BLACK PRAIRIE, PERHAPST
(Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi) Black Prairie are much more than a quick shot in the arm for those suffering from whimsy withdrawals in the wake of the Decemberists' indefinite hiatus. Their second album, The Storm in the Barn, just came out, and while its title and Appalachia-with-accordion aesthetic sounds like a natural, if more somber, follow-up to their Feast of the Hunter's Moon, it's actually the soundtrack to a play of the same name at the Oregon Children's Theater (which runs at the Winningstad Theatre through May 20). The Storm in the Barn may nominally be a children's album, but it has to be the scariest children's album in existence. Only the last song, the haunting "Do You Believe," has lyrics. The 16 preceding instrumental tracks evoke a landscape that's as sinister as it is dusty, and sounds not unlike Cormac McCarthy if he decided to record a bluegrass album. REBECCA WILSON
(YU Contemporary, 800 SE 10th) It was a bit of a miracle when Mahmoud Ahmed came to Portland to play a show on New Year's Day, 2011. Now the Ethiopian singer is returning for another, this time at the YU arts space, which seems to be getting into the habit of hosting more musical events to the public. This one's not to be missed: Ahmed's glitzy version of traditional Amharic music doesn't have a ton in common with the familiar Ethiopian instrumental jazz-funk that came into vogue among Western listeners a few years ago. Rather, Ahmed marries the slowly curling, snakelike approach to melody that's also found in other styles of music like Qawwali with very crisp, accessible jazz-pop arrangements. Now in his 70s, Ahmed is a superstar at home; seeing him here in Portland might just be a twice-in-a-lifetime experience. NED LANNAMANN
DELTA SPIRIT, WATERS, TIJUANA PANTHERS
(Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell) Avoiding the sophomore slump—if that's even a thing anymore—with 2010's History from Below, San Diego's shimmery rock crew Delta Spirit sounds downright reborn on their new self-titled LP. The band's renowned experimentalism is ever-present, with warm guitar accents and bold melodies courtesy of vocalist Matthew Vasquez. Fantastic moments of atmospheric bombast abound on loud tracks like "Tear It Up," segueing into more reserved, synth-y sonic blasts on tunes like the catchy "California." "Idaho," on the other hand, is a rollicking sermon on the malaise of the Potato State, awash with alternately chopping and sweeping guitar patterns. The dichotomy works, and is one of many great examples as to why Delta Spirit took up residency in the Billboard 200 upon its release, and why the band has amassed a varied and loyal fanbase, which is bound to only keep growing. RYAN J. PRADO
SPELLCASTER, WITCHBURN, DON JAMIESON, JIM FLORENTINE, EDDIE TRUNK
(Hawthorne Theatre, 1507 SE 39th) It's Saturday night and you're a metalhead. There are usually only two options of things you can do. Option A: Sit on your sunken couch, guzzle beers, and smoke doobies with your bros, listening to records while discussing such things as the impact Metallica cutting their hair had on the metal world. Option B: Don your prized denim vest, go to a ripping show, drink some beers, and smoke doobies with your bros. You're in luck, because tonight you can do both in one place (well, maybe smoke the doobies somewhere else). Jim Florentine, Eddie Trunk, and Don Jamieson have taken VH1 Classic's That Metal Show on the road—although for some reason they don't seem to be allowed to call it that. There will no doubt be plenty of metal philosophizing, trivia, and other silliness. Backing them up are Portland's heavy metal gods supreme Spellcaster, and Witchburn, a heavy riff rock band who, despite the fact that there are only two sets of balls between the four of them, are Seattle's ballsiest band. Looks like you get to have your head and bang it too! ARIS WALES
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