BAKELITE 78 This local five-piece acoustic act takes its name from 78-rpm records and Bakelite, the plastic that was occasionally used to make them. They’re playing the Hideout to celebrate their self-released debut, It’s a Sin, a fantastic collection of old-timey music played in dedicatedly retro fashion. Not that front man Robert Rial always writes or delivers songs like they’re museum pieces: “Homicide Survivor’s Abomination Wail” has a ripped-from-the-headlines savagery that references Glocks and restraining orders, and his rendition of the traditional lullaby “All the Pretty Little Horses” reminds me of the guest turn Nick Cave did on Current 93’s version. My Damn Butterfly and the Black Bear Combo open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $7. –Monica Kendrick
MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE Tonight, Mozart’s 250th birthday, Music of the Baroque will re-create a legendary 1786 “battle,” commissioned by Emperor Joseph II, between the German singspiel and the Italian recitative-filled opera. In one corner, Mozart with Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario). In the other, Antonio Salieri with Prima la Musica e Poi le Parole (First the Music, Then the Words). Both short pieces satirize the opera world itself. They’re only occasionally performed, largely on account of the cumbersome between-music plotting, which will be replaced here by a new text written for the event by MOB conductor and Mozart scholar Jane Glover (Mozart’s Women) and actor Simon Callow, who will narrate and direct. In 1786, at Vienna’s Schonbrunn Orangerie, Salieri’s piece was presented last and “won” the contest. Here Mozart’s piece will be performed last, but the event now, as then, is less about competition than celebration. There will even be cake and champagne for the audience afterward. It’s already sold out, but returned tickets may be available. a 8 PM, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, 312-551-1414, $35-$50. –Elizabeth Tamny
APPARITIONS As This Is Futuristic (Machine), the second album from this Lexington quintet, is an apocalyptic science fiction collection, with grim little stories about robots and vengeful angels and huddling survivors waiting to die. The lush, densely packed riffs and harmonies are sunny on the surface, but the songs have a sinister bite underneath–imagine the Flaming Lips turned dystopian and mean. SundayRunners and DJs John Ciba and James Porter open. The band also plays a free in-store at 2 PM at Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark; call 773-477-5994. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $8. –Monica Kendrick
ELY GUERRA When Mexican singer Ely Guerra put out her most recent album, Sweet & Sour, Hot y Spicy (Higher Octave), in 2004, I was bothered by her decision to abandon the breathier, more ethereal style of her earlier work in favor of a punchier pop-rock sound. But since then I’ve come to appreciate the way the songs keep pulling the rug out from under you with surprising shifts in tone, shape, and instrumentation. I still think her band lays it on too thick and that Guerra oversells some songs with ill-advised histrionics, but overall the record’s her strongest batch of tunes, and the production issues should fall away live, where Guerra’s magnetic stage presence is everything. Miguel Inzunza opens this show, the latest in a series of free concerts hosted by the Congress Theater featuring Mexican rock and pop acts. 8 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, congresschicago.com. Free. All ages. –Peter Margasak
HANALEI Brian Moss, former front man of the Ghost, has maintained this folksy side project for going on three years. On the forthcoming Parts and Accessories, due in March on Thick Records, he ditches the laptop that backed him up on 2004’s We Are All Natural Disasters–now he’s got a full-time band playing indiefied rust-belt country rock, with guests on pedal steel, cello, and banjo helping him devise an impressive variety of shades of November-sky gray. Moss obviously (if a bit tentatively) aspires to songwriterhood a la Jeff Tweedy, Jon Langford, or latter-day Joe Strummer, and he’s not doing half bad. The literary lyrics to “Chamomile” have a weariness you might find unbecoming in a 26-year-old (“The buildings they are so tired / Of the lives inside of them / The eternal tenants of sedated dreams”), at least until you remember that Leonard Cohen was just as bleak just as young–for that matter, so was Rennie Sparks. Wax on Radio headlines, Hanalei plays third, and Felix Culpa and Dialogue open. 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $9. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
ERIC LEONARDSON & MICHAEL ZERANG Local musicians Eric Leonardson and Michael Zerang don’t play together very often, so their ongoing dialogue of acoustic and electric sounds has stayed fresh. Zerang, a percussionist, combines restless activity with a nuanced command of abrasive textures; tonight he’ll restrict himself to a single snare drum played with homemade friction mallets, which he scrapes across the drumhead. Leonardson uses a device he designed called a “springboard”–a wooden board mounted on a walker and fitted with a contact microphone, which amplifies the vibrations of the metal springs, wooden slats, and rubber bands that he attaches to the board and plays with bows, brushes, and his fingertips. It’s a marvelously flexible instrument, sonically and otherwise. Both men have written music for theater productions, which may account for the highly developed sense of drama they create when they improvise together. The Soliday-Baker Trio with Brent Gutzeit opens. 9 PM, Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee, third floor, 312-493-3657. Free. All ages. –Bill Meyer
SPEICAL CONSENSUS Local banjo picker Greg Cahill has helmed Special Consensus for three decades now, and though many musicians (including Robbie Fulks and Dallas Wayne) have joined and left the ranks, he keeps finding new talent to keep Chicago’s best bluegrass band going. The group’s latest album, Everything’s Alright (Pinecastle), introduces another terrific lineup–Tres Nugent (bass), Ron Spears (mandolin, vocals), and Justin Carbone (guitar, vocals)–joining Cahill on not just unadulterated bluegrass, but also some western swing, straight-up country, instrumental breakdowns, and four-part gospel harmonies. Hot Nashville musicians like Dobro player Randy Kohrs and fiddler Andy Leftwich lend a hand on some tracks, but Cahill and his crew do just fine without the help. The Grascals headline. 8:30 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $20. –Peter Margasak
FORT MINOR If someone had come up to me last November and said, “Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park just put out a hip-hop album and you’re gonna love it!” I would have punched him right in the neck. But now that I’ve listened to Shinoda’s debut as Fort Minor, The Rising Tied (Machine Shop/Warner Brothers), I’m glad I didn’t assault anybody over it. I don’t like everything about the disc–Shinoda doesn’t have much charisma as an MC, for instance, unless you find quarter-life angst compelling–but his production has me swooning. He wrote all the music and played or programmed most of the instruments, and the tracks are filled with hard-hitting drums and heartrending melodies, Kanye-catchy but with a rush of moody melodrama. His pouty self-absorption and his tendency to hang a song’s lyrics all on one simple idea, both of which feel like liabilities at first, can start to grow on you after a while. And thankfully he’s also enlisted plenty of help on the mike–the LA duo Styles of Beyond rhyme on six tracks, and Common and Black Thought make credibility-enhancing guest appearances. Styles of Beyond are also touring as part of Fort Minor; Little Brother, the Demigodz, and DJ Tone B. Nimble open. 6:15 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $21. All ages. –Kabir Hamid
I CAN MAKE A MESS LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS Ace Enders is best known as the front man of Early November, a let-it-all-drag-out emo outfit, so the cornball vulnerability of his solo project shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. But what might surprise the jaded is how ambitious he is when untrammeled by bandmates–his 2004 debut as I Can Make a Mess (Drive-Thru), full of acoustic meanderings and orchestral spillover, sprawls luxuriously, like an overfed 70s beast. Owen and BC Camplight open. 6 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. All ages. –Monica Kendrick
MASS SHIVERS The self-titled album this local trio put out last year on Sickroom caught some heat for being too indie rock, and judging by the new demos on the band’s MySpace page they’ve taken those criticisms to heart. Now they’re straight-up groovy, in both the aimless-and-jammy sense and the chill-out-with-a-doobie sense. Though the two guitars stay out of each other’s way most of the time–one’s like a greased-up show-off kissing his biceps and snorting blow off some chick’s ass, the other more like a dirty loner with a trucker mustache who’s smoking up in a gas-station bathroom–when they land on a riff together there’s a luau of war cries. The occasional lounge-wuss vocals bob along ineffectually, like a runaway helium balloon on the wind, but the lumpy, tom-heavy drumming–somewhere between caveman throwdown and hippie drum circle–puts some hair on the band’s collective chest. These guys are big fans of the “pause . . . explode!” trick, but they never use it to bring a wall crashing down. In fact there is no wall. Fuck resolution, these songs seem to say–just be, man. For this show Mass Shivers will be a four-piece, according to their Web site–drummer Dylan Ryan (of Michael Columbia and Herculaneum) will play a second trap kit. No Funeral headlines, Mass Shivers are second, and Lazer Crystal opens. 9 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton, 773-486-2700, $5. –Liz Armstrong
MAJA RATKJE Norwegian sound artist Maja Ratkje threw it into overdrive in 2005. Fe-mail, her noise duo with Hild Sofie Tafjord, released its best and broadest album, Voluptuous Vultures (PsychForm), on which Ratkje’s otherworldly vocal improvisations and Tafjord’s blubbery French horn lines enhanced lacerating electronics; on Post-Human Identities (Kontrans), a duo album with the great Dutch vocalist Jaap Blonk, she helped deploy samplers, computers, and dictaphones so cannily that figuring out the provenance of each utterance became a maddening guessing game. And her terrific quartet, Spunk, returned with its first album in three years, En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom (Rune Grammofon), an all-improvised amalgam of slurps, scrapes, lurching rhythms, horrifyingly unhinged noises, and fantastical dirges; the record’s unlike anything I’ve heard in years. This performance, one of only two gigs during this U.S. visit, is her solo debut in Chicago, which means she could conceivably do anything–engage in some of the wild vocal acrobatics from her 2002 solo album Voice, play a formal composition like the one recorded by accordionist Frode Haltli on Looking on Darkness (ECM, 2003), or just let fly with unadulterated noise. Any of those options seems good to me. Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten (Atomic, the Thing) and TV Pow open. 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. –Peter Margasak
LOVELY LITTLE GIRLS These art-damaged locals don’t seem too concerned with being the same band from one show to the next–this time singer Gregory Jacobsen, guitarist Alex Perkolup, and drummer Eleanor Balson (see also What Are You Wearing? in Section 1), who’ve been the core of the group for the past year, have corralled a trumpeter, a backup vocalist, a saxophonist, and a bass player. Though there hasn’t been a keyboard involved in ages, the band’s queasily assaultive sound–think every bad drug experience you had freshman year packed into three minutes–is still reliably influenced by the Screamers. (Jacobsen considers hyperdramatic Screamers front man Tomata du Plenty a role model.) Their shows are more like psychic warfare than entertainment–but what they’re trying to get into your head is the idea that even the most fucked-up music can be fun. This is the band’s last gig with Balson, who’s moving to the Bay Area, and possibly their last as Lovely Little Girls–they’re currently debating a name change to “Glamorous Piles.” Bobby Conn headlines with a nine-piece band that includes Perkolup and two kit drummers–Colby Starck and Mahjongg’s Josh Johannpeter. Detholz! plays second and Lovely Little Girls open; DJ Hunter Husar spins between sets. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $6, 18+. –Jessica Hopper
NILE, SOILENT GREEN The subgenres of creepy mytho-nationalist Scandi black metal and forensic death metal are pretty saturated at this point, but NILE have cornered the market on a whole new area of inquiry: Egyptology metal, or as they prefer to call it, “ithyphallic metal.” “A lot of research goes into our lyrics,” singer-guitarist Karl Sanders, who has a seven-foot-tall sarcophagus in his living room, told Guitar World. “We’ve gotten letters from university professors who have questions about our stuff.” Dig the liner notes to “Cast Down the Heretic,” from Annihilation of the Wicked (Relapse): “To my thinking, Akhenaten’s demise would have been, aside from a certain grand revenge satistfaction for Amen-Ra’s priesthood, a political necessity.” I myself have a question about their drummer: How the fuck does he play so fast that his double kick drum sounds like a film projector? As for their scholarship, an associate of mine at the Oriental Institute says their Egyptology is “poor at best.” “It’s ridiculous how many of my song ideas I get from watching the Discovery Channel!” says Sanders.
Judging from their cover art SOILENT GREEN seem to be medieval orientalists of some sort. Unlike labelmates Nile this New Orleans group has virtually no educational value, but their Confrontation album does have some really excellent dope-rock riffs and one song that’s just a drum solo.
Nile headlines; Hypocrisy, Soilent Green, Decapitated, Raging Speedhorn, and With Passion open. 5 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $25 in advance, $27.50 at the door. All ages. –J. Niimi
BR549 Chuck Mead used BR549’s 2004 album, Tangled in the Pines, to vent both his contempt for Nashville and his frustration over the brief dissolution of the band in 2001, after they’d suffered a major-label flop and then lost two key members. Things haven’t gotten much easier since: the replacements for those two members have themselves moved on, and multi-instrumentalist Don Herron complicated the band’s schedule by joining Bob Dylan’s band. So it’s surprising that Mead doesn’t sound terribly bitter on the group’s new album, Dog Days (Dualtone)–the notable exception being “Lower Broad St. Blues,” a stinging critique of the transformation of the band’s old stomping ground from a seedy bastion of old Nashville to a tourist attraction. BR549 used to make ample room for covers on its albums, but Dog Days is mostly built on multistylistic originals–a bit of bluegrass here, some western swing there, a touch of rockabilly–all rooted in hard-core honky-tonk. The musicianship is excellent as usual, but the band sounds like it’s struggling to find its place in a country scene that doesn’t have much use for its musical breadth. And aside from a gorgeous take on Tim Carroll’s “After the Hurricane,” with its Everly Brothers-tinged vocal harmonies, the songs rarely rise above the perfunctory. The Avett Brothers open. 7 and 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15. –Peter Margasak