There's plenty of great shows to choose from this week, but it all points to Sunday night, when two great bands share the bill at Black Cat. Or if Lucero's southern rock or Titus Andronicus' raucous indie doesn't suit you, there's the legendary Acid Mothers Temple at DC9.
Spirit Family Reunion, April 13 at the Red and the Black ... Spirit Family Reunion is a young, brilliant roots band steeped in the best of Americana. There's really not much out there to draw an educated opinion from, but what I've heard is heartbreaking and beautiful. This band needs a label and an LP pronto. Opening for D.C. singer-songwriter John Bustine, whose country-folk songs often are tales of life on the road.
The Appleseed Cast, April 14 at DC9 ... Though definitely emo, Appleseed Cast has been more daring than most emo bands over the past decade -- writing complex compositions and adding some space rock and electronica and often flirting with post-rock. So it's a more ambient take on emo and the records often sound like film scores. Their albums are littered with instrumental tracks, but maybe the most compelling instrument is guitarist Christopher Crisci's depressingly beautiful and haunting voice. He and guitarist Aaron Pillar have been the only constants, playing with a rotating cast of drummers and bassists. February's "Sagarmatha" ditches some their more melodic work but is maybe the band's most cinematic work, and certainly very compelling. With An Horse and Solar Powered Sun Destroyer.
Extra Golden, April 14 at Comet Ping Pong ...Extra Golden's slick blend of Afro pop and D.C. underground rock began with Ian Eagleston's doctoral thesis. In 2000, he went to Africa to study Benga music, but rather predictably, he wanted to get his hands in it and he collaborated with several talented African musicians from the band Orchestra Extra Solar Africa and later brought his Golden bandmate Alex Minoff (also of well-indie-connected Weird War) and Benga star Opiyo Bilongo into the fold. The result of the grouping -- and the hurried recording sessions -- is three LPs of catchy, soulful and improvisational Benga-style music easier for the average listener to jump into than the increasingly popular Ethiopian jazz of artists like Fela Kuti.
The Show Is the Rainbow, April 14 at Velvet Lounge ... The Show Is the Rainbow is the "pre-recorded multimedia one-man band" of Darren Keen. It's a wildly inventive dance party seemingly pieced together from anything you might want to boogie to -- disco, techno, hip-hop, house, funk -- with jarring rock and noise moments thrown in. He is opening for Beep Beep, with whom he also plays bass. That Omaha band released a post-punk record in the midst of that revival a few years ago but has since scrapped that style and gone completely nü wave.
The Felice Brothers, April 15 at the Birchmere ... Hailing from the Catskills, Felice brothers Ian (guitar, vocals), Simone (drums) and James (accordion) completed their band of Dylanesque Americana with bassist Christmas Clapton in New York City and put out a couple of rough and raw LPs, but such lack of production suited their rustic and earthy sound. They've maintained that feel on a couple of more polished studio LPs. Their not just a Dylan-aping group, nor your typical Americana band. It's a catchy roots rock revival, and though Ian may borrow Dylan's inflection (often) and phrasing (at times), there is a certain lovelorn quality more common to pop music in there. With Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers.
The Flatlanders, April 16 and 17 at the Birchmere ... Joe Ely: A country-rock icon and one of the forbearers of alt-country, though the rock he drew from was more of the Sun Records type. Butch Hancock: His Dylanesque country-folk was incredibly influential to the progressive country movement of the '70s. Jimmie Dale Gilmore (Smokey, for you "Big Lebowski" fans): He outshined them both -- despite not releasing his debut until he was in his 40s in 1988 -- as an Austin icon with that tender tenor voice and a keen ear for mixing blues, rock, country and folk. They all started out as The Flatlanders in the early '70s and were criminally ignored as a group, their recording not really seeing the light of day until the 1990 compilation "More a Legend Than a Band." And that title really hit the nail on the head. Revived in this decade, 40 years in the business has certainly changed them from the band they used to be, but they've still got a unique knack for country, folk and Americana touched by a bit of rock.
Dengue Fever, April 17 at the State Theatre ... Though basing their sound on '60s Cambodian psychedelic rock and singing in that country's native tongue, Khmer, Dengue Fever isn't quite as exotic as you might think. '60s Cambodian psychedelia isn't really all that different from American psychedelic garage rock, though there is a noticeable Bollywood influence, and Dengue Fever also leans a bit on Ethiopian jazz. Fuzzy guitars, organs and the sinuous vocals of one-time Cambodian pop star Chhom Nimol define the band's sound, which is simply very good, Eastern-tinged garage revival. With Chicha Libre.
Andy Zipf and Damion Suomi, April 17 at the Red and the Black ... Arlington singer-songwriter Andy Zipf excels with a backing band, so let's hope this is one of those shows and not one of his solo acoustic performances. The latter are fine, but the former showcase his talents much better. A full rock band setting kicks his tender, heartfelt songs up a notch. It's basically straightforward modern rock, but modern rock done right. Florida's Damion Suomi hits town in support of his self-titled debut LP. He plays folk rock, basically, with touches of both Irish and country folk, and sings about drinking, being drunk and that which drives people to drink (relationships, mostly). Like his label says, the songs all sound familiar, like something you think you've heard before but can't quite place. What strikes me most, though, is a familiar voice, like a cross between Michael Stipe (when he used to sound like he cared about stuff) and Jeff Mangum (without as much pain) but with more throat than either of them. With Tiny Animals and the Empties.
Lucero and Titus Andronicus, April 19 at Black Cat … Memphis southern rock band Lucero also counts folk and pop among its influences. The band can play raucous, rowdy and rootsy foot-stompers but also is handy with bittersweet, earthy sentimentality. It is alt-country as it should be: country music with punk attitude played with rock energy. The band also is plagued by Replacements comparisons, but being mentioned in the same sentence with that seminal band is an honor (though not entirely accurate given Lucero's penchant for twang). Their show at the Black Cat in April 2007 was one of the best shows of the year. Though long, the two hours flew by. That's a sign of a great set. Their next in October of the same year wasn't quite up to the task. Frontman Ben Nichols -- who recently released a solo mini-LP -- was ill, though, so the band opted for less rock and high-energy in favor of more subdued moods. Opening up we've got a band that put out one of the best records of 2008. Though Andrew Cedermark sings with a brogue, The Pogues comparisons pretty much end there for Titus Andronicus, coming down from Glen Rock, N.J., not London. Their punky indie rock is a raucous brew of a host of other influences, from Kurt Cobain and the Pixies to post-punk to classic '70s trad rock in the vein of the Boss. Had the chance to catch 'em in New York on Valentine's Day -- best Valentine ever.
Acid Mothers Temple, April 19 at DC9 … Japanese guitarist Makoto Kawabata's cult-like collective Acid Mothers Temple makes some of the most experimental psychedelic music ever. The communal group started essentially as Kawabata jamming with unknown musicians before evolving into a touring band with an ambitious album-release schedule. It's a spacey, trippy sprawl informed as much by Krautrock as by heavy '70s prog. It's weighty, aggressive and reckless. And the live performances are legendary. Be prepared for a freak out like none you've yet experienced, unless you've already experienced Acid Mothers Temple. With Sonic Suicide Squad.
Damien Jurado, April 19 at Jammin' Java … Damien Jurado's the latest in a long line of Northwest singer-songwriters, most notably Elliott Smith. While he isn't as heartfelt and heartbroken as Smith, his songs capture the same earnestness. Nick Drake is an obvious reference point, but his songs seem influenced by sounds as varied as Bob Dylan and Neil Young's classic rock and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate) and Lou Reed's underground work in the '80s. With Laura Gibson.