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Friday 14

CEX At the ripe old age of 23, Rjyan Kidwell, aka Cex, is already a well-traveled performer: in past lives he's been a successful hip-hop MC, the darling of the Tigerbeat6 label, and a dabbler in glitchy IDM and emo bullshit. On the 2003 album Maryland Mansions, he got all Trent Reznor on us, and on the upcoming Know Doubt EP (Record Label) he's totally off his rocker. No longer a solo act, he performs with his wife, Roby Newton (of Milemarker), who plays blown-out two-stringed bass, and their friend Cale Parks on scrappy industrial percussion. Together they sound like a lumpy, loping, farting, cantankerous beast or some kind of Burning Man jam band. Weather opens; Parks' band Aloha plays second. 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-777-8932, $6 in advance, $8 at the door, 18+. --Liz Armstrong

THE GHOST If you perpetually feel the weight of history pressing down on your righteous self, then the Ghost's second album, This Pen Is a Weapon (Some), is for you: all punk anthems all the time, with none of Fugazi's knee-slapping comedy. (Though when front man Brian Moss bellows "Carry on with your pre-death post-rock / I'll be drinking with the hip-hop kids down the block," you have to wonder how the hip-hop kids feel about that.) Moss has been going solo under the moniker Hanalei; this is the Ghost's last show. Challenger, Pines, Sleepout, and Secretariat open. 6 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499, $8. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS FESTIVAL The brainchild of Jeremiah Wallis, singer and guitarist in the local combo Paper Airplane Pilots, Tomorrow Never Knows was initially conceived as the release party for the band's second CD, the self-released Western Automatic Music. But Wallis and Schubas booker Matt Rucins expanded it into a three-night festival gathering some of the region's best up-and-coming pop acts. On opening night the adventurous octet Head of Femur headlines, orch-pop collective Scotland Yard Gospel Choir plays third, and Austin expatriates Palaxy Tracks go on first; their third album of melancholy, Joy Division-inspired musings, Twelve Rooms, is slated for release in April. Catfish Haven plays second. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. See also Saturday and Sunday. --Bob Mehr

Saturday 15

COCTAILS These influential lounge-garage-pop-jazz locals, now more heard of than actually heard, staged a few "final" shows during their 90s run; they played with a fierce joy back in January 2000 on closing night at Lounge Ax, the club that was practically their home. This show is billed as the last of a short run of reunion gigs in support of the fairly exhaustive three-CD set Popcorn Box (Carrot Top). Dump (aka James McNew of Yo La Tengo) opens. 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-777-8932, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. --Monica Kendrick

DAVID DAVIS & THE WARRIOR RIVER BOYS Though bluegrass has undergone plenty of refinement since its inception in the 1930s, perhaps more than any genre of American music it still cleaves closely to tradition. That's a boon for purists like David Davis, whose uncle, mandolin player Cleo Davis, was a charter member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. David grew up watching his uncle's band achieve legendary status and soon picked up the mandolin himself; in 1984, at 23 years old, he took over the reins of the Warrior River Boys, who already had a decades-long history. On the group's latest recording, an eponymous CD on Rebel Records, the quintet takes a fuss-free approach to both high-octane breakdowns and delicate gospel numbers. Higher-profile acts tend to soften harmonies and blunt the edges of their music in hopes of reaching a broader audience, but Davis keeps his bluegrass direct and uncut. 8 PM, American Legion Hall, 1030 Central, Evanston, 847-573-0443, $15 donation for adults, $10 for kids 16 and under. All ages. --Peter Margasak

PARIS COMBO The Paris Combo's cabaret-cool, hot-jazz-tinged torch songs aren't cravenly retro--they're good enough to be timeless. On their first four albums, the French multiethnic quintet synthesizes influences that span at least one century and three continents into an aesthetic that's passionate yet droll, snarky yet sincere. They've just released their fifth album, Motifs (Koch); if current events have put you in a French resistance kind of mood, this show might provide the perfect sound track. Alfonso Ponticelli & Swing Gitan opens. 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $20, $16 seniors and kids. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS FESTIVAL See Friday. The second night of this three-day showcase includes headliners the Bon Mots--who stole the show at a recent Elvis Costello tribute at the Viaduct with an incendiary take on "Lipstick Vogue"--and local Devin Davis, whose sprawling nerd-pop debut, Lonely People of the World, Unite!, was years in the making. Maplewood opens; the Paper Airplane Pilots play third. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. --Bob Mehr

Sunday 16

TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS FESTIVAL See Friday. Saturday Looks Good to Me, a Phil Spector-style outfit led by Fred Thomas of His Name Is Alive, headlines the third and final night of the fest. Indianapolis quartet the Impossible Shapes, playing second, will preview material from Horus (Secretly Canadian), the follow-up to the hallucinatory folk on We Like It Wild (2003). Locals the Dials, who open, play a coquettish, girl-group-inspired brand of new-wave candyfloss. Canasta plays third. a8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, 18+. --Bob Mehr

Monday 17

BRIGHT EYES You can't accuse Conor Oberst of being ungenerous to fans; from the lush booklet that came with Bright Eyes' Lifted (2002) to 2003's seven-LP box set, he's happily enabled the fetishism of his cult. On January 25 he's releasing two new Bright Eyes albums simultaneously through his Saddle Creek label: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, a country-inflected poetic-angst eruption, and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, a disc of largely electronic pop. The latter is better than you might think: its first single, "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," has the sly sexual diffidence of a teenage Cure fan affecting a black-and-white-film swagger. This band has always left me a bit cold; though I'm starting to melt, I'll still point out that on tracks like "Burn Rubber" they sound like they're stealing out of Califone's garbage. CocoRosie and Tilly & the Wall open. 6:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, $23. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

Tuesday 18

HANGAR 18 With a roster that included Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox, Rjd2, and Mr. Lif, the New York hip-hop label Definitive Jux made a powerful impact almost as soon as MC and producer El-P launched it in 2000. But, as forgettable releases by recent signees S.A. Smash and C-Rayz Walz prove, it's tough to stay on the cutting edge. The Multi-Platinum Debut Album, the first album by New York trio Hangar 18, isn't a return to that edge, but it's a step in the right direction. Producer paWL's dense sampling and programming put a party spin on the ominous ferocity of Cannibal Ox, while MCs Alaska and Windnbreez rap with speed-skater velocity and unusual braininess on familiar themes like ladies and skills. They're at their best when they embrace the pleasure principle, as on "Barhoppin'," a lighthearted narrative about a dopey night on the town. OneBeLo and Majestic Legend open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10. --Peter Margasak

Thursday 20

RAZORLIGHT No one's going to call this London band innovative--they play vaguely retro, heavy-breathing glam punk--but I'm sold on their debut album, Up All Night (Universal), because they play it so terribly, horribly, mesmerizingly well, even the arena-size asshattery and the I-got-a-rock-'n'-roll-heart sappiness. Their utter conviction steamrollers any attempt to resist them; they're so earnest they could almost pass as Americans. The Features open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12. --Monica Kendrick

TEARJERKERS I have to say I'm a bit worried about the fate of my favorite female garage-blues duo, Mr. Airplane Man, now that main songwriter Margaret Garrett has left Boston for Memphis. She's now playing with Jack Oblivian in this long-running band, which takes a more swinging and less eerie stab at R & B-inflected rattle 'n' moan. But the Memphis connection isn't new--Oblivian produced Mr. Airplane Man's last album, C'mon DJ (2003)--and I'm eager to see Garrett strut her stuff in a different context. Trash & Heat, the new band fronted by Miss Alex White, opens. 10 PM, Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick

ZOMBI This electronic duo, recent transplants to Chicago from Pittsburgh, obviously take some inspiration from George Romero, but they owe a larger debt to Goblin's music for Dario Argento's arty 70s horror classics, and probably a few cents to Tangerine Dream as well. On their debut album, Cosmos (Relapse), the imaginary film they make sound tracks for (the music for an actual one is in the can) is more an existential creeper than an out-and-out gorefest. Imagine old-fashioned deep-stoner campiness played on vintage synths, loops and swirls that would sound completely at home on the old Hearts of Space radio show, and then give it a nightmare pulse. Parlour headlines; Del Rey plays second. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick


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