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

Wednesday, February 21

BARR, Marnie Stearn, Nightlight

On record, Brendan Fowler is BARR, a one-man Los Angeles band of spoken-and-rapped free verse over simple beats. His music is a weird salve, a medicine that makes everything hurt more just before making it better. It’s a potent cure for mid-20s suburban expatriates: Indeed, as survival ethos goes, Fowler is a bit like The Hold Steady, confiding on strung-out friends he’s telling not to kill themselves and dealing with life by dealing with the minutiae. And his voicenervous but gilded by a quest for hope through solidarityis reassuring, perhaps even affirming. You’ll need someone like Fowler to pick up your pieces after New York guitarist Marnie Stern shakes you by the frame. Her maximalist blitz is Deerhoof, chewing concrete nails and smiling. Skeptic Tank and Vaguely Christian-Babymaker open. For an interview with Fowler, who’s taking BARR out as a four-piece live band, see $6/ 10 p.m. GC

Thursday, February 22

Mad Tea Party, Menage, Local 506

Asheville’s Mad Tea Party are kindred spirits to the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Their animated blend of ragtime, Tin Pan Alley and roots-rock boasts boy/girl vocals and a goofy, left-field sensibility, though the ukulele-wielding Party also sound like they’ve been run over a few times by one of those overpopulated clown cars. Mary Ellen Bush and Sarah McDonald lead fellow Asheville roots-rockers Menage through slinky folk, jazz and blues. Their easy harmonies recall the Indigo Girls, with a generous helping of insistent hooks evocative of ’60s girl groups. $8/ 9 p.m. CP

Friday, February 23

The Blue Hour, Betty and the Boys, Chest Pains, Death of the Sun, Reservoir

The Blue Hour is an emo band. Sorry, but it’s true. While any self-respecting band should cringe at the thought of being called “emo” these days, it’s not as bad as it seems. The Atlanta group doesn’t don faux-goth garb or have singing/growling alternation as it rocks the faces of preteen girls (so 2007), nor does it roll around on Washington, D.C., floors agonizing over its one last wish (yes, 1987). Still, I’ll be damned if this band doesn’t own at least half of the Polyvinyl Records catalog (remember 1997?). 10 p.m. RI

The Cartridge Family, Darker Brighter, Goner, Kings

Three Raleigh bands render their rock from vastly different vantages: The Cartridge Familyemerging briefly from the belly of an in situ second albumwears a stubbly, pretty Face on a body of pure grit and experience. But Goner is a pop band with a fantastic, finished third album and no label. They need one: Their recasting of romantic suburban lore over arena drums and clanging keyboard is perfectly bittersweet, like hearing your first middle-school crush is still struggling in a town you left (and loved) years ago. Darker Brighter is the new rock trio from Lincoln Hancock (Strange, The White Octave), Brian Donohoe (Strange, Shadow of a Great Name) and Charles Story (The Weather, The Cherry Valence). 10 p.m. Goner and Darker Brighter also play Carrboro’s Reservoir Thursday, March 1 with Le Weekend. GC

Supastition, DJ Forge, Seven, Duke Coffeehouse

Supastition is sick: He’s sick of the leeches, he’s sick of the opportunists, and he’s sick of the dead-weight phonies slopping up his rap game. To counter the shifty politics and watered-down sentiment to which hip hop has grown so accustomed, the Charlotte MC sets to make things rightor at least severely honestas he tips a flat brim to the hip hop of yore. 9:30 p.m. RI

Two Dollar Pistols, Hearts & Daggers, Hideaway BBQ

Quite a pairing of country-inspired acts, covering the territory between John Howie Jr.’s tear-stained barstool to the back alley where Kevin Wolfe is kicking someone’s ass. Led by Howie’s velveteen baritone, the Two Dollar Pistols shuffle across sawdust honky-tonk floors and out the doors of unfaithful lovers, pedal steel trailing behind like the dust following Pigpen. This Pistols show may offer a sneak peak of their forthcoming (April 24) release, Here Tomorrow Gone Today. Wolfe fronts Hearts & Daggers, whose anthemic recalls the Bakersfield-fueled cow-punk of Mike Ness or the country side of the Supersuckers. $6-$8/ 9:30 p.m. CP

Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan, Nightlight

Perhaps the NightLight’s best characteristicaside from the board games and modestly priced alcoholis its open-armed approach to booking whacked-out locals. Enter CG&J, Apis Bull and Opening Flower Happy Bird, three of N.C.’s finest avant troupes. Expect a brilliant cacophony of post-punk skronk, math rock done AmRep style and lo-fi electro-pop, respectively. $5/ 10 p.m. RI

Saturday, February 24

Teenage Prayers, Slim’s

Brooklyn’s Teenage Prayers are named after an obscure cut from the Basement Tapes sessions. They have recorded a version of R&B nugget “Goodbye Baby” overseen by Solomon Burke, have received the blessings of Steve Wynn, and are known to open their shows with a lengthy instrumental that positions them as Booker T and the MG’s for the Pavement set. So there you go: They’re a quirky, psychedelic-ish roots-rocking soul band. No cover/ 10 p.m. RC

Classic Case, House of Fools, Boxbomb, Brewery

With Classic Case’s new Fearless Records LP, Losing at Life, dropping Feb. 20, the Chapel Hill quartet has assembled a veritable who’s who of big-gun Brewery bands for its Raleigh release show. Chances are you already know if you and your posse going to this, and chances are it will sell out soon. $10/ 9 p.m. RI

Joe Swank, Sadlack’s

Joe Swank’s hearty presence and crank-it-up personality lend credence to the front half of the alt-country tag and the back half of cowpunk. Supported at this semi-acoustic outing by a skeleton crew of his Zen Pirates, Swank will, as always, deftly mix rugged-country originals with covers of true classics (Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”) and wannabe-classic flotsam (Redneck Greece Deluxe’s “Don’t Let Another Penis Come Between U”). Pass the hat/ 6 p.m. RC

Calico Haunts, Showteens, The Cave

The Haunts, a relatively new gang around here, dig into scarf-adorned troubadour romanticism, hanging introspective lyrics on a penchant for the drama of rock. If you’re thinking Jacobites or a team of Leonard Cohen disciples, you’re nearly there. 10 p.m. CT

Calloused Hands, Pulsar Triyo, Sweater Weather, 305 South

A mixed Bull City bag: Begun as an outgrowth of singer/guitarist Patrick Phelan’s rustic folk-blues solo work, Durham’s Calloused Hands grew to a six-piece including violin and viola. Pulsar Triyo is a limber jazz three-piece with a deep vibe. Sweater Weather play plush, atmospheric psych-pop that has continued to evolve its own tone, adding shading to their generally light-hearted shamble. CP

Sunday, February 25

Cute Is What We Aim For, All Time Low, Brewery

Punk rock’s a rite of passage, like John Hughes movies and fake IDs. Sheepskins in hand, record deal with Hopeless in their back pocket, Baltimore’s All Time Low disembarked last summer on a graduation road trip, bringing their supple, harmony-drenched punk-pop to the people. Sure, it won’t necessarily make them better people, but it beats working at Wal-Mart. Cute Is What We Aim For’s 2006 debut, The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch, established the Buffalo quartet as one of the genre’s rising stars alongside Academy Is… and Paramore. Their excellent vocal melodies are complemented by some canny writing, and a geeky, Weezer-worthy bounce. $10/ 8 p.m. CP

Solas, The ArtsCenter

Seamus Egan’s Celtic collective Solas forges elements of folk and bluegrass with complex Celtic-based jigs, reels and airs that display a shared heritage. Led by fiddler Winifred Horan’s quick fingers and Egan’s banjo, guitar and mandi plucks, the group sometimes pushes deep, redolent songwriting into passionate cacophony. They’re known for covers of Dolly Parton and Woody Guthrie, too, so anything could happen at tonight’s party. $24/ 7 p.m. KJ

Barn Burning, High Rolling Loners, The Cave

Providence quartet Barn Burning picked the wrong name: The best songs on their forthcoming Werner Ghost Truck are glowing orange embers, better suited for heating up cold feelings than razing old buildings. Insistent, slow-breathing organs and middle C chords from acoustic guitars guide the passengers, setting the carriage of nostalgic familiarity beneath sad songs about leaving nice people. Think R.E.M. and My Morning Jacket, bracing themselves from the Rhode Island fire indoors with a stove and a bottle of whiskey. 10 p.m. GC

Against Me!, Riverboat Gamblers, Cat’s Cradle

Drinking from the same rocket-fueled Kool Aid as the Supersuckers and New Bomb Turks, the Riverboat Gamblers’ garage punk sound is equal parts snot and grime. Last year’s To the Confusion of Our Enemies was an overlooked classic, and lead singer Mike Wiebe’s outlandish, audience-roaming antics contribute to a noteworthy live show. Against Me! singer/guitarist Tom Gabel is rightly tabbed as America’s answer to Billy Bragg (if he fronted a punk band), purveying a righteous, folk-inspired squall with worn ties to old-school DIY acts like This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb. $13/ 7:30 p.m. CP