Contributors: Rick Cornell (RC), Grayson Currin (GC), Brian Howe (BH), Rich Ivey (RI), Kathy Justice (KJ), Robbie Mackey (RM), Chris Toenes (CT)

What is Troika?

Does it excite James Baker that the little club he formed with Michael Dever and Ed Meese in the Reagan White House gets memorialized by indie kids in Carolina? Hopefully. Or do some mistake this–a convocation of 74 bands, both local and national–for a gathering of Russian dancers? Maybe. Either way, this is the fifth “Durham Music Festival” and the second Troika. And, no matter whose timeline you are on, it’s an accomplished labor of love from a bevy of volunteers. –GC

Wednesday, October 18

Duke Coffeehouse ($7/Festival Pass)

David Karsten Daniels: One of the newest additions to a Fat Cat label roster that has included Sigur Ros, Mice Parade and To Rococo Rot, David Karsten Daniels is a cofounder of one of the Triangle’s appealing talent stables, The Bu Hanan collective. Like his peers, he cloaks intricate songs exhuming emotions and examining archetypes in adventurous sonic constructions. And his voice saddles somewhere between pain and hope. 9:30 p.m. –GC

Elvis Perkins: You’d be forgiven for thinking that Elvis Perkins, with its Sun Records echo, might be a pseudonym for an early-rock ‘n’ roll revivalist. But Perkins comes by the name honestly: He’s the son of late actor Anthony Perkins, and his sound is much more Jeff Buckley than Jerry Lee. 10 p.m. –RC

Okkervil River: I’ve consistently found watching entire Okkervil River sets laborious and almost painful, hearing songs I loved marred by bad sound engineers or musicians on stage with tempers short enough to set the whole band in a tizzy. But–given the strength of the images in Will Sheff’s meticulous love-and-hate songs and the crescendo capabilities of his rock band–I’m willing to give him an infinite number of chances to get “Black” or “A Stone” right behind the microphone. A songwriter to know now. 11 p.m. –GC

Joe & Jo’s ($7/Festival Pass)

Bull City: This indie-pop of Ashley Stove and Dillon Fence ex-stars may seem like softies with heart-on-sleeve lyrics about women and love. But, deep down, the rock riffs on their recent EP prove otherwise. 7:30 p.m.–KJ

Maple Stave: If the though of a band that’s as good at mid-’90s math rock changes as it is post-millennial instrumental rock crescendos seems disastrous, hear Maple Stave, a Triangle trio that nails the daunting hybrid by understanding how to build momentum through restraint and, eventually, let it fly in the face of everyone. 8:30 p.m. –GC

A Rooster For The Masses: Too smart for dance-rock, too fun for protest-punk, Raleigh’s Rooster meet somewhere in the loud, sweaty middle. 9:30 p.m. –RM

The Honored Guests: The Honored Guests like to strangle rock music until it cries like a baby, and then soothe it with quiet, comforting noises. Their 2004 debut wore slacker flannel, but they put on Their Morning Jacket for 2006’s aptly titled Tastes Change. 10:30 p.m. –BH

Thursday, October 19

Chaz’s Bull City Records ($10/Festival Pass)

Bombadil: Sometimes bands take themselves too seriously. Not Bombadil: Capricious fun is their mantra, and they practice it well, trading lush alt-rock instrumentation with zany side-parts (bells, xylophone, kazoo) and pairing it all with energetic hat-tossing performances that celebrate freewheelin’ folk-tinged rock fun. 7 p.m. –KJ

Jew(s) and Catholic(s): Winston-Salem’s religious unifiers create soundtrack music for chase scenes, headlong electronics and acoustic instruments running with the epic sweep of a Muse track, minus the tedium and bombast. 8 p.m. –GC

Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan: One of the Triangle’s treasures, Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan are loud, spastic and vitriolic, three excellent players in completely different ways converging only to diverge again, making these songs of aggression, regression, retribution and humor with Dave Cantwell’s round-and-down-kit drumming, Anne Gomez’s way-low bass and sax rips and David Jordan’s guitar shrapnel. Get low: They’ll get you in the face. 9 p.m. –GC

Kolyma: Structured atonality and rigorous freak-outs, Kolyma is a smiling return off of great trip through something. You’ll both have fun.10 p.m. –GC

Duke Coffeehouse ($10/Festival Pass)

Red Collar: Aggressive and blunt like Dead Moon taking Fugazi’s Red Medicine with needles, Red Collar is a high-impact train wreck of metaphorical polemic commanding you to watch. 8:30 p.m. –GC

Pleasant: This Chapel Hill pop-rock quartet locks into shaky introspection, shored up by multiple harmonies, alternately tuned guitars and curious lyrics that demand repeated listens. It’s obvious they’ve digested a diverse array of influencing factors; but often the prism through which they display them makes them uniquely Pleasant. 9:30 p.m. –CT

Jennifer O’Connor: The “tidy, infectious songs” (so says the New York Times) of Jennifer O’Connor and her ability to confidently lead a band or shine solo position the Brooklynite as the new millennium’s Barbara Manning. 10:30 p.m. –RC

Portastatic: Not happy with the world but writing songs as contagious as ever before, Mac McCaughan celebrates his new Be Still Please tonight. For more, see page 50. 11:30 p.m. –GC

Francesca’s (Free)

Shawn Deena: A Durham singer-songwriter with a penchant for percussive, frenetic strumming and soul melismas dressing narrative acoustic rock, Shawn Deena is interested in audience-performer sympathy. 7 p.m. –GC

Leah Magner: Possessed by one of the most powerful voices in the Triangle and the gall to make it work, Leah Magner is capable of howling or leaning in whispering confessions to crowds she can almost always command. Her solo presenation–just her playing a big, wide-voiced acoustic guitar–makes it much more involving. 7:30 p.m. –GC

Eberhardt: Durham’s minimalist duo turns stripped-down swamp rock into amped up alt-rock excursions that are heavy on the vocal drone, wallops of explosive drumming and piercing riffs recalling The White Stripes. 8 p.m. –KJ

Charles Latham: One of the sharpest songwriters to emerge of late on the anti-folk sphere, Charles Latham chastises Dylan’s alleged hypocrisy while lambasting social ills from boys with libidos swinging too much to the soul-sucking sycophancy of looking for a job. But Latham balances lashes with laughs, songs about his own underwhelming sexuality and confidence as funny as they are endearing. Charles Latham could be your new hero. 8:30 p.m. –GC

En Garde: In this and previous outfits, these guys have and do wave the Chapel Hill indie rock flag of Archers. Think ‘Chunk and its pop-punk exuberance. 9 p.m. –CT

Joe & Jo’s ($10/Festival Pass)

Can Joann: Their power-pop is lean and mean, sporting a jagged indie edge. Hopefully, they’ll be showcasing material from their rock-solid, five-month-old debut LP Hurt People Hurt People. 7 p.m. –BH

Midtown Dickens: Multi-instrumentalists not afraid to ask friends for help and the audience for forgiveness and laughs, this Durham duo weaves tapestries of banjo, accordion, percussion, guitar, trombone, harmonica and anything else that’s laying around. You’ll hear bits of anti-folk heiress Kimya Dawson in Catherine Edgerton, but all of the deprecation has been traded in for friendship and exuberance. This band is a joy to hear and probably even better to live. 8 p.m. –GC

Joe Romeo & the Orange County Volunteers: Joe Romeo, late of Fake Swedish, is back, this time as the featured player in a larger ensemble cast and in a calmer setting more friendly to his literate songs. 9 p.m. –RC

Dirty Little Heaters: Simply put, Dirty Little Heaters–Reese Gibbs on guitar and Melissa Adams on drums–rock harder than your band: The cause is a deference not to scene but to sound, a wallop that suggests time spent with Southern rock, New York punk and Transylvanian metal and an appreciation of the power in it all. Get out of the way: This volume will make you curtsy. 10 p.m. –GC

Bellafea: On stage, the duo format fits for Bellafea, allowing Heather McEntire and Nathan Buchanan to communicate tacitly and shift seamlessly from cataclysmic wails and roars to creeping moments of quiet. The chemistry and resultant energy is apparent, revealing a band ready to explore every possibility of its dynamic in under an hour. Loud guitar and heavy drums–or the opposite. New record in 2007. 11 p.m. –GC

Cosmic Cantina Lounge (Free)

Shakermaker: With nods to sunny pop, antiqued folk and tie-dyed guitar music, Shakermaker draw from the rock canon liberally. But who can blame history-cribbers when the synthesis comes out so sweetly? 8 p.m. –RM

Vibrant Green: Only one Tunnell brother remains in Vibrant Green, and he’s traded a childhood fixation with rock bravado for a newfound enthusiasm for arranging austerity. 9 p.m. –GC

The Cassandra Project: If Rasputina and Poe had a lovechild, it would be TCP. The Durham-based quintet keeps femme-alt rock steady, mixing frenzied vocals with bashed out chords and sassy sweetness. 10 p.m. –KJ

The Longshoremen: Indie rock with a self-effacing sense of grandeur and disgust, The Longshoremen move between Kyuss-heavy stoner jams fronted by Dead Milkmen vocals and (genius) weepy ballads about why Denver is the epicenter of the axis of evil. 11 p.m. –GC

Friday, October 20

305 South ($10/Festival Pass)

The Future Kings of Nowhere: Punk in delivery and aesthetic, Durham’s Future Kings of Nowhere plays energetic folk ballads with an ever-revolving auxiliary cast. 7 p.m. –RI

Shipwrecker: New country fare from Durham hits the high seas. 8 p.m. –GC

The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers: Prayers and Tears principle Perry Wright can evoke empathy with elliptical narratives about people you’ve never met in a way that’s so effective it’s scary. “Lisa,” a cut from a compilation issued by Esopus magazine, is the story of an imaginary friend mourning its inventor, who has moved. Such a provocative query wrestles with the quest of maintaining sanity in a self-motivated world. On every level–lyrical and musical–it’s one of the best love songs of this decade, “local” or otherwise. 9 p.m. –GC

The Mountain Goats: This is a moment I’ve been waiting two Troikas for: The Mountain Goats canceled last year’s appearance, which was also the slot behind Prayers and Tears. This year, the sometimes tourmates try for one and two again. It’s especially more now, as The Mountain Goats come off this year’s Get Lonely, the most quietly despondent and heaetbreaking record they’ve ever recorded. In fact, the title cut borrows elements of Wright’s chilling approach, a wavering, hesitant, rhythmically skipping quiver painting perfect pictures of isolation with words. 10 p.m. –GC

Man Man: Why is Philly’s Man Man playing a festival for North Carolina music? Who cares? It’s Man Man! Having laid waste to the Local 506 just months ago, this local encore for the nation’s best band of merry mourners and wild-eyed fanatics is a sure-fire winner. Be prepared for prodigious beards, war paint, pots and pans, sea shanties and demented klezmer, all swirling in a maelstrom of theatrical experimentation and emotional resonance straight out of a Gondry film. 11 p.m. –BH

Terry Anderson & the Olympic Ass-Kickin’ TEAM: A different kind of potency that Durham needed for this festival, Terry Anderson’s brand of ribald, blue-collar humor and the hard, fast and tight nature of his Faces-meets-Dixie rock band could turn this festival’s penultimate night into a fantastic party. If that happens, expect to have Anderson to blame (and Aleve to thank) in the morning. Remember, though, Saturday is a long one. Midnight. –GC

Joe & Jo’s ($10/Festival Pass)

Like A Bear: It’s shout-in-the-corner bassline rock, or back to the crowd introspection from these Greensboro young’ins. 8 p.m. –RM

The Fake Accents: Visitors from the D.C. area, this foursome come armed with a big guitar sound and equally barbed hooks. Early Pavement/Malkmus is a touchstone. 9 p.m. –CT

The Ex-Members: Gerty took a leave of absence and took a slightly new shape on the return: With a debut delayed by back surgery for former Butchies drummer Melissa York, The Ex-Members play their second show of danceable electro-pop here. Expect the edge Gerty brought, but fortified with a broader (and better) palette of samples and synths. “Hit by Hit” is the local pop song of the year. 10 p.m. –GC

Homemade Knives: This acoustic quartet from Richmond occasionally sounds like they’re aiming too much for the hearthstone of either adult-contemporary Sister Hazel balladry or the overwrought lands of contemporary country. But, when they shine, it’s a slow burn of heartache and longing, earnest vocals of regret given proper pastoral treatment with slide guitar, cello and major chords. If your party needs empathy, try this. 11 p.m. –GC

Des Ark: Aimee Argote’s ongoing band project (she’s currently working solo) stirs emotions on many levels, but what’s inescapably powerful is “the voice,” a bottomless well that can hold bluesy Bessie Smith wails, just-got-in-a-fight growls and an exasperated longing that anyone can comprehend. Midnight. –CT

MarVell Event Center ($10/Festival Pass)

Vedere Rosso: Sprightly indie rock with a bubbling power-pop core, this quartet manages songs about robots living in Hawaii with the same panache they muster for diatribes on domestic discord. 7:45 p.m. –GC

The Heist & the Accomplice: Columbia, S.C.’s The Heist & the Accomplice incorporates complex rhythms, gritty guitars and minor-key melodies reminiscent of Lovitt Records. 8:30 p.m. –RI

Spider Bags: This fantastic Chapel Hill band plays something-like-country music, but–for a form gone stale, whether you’re on the mainstream or alt. lines of the equation–Spider Bags sound an awful lot like pioneers sticking necks out for imperfection. Not as theoretically focused as the work of Dr. Eugene Chadbourne but every bit as wayward, they could be onto something. 9:30 p.m. –GC

Schooner: When Schooner isn’t pushing the tempo on sad-eyed rockers and making melancholy sound fun, this Pox World prize dresses delicate moments in uplifting melodies that reach for the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s sad, heartening, honest pop. 10:15 p.m. –RM

Ringside ($10/Festival Pass)

Beloved Binge: Like wonderful Chicago co-eds The Spinanes, Beloved Binge hustles through minimal guitar-and-drum pop obsessed with sparseness, space and sear. But they do it with the gumption of 764-Hero and, occasionally, the enthusiastic bluster of Sonic Youth. 8:30 p.m. –GC

The Gates of Beauty: I’m not sure what to expect from The Gates of Beauty, but the trio of Shannon Morrow, Wendy Spitzer and Anne Gomez represent themselves with pictures of New Hampshire legends The Shaggs and animated icons Josie & the Pussycats. Oh, yeah. 9 p.m. –GC

Torch Marauder’s Grappling Hook: Probably more Yngwie Malmsteen than Rhys Chatham, Dave Bjorkback–err, The Torch Marauder–leads his army of guitar into the Battle For Durham. 10 p.m. –GC

North Elementary: In a place where bands make T-shirts before they record a song, John Harrison’s 5-year-old dream pop band North Elementary is practically an institution. 10:30 p.m. –BH

The Whole World Laughing: The combined caterwaul created in their other projects–from Geezer Lake to Analogue–qualifies for retirement in the Polyrhythmic Hall of Fame. Scotty Irving and Dave Cantwell decided to pair up as a bass and drums splatter duo. Half-grind, half-groove, all jams. 11 p.m. –CT

Veronique Diabolique: Four gothic Francophiles comprise Veronique Diabolique, but they’re more concerned with textural grandeur and sprawl and the beauty of what they do than their name implies. Expect more Love & Rockets than Bauhaus, more Cocteau Twins than either. 11:30 p.m. –GC

Colossus: Giant in both handle and harmony, Raleigh’s Colossus awakens the spirits of heavy metal-past with its duel-guitar assault, near-falsetto vocals and homage to George Lucas’ Willow. Midnight. –RI

Un Deux Trois: Heather McEntire–siren/string-tangler for Bellafea. Jenks Miller–voice/guitar for the molasses mucked Mount Moriah and drum destroyer for the eternally convulsing In The Year of the Pig. Put ’em together for perfect driving pop. 12:30 a.m. –RM

Tyler’s Taproom (Free)

Maxwell/Mosher: A handful of ex-Squirrel Nut Zippers survived to build solo careers: Emerging on the late tip, Ken Mosher and Tim Maxwell combine their arranging and songwriting talents here, perhaps the post-SNZ project most akin to the band that brought them notoriety. Producing playful lyrics sung and shouted over swings and shuffles, Maxwell and Mosher bring their party. 6 p.m. –GC

Calloused Hands: Inspired by Dylan, this is the folk project of 21-year-old Duke student Patrick Phelan. 7 p.m. –RI

Saturday, October 21

305 South ($15/Festival Pass)

Ace of You: Rick Davis isn’t in elementary school yet, but he kicks off the last day of Troika opening for his pops, Ben. 4 p.m. –GC

Rock Camp: That is what Troika is all about, right? 4:30 p.m. –GC

The Dry Heathens: Within off-the-cuff pop bits, these Durham guys secret away melodies in barebones songs. 5 p.m. –CT

The Capitols: Punching out rhythms that scream rebellion, The Capitols seem to be channeling a bit of unpolished Black Flag and Sex Pistols in primitive creations. You’d never guess they were underage. 5:30 p.m. –KJ

The Octobers: Partially unhinged folk strains from Raleigh, The Octobers serve a dedicated emotional ennui and perseverance with acoustic guitar, deft keyboards, cello and male/female vocals that–at the band’s best–prop one another. 6 p.m. –GC

The Rose Marie: “Breathing All Wrong,” the signature song from this Chapel Hill outfit, is as intriguing and fetching as a girl with two pretty first names and no last name. 6:30 p.m. –RC

Erie Choir: Formative influences for Erie Choir seem to include Ric Ocasek, Tom Petty and Elvis Costello, but that’s true of almost any young pop band making music right now. Eric Roehrig’s Erie Choir is different, though, for its casual, alluring presentation, playing tightly wound pop songs like it’s as natural and easy as breathing. 7 p.m. –GC

Grasshopper: A thumping bass-rock bottom and snappy, driving drums push the pining melodics of frontman Adam Brinson. Somehow snarly and sweet, Grasshopper inspires smiling sing-alongs about dejection and dead-ends. 7:30 p.m. –GC

The Wigg Report: Joyful simplicity at its best, this Durham trio makes catchy pop numbers that stick. Sometimes Beat Happening casualness slides in, but without the baritone bombast. 8 p.m. –CT

Dom Casual: These Durhamites slather together a mélange of early rock–surf’s instrumental mystery, howling hootenannies–with a sensibility for modern pop. 8:30 p.m. –CT

The Experts: Rock ‘n’ roll purists The Experts emerge from the Triangle’s rich bar scene as one of the area’s more charming acts. 9 p.m. –RI

Strange: Gothic in scope and sound, STRANGE surrounds David Mueller’s howled surrealism in spires of guitar and keyboards, self-identifying with The Birthday Party, The Jesus & Mary Chain and electric-era Miles. Now, streamlined and driven, they’re more incisive than ever. 9:30 p.m. –GC

Summer Set: A Wilmington prize (how many are there, really?), Summer Set was responsible for some of the best moments on this year’s Pox World compilation 3×4. Expect introspective, sweetly melancholic pop where the climaxes are slight but stirring. 10 p.m. –GC

The Moaners: The last we heard from The Moaners, they’d sworn off Durham. But, before that, The Moaners announced plans for the follow-up to their spectacular debut, Dark Snack. And, before that, plenty of people fell for Melissa Swingle’s slightly sedated, slightly snarling voice and Laura King’s unadorned Lucite drumming. Another of the area’s suite of power duos. 10:30 p.m. –GC

Ben Davis & The Jetts: Former punk Ben Davis leads these all-stars (Kerbloki, My Dear Ella, Schooner, Fin Fang Foom) through brilliantly arranged sets of indie pop: Melancholy harmonies through tight hooks, sweet keys and abundant textures. 11 p.m. –KJ

Two Ton Boa: Olympia’s TTB pummels. But when Sherry Fraser’s voice cuts through the mix, the din complicates and angry dude-rock becomes refreshingly feminine. 11:30 p.m. –RM

Asobi Seksu: “New Years,” the best track from this Brooklyn quartet’s recent Citrus, is an anthem for 2006. The dream-living vocals of Yuki Chikudate seem to hover and float, blessed moments guided by the momentum of the counterintuitive rock band behind her, which covers a heavy post-punk rhythm section in distorted, saturated sheets of sound. When Asobi hits its stride, it’s something to hear. 12:30 a.m. –GC

Joe & Jo’s ($15/Festival pass)

A is Jump: Recent Chapel Hill imports play atmospheric and dreamy pop of the shoegaze persuasion. 9 p.m. –RI

Chest Pains: With a sound as anxious and agitated as its name suggests, Durham’s Chest Pains takes an abnormally scalding approach to hardcore evocative of later Black Flag. “Edgy” would be an understatement. 10 p.m. –RI

Tommygun: Winston-Salem’s Tommygun–which taps members of sorely missed Chapel Hill band Capsize 7 and Shalini Chatterjee’s bassist Jamie Miyares–charges gracefully, using alternate tunings and unorthodox guitar structures to build tension and momentum in songs that would be pretty rock in less capable hands. 11 p.m. –GC

Troika 2006 venue guide

305 South: 305 S. Dillard St. All ages, smoke-free.

Chaz’s Bull City Records: 1916 Perry St. 286-9640, All ages, smoke-free.

The Cosmic Cantina Lounge: 1920 Perry St. 286-1875. All ages, bar, food.

Duke Coffeehouse: Crowell Building, Duke East Campus. 684-4069, All ages, smoke-free, BYOB.

Francesca’s: 706 Ninth St. 286-4177, All ages, smoke-free, food.

Joe & Jo’s Downtown: 427 W. Main St. 688-3322. All ages, bar, food.

Marvel Event Center: 119 W. Main St. 688-0975, Ages 18+.

Ringside: 308 W. Main St. 680-2100, Ages 21+, bar.

Tyler’s Taproom: 324 Blackwell St., American Tobacco Campus. 433-0345, All ages, bar, food.