Contributors: Rick Cornell, Grayson Currin, Rich Ivey, Kathy Justice, Chris Parker, Chris Toenes

Wednesday, January 31

Haptickle Optrickery, Kings

Several years ago, Phon’s Dustin Dorsey and Drew Robertson joined for a night of improv with Crowmeat Bob at his former Bickett Gallery digs. Things have changed a bit: Bob’s moved his studies to Kings, and Robertson and Dorsey released one of last year’s best pieces of improvisation, The Orm. Back then, we got slow, long, humid breaths from Phon painted in the ruddy light of Bob. Tonight, if we’re lucky, it will breathe again. 9 p.m. GC

Thursday, February 1

Manchester Orchestra, Local 506

Led by 19-year-old Andy Hall, this Atlanta quartet cites the Eels and Weakerthans as influences. Lyrically, that makes sense, but sonically, this doesn’t follow. Not that their eclectic debut, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child, hews very closely to any genre conceit: Some songs lilt and drift beneath moody synths (“Where Have You Been”), while others tumble forward, propelled by intermittent blasts of guitar (“Now That You’re Home”). Though hard to pin down, Hall’s penchant for pocket-sized grandeur often recalls the Bowie-isms of Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. $8/ 8:30 p.m. CP

White Rook, Blagard, Chest Pains, Wetlands

To grasp these three local bile-spewing outfits, let’s try flash cards. Card one: White Rook melts asphalt with instro-sludge. Card two: Blagard spews lean and mean with a big grudge. Card the third: Chest Pains binge and purge on red-eyed punk. Shots chased with beer have been known to improve stamina and memory. 10 p.m. CT

The Grass Cats, Mac’s Tavern

If it’s the first Thursday of the month, then that must be chart-topping bluegrassers (courtesy of their 2002 single “Bluegrass Man”) The Grass Cats up in front of the crowd. Their youthful energy coexists with veteran savvy, andwith the Cats’ five-man rosteryou’ll find crisp originals alongside bluegrassed versions of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door” and the early ’90s power ballad “How Do You Talk to an Angel?” See their brand new Home to Carolina. 8 p.m. RC

Friday, February 2

Across the Elementary, Sweater Weather, Nightlight

Across the Elementary is the brainchild of teenager Reed Benjamin, whose homemade recordings teeter with delicate grace, lightly strummed guitar and skeletal drums. They paint a bachelor’s pad decorated with hope and heartache. It lands somewhere between the fragile twee of ’90s chimp rock heroes Small Factory and the snowglobe orchestrations of Saddle Creek producer Mike Mogis. Benjamin is performing solo and will be preceded by Sweater Weather’s dulcet psych-pop. $5/ 10 p.m. CP

Cracker, The Hackensaw Boys, The Pour House

It seems as if David Lowery has constantly been on the road since reuniting Camper Van Beethoven five years ago. In that time, the Richmond resident has played nearly a dozen Triangle gigs, either with Cracker or CVB (touring with Modest Mouse and Built to Spill) and managed to release new records from both bands. Cracker’s latest, Greenland, is their first studio album since 2003, and it signals a slight if tempered return to the big guitars and mid-range riffs that made Kerosene Hat a hit in 1991. Tonight, though, Lowery and guitarst Johnny Hickman lay it low as an acoustic duo. Perhaps the best cuts from their Countrysides will be in order. Virginia’s big-band bluegrass act, The Hackensaw Boys, open. $12-$15/ 10 p.m. GC

New Jack Swing Reunion Tour, RBC Center

Teddy Riley set the tone for early ’90s R&B by fusing hip hop and soul, blending silky harmonies with street beats and light funk. His production aesthetic was termed New Jack Swing, and it sold a lot of records. But Boyz II Men went Full Circle, and Cali-rific g-funk took its spot on Top 40. Now Riley’s revved up for a revival, and he’s bringing his old ponies along for the ride: Blackstreet, Tony! Toni! Tone!, After 7 and Riley’s own group, Guy, take the stage to give Riley new legs. No diggity, no doubt? $39.50-$49.50/ 8 p.m. KJ

Martha Basset & Camel City, The Cave

Martha Bassett is a Southern fried woman with multiple music personalities, and she’s got several bands to prove it. Sometimes she’s the sultry swing singer, lending her smooth soprano to sparkly ’40s-era tunes (2001’s Gone with the Moodswingers), but she can easily transfer that saucy purr into a roots warble that haunts the soul (2004’s Mortal Flesh with Wilderness Gospel). Her newest project with the four-piece Camel City finds Bassett doing double duty, with smooth Peggy Lee-style vocals on smoky jazz cuts (“Ooh Papa Do”) and moments of twang on folk and country hummers (“My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It”). 7:30 p.m. KJ

Extra Blue Kind, Mowgli, Can Joann, Duke Coffeehouse

Bloomington’s Extra Blue Kind load in with sensible pop, while our own Mowgli looks toward a new record of melodic (and often acoustic) songs. Can Joann kicks things off with their wry, hooky, electric tunes. $4/ 9:30 p.m. CT

Nathan Asher & the Infantry, Lincoln Theatre

Rock isn’t dead: It lingers with consumption in the darkened alleys around the corner from the bar, spit bubbling at the corner of its mouth, fingers hungry, writhing to get a grip on something real. It never dies, just sinks back further into the gutter, until its immortal desiresnow burning a hole in its heartring it back to the surface with the only words it knows to communicate the yearning. Six strings, four-on-the-floor. Asher and his crew were born in this blood-red cauldron. They live to stir hope and reawaken the dreams, old-fashioned heartland rumble echoing the spirit of the Boss. $7-$9/ 10 p.m. CP

Saturday, February 3

Truckstop Preachers, Hideaway BBQ

Head preacher Nathan Palmer boasts a silky croon like butter, and the group works the countrified gamut, from bubbling rockabilly and hopped-up honky tonk to lonesome, tears-in-your-beer twang. It’s honest, straight-up stuff, replacing the nod and wink with a playful spirit and crisp, spot-on playing. $8-$10/ 9:30 p.m. ­CP

Lil’ Brian & the Zydeco Travelers, Blue Bayou Club

Hillsborough’s Blue Bayou Club is the place in the Triangle region for zydeco, and it’s a contender when it comes to funk and soul. With the accordion-wielding Lil’ Brian and his Travelers, the pride of East Texas zydeco country and the inventors of what they like to call Z-Funk down there, you get all three. Need an endorsement? The band’s new album, Funky Nation, was produced by Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, the same legend whose accordion is tattooed on Brian’s right bicep. $14-$16/ 9:30 p.m. RC

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Meymandi Concert Hall

Anybody who’s been paying attention to country music for the last, oh, 40 years can tell you the Ricky Skaggs story, including the many roles he played over the years: mandolin prodigy, member of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys at 15, progressive bluegrasser, arranger/ harmony singer/ multi-instrumentalist in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, Sugar Hill pioneer, tradition-minded country artist with a trail of hits, return-to-roots performer and label owner. You’ll get at least a glimpse at most of those at Meymandi. $35/8 p.m. RC

Monday, February 5

Yo La Tengo, Portastatic/ The Rosebuds, Cat’s Cradle

Yo La Tengo’s a familiar three-piece beast, but no band is doing the erudite dilettante stance better right now: Last year’s I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass was spotty as an album, but, seen as a mixtape moving from soft-shoed soul to hard-line tremolo jams, it was a colorful curio. Lately, it seems they like it that way. Portastatic opens tonight, with The Rosebuds in the one-spot tomorrow. Don’t go expecting the new Rosebuds to sound exactly like the potently melodic band of Make Out or the deeply longing duo of Birds Make Good Neighbors: Their third album, Night of the Furies, is due on Merge in April, and it alternately pulls deeper under the covers (“Silja Life”) or farther apart on the dance floor (“Get Up, Get Out”). The results run for better and worse, and one gets the feeling that this album could either push The Rosebuds far beyond their nominal buzz or quell any adoring din completely. $18-$20/ 9:30 p.m. GC

Tuesday, February 6

Midlake, Tacks, The Boy Disaster, Carter Gaj, Local 506

Succumbing to a love of Fleetwood Mac and America may not seem the wisest career choice for indie rock in 2007, but Midlake embraces its deepening ’70s folk-rock roots and is better for it. Nostalgic and refreshing, the Denton, Texas, quintet plays gorgeous rock tunes that make most contemporaries look extraneously off-kilter or drudgingly amateurish. $10/ 9 p.m. RI

Greg Klyma, The Cave

Buffalo-raised folk troubadour Greg Klyma boasts he’s a simple man, even titling his latest album Not a Complicated Guy. But, Klyma’s music is far from simplistic: His rich melodies break gently over lyrical warmth. And while the lyrics seem effortless, they hold tight to deep philosophical issues (spreading the love, celebrating diversity, etc.) and link together his view of humanity, suggesting that Klyma’s a lot deeper than he’d ever let on. 7:30 p.m. KJ