel Contreras, who’s gone since the early 90s without settling on a steady group of bandmates or a signature sound. On this year’s Sweet Confusion (SpinArt) he’s found a formula worth sticking to: part New York Dolls, part Soledad Brothers, part Blackhearts sans Joan Jett, it’s a thick, flexible, engorged mass of thundering drums and splattering guitars with the occasional spectacularly groan-worthy rhyme (“I got e-mail / I got a female”). Oh My God headlines, University opens. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. –Monica Kendrick
SCOUT NIBLETT Like the evil little girl behind you in art class who’d cut off bits of your hair, British singer Scout Niblett has two modes: unhinged temper tantrum or precocious show of faux innocence. When she plays her guitar it’s like she’s sitting by a campfire, but when she pounds her drums it feels more like a bonfire; her weird, minimalist folk songs go from cute to crazy so fast it’s hard to believe it’s just an act. Electrelane headlines, the Dials open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10. –Liz Armstrong
SONS OF THE NEVER WRONG This local trio’s most recent album, 2002’s 4 Ever On (Gadfly), is a beautiful thing, full of ringing, cascading, and glorious harmonies and a style that’s not quite neofolk or trad folk or folk rock or folk pop or Celtic folk but somehow all of the above. They’re currently working on their fifth record, which they’ll likely offer a taste of at this, their annual free holiday concert. Matt Dvorak opens. a 8 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-777-8932. Free. –Monica Kendrick