BUMPS A few months ago Tortoise drummers John McEntire, John Herndon, and Dan Bitney released Bumps (Stones Throw), a collection of lean, crisp original breaks ready-made for producers. The record has its share of classic funk beats, but the best parts call up the highly distinctive, tightly coiled, sometimes stuttering rhythms of Tortoise, with subtle inflections from Brazil and Africa. Tonight all three drummers will spin DJ sets. Joe Bryl opens. a 9 PM, Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 312-226-7600, $10. –Peter Margasak

leaves This local quartet provides a nice alternative to Chicago’s fire-breathing improvisers, offering cool ambience, restrained lyricism, and relatively simple grooves. On last year’s Live at the Ice Factory (Fresh Produce), guitarist Tyler Beach and saxophonist Charles Gorczynski articulate lovely contrapuntal melodies and kaleidoscopic harmonic explorations, occasionally creating a pleasant tension with a mix of static figures and dissonance. Drummer Charles Rumback and bassist Dan Thatcher support the front line with graceful, shapeshifting patterns that don’t call too much attention to themselves. The Lonesome Organist headlines. a 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance. –Peter Margasak

cMAGNOLIA ELECTRIC CO. I’ve always been a little less enthusiastic about Magnolia Electric Co. than Songs: Ohia, even though the main thing Jason Molina changed was the name he recorded under. The problem is that the trenchant troubadour has started to get above his raisin’. His latest release, Sojourner (Secretly Canadian), asks an awful lot from his fans: it’s a box set of three full-lengths and an EP, all consisting of material recorded during previous album sessions. The music has a hobo-balladeer quality and plays out like an extended travelogue (which makes sense, seeing as Molina tours a lot), but you’d need one hell of a long road trip to appreciate all of it properly. Still, like any good journey, even one you undertake in fits and starts, it leaves you feeling changed. Included as part of the package is The Road Becomes What You Leave, a video tour diary that’s a perfect visual accompaniment to Molina’s desolate scenes and atmospheric arrangements. Golden Boots and Thousand Arrows open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance. –Monica Kendrick

MAHJONGG For a while there it looked like we might never see a second album of Mahjongg’s neon–brilliant world-beat junkyard dance funk. They became orphans when Cold Crush, which released their 2005 debut LP, Raydoncong, called it quits, and they’ve been at loose ends in other ways too, losing a couple members and nearly breaking up. But then Calvin Johnson of K Records came calling–he’s been a fan since Dub Narcotic Sound System played with Mahjongg back in Missouri–and now the band has somewhere to put the recordings it’s been piecing together over the past couple years. Their next album, tracked mostly at their Humboldt Park space, Elephant, is due on K in January. I’ve heard an early version of “Problems,” which Johnson is releasing as a single this fall, and it bodes well, deriving an unlikely groove from lurching, lo-fi beatbox rhythms and demented keyboard ooze. Golden Birthday and Chew on This open. a 7:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $8. A –J. Niimi

cKEN VANDERMARK In Musician, Dan Kraus’s new documentary about saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, there’s a moment when he sings an extraordinarily complex figure to his band–and then the film cuts to the band playing it back at him. Though Vandermark’s a veteran free improviser, “free” doesn’t mean “left up to chance”–even in solo performance, he always has a frame of reference. On Furniture Music (Okka Disk, 2003), his only solo recording, each piece has a dedication that suggests what that frame might be: It’s not hard to grasp the connection between the thick, gradually evolving bass-clarinet tones of “Color Fields to Darkness” and the paintings of Mark Rothko. And “Melodica,” a clarinet piece dedicated to fellow improviser Joe McPhee, has a soulful warmth that’s more than just a tribute to the deep feeling in McPhee’s playing–this is some of the most emotional music Vandermark has ever made. Here he’ll play a half-hour solo concert before a preview screening of Musician, then join Kraus to answer questions about the film. Vandermark also appears at the Hideout’s Immediate Sound series on Wednesday, playing in the Frame Quartet (with Fred Lonberg-Holm, Nate McBride, and Tim Daisy) and spinning a DJ set devoted to female vocalists. a 8:15 PM, Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, 312-846-2600 or 312-575-8000, $9, $7 students. A –Bill Meyer

GRETCHEN WILSON This singer from downstate Pocahontas, Illinois, became a Nashville star by emphasizing her hell-raising independence, which mostly meant insisting she could drink as hard as any man. But on her third album, One of the Boys (Columbia), a new emotional depth (relatively speaking) makes her sound stronger than ever. On “The Girl I Am” Wilson turns vulnerability into defiance, and the point of the title track, it turns out, is that she’s “more than just one of the boys”–she brags about her pool-shooting prowess but then admits, “I need someone to hold me tight.” A few tunes revisit her reliable shitkicker style, notably “There’s a Place in the Whiskey,” but ballads like “Come to Bed”–where the flexibility and depth of her voice come through best–are no less powerful. Big & Rich, Cowboy Troy, and MuzikMafia (an all-star act including everyone on the bill) open. This is a benefit for the Art Institute; a $1,000 VIP ticket gets you into parties before and after the show. a 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, 312-462-6363 or 312-559-1212, $47.50-$282.50. A –Peter Margasak


c Avishai cohen Trumpeter Avishai Cohen–not to be confused with the Israeli bassist of the same name–is part of a recent flowering of Israeli musicians in New York who transcend boundaries of geography and style. He’s an in-demand sideman, performing with everyone from sophisticated pop singer Keren Ann to pianist Jason Lindner, but he really shines on his own new album, After the Big Rain (Anzic), revealing an aesthetic that recalls the polyglot work of Don Cherry if not exactly his sound. Cohen, a staunch modernist, weaves jazz improvisations through hypnotic pieces that borrow from the Middle East and Africa–guitarist Lionel Loueke is from Benin, and his singing and playing styles reach back to ancient traditions. As a composer and soloist, Cohen overflows with ideas, and even though he occasionally overdoes the electronic effects, his trumpet lines are lithe and powerful. This weekend he plays in a trio with regular associate (and fellow Israeli) Omer Avital on bass and the explosive, deeply swinging Nasheet Waits on drums. His set is part of Hamsa-Fest; complete schedule on page TK. a 2:45 PM, Lincoln Park, LaSalle & Stockton, 773-929-0224 or, $5-$10 suggested donation. A–Peter Margasak

c fountains of wayne Fountains of Wayne front man Adam Schlesinger is as skilled a pop formalist as they come, as evidenced by his Oscar-nominated title track for That Thing You Do! and more recently the spot-on faux-80s new-wave material he wrote for Music and Lyrics. But his facility with genre can also be a liability in his own band’s music, at times crossing the line between formalistic and formulaic. The band clearly hit it out of the park with “Stacy’s Mom,” from 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers, showing that the Fountains can indeed transcend their sometimes too-evenhanded songwriting to deliver a bluntly enjoyable radio confection. The new Traffic and Weather (Virgin) is just as solid as its predecessor and gets more likable with each listen. “Strapped for Cash,” with its whooshing chorus and soaring horns, is the album’s best shot at the singles charts, but there’s plenty else to like, including the sweet country rock of “Fire in the Canyon,” the updated car-love ode “’92 Subaru,” and the clever wordplay and vivid characters in “Someone to Love.” Office opens. a 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $25. –J. Niimi

Struts This loose unit of local lounge lizards got together about five years ago after singer-guitarist Nora O’Connor landed a gig opening for a burlesque troupe at the Hideout. She invited Kelly Hogan to join her and somehow ended up with a small gang; they played broken-down, camped-up, bump-and-grindy covers of songs from every decade in living memory. Now the original lineup is reassembling for the Struts’ first gig since 2005: Kevin O’Donnell on drums (replacing his replacement, Gerald Dowd), Andy Hopkins on guitar, Mark Greenberg on keys, and Max Crawford on bass. (Second bassist Ryan Hembrey will step down from the sound booth now and then to provide extra bottom.) This sounds like a good night to catch the band: Hogan promises a horn section, and she’s threatening to “get her R. Kelly on.” DJ Treetop Lover spins after the show (separate $5 cover). a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. –Monica Kendrick

cRUFUS WAINWRIGHT Plenty of pop artists try dressing up their songs in orchestral finery–it’s an isolated experiment, typically, and the subsequent return to a more modest scale is often greeted with relief. Rufus Wainwright’s recent Release the Stars (Geffen), on the other hand, is his third consecutive album to prominently feature elaborate instrumentation, and it’s becoming clear that it’s no gimmick but a key part of his aesthetic. Rock backbeats notwithstanding, it’s always been easy to find elements of musical theater and opera in Wainwright’s florid compositional style and overwrought, diva-worthy delivery, and now that he’s playing up those aspects, they work to underline his wickedly self-mocking sense of humor (lately he’s been partial to wearing monogrammed lederhosen). The arrangements here are so dense, really, that it took me three or four listens just to start unpacking them; only with familiarity do they reveal their beauty and precision. It’s hard to compare this stuff with Wainwright’s more stripped-down early work, but I’m certain now that this kind of grand ambition has been in him all along. The Magic Numbers and A Fine Frenzy open. a 7:30 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $20-$45. A –Peter Margasak


DARK MEAT On its MySpace page, this monstrosity from Athens, Georgia–would you believe 21 members?–calls its music Psychedelic/Psychedelic/Psychedelic, but that doesn’t mean it’s spacey or droney. This is raucous, rambunctious, filthy-chanting-naked-hippie rock, with an undercurrent of hillbilly boogie and a huge but shockingly tight horn section that’d be the envy of any ska band. Imagine a bastard brood spawned by the Plastic People of the Universe (without the Iron Curtain paranoia) and the Fugs (with serious chops) and you’ll be in Dark Meat’s neck of the woods–and when you get there, they’ll take you out behind the smokehouse and make you squeal like a pig. This sounds like audience—participation music to me, which is just as well–even assuming they’re touring with a smaller lineup, there’s no way the whole band’s gonna fit on the Bottle’s stage. We Will Eat Rats to Survive and Shipwreck open. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. –Monica Kendrick

BRAD PAISLEY Since the bar’s set so low in contemporary country, Brad Paisley comes off like a genuine Renaissance man just because he can sing, write his own songs, and play a mean guitar. And unlike Toby Keith, who’s made a fortune pandering to rednecks, he’s likable, with a risque sense of humor that draws on the puns and wordplay of classic country. That said, Paisley pushes the jokes a bit too far on his latest, 5th Gear (Arista). “Online” is a sophomoric parody about a loser who lives with his parents and indulges his fantasies on MySpace, and the surprise hit “Ticks” is full of double entendres about getting in a girl’s pants. Good thing he’s a more consistent musician than he is a comedian. Taylor Swift, Jack Ingram, and Kellie Pickler open. a 7 PM, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, I-80 & Harlem, Tinley Park, 708-614-1616 or 312-559-1212, $25.25-$40.75. A –Peter Margasak

cWu-tang clan, nas The lineups in New York and California were more high–powered, but the Chicago installment of Rock the Bells is hard to complain about. Headliners WU-TANG CLAN may have peaked ten years ago, but even without ODB they’re one of the most insanely awesome rap mobs on earth. Their set will probably include material from their weaker recent albums and the forthcoming 8 Diagrams, but they know not to ignore the classics. Also on the bill is NAS, who rediscovered his sweet spot with last year’s Hip Hop Is Dead (Def Jam). After God’s Son in 2002 he seemed to lose his way, releasing a series of slick commercial club jams and sprawling high-concept street tracks that were ultimately more confusing than anything else. But on Hip Hop Is Dead he sounds desperate to justify his reputation and prove he’s still every bit the world-class shit talker people knew and loved. Maybe it isn’t a classic on par with Illmatic, but it’s good enough that I’ve almost forgiven him for “Oochie Wally.” Almost. The entire lineup, headliner first: Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Talib Kweli, MF Doom, Pharoahe Monch, Immortal Technique, Slum Village featuring Phat Kat, David Banner, and Jedi Mind Tricks, with hosts Supernatural and Rahzel. For a review of Talib Kweli’s new Eardrum, see Section 1. a 3 PM, Charter One Pavilion, 1300 S. Linn White Dr., Northerly Island at Burnham Harbor, 312-540-2000 or 312-559-1212, $41. A –Miles Raymer


IDA For a year or so this New York indie band, anchored by married couple Dan Littleton and Elizabeth Mitchell, has had an announcement up on its Web site promising a redesign: “It will be so cool that you will have to grow a super long beard or know someone at Pitchfork just to get permission to visit.” By the time they actually finish it, though, I’m sure long beards–and Pitchfork–will be retro. Littleton and Mitchell had a daughter in 2001, and since then Ida has apparently recorded only during certain astrological conjunctions (the band’s most recent album is 2005’s Heart Like a River) and toured even less often. But their sparse, slow-moving music and reflective melodies are well worth the patience–an Ida show is like that moment when all the tourists camping at Loch Ness with video cameras get vindicated. The Young Neils open. a 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. –Monica Kendrick


cPAPERCUTS Papercuts’ gentle tide of indie bedroom strumming is largely the work of the Bay Area’s Jason Quever. A sometime collaborator of Cass McCombs, Quever mines roughly the same ground–delicate almost-psych pop, sung in a pleasantly plain howl and left to wander in a mist of reverb. Papercuts’ second album, Can’t Go Back, came out earlier this year on Devendra Banhart’s Gnomonsong label: overripe with easy melodies, it’s almost disconcerting in its wispy flawlessness. “Summer Long” and “Unavailable” are possibly the best lovelorn fey-boy pop dramas to come down the pike since Belle & Sebastian turned into a 10cc cover band. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Bowerbirds open. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, $8 in advance, 18+. –Jessica Hopper


EARLIMART After three releases on Palm Pictures, this California band is back on an indie for its fifth full-length, Mentor Tormentor. (The label in question, Majordomo, is actually a partnership between Earlimart and Shout! Factory.) Nonetheless the new album has the sound of a major-label production, maybe something dreamy and mildly rocking from the mid-70s–the lush, layered strings, plinky piano, and breathily pretty vocals are like a cloud of cotton candy around the music’s cynical little heart. Some of the silkiest, most polished tracks could even pass for yacht rock. Of course, that genre lives and dies by the hooks, and though Earlimart are no ELO, they’re hardly forgettable also-rans either–four or five indelible songs on a jam-packed album wasn’t a bad average even in the golden age. The band is touring with a string section, which it’s calling the String Dream Team; Patrick Park opens. a 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $14, $12 in advance. –Monica Kendrick