Joan of Arc’s umpteenth studio album, this summer’s Testimonium Songs (Polyvinyl), documents the band’s involvement in a multitiered performance piece put together by Chicago artists Lin Hixson and Matthew Goulish (aka Every House Has a Door), which premiered in October. Called Testimonium, it was inspired by the objectivist poetry of Charles Reznikoff, who in 1933 began transforming American criminal courtroom transcripts into poetry (eventually published in the unfinished 528-page book Testimony). In his liner notes Goulish writes that Reznikoff “imagined an alternate history of the United States, one that would include voices omitted from the history books.” Only the hooky opening track, “Amelia,” borrows directly from the poet, whose work can be quite specific to its period; for his original lyrics, bandleader Tim Kinsella devised present-day analogues to Reznikoff’s writing, delivering philosophical inquiries and gnomic observations. Joan of Arc developed this material over a two-year period, but it never feels overworked or fussy; though the songs complicate the objectivist notion of the poem as a kind of self-contained object, the knotty music carries its own weight, especially on the 14-minute “The Bird’s Nest Wrapped Around the Security Camera,” which unspools constantly shifting permutations of a simple set of phrases. Kinsella and company are coming off a long European tour, and knowing them this show will balance glad-to-be-home casualness with the dialed-in sharpness that comes from playing almost every night for six weeks. —Peter Margasak Pinebender opens. $10
The wholesome twosome shows off its signature holiday cheer.
Every year since 1990, percussionists Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang have convened before dawn in a candlelit room on the second floor of Links Hall to usher in the return of longer days with an improvised performance that spans traditions and genres. Some years, these winter-solstice shows have been just about the only time you’d get to see these in-demand musicians together, but 2013 is different. Because Drake was the artist in residence at this year’s Jazz Festival, it’s only been four months since he shared a Chicago stage with Zerang. And because Links Hall has moved into a shared space with Constellation, on Western just south of Belmont, concertgoers will no longer get to watch el trains roll past the windows during the show. But you can still count on this: two drum masters will use their instruments (and sometimes their voices) to invite a crowd of predawn congregants to commune with the seasons, with the divine, and with one another until daylight streams into the room. —Bill Meyer $22
So much poppy mid-90s skate punk—or “melodic hardcore,” according to the dudes making it—came out of southern California that it’s easy to forget about little ol’ 88 Fingers Louie from Chicago, Illinois. But these guys’ hypercatchy, breakneck punk was just as great as anything their labelmates on Fat Wreck Chords did, and it’s aged remarkably well—probably because they never had to rely on dick and fart jokes. Their final release, a split EP with Kid Dynamite that came out weeks before they broke up in 1999, is an overlooked treasure. It was starting to seem like 88 Fingers Louie might be remembered only as the group that gave birth to Rise Against—the commercially accessible and massively bro-y band that guitarist Dan “Mr. Precision” Wleklinski and bassist Joe Principe started next. But successful reunion tours in 2009 and 2010 (Principe didn’t take part) proved otherwise, and tonight’s show is a 20th-anniversary party for Louie—the lineup once again includes Principe, and the set will be divided up between all three of the band’s former drummers, who include founding Alkaline Trio member Glenn Porter and John Carroll, who now plays in Paper Mice and Mucca Pazza. —Luca Cimarusti The Bollweevils and the Bomb open. $17.50
The Waffle Gang, led by Chicago vocalist Shawn “Awdazcate” Childress, encompasses an Internet radio show, a loose rap collective, and a club dedicated to eating breakfast at night. The third centers on waffles (obviously), and the first two are devoted to the underground hip-hop scene that’s been happening in Chicago since well before Chief Keef was born—a scene that has stayed fixedly focused, despite all the trends to blow through rap music in that time, on old-school undie values such as intellectual lyricism, boom-bap beats, and showcases with a million and a half performers on the bill. This one features short performances by at least 15 artists, including Childress (who recently self-released an album, Cognac Signature, that sounds like Chicago-style OutKast) and scene veteran Pugs Atomz, plus DJ sets by Mulatto Patriot, juke pioneer Gant-Man, and others. —Miles Raymer $10
Comedians Joseph Schupbach and Elizabeth Levy deliver a holiday show ahead of what they claim is the impending apocalypse. $15
Its title not withstanding, Naomi Iizuka's 1997 play suggests Kirlian photography more than it does the instant images produced by Polaroid cameras. Iizuka uses tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses to reveal the otherwise invisible auras surrounding a collection of modern urban street kids. A gay hustler evokes Narcissus, who was transfixed by his own reflection. An abused singer is equated with Philomel, who became a nightingale after suffering rape and mutilation. A tough young prostitute recalls Eurydice, whom Orpheus couldn't bring back from the dead. The conceit is wonderfully rich but goes nowhere: for all her wit and sensitivity Iizuka never really develops it. Consequently—and despite a smart, visually striking First Floor Theater staging directed by Hutch Pimentel with an ensemble of exquisitely trained young actors—it comes across as a literary exercise. —Tony Adler $12-$25http://firstfloortheater.com
Chicago dell'Arte reinterprets the story of The Phantom of the Opera from the point of view of paranormal investigators as part of their Classics: Re-Imagined series. $20, $15 for studentshttp://chicagodellarte.com
Danztheatre Ensemble brings together a diverse group of performers and directors to perform well-known theater scenes against type. Each scene will be followed by a brief Q&A. $20, $15 in advancehttp://danztheatre.org
Oil and watercolor paintings by David Sharpe. Reception Fri 11/1, 6-8 PM.
Sculptures and drawings by Josh Garber. Reception Fri 11/1, 5-8 PM.
Earlier this year Hammond B-3 maestro and Evanston native Wil Blades formed a relaxed trio with drummer Mike Clark—who brought the funk to Herbie Hancock’s mid-70s bands as well as to the Hancock-inspired Headhunters—and multifarious New Orleans reedist Donald Harrison, who’d previously played with Clark in the 21st-century version of the Headhunters. A video of their debut at Yoshi’s in Oakland—a show that also featured guitarist Rez Abassi—shows them to be a slick, bluesy organ combo with a thoroughly modern sense of harmony and rhythm. As a dyed-in-the-wool Crescent City musician, Harrison is a key binding agent, weaving together threads of postbop, funk, and blues—and his clear investment in all three genres fends off the glibness that sometimes afflicts such ad hoc concerns. For this special gig Jeff Parker, Blades’s old friend and frequent collaborator, will join the trio on guitar; like Harrison he has an easy versatility, which should strengthen the music. Blades is one of the most promising organists going, and on last year’s Shimmy (Royal Potato Family), a series of duets with drummer Billy Martin, he demonstrated several commonalities with Martin’s most frequent partner, keyboardist John Medeski—except without the jam-band stasis that sometimes weakens Medeski’s playing. —Peter Margasak $15-$27