c Michael Burks Early in his career this guitarist was pigeonholed as a bluesman in the mold of Albert King, but these days he’s definitely his own man: his sound is more bombastic and rock influenced, with explosively virtuosic speed-demon solos. Burks never sacrifices taste for pyrotechnics, though; even his most fiery and flamboyant leads follow an impeccable logic. On the ballad “Time I Came in Out of the Rain,” a highlight of his 2003 disc I Smell Smoke (Alligator), he communicates both desolation and hope, his sandpaper–and-smoke vocals expressive and unforced; on up-tempo tracks like “All Your Affection Is Gone” and “Hard Love,” which are no less uncompromising lyrically, he opens the throttle and takes to the bluesosphere with the kind of abandon only a master craftsman can pull off without losing control. a 9:30 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $12. –David Whiteis

KING WILKIE Bluegrass tends to be a genre for serious players, but despite their limited chops it didn’t take these Virginians long to establish themselves as one of the most spirited outfits on the post-O Brother landscape. So it’s a surprise to hear them all but ditch their old sound on the new Low Country Suite (Zoe). They’ve said this record better reflects their influences, which apparently include pre-bluegrass Americana as well as melancholy folk rock a la Dylan and the Byrds; it’s a more distinctive approach, but I’m not sure how much I like it. Though the vocal harmonies are still gorgeous and the arrangements still inventive, too many songs seem to mistake torpor for sensitivity–the new direction seems promising only when the band shows a little spark, like on “Angeline” or “Crazy Daisy.” Ollabelle headlines. a 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $20, $16 kids and seniors. A –Peter Margasak

cLORDI Everybody old enough to remember when Kiss ditched the makeup probably also remembers the public’s almost involuntary response: “Oh my God, put it back on!” When two local tabloids printed unauthorized photos of these Finnish hard rockers without their masks following the band’s crushing victory at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, they caught so much flak they apologized and promised never to do it again–Lordi fans want their darlings to stay monsters. Any band that can break the top ten not just in Scandinavia but in Ireland, Israel, and Greece with an absurdly epic underdog anthem like “Hard Rock Hallelujah”–yes, he did just say “day of rockening”–must be doing something right. The Arockalypse (The End Records), Lordi’s third full-length, is so relentlessly, cartoonishly over-the-top I suspect they’re playing an elaborate joke on those of us who don’t have sunless winters–but even if they are, it’s the kind of joke that’s a lot more fun to fall for than sneer at. And you’ve got to respect their devotion to pyrotechnics, platform boots, and robotic bat wings–they canceled the club gigs they’d booked between Ozzfest dates rather than “downsize the band’s explosive show.” (Translation: Metro wasn’t keen on giant fireballs.) Lordi plays the main stage at Ozzfest, which begins at noon; complete lineup on page TK. See also Sunday. a 6:15 PM, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, I-80 & Harlem, Tinley Park, 708-614-1616, sold out. A –Monica Kendrick

THE MAE SHI If you haven’t kept up with their lineup changes, the two songs the Mae Shi have posted on their MySpace page from the forthcoming full-length HLLLYH (Moshi Moshi) may come as a shock. Historically a punk-spaz band with experimental leanings, they’ve turned into a quirky indie-rock group. The usual guitar grunting is nowhere to be found, keyboards have taken the fore, and the squeaky guy is doing all the singing. Still, it’s pretty decent stuff. Yea Big & Kid Static, Voltage, and Love of Everything open. a 8 PM, AV-aerie, 2000 W. Fulton #310, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. A –Jessica Hopper

T.I. T.I. is so cute I have a hard time holding anything against him, but his fifth full-length, T.I. vs T.I.P. (Atlantic), is atrocious. The dude stuffed his previous efforts with the sort of bangers that blow out your factory speakers, so it’s kind of mind-boggling that the new one, a concept album where he confronts his younger crack-slangin’ self (that’d be T.I.P.), goes absolutely nowhere fast. Here’s how bad it is: T.I. gets bested on his own record by a post-“retirement” Jay-Z, who drops in for one half-assed verse. That said, T.I.’s career-retrospective hit parade–“Bring ‘Em Out,” “Rubberband Man,” “Be Easy”–is more than enough reason to check him out live. He headlines Screamfest with Ciara; Yung Joc, T-Pain, and Lloyd open. a 7:30 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont, 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212, $29.50-$69.50. A –Jessica Hopper


Carlos Johnson Carlos Johnson is among Chicago’s most eclectic blues guitarists, which isn’t always a good thing–at times he’s crossed the line between exploratory and aimless. But though his style is still impossible to peg, lately he’s sharpened his focus considerably, as demonstrated on Live at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted, recorded last year and released by P-Vine in February. His solo work on every song—originals like the jazzy opener “C.J.’s Swing” and the midnight-of-the soul ballad “I’m Cold and I’m Wondering,” covers like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” blues warhorses like “I’ll Play the Blues for You”–is imaginative and fully realized, supporting his understated but evocative vocals. a 10 PM, Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, 773-342-0452, $12. –David Whiteis

cMADAMA BUTTERFLY Puccini’s Madama Butterfly tells the story of Cio-Cio-san, a poor 15-year-old geisha (nicknamed Butterfly) who marries a callous American naval officer (Pinkerton) and renounces her religion, causing her family to disown her. The first act is filled with rapturous husband-and-wife duets, but Pinkerton abandons Butterfly, and in the second act, three years later, she sings the achingly tender “Un Bel Di Vedremo” (“One Fine Day We Shall See”), imagining his return. When he does, in act three, it’s with a new American bride. Though Butterfly has had Pinkerton’s child, she agrees to let the couple raise him, resigned to her fate. She sings a heart-wrenching final aria to her son–“Tu, Tu, Piccolo Iddio” (“You, You, My Little God”)–before committing hara-kiri. The role of Butterfly, with its delicacy, strength, and passion, is a perfect fit for silken-voiced American soprano Patricia Racette, who was riveting at the Lyric Opera this past season as Liu in Turandot and Madame Lidoine in Dialogues. This concert performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Apollo Chorus of Chicago (under the baton of Ravinia music director James Conlon) also features mezzo-soprano Ning Liang, tenor James Valenti, and baritone Fred Burchinal. a 7:30 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$75. A –Barbara Yaross

mindy smith On her second album, last year’s Long Island Shores (Vanguard), Nashville-based songwriter Mindy Smith reflects unsentimentally on her childhood home and the experiences that shaped her. Her lyrics demonstrate a wariness of love–she calls it simply “a heartache” and likens it to the edge of a knife–but her duet with Buddy Miller, “What If the World Stops Turning,” suggests she won’t keep it at bay forever. Smith traverses the widening gaps between country, folk-rock, and pop with her music, which has an ethereal quality that reminds me of Miller’s wife, Julie. Occasionally the slick production blunts the carefully wrought angles of her melodies, but that’s not enough to spoil the lovely starkness of the songs. Teddy Thompson opens. a 7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, sold out. –Peter Margasak


KEYSHIA COLE Apart from starring in a short-lived reality TV show, singer Keyshia Cole has been kinda quiet since releasing her debut, The Way It Is (A&M), back in 2005. Luckily, she’s about to pick up right where she left off. Her new single, “Let It Go,” has the same sort of post-Mary J. Blige R & B sound that first got her noticed: a powerful set of pipes, a hip-hop sensibility, and not a hint of bombast. J. Holiday opens. a 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $33.50-$35, 18+. –Peter Margasak

GOKH-BI SYSTEM Dakar’s Gokh-Bi System (pronounced “go bee”) were one of the first rap groups to emerge from Senegal, but their evenhanded mix of traditional sounds and contemporary hip-hop never really caught on in their homeland. Seven years ago they were recruited to join Tony Vacca and Massamba Diop’s Senegal-America Project, and since then they’ve found enough success touring the States that they’ve practically moved here. Their first domestic release, the Mission of Music EP (A Round World), isn’t unlike a lot of so-called conscious hip-hop, and the music reminds me of their countrymen Daara J (albeit less flashy and hyperactive). The African elements aren’t as prominent this time, but the next studio album will allegedly be a return to the group’s roots–I imagine they’ll preview material from it here. a 2 PM, Northalsted Market Days festival, Roscoe stage, Halsted between Belmont and Addison, 773-868-3010, $5 suggested donation. A –Peter Margasak

cLORDI See Friday. Lordi plays the main stage at Ozzfest, which begins at noon; complete lineup on page TK. a 6:15 PM, Alpine Valley Music Theatre, Hwy. D & Hwy. 120, East Troy, Wisconsin, 262-642-4400, sold out. A


MARILYN MANSON Eat Me, Drink Me (Interscope), Marilyn Manson’s latest, isn’t too bad–certainly not stacked up against the stuff most Neurontin-addled teenage sociopaths listen to these days. Though the marital, legal, and pharmaceutical woes Manson has endured since 2003’s The Golden Age of Grotesque haven’t inspired quite the groundbreaking personal album the media have made this out to be, he at least seems re-energized. I’m guessing “The Red Carpet Grave” and “Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)” will still rock hard enough in a few months that I’ll be able to include them on a year-end mix without shame. Slayer opens. a 7 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont, 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212, $41.50-$49.50. A –J. Niimi

cMASS SHIVERS Mass Shivers’ full-length debut, Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy (due August 21 on Sickroom), is awfully, awfully good. This Chicago trio (which becomes a quartet with a second drummer at local shows) captures the spirit of the best out-rock of the 70s: Can’s free-form tribal-Teutonic drums, Beefheart’s stomping junkyard riffs and unhinged harmonic imagination, Faust’s cerebral jams, Eno’s expansive pop palette. In less capable hands, this kind of ambition often results in little more than a self-conscious statement about the band members’ LP collections, but Mass Shivers skirt that pitfall with their discipline and devotion to detail. Standouts like “Womanizing Metal Studs,” “Downwind of Amour,” and “Mossy Nethers” (with guest turns from both members of Michael Columbia) are dense and complex, with meticulously organized, counterintuitive guitar lines, but the substantial vocal melodies and playful backup harmonies make the tunes not only approachable but memorable. The Chandeliers headline, Mass Shivers play second, and Beau Wanzer opens; Mike Broers of Ghost Arcade spins between sets. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600. F –J. Niimi


JONATHAN CHEN & TATSU AOKI On the new Orchestra (Asian Improv), violinist Jonathan Chen teams up with bassist Tatsu Aoki (and only bassist Tatsu Aoki, despite the title) for a bracing set of free improvisation. Chen, who just completed a yearlong fellowship in Karlsruhe, Germany, frequently uses electronics to manipulate his instrument’s sound, but here he keeps it naked. That’s not to say you’ll confuse him with Paganini: as Aoki grinds out repetitive licks and textures, Chen unpacks a deep catalog of unconventional sounds, both pitched and unpitched, emphasizing steep contrasts in scale and artfully deployed silences. Sounds dramatically rise and fall or drop away altogether, only to come raging back in sudden eruptions. The Chicago Clarinet Trio and Bruxism open. Chen also performs in Aoki’s Miyumi Project at the Velvet Lounge on Friday, August 17, at 9 PM. a 9 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, donation requested. A –Peter Margasak

RENTALS I appreciate a band that doesn’t overstay its welcome, so I’m tipping my hat in the direction of this LA sextet. Their new EP, The Last Little Life (Boompa), consists of just four quick tunes polished to a perfect Turtle Wax shine. Listening to it is like getting rammed by a cherry red Mack truck blasting the B-52’s; next thing you know you’re prone in a ditch with all their songs rattling around in your head. Certain touches, like the organ wonk and chiming harmonies on “Last Romantic Day,” leave you with a slightly surreal hangover, the kind you get after spending all day at a street festival drinking peach schnapps and riding the scary, decrepit Tilt-a-Whirl. Copeland and Goldenboy open. a 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $19. A –Monica Kendrick


cAVAGAMI I should just carry around a copy of Avagami’s debut, Metagami (Lens), so I can pull it out the next time a cabbie or one of my uncles asks what kind of music I like. These two locals–Eric Lebofsky on vocals, electronics, and saxophone and Matt Espy (ex-Atombombpocketknife and the Reputation) on electronics and drums–are a nonstop hoot, and their album is an absurd delight, like a Super Soaker filled with Cool Whip. Why does it press my happy button? Well, there are the stupid timbres, like the ColecoVision Smurfs keyboard on “Trombone Solo” and the synth sax on “Eagle,” which momentarily makes everyone in the world appear to be wearing leopard-skin waistcoats and louvered sunglasses. But it’s also the oddball pop hooks that drop in out of nowhere (“Mushy”) and the motarded lyrics (from “Fuck the Man”: “I want to wrap my hand around your fist / And scream till you get pissed”). The weirdly agape vocals–imagine Michael McDonald with a hernia–are the crowning touch, making each track sound like its own chopped-and-screwed version. Avagami plays as part of A/V Xplo; for tonight’s lineup (and a complete fest schedule) see page TK. a 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. –J. Niimi


cMUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS The defining spirit and driving force of the AACM, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams set out on his own path more than 40 years ago, believing that compliance with the artistic and economic norms of the jazz world would prevent him from making the choices that most interested him. As the decades passed and those groundbreaking choices influenced generations of players, Abrams remained an iconoclast, avoiding complacence and defying expectations about genre or style. He doesn’t perform or record much these days, but when he does, the rigorous thought behind the music is unmistakable. Later this month Pi Recordings will release his first solo album in three decades, Vision Towards Essence, which captures a totally improvised recital at the Guelph Jazz Festival in 1998. Abrams’s bracing performance comes closer to classical music than to familiar jazz tropes, with dark harmonies and stark counterpoint governed by a sophisticated logic that keeps his constant flow of new ideas from ever seeming merely glib. The music may not exist on paper, but this is the work of a serious composer. Up first today is Reginald R. Robinson on piano, accompanied by the Fulcrum Point New Ragtime Chamber Group; they’ll play selections from Robinson’s work as arranged by Stephen Burns. a 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 100 N. Michigan,312-742-1168. F A –Peter Margasak

CHRISTIANS & LIONS On their debut, last year’s More Songs for Dreamsleepers and the Very Awake (ECA), this Boston-area band pries open folk-pop’s door with their busy fingers and lets in a little chill. The songs are sweetly harmonious and sort of precious, every part bantering with the others as if trying to prove it’s the clever-est of all–but there’s also something rattling and trilling in the cracks of this music that’s just a bit unsettling. At the same time it doesn’t sound like they’re forcing anything; even a line as convoluted as “And I said, ‘I find it pretty hard to move with this compulsion tipping off my tongue'” gets a breathy delivery, as if it were the most natural thing to say in the world. Farewell Captain and One for the Team open. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $7. –Monica Kendrick

DOLLAR STORE You might not expect a guy who owns a small wine shop to be writing blue-collar anthems, but there’s nothing highfalutin about Dean Schlabowske (or his Wicker Park store, Cellar Rat, for that matter). Best known as Jon Langford’s foil in the Waco Brothers, Schlabowske also fronts Dollar Store; their second album, Money Music (Bloodshot), was long delayed while drummer Joe Camarillo recuperated after a serious car crash early last year, but it’s finally out. Don’t expect many surprises or too much originality: pairing a punker’s pointed take on our vacant culture with a heartfelt middle-American rock sensibility, Dollar Store is best understood as a top-shelf bar band. Velcro Lewis & His 100 Proof Band headline tonight; Dollar Store also plays a free show at 8 PM on Saturday, August 18, at the Apple Store, 679 N. Michigan. a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. –Peter Margasak