Contributors: Grant Britt, Grayson Currin, Rich Ivey, Kathy Justice, Robbie Mackey

Wednesday, September 20

Rick Brantley Revival, Imperial Pints, Bombadil, Local 506

Nashville’s Rick Brantley boasts that he’s “the real deal in millennium rock and roll,” but in reality, he’s just a Southern-bred balladeer, letting out all of his collective energy and angst in beat-up, bluesy-tinged ditties. Durham’s quirky folksters Bombadil and Chapel Hill’s The Imperial Pints open up the evening. $7/ 9 p.m. –KJ

Calexico, Oakley Hall, Cat’s Cradle

Gypsum Strings, the debut from Brooklyn’s Oakley Hall, may be one of the toughest records of the year: Hard to define and devoid of much compulsion for catchy, Gypsum Strings casts its heroes as country balladeers informed by Motorik manifestos and dissonant didactics. Imagine Wilco’s shimmering guitars, The Velvet’s stultifying viola and co-ed vocals congregating in Georgia, and it’ll get you halfway home. Calexico’s latest, Garden Ruin, is only OK. $14/ 9:15 p.m. –GC

Thursday, September 21

Sufjan Stevens, My Brightest Diamond, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall

B-side collections are mostly innocuous things, fan-only collections of minutiae and alternate versions that didn’t fit squarely into proper albums. At least that’s what Sufjan Stevens likely thought before he released The Avalanche, a collection of non-worthies from his last year’s Illinoise, hailed unanimously in complete knee-jerk fashion. The entire output is botched by half-hearted atonal guitar solos, trifling takes and diluted versions of the same arranging sense that suggests Stevens may run out of grand ideas before he runs out of states. As he later suggested to Pitchfork Media, maybe Stevens should have kept the work to himself. Sold out/ 7 p.m. –GC

Dr. Dog, Schooner, Shakermaker, Local 506

If Dr. Dog can pull itself away from every roots and pop cliche of the past, let’s say, 42 years of rock ‘n’ roll, they have the potential to be a new powerhouse in American rock. After all, they get it: the swagger, the charisma, the songwriting, the playing, the singing, the believing. But–two albums and a new EP that’s sometimes as banal as they’ve ever been–they have a hard time convincing audiences that they do little more than understand the work of their predecessors. Still, live, they hold out hope like pentatonic heroes of the backwoods. Schooner gets better and better. –GC

Chest Pains, Street Sharks, Cross Laws, The Reservoir

Three frenetic bands from every vertex of the Triangle congregate in Carrboro: Street Sharks and Cross Laws share members (temporarily, at least), and they both get loud, aggressive and high-strung out of the gates. Chest Pains–generally, one generation older than the other bands and named for a Sudafed-induced heart attack had by bassist Greg Barbera–don’t hold back, either. Free/ 10 p.m. –GC

José González, Cat’s Cradle

José González is to Sony as Iron & Wine is to M&M’s as Nick Drake is to Volkswagen. Aside from having his song appear in a multi-billion dollar corporation’s commercial, the young Swede shares another trait with Drake and Iron & Wine’s Samuel Beam: talent. González’s fingerpicking is both complex and subtle, and he delivers sheepishly gorgeous rainy-day anthems. Openers Death Vessel aren’t “out” enough to be “freak folk,” but Joel Thibodeau’s voice will throw you. They haven’t done a commercial. $10-$12/ 10 p.m. –RI

KD3 (Karl Denson Trio), Jamie McLean Band, Lincoln Theatre

With his band, guitarist Jamie McLean sounds nothing like he does on his regular gospel/ jazz/ funk Dirty Dozen gig. On This Time Around, McLean is a howlin’ blues demon, like Stevie Ray crossed with Hendrix on “Holy Water.” He incorporates Southern rock, country, jazz and funk into his sound as well. Karl Denson downsized his Tiny Universe to a trio to play some funkier jazz while KDTU is in the studio. He says this trio clears his head. $13-$15/ 9 p.m. –GB

Friday, September 22

Citizen Cope, Alice Smith, Cat’s Cradle

Clarence Greenwood is Citizen Cope, and his latest album, Every Waking Moment, may be the Whitey Ford Sings the Blues for the 2000s. Take that how you may. Opening for the purse-lipped guitar slinger is promising newcomer Alice Smith, whose soul-rock hybrid is far less routine and far more enjoyable than most R&B as of late. She doesn’t wear her hair in a samurai bun, either. P.S. Citizen Cope also had a song in a Pontiac commercial. $20-$22/ 9 p.m. –RI

Saunter, Raleigh Music Hall

On their latest release, Excuses, Saunter stretches from funk-fusion to down-home, barefoot stomp. The Raleigh-based five-piece deconstructs Southern rock with a mix of funk, rough-shod rock and tongue-in-cheek, leather-lunged roaring. 10 p.m. –GB

Tiger Thief, Tres Bien, Kings

Garage rock revivalists Tiger Thief, formerly Iconic, unleash their angular riffs and swarthy onstage strut, brandishing that sort of in your face rock ‘n’ roll attitude that tight-pants rockers in the ’60s made best. They fit somewhere between The Strokes and Jet. Florida-based power popsters Tres Bien bring their own quirky jingles to the mix, marrying steady backbeats with jangly guitars reminiscent of pre-acid Beatles pop. 10 p.m. —KJ

Saturday, September 23

Doc Watson, Meymandi Hall

An octogenerian American treasure down from our own mountains, Doc Watson boasts a catalogue–from his original Vanguard recordings to his Grammy-winning Legacy set with David Holt–that few can rival. $30-$35/ 8 p.m. –GC

Race the Sun, Boxbomb, Hot Vegas, The Brewery

Scorecore: formulaically melodic, punk-inspired guitar rock played by boys (typically decked out in tight black tees) who hope lyrics centering on relationships (and blaming exes for failed ones) will land them in bed with meticulously dressed girls that attend their shows. This is what it means to be young, white and privileged, huh? Thing is, Richmond’s Race The Sun is competent enough, but the culture from which they spring seems to grow increasingly chauvinistic by the second. Course, you can probably forget all that when the chorus comes around on “Before You Leave.” $7/ 8:30 p.m. –RM

Sunday, September 24

Wil Seabrook, Colourslide, Local 506

By now, several hundred Americans with OK voices and slim chances have done battle on national TV, vying for love from Top 40 dial depots and the “Wal-Mart way” set. But with surprising swiftness, these Average Joe competitions tend to separate the wheat from the chaff. There’s an unsurprising wheatlessness to the second contestant booted off of CBS’s 2005 series Rock Star: INXS. Still, Wil Seabrook tries, and his flaccid frat-rock-meets-Starbucks-folk fusion falls in line behind the dreadfully dull songs of several hundred other normal Americans. $9/ 7 p.m. –RM

Wednesday, September 27

Maple Stave, IfIHadAHiFi, Kings

All the kiddies rocking to The Arcade Fire and Tapes ‘n Tapes may not remember the mid-’90s outside of Silverchair and Soundgarden, but many are still aware that their beloved Triangle was the post-Athens “it” of indie rock. Archers and Superchunk be damned, though: Elsewhere, “angular” was the buzzword, math was the subject, and Chicago, D.C. and Louisville were the places for bands like June of 44, Hoover and Slint. Durham darlings Maple Stave carry that tradition, and they’re easily one of the best bands in the Triangle. 10 p.m. –RI

Railroad Earth, Lincoln Theatre

Blue Sparks from Hell alumni Andy Goessling and Tim Carbone logged many a sweaty mile in their 1960 Greyhound bus throughout the ’80s and early ’90s bringing their hell-raising blues to the masses. Now, with From Good Homes alum Todd Sheaffer, they jam it to bluegrass like Johnny B. Goode. $12-$15/ 9 p.m. –GB