The List: January 31, 2008 

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cCOCOCOMA This local trio got its start as a Headache City side project—HC drummer Lisa Roe plays guitar and HC front man Mike Fitzpatrick plays keyboards—but thanks to Lisa's drummin'-and-singin' husband, Bill, who writes the songs with her, CoCoComa has a rowdy personality all its own. Their down-and-dirty singles and sweatalicious live shows made the release of their self-titled debut album (last month on Goner) an eagerly anticipated event. As you might expect from a couple who got married at the Empty Bottle, the Roes work their short, frenetic songs like people who eat, breathe, and sleep the rawk, and Fitzpatrick's lush Farfisa licks give a warm organic feel to what might otherwise be a too-nervous sound. But there's something here more ineffable than that sweet spot between jagged and fuzzy. The ten blistering tracks on the LP, which are "garage" in that they sound like a '68 Dodge Dart plowing straight through one, crackle with such infectious animal joy that hating them would require focused effort—and that wouldn't make you a contrarian so much as it'd make you a boor. The Submarine Races open.  9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $6. —Monica Kendrick

CHUCK RAGAN One of the most interesting transformations in the life cycle of the male punk singer comes when he hits his 30s and decides to show the world he's capable of subtlety. Usually this involves picking up an acoustic guitar and trying to be Bruce Springsteen or Billy Bragg or both, with maybe a little Dylan on the side; it's often embarrassing for all involved. Chuck Ragan acquits himself pretty well as a gritty punk troubador—years of throat-shredding screaming in Hot Water Music have turned his singing voice into a rough, rich croon—but I'll wager that every person who comes to this show was a HWM fan first. Ben Nichols of Lucero and Joshua English of Six Going on Seven open. Hot Water Music plays sold-out shows Friday and Saturday at Metro; see Critic's Choice.  7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12. —Miles Raymer

SPECIAL CONSENSUS Chicago's finest bluegrass band was formed by banjoist Greg Cahill back in 1975. Over the decades Cahill (who promotes the form on a larger scale as president of the International Bluegrass Music Association) has managed to keep an ever-changing four-piece lineup stocked with serious pickers who understand the value of teamwork: virtuosic displays have always taken a backseat to snappy ensemble precision. On its 13th album, last year's The Trail of Aching Hearts (Pinecastle), the Special Consensus displays its usual wide range, gliding from hard-core genre classics to smooth originals to gospel to pure honky-tonk to a Django-esque blitz through Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" without forsaking its solid bluegrass foundation. Because the band tours so much, local shows like this one aren't nearly as frequent as I'd wish. The Henhouse Prowlers open.  8:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $10. —Peter Margasak

Able Baker Fox, Felix Culpa Beat Kitchen, 9 PM

Assad Brothers' Brazilian Guitar Festival Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 7:30 PM

Jim Baker, Steve Hunt, Brian Sandstrom, and Mars Williams Elastic, 10 PM

Decibully, Eons, Chrash Empty Bottle, 9 PM

Emery, Mayday Parade, As Cities Burn, Pierce the Veil, Cry of the Afflicted Metro, 5:30 PM

Flosstradamus, Million Dollar Mano The Underground, 9 PM

Buddy Guy wraps up his January residency Buddy Guy's Legends, 9 PM, sold out

Mahjongg, Chandeliers Subterranean 7 PM

Todd Rundgren, Lindsay Anderson Park West, 8 PM

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cHOT WATER MUSIC Hot Water Music tattoos are probably one of the most popular band-related body mods in America, up there with the Black Flag bars, the little Pearl Jam guy, and anything to do with the Grateful Dead. HWM have a really well-designed logo, which is surely part of it. But more important they're still the reigning kings of melodic, emotional hardcore—even though they officially disbanded almost two years ago—and melodic, emotional hardcore is just the sort of music to make you feel like doing something sentimental and irreversible. The band's best records (like Fuel for the Hate Game and No Division) nail a tricky combination of monster hooks, aggressive chops, and soul-stirring passion, and if you've got one playing it can make almost any situation—getting dumped, hanging out with your friends, driving to the grocery store—feel epic. HWM were basically on the road the entire decade they were together, but this reunion tour—promoting the new odds-and-sods collection Till the Wheels Fall Off (No Idea)—is painfully short, and both Chicago shows sold out months ago. Lucero and Hifi Handgrenades open; see also Saturday. HWM singer Chuck Ragan also plays solo at Schubas; see Thursday.  8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out, 18+. —Miles Raymer

Lonnie Brooks Beverly Arts Center, 8 PM

Dark Star Orchestra The Vic, 8 PM

The Dials, M.O.T.O., and the Teenage Imposters play a memorial show for John Glick Empty Bottle, 10 PM

DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, Kid Koala Park West, 9 PM, sold out

Elliot Eastwick Smart Bar, 10 PM

Hed P.E., Kingspade Pearl Room, 7 PM

Javelins, Nouns, Absolutely Not Ronny's, 9 PM

Matchbox Twenty, Alanis Morisette, Mute Math Sears Centre, 7 PM

Mic Terror, Million Dollar Mano, Yea Big & Kid Static, Shala Subterranean, 10 PM

Raul Midon Abbey Pub, 9 PM

Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan with members of the Chicago Sinfonietta National Museum of Mexican Art, 7:30 PM

Queensryche, Don Dokken House of Blues, 9 PM

Ra Ra Riot, Virgins Schubas, 10 PM

Daniel Bernard Roumain with DJ Scientific Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 7:30 PM

STS9, Rahzel Congress Theater, 7 PM

Taylor Swift Rialto Square Theatre, 8 PM

Vee Dee, Terrible Twos, Gold Beat Kitchen, 9:30 PM

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c ALESSANDRO BOSETTI The first works I encountered by Italy's Alessandro Bosetti were sonic explorations on a nearly microscopic scale: he combined extended-technique improvisation on the saxophone with complex microphone manipulations to produce the audio equivalent of extreme close-up photography. But on recordings I've heard recently he's returned to a longtime fascination: the musicality of language. As he writes on his Web site, "I like the moment when the understanding of words stops and every language starts to 'make noise.'" On last year's Her Name (Crouton), Bosetti uses the inflection and rhythm of spoken phrases, gathered in his worldwide travels, as the basis of melodic music arranged for guitars, keyboards, strings, horns, and electronics. The result has the feel of a Carla Bley-style jazz opera. The tracks on the more dissonant and radical Il Fiore Della Bocca (Rossbin, also from last year) are constructed from spoken-word recordings of people whose physical and neurological disabilities interfere with speech. First on tonight's program is the premiere of 29, an audio/video piece in which Bosetti generates digital "drawings" from footage shot in Mali; in the second work, Mask/Mirror, custom-designed software lets him improvise in real time using selections from his vast library of sampled spoken-word material.  9 PM, Lampo, 216 W. Chicago, second floor, 312-282-7676, $12. —Peter Margasak

DEL REY Tonight's show is an anniversary celebration for these locals, who have built their sound slowly and steadily over the past ten years, largely untouched by the tides of buzz. Starting from a somewhat undistinguished base of noodly instrumental rock, by 2006's A Pyramid for the Living (My Pal God) the quartet was playing intricate, carefully layered art metal, sometimes dirgey and thick and at other times haughtily, ambitiously naked—as if someone had flayed all the flesh from "Kashmir." A two-drummer attack might clutter things up for some bands, but it seems to keep these guys nimble. They headline; also on the bill are Tight Phantomz (whose leader, Mike Lust, produced the first Del Rey demos back in '98), Minsk, and from Portland, Maine, the trippy Conifer.  10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Monica Kendrick

c JOE HENRY Until last year it looked like Joe Henry's career as a performer was getting lost amid all his stunning work as a producer. But when he got back on the far side of the board to make Civilians (Anti-), the time he'd spent recording veterans like Bettye LaVette, Solomon Burke, and Irma Thomas paid off: the album is his most direct and full-bodied in a decade. Its prevailing mood is an eerie, midtempo calm that might eventually feel plodding if his languorous melodies weren't so gorgeous and the arrangements weren't so nimble and resourceful. Hitting notes that are somewhere between twangy and blue, Henry assumes the voice of a man beaten down by both personal struggles and national disgrace: "This was our country," he sings in "Our Song," "this frightful and this angry land." But even here he offers the possibility of redemption—Willie Mays appears in the song as a figure of dignity still holding up under the weight of daily life. And no matter how bleak the lyrics get, the warmth and patience of the music always seem to suggest that some hope remains. Chris Connelly opens. 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln. 773-728-6000, $22, $18 kids and seniors. —Peter Margasak

cHOT WATER MUSIC See Friday. Lucero and Able Baker Fox open.  6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out.

REPTOIDS This local quartet has crafted a distinctive sound over just a few EPs thanks to singer-guitarist Karen Binor, who lends a postpunk edge to what would otherwise be just straight-ahead garage metal. The band plays tonight as part of a Chicago Indie Radio Project benefit, which is also a release party for the Reptoids and the Hidden Mitten. The Reptoids' latest, the three-track Slayed, goes from ferocious ("We Are the Wolves") to playful in an I-step-on-your-face kind of way ("Tramp Stamp"). The bill, from top to bottom: Das Kapital, the Reptoids, Scale Model, and the Hidden Mitten.   9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8, 18+. —Monica Kendrick

cSAN AGUSTIN See Sunday. Tonight the trio becomes the San Agustin Ensemble, with Doug McCombs on lap steel and Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello. A quartet of San Agustin guitarist David Daniell, electronicist Brad Loving, trumpeter Jaimie Branch, and drummer Frank Rosaly opens.  10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-342-4597, $10 suggested donation.

U.S. GIRLS Meghan Remy, who used to play in bands in Portland, Oregon, now lives in Chicago and makes music by herself under the name U.S. Girls. There's something about her simple songs, dissolved in oceanic reverb, that sets the cilia quivering—the weary, ghostly singing, skeletal percussion, shivery zitherlike strings, and furry electronic thrumming are extremely easy on the ears, but they seem to catch the attention of some other sense. Each dusty, faraway melody feels freighted with quiet grief and exalted tenderness, like a guardian angel with no one left to protect, and goes nowhere except deeper into itself. Minneapolis bash-and-loop jammers Styrofoam Duck, who sound like animatronic monsters with their jaws wired shut, headline; Remy plays second and Sexual Freedom opens.  9 PM, Ronny's, 2101 N. California, myspace.com/ronnysbar, $7. —Liz Armstrong

Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project Velvet Lounge, 9:30 PM

Buffalo Tom, Sleep Out, Sounds Under Radio Double Door, 9 PM

Kent Burnside & the New Generation House of Blues Back Porch Stage, 10 PM

The Casting Out, Animal City The Note, 9 PM

Dark Star Orchestra The Vic, 8 PM

G. Love & Special Sauce Riviera Theatre, 8:30 PM

John Hammond Schubas, 7:30 PM

Ill Niño Pearl Room, 7 PM

Indigo Girls Rialto Square Theatre, 8 PM

Syl Johnson plays a benefit for the Ponderosa Stomp Hideout, 9 PM

Jerry Joseph Schubas, 10 PM

Guyland Leday & Zydeco Force Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 8 PM

Plaid Museum of Modern Ice, Millennium Park, 6:30 PM  , Abbey Pub, 10 PM

Queensryche, Don Dokken House of Blues, 9 PM

Roger Sanchez Crobar, 10 PM

Schubertiade Chicago Pianoforte Chicago, Fine Arts Building, noon

Waco Brothers, Braam FitzGerald's, 9:30 PM

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c GALLOWS, CANCER BATS It's been a few years (or decades, depending on your taste) since any British hardcore band mattered stateside, but GALLOWS have generated hype well outside the London exurbs from whence they came. Orchestra of Wolves, released on Epitaph last summer, sounds kinda like Converge dialed to "brat" rather than "murderous rage," with bits and signifiers looted from the Explosion and the Murder City Devils. Thanks to appearances on a string of clusterfuck punk tours, Gallows have developed a rep for riot-inciting live shows. Front man Frank Carter hardly looks the part—at 23 he could pass for 16—but onstage the rail-thin, milk-skinned redhead becomes a throat-shredding guttersnipe, bashing the microphone against the floor, doing straight-edge-style toe touches, and radiating a palpably hateful demeanor. —Jessica Hopper

After a couple years of maniacal touring, Toronto quartet CANCER BATS dropped their full-length debut, Birthing the Giant (Distort), in 2006, sealing their image as hairy, wild-eyed purveyors of tattoo-parlor rock. Front man Liam Cormier sounds like he belched up Axl Rose after breakfast, and the thrill-slutty guitar conjures Vivian Campbell draped in a post-Dead Boys leopard-print-and-pleather blanket. Though innovation free, Cancer Bats give everything they play a sense of white-knuckled desperation, and that's enough to get them through. —Monica Kendrick

Gallows headline, This Is Hell plays second, and Cancer Bats open.   6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $15.

cSAN AGUSTIN San Agustin makes "improvised music," but it's hardly the wild, abstract ruckus those words usually call to mind. The members of this Chicago-Atlanta trio blend rock, jazz, and folkloric styles with meditative restraint and a singular sense of time—the immediate and the eternal curl around each other in their music like yin and yang. On their one-sided LP Triangulation (Hoof and Mouth Blues) (Table of the Elements), the E-bowed guitars of David Daniell and Andrew Burnes flow together like streams of molasses on an icy morning while Bryan Fielden's drumming rushes quietly underneath, creating a paradoxical feeling of simultaneous suspension and motion. At the start of "Flint River Song," from their 1999 recording Amokhali, they leave so much space after each hushed note that time seems to stop, and though the tune eventually accelerates to a canter, it winds down again with a crawling, elegiac coda. San Agustin rarely gigs—it's been a decade since all three members have lived in the same place—and this is the first time the whole band has played Chicago. Josh Abrams and Jeff Parker open with duos for guimbri and guitar; Zelienople plays second. See also Saturday.  9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Bill Meyer

AACM Great Black Music Ensemble Velvet Lounge, 6 PM

Pacifica Quartet Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University, 3 PM

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Blood Subterranean, 7 PM

Maggie Brown leads a tribute to Oscar Brown Jr. Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre, 7:30 PM

From the Jam featuring Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler, and Hugh Cornwell Abbey Pub, 8 PM

Indigo Girls House of Blues, 9 PM, sold out

Mt. St. Helens Empty Bottle, 9 PM

Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas play a jambalaya cookoff FitzGerald's, 8 PM

Singer, Fflashlights Hideout, 9:30 PM

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cLIARS, NO AGE Hating Los Angeles used to be so simple and convenient. Whenever I needed someone or something to blame for rock's descent into bland mediocrity, LA was there for me, churning out legions of vapid hair-metal and pop-punk acts, all seemingly determined to stomp any glimmer of originality and soul out of popular music. Now, though, I feel like I hardly recognize the place. If a city's capable of fostering a whole scene of bands—Mika Miko, Abe Vigoda, these guys—that are artsy without being serious, fun without being dumb, can it really be that bad? NO AGE's debut CD, Weirdo Rippers, is a persuasive argument in LA's favor. Technically it's a collection of highlights from a bunch of EPs the duo put out early last year, but with its balance of hardcore punk stomp ("Boy Void") and dirty psychedelic atmospherics ("Neck Escaper") it winds up being a more consistent, coherent long-player than most bands' proper albums. —Miles Raymer

One key quality of a truly great band is a willingness to go out on a limb, but there are only so many times you can actually fall out of the tree before your greatness starts getting called into question. LIARS have hit the ground enough times now to quiet down some of the hype that once accompanied their every move (I'm practically the only person I know who loved They Were Wrong, So We Drowned), but like Looney Tunes characters they never seem to suffer any lingering damage. The perpetually pulsating post-punkers aren't really in risk-taking mode on their self-titled fourth album (released last fall on Mute): they settle into a hard-driving pop groove and pretty much stay there. It's enjoyable enough, but I'm hoping this is their way of lulling listeners into a false sense of security before some unexpected daredevilry yet to come. —Monica Kendrick

Liars headline.  8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $16, 18+.

cSSION Horseshoe mustache, hideous unibrow, overpomaded devil lock, smoked-sausage fake tan . . . and somehow Ssion front man Cody Critcheloe is still a total dreamboat. In an outfit that's equal parts Peter Pan, circus elephant trainer, and gutter punk, he twists and prances, singing in an angelic, androgynous voice over high-energy dance tracks that juice up your worst Boys Town club nightmare with a dramatic narrative arc—"Street Jizz," from last year's Fools Gold, is always a crowd pleaser—and he actually looks macho doing it. Even more impressive, he's completely sincere: Ssion is all he does, his life's work. The Kansas City collective is traveling with an over-the-top stage show that reenacts parts of a surreal feature-length musical movie Critcheloe's been working on for years; the entourage includes an ass-whupping drummer, a keyboardist and bongo banger, two fey, skinny dancer boys, and the Woman, a stern and remote German-lezzie type who acts as the drama's impenetrable center of gravity. The story—which "ends in complete sexual anarchy and the apocalypse," in Critcheloe's words—is buried in props, plumage, and posturing, but its message comes through with startling clarity. This isn't fantasy, it says. This is the reality each of us concocts for ourselves and then struggles to escape, its abundant absurdity laid bare. Brilliant Pebbles open and Chrissy Murderbot spins.  10 PM, Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W. Grand, 312-666-1695, $7, RSVP to outdanced@yahoo.com for reduced admission before 11 PM. —Liz Armstrong

Birthday Suits, the Blind Shake Empty Bottle, 9 PM

Tim Finn, Eileen Rose Double Door, 9 PM

Marilyn Manson, Ours Aragon Ballroom, 7:30 PM

Mika House of Blues, 7 PM, sold out

Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas play a Mardi Gras party FitzGerald's, 6:30 PM

New Budapest Orpheum Society Quadrangle Club, University of Chicago, 6:30 PM

Poison the Well, the Chariot, Dance Gavin Dance, Crime in Stereo Logan Square Auditorium, 7 PM

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cARABESQUE MUSIC ENSEMBLE Hicham Chami, a virtuoso of the hammer dulcimer called the qanun, moved here from Morocco almost a decade ago and in 2003 assembled the Chicago Classical Oriental Ensemble, which began with ten members and at times grew to two dozen. The group developed a spot-on re-creation of the stately yet florid Arabic classical style made famous in the 30s and 40s by singer Umm Kalthoum, and its first album, 2006's The Songs of Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh: Soul of a People, tackled the repertoire of the beloved Egyptian composer who modernized the music in the early 20th century by adding Western orchestral strings. Since then the group, renamed the Arabesque Music Ensemble, has shrunk to a six-piece (qanun, oud, ney, violin, cello, and percussion), but on its new The Music of the Three Musketeers—the title refers to a trio of Egyptians who wrote for Kalthoum at the zenith of her career—it still sounds fabulous. Its crowning glory is veteran Syrian-born vocalist Youssef Kassab, who can bring the rigor and austerity of sacred music to a popular love song. Unless you travel to the Middle East, it's hard to see this stuff played live—and nearly impossible to find a group that can do it with such elegance and passion.  7:30 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. —Peter Margasak

Algernon, Matt Ulery's Loom Tonic Room, 9 PM

Tommy Castro Band, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Magic Dick, Deanna Bogart FitzGerald's, 8 PM

Hewhocorrupts, Bloodyminded Empty Bottle, 9 PM

Daniel Johnston, Office Metro, 9 PM

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