Contributors: Grant Britt, Rick Cornell, Grayson Currin, Kathy Justice, Robbie Mackey, Chris Toenes

Wednesday, August 16

The Old Ceremony, White Collar Crime

The Old Ceremony’s second record is in the can and awaiting release through New York-based sonaBLAST! Records. Expect new material tonight, but–even without it–Django Haskins and his austere big band will woo all over again, eight-piece projecting tales of debauched love affairs and big-city small lives onto a canvas moved to motion. Free/10 p.m. –GC

Friday, August 18

Recess Experimental-Improv Series, Nightlight

Recess is aptly named; it’s “free play” time for local artists. It’s also a venue for less familiar artists. This roundup includes the low-tech electronics of Asplundh Cadet, Brian Howe and accomplices working with manipulated piano and language poetics, Bryce Eiman and Craig Hilton with more bleeps, and from Chuck Johnson and Robert Biggers a “little electronic tableaux,” as Biggers calls it. “I’m thinking Another Green World but closer to Cabaret Voltaire.” 10 p.m. –CT

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Umphree’s McGee, Marc Broussard, Koka Booth Amphitheatre

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones epitomize everything wrong with the “jam band” scene: four unique, highly capable talents pursuing challenging compositional ideas with an AAN, adult-contemporary lassitude. The band rarely seems to push centuries-old ideas into deep waters, choosing instead to stay tight and gloss over quirky jams worth exploring further. On that note, Victor Wooten and Fleck are probably two of the most dexterous and capable instrumentalists you’ll ever see side by side on stage on a regular basis, and–if you’ve never seen it before–it’s worth it, at least once. $37.50-$40/7:15 p.m. –GC

Airiel Down, Skywire, Ike Frasier, Kings

The skinny on Airiel Down, whose stickers you have probably seen on every flat surface in Raleigh for the last month: Four Triangle dudes started a band, bought a 45-foot tour bus, a bevy of high-end sound equipment, a bunch of stickers and a flag with their logo screened on one side. They even had their portrait painted on the bus. Said band gets in colorful bus and travels across the eastern seaboard, playing alternative rock that sounds something like Metallica’s Load covered, in entirety, by Nickelback. –GC

Alina Simone, Emily Easterly, Sarah White, Ringside

In rock criticism, male voices get special treatment far too often. When a guy’s got the goods, a writer goes metaphor-mad and simile-silly. It’s all smoke and whiskey and silk. Strong female voices, on the other hand, get the knee-jerk comparisons: PJ Harvey, Beth Gibbons, Chan Marshall, etc. The three artists on this all-girl Ringside bill–Carrboro’s Alina Simone, Charlottesvile’s Sarah White and Richmond’s Emily Easterly–don’t exactly defy comparison, but Easterly’s spacey sass, White’s rocking-chair ease and Simone’s fiery twirl each have its own distinct charm. –RM

Saturday, August 19

Renelvis, Wrenn Mangum, Greg Klaiber’s Grabass Revue, Wetlands

Renelvis and Wrenn Mangum share more than a “ren”–namely, a more-than-obvious fondness for Elvis Presley. The former prefers the jumpsuited Vegas years, while Richmond’s Mangum is all about late ’50s rockabilly. Kicking off what should be a wild night is heavy metallic polka kings Greg Klaiber’s Grabass Revue. $6/10 p.m. –RC

Tres Chicas, Ollabelle, Cat’s Cradle

Local alt-country sweethearts Tres Chicas join together with Ollabelle, New York-based Americana traditionalists, to bring the Triangle a double-whammy of soul-soaked lyrics, lilting harmonies, and down-home grit to groove to. With Tres Chicas providing the romantic heartbreak and female angst of a jilted lover and Ollabelle brightening the stage with their own unique blend of folk, blues, and gospel, this double bill draws a fine line between sinner and saint, a performance worthy of a Sunday morning sing-a-long or dollar-beer night at the local wateringhole. $10-$12/ 9 p.m. –KJ

Gin Blossoms, Raleigh Downtown Live

Gin Blossoms? Thought they had been dead since 1997. But since they were able to resurrect themselves after their hit songwriter dude shot himself in 1993, anything’s possible. Their sound, a Byrds/REM fusion, wasn’t as hardcore as their name. Officially regrouping in 2002, the band hoped to rekindle the success they enjoyed from 1996 hits like “Follow You Down” and the Grammy-nominated “As Long As It Matters.” Free/2 p.m. –GB

Joe Romeo and the Orange County Volunteers, Local 506

Romeo’s visually strong lyrics ooze into brain crevices like the best memorable images always do. Sometimes he dons kindred souls like a new coat; he covered Leonard Cohen at a recent show, and says he was moved by the death of Love’s Arthur Lee. That understated heft of spirit grounds his songs, ballads and confessions bright with hope. With night stalkers Twilighter. $6/10 p.m. –CT

Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan, The Royal Bangs, The Twinkiebots, Chaz’s Bull City Records

The second room of Chaz’s Bull City Records decided to start caving in two weeks ago, so, at least temporarily, he’s moving all of his hardcore shows to other venues and all of the other shows to the shop’s main room. This one fits in the latter category, though Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan are capable of exploding into a spazzy frenzy as combustible as most punk bands. Knoxville’s The Royal Bangs are dandy guitar-jangle pop classicists, clever Broken Social Scene-like arrangements and man/woman vocals putting welcome pressure on the group’s capable hooks. Free/ 9 p.m. –GC

Sunday, August 20

Lazlo Hollyfeld, The Pour House

At its best, such as “You Think I Am” from their debut Our Universe is Feeding, organ-heavy Buffalo quartet Lazlo Hollyfeld irons grooves of keys, drums and bass into steady trots before letting them spring to life, challenging the easy beat by hitting a stop-time drop-step and pummeling a coda with a fierce high-hat snap, ascending piano nebulae and textured guitars. Then again, at their most mediocre, they’re just another jazz-heavy jam band worth a barefoot twirl or two. Free/10 p.m. –GC

Tuesday, August 22

The Yayhoos, The Pour House

You know bands who wear their emotions on their sleeves–because, dammit, they feel–and whose precious seriousness succeeds in sucking the life out of the room? The Yayhoos are the cure for those bands. The only thing on their sleeves is sweat and spilled beer, and if their lively songs (think a Stonesy light shining through a roots-rock/Replacements lens) don’t energize you, then you need your capacitators serviced. And, no, that’s not a euphemism. $10/8 p.m. –RC

Get Him Eat Him, Cities, Eyes to Space, Local 506

Providence’s four ebullient new-wavers in Get Him Eat Him care for a song’s catch like it’s the aesthetic sacristy, offering alternately jangly, angular and whimsical treatments on songs that vary denominations, not deities. Such devotion to New Pornographer-like songs makes it a bit safe at points, and it’s sometimes too caught up in its own inherent cleverness to explode. But when frontman Matt LeMay gets it right, it can be more than a bit addictive. Eyes to Space is a big bowl of hyper-chromatic fun, while Cities builds tremolo guitars to howling heights. –GC

Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players, Cat’s Cradle

Multi-instrumentalist Jason Trachtenberg shares his concept band with his family: Tina, a projector-running mother, and Rachel, a rock-drumming daughter. Trachtenberg calls the traveling troupe an “indie-vaudeville-conceptual-art-rock-slideshow.” On record, what the New York-based clan does is little more than cute, throw-away pop. But, live, it’s stimulating stuff with the sweetest of centers: family vacation slides set to a good-time soundtrack. $12/9:15 p.m. –RM

Wednesday, August 23

Savage Knights, Eastern Seaboard, Kings

How can two bands be matched more perfectly? SK are practically named after Jim Thompson’s ultra noir novel; Eastern Seaboard have a series of pieces inspired by the writer, claiming they were “raised on Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and wooed by John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.” 10 p.m. –CT

Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, Alltel Pavilion

Every few years, both Counting Crows and Goo Goo Dolls sneak into 20,000-plus seaters for tours with expiration dates long overdue. The Dolls, at least, should give up on the five chords they’ve been using since 1995’s breakthrough hit “Name.” And, as much as I hate to say it, Adam Duritz has to prove he can still write another album’s worth of good songs on the Crows’ forthcoming release–tentatively titled Saturday Night, Sunday Morning–if he wants to retire as anything more than a nice guy with funny hair and one brilliant record back in 1996. I’ve got faith, I think. $17.25-$67.50/7 p.m. –GC