Carolina Chocolate Drops - Thursday, October 9 - MIM
Formed in 2005 by Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson, all African Americans, the Carolina Chocolate Drops has gone where only the Mississippi Sheiks, mythical giants of prewar blues, had gone before. Even if its sales never match Mumford & Sons, the group has genuinely popularized the sound of true hillbilly music, with bones, jugs, banjo and fiddle fully intact -- and it has innovated every stomping step of the way. The Drops are a powerhouse of brawny rhythm and bold hooks, as danceable as dubstep and a hundred times funkier and deeper in its history and humanity. -- Roy Kasten
Aeroplane - Friday, October 10 - Crescent Ballroom
Yes, disco follows a formula. But Belgian-Italian producer Aeroplane (AKA Vito De Luca) isn't thinking small when it comes to the genre. He's not even concerned with floor fillers. In fact, he's aiming for nothing short of cosmic disco rapture, taking his cues from the '70s prog rock giants like Pink Floyd just as much as Italo-disco masters like Giorgio Moroder.
The epic musicality of De Luca's productions is apparent in 2010 debut long player We Can't Fly, which garnered rave reviews from both the mainstream music press and underground EDM critics. In other words, he's found that rare balance between pop accessibility and underground cred. But fluff aside, Aeroplane's product is still disco, which means he's here to make you boogie. And that's exactly what he intends to do when he stops by Crescent Ballroom on October 10. -- Sean Levisman
Puddles Pity Party - Sunday, October 12 - Crescent Ballroom
Now's the chance to use that old-fashioned monogrammed hanky that's burning a hole in your dresser drawer or just grab a cheap box of tissues -- whatever suits you best for sopping up tears mixed of both laughter and desolation -- and spend the evening with Puddles Pity Party. Known as the "sad clown with the golden voice," Puddles is the stage name of Big Mike Geier, a multi-talented singer, actor and performance artist whose 6-foot, 8-inch stature, appropriately twisted sense of humor, and majestic baritone voice command a room. The Lynchian sad-sack clown has been steadily collecting fans over the last couple of years.
His operatic version of the popular Lorde song, "Royals" has become a much shared YouTube video, and then there was that time that he punched the lead singer of the Eels right in the kisser. The whole thing turned out to be a gag between Puddles and Eels' front man Mark Everett that included fake blood and manufactured hostility; the event definitely created more intrigue about the giant clown. The intimate, cabaret-style show features Puddles delivering his unique versions of sad pop anthems and probably having a little fun with the audience in ways that only freaky, maudlin clowns know how to do. -- Amy Young
New Pornographers - Monday, October 13 - Crescent Ballroom
The idea that a power pop supergroup comprising mostly Canadians unheard of by many people would be wildly successful and one of the most popular indie acts around probably seems absurd. But after nearly 15 years as a band, it's easy to take The New Pornographers for granted. With four lead singers among Carl Newman, Dan Bejar, Neko Case, and Kathryn Calder, the dynamic would appear impossible to maintain. But by allowing Bejar to write a few songs per album, and Case to come and go as her solo work requires, the formula has worked so far, perhaps to everyone's surprise.
Somewhere along the way, this once apparently temporary collection of musicians (and one filmmaker) became a solid band. Though the most recent New Pornographers albums haven't contained as many wildly joyous moments as Mass Romantic or Electric Version, here's a band that people actually want to see, an exciting group that really is better than the sum of its parts. Opening the show is the first Phoenix appearance for the new-look Menomena, which recently lost founding member Brent Knopf. A weird pop doubleheader, with Coachella to thank. -- Dan Gibson