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

Thursday, March 8

The Thermals, The Big Sleep, Local 506

Brooklyn’s The Big Sleep is a power trio unlike most you’ve ever heard: Marrying the playfully dissonant tones of indie-rock alt.tunings to the drive of big symphonic music, they pump with a big bottom and shiver with a convoluted surface. They’re a bit like Explosions in the Sky for the Jesus Lizard setcommanding, epic, mammoth and totally capable of pushing from introspective instrumental anthems into arena-sized bombast. They’re also kinda sexy. See them, even if you miss headliners The Thermals, who at least have a lot of energy. $8-$10/ 9 p.m. GC

Old Habits, The Pour House

Raleigh’s Old Habits’ solid mountain music hooks firmly to the legends of old with ease, nestling squarely beside Del and the Boys’ high hill harmonies, Rice’s flat-pickin’ fortitude and Flatt & Scruggs’ fast-driving tempos. Weaverville’s Steel String Theory pushes a more Fleck-styled futuristic ‘grass. $5/ 9 p.m. KJ

Alabama Thunderpussy, Volume 11 Tavern

While sometimes grouped with the alt-metal of their Relapse labelmates, this Richmond quartet is much closer to the countrified crunch of Leadfoot. Singer Johnny Throckmorton’s raspy bellow even recalls Leadfoot singer Karl Agell, but the backing leans more toward the dark, deep grooves of stoner metal. Their muscularity is matched by a strong sense of melody, which prevents the mind-numbing throb from rutting in your brain. They’re supporting their new album Open Fire. CP

Friday, March 9

The Whigs, Local 506

These Athens power poppers have a shambling, off-kilter style that’s allowed them to open for The Futureheads and Franz Ferdinand even though they often sound like They Might Be Giants’ well-adjusted Southern cousins. Singer Parker Gispert’s speak-sung vocals have a gentle, off-hand manner reminiscent of The Shins’ James Mercer, and the arrangements effervesce like a freshly opened Coke. Sweet. Charlotte’s sweaty garage rock thumpers The Sammies open. $8-$10/ 10 p.m. CP

Oppenheimer, Bickett Gallery

Belmont-based electro-pop duo Oppenheimer exudes retro enthusiasm with new-wave twists. Their music ties the sun of mid-’60s pop to chirpy vocals, all blended into a sweet confection reminiscent of The Postal Service. Their glitchy keys and sliced strings pushes them forward into breezy, dance-ready breaks. Athens’ pop-rockers Russian Spy Camera open. 8:30 p.m. KJ

Randall Bramblett, Hideaway BBQ

There are a variety of entry points for the music of vocalist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Randall Bramblett. Mine was the mid-’70s record Cats on the Coast from the Chuck Leavell- and Bramblett-led Sea Level. It was a nice snack for a 15-year-old Allman Brothers fan looking to stretch a bit. You might have also caught Bramblett playing keys or providing rich harmonies for Traffic, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Bonnie Bramlett or pretty much anyone else on your record shelf who knows the right way to blend blues, soul and rock. He does. Kennebec opens. $10-$12/ 9:30 p.m. RC

Saturday, March 10

Bull City Headquarters’ opening

Saturday marks the grand opening of Durham’s newest venue, Bull City Headquarters, located at 723 N. Mangum St. Its MySpace page says, “Bull City Headquarters is a drug- and alcohol-free community space intent on facilitating creative expression, educational resources and public workshops.” This show will be an open house of sorts with food, art and some pretty great bands. Mandarin Dynasty is indie pop from California. DEB is symphonic sad-core from Winston-Salem. Eberhardt is muddy, female-fronted rock from Durham. Go to this. 5 p.m. RI

Lexie Mountain Boys, Ecstatic Sunshine, Nightlight

What the fuck, Baltimore? The Wire, resurgent B-more breaks, Beach House, Arbouretum, Animal Collective, Nautical Almanac: A hot streak, no kidding. Count The Lexie Mountain Boys, an all-woman performance troupe that’s bound to do anything onstage, including blow your mind. The growing list of B-more success includes Ecstatic Sunshine, a two guys, two guitars duo of furious electric strumming and anthems for the quirky. Think Wayne and Garth, just better musicians. Also, Boner Machine and WZT Hearts. $6/ 10 p.m. GC

Sunday, March 11

Donna Hughes, Hideaway BBQ

Donna Hughes’ latest album, Gaining Wisdom, comes with a big-name producer (Tony Rice) and all-star line-up of sidemen (Sam Bush, Rob Ickes, Ron Stewart). But Hughes doesn’t get big-headed or anything: Her style is as clear-throated and as earnest as a bright-eyed girl telling secrets under the stars. Openers The Boys From Carolina Bluegrass Band wake up those still reeling from the Saturday night bar crawl. $5/ Noon. KJ

Winterpills, The Cave

This is the penultimate stop for Massachusetts’ Winterpills before they hit South by Southwest, and they could be one of the indie bands to emerge with considerable press spoils at this year’s conference. With careful male-female harmonies and righteously subdued acoustic-electric guitar interplay, Winterpills could strike a major chord with devotees of the dearly missed Go-Betweens, or Shins fans looking to handle a little more heart. $5/ 10 p.m. GC

Wednesday, March 14

The Autumn Defense, Local 506

The Autumn Defense is the three-albums-deep project of Wilco bassist John Stirratt and sideman Pat Sansone. That said, this show will be packed for all the wrong reasons: Letter sweaters swearing Tupelo is the mantle and dudes who thrive in the fringe music of Wilco will only be mildy interested in The Autumn Defense, a smooth, high-gloss swill of ’70s AM pop and jingle-jangle textures. If the production of David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name or Christopher Cross’ kin interests you, then Defense is for you. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if Cross was once the stuff driving the engines of the Carnival Cruise Line, The Autumn Defense could be an alternative fuel for this decade. The Singleman Affair and BJ Barham of American Aquarium (he should have a good time explaining his band’s name to Stirratt) open. $8-$10/ 9 p.m. GC