By Gene Wagendorf III
The Burlington (9pm, 21+, $5)
Lucky for us, Chilean psych-rock band WatchOut! is stopping in Chicago on their way to SXSW. The band's 2011 release, Flashbacker, is full of sprawling jams that blend kraut and 60s garage seamlessly- a danceable trance with swollen grooves and zesty melody. Local dream casters Bitchin Bajas, the angelically droney project of CAVE's Cooper Crain, play first.
Wednesday, March 12th: MAMA and C Batteries at The Empty Bottle (8:30pm, 21+, FREE w/ RSVP)
Testosterone-soaked power poppers MAMA recently dropped their excellent debut, BIG IN CHICAGO- a tape packed with viscous, charging rock songs. The band does those songs justice with a tight, high energy live show, which makes this free concert a no-brainer. "Death disco" group C Batteries open the night up, which'll give anyone interested a chance to act out the darker scenes from Party Monster.
Thursday, March 13th: Wei Zhongle at Cafe Mustache (8:30pm, All Ages, FREE)
Don't ask me how to pronounce the name and don't ask me to give you a genre. If you can deal with that, then do yourself a favor and catch this free set at Mustache. Wei Zhongle calls themselves Nu Music/ Nu Trance, but what's actually happening in their compositions is the exploration and reconciling of styles of music from across geography and history by a quintet that's both whimsical and severe. Released last year, Raised High/Brought Low is a record filled with filled with magic and curiosity- and one that feels both refreshingly alien and comfortably indigenous.
Friday, March 14th: Crown Larks at Cole's (9pm, 21+, FREE)
Crown Larks have become one of the more fascinating bands to follow on the local scene, as they seem to stretch and grow with each new performance. Last year the group released Catalytic Conversion, a record at once wild, droney, delicate, fierce, melodic, complex and raw. That's a mess of contradictions, but Crown Larks managed to blend them all to center, the result being a beautifully crafted debut. Their live sets have journeyed out to the more psychedelic/drone end of that spectrum; a viscous, technicolor sound exploration that curves and zooms like a getaway car.
Saturday, March 15th: Whitey Morgan and the 78's at Cobra Lounge (9pm, 21+, $10)
Bloodshot Records artist Whitey Morgan visits from Flint, MI, for a night of swaggery barroom honkey-tonk. Morgan possesses the classic cool, husky voice required for tales of drunken debauchery, and it shines on choruses like I told him I ain't drunk/ Hell I just been drinkin'. Chris Parker of The Cleveland Scene sums the 78's sound up nicely: "Their hardheaded honky-tonk twang is pure outlaw, channelling the rebellous spirit that's as true to their name-checked predecessors (Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams) as it is to the MC5."
Sunday, March 16th: The Humminbird at The Empty Bottle (7pm, 21+, $8)
If you saw our recent review of Beyond the Orchard then you know we're high on The Humminbird. The freak folk project, led by psychedelic chanteuse Muyassar Kurdi, is even more fascinating live than on record thanks to her ability to improvise with other players. The ancient, organic sounds she conjures are served well by that freedom, making each Humminbird performance a unique event. On this evening Kurdi and company open for D. Charles Speer and The Helix.