Music for the Masses

Fist-raising rockers tune out the majors and band with independent record labels instead

RJD2 got all meta on his recent tour, taking a break to introduce one of the artists he sampled on his new album, Since We Last Spoke, and then re-emerging dressed up as an old guitar-man. Get it? He don't need no damn samples. Take that, Josh Davis! RJ's songcraft has improved with each release—it's a wonder we don't hear him in every car commercial on television—as has his live show. CARAMANICA


WILCO
October 5-6
Radio City, 1260 Sixth Avenue, 212.247.4777

Not the most intimate room in the world for a band that's as meticulous about small, subtle gestures as about over-the-top moments. But go anyway, if only to enjoy Jeff Tweedy's rendition of a wayward Americana star in a most wayward America, with bonus Neil Young–inspired guitarismo. And stay for the remarkable Nels Cline, easily the most overqualified rhythm guitarist in all rockdom. GEHR


THE FUGS
October 7
Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 212.219.3132

The post-Reagan Fugs cultivate a more flowery rock poetry than the horny hippies of the '60s, and there will be hypersensitive moments. But Ed Sanders brings off such prolonged meditations as "Dreams of Sexual Perfection," "Refuse to Be Burnt Out," and "Advice From the Fugs." Plus they got Tuli Kupferberg, compelled to rewrite his late great masterpiece "Septuagenarian in Love" when he turned 80. CHRISTGAU


MOUNTAIN GOATS+JOHN VANDERSLICE
October 8
Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 212.219.3132

The indie-rock subculture has probably produced a thousand dudes who strum acoustics and plumb obscure publications for narratives, but the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle has become an unlikely success story by prettying up his folkie-isms while keeping his oddball Middle American fantasies intact. The less eccentric, more ambitious Vanderslice balances an ear-grating whine with all the prettiness a sloppy DIY guy can muster. HOARD


ROKIA TRAORE
October 16
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Seventh Avenue and 57th Street, 212.247.7800

Pushing a follow-up album she was canny enough to wait and do right, this Malian diplomat's daughter is no Oumou Sangare—too sweet, too mild. But her musicality is ingrained, her band knows its beats, and when she lifts her lithe legs in storklike dance moves, her penchant for propriety becomes not undetectable, but, better still, irrelevant. CHRISTGAU


CRAMPS+GORE GORE GIRLS
October 18
Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place, 212.307.7171

Two decades after they began, the Cramps' retro cartoonishness is as "outrageous" as the average burlesque show, but with their propulsive surf-punk intact and their voodoo shtick as good a calling card as the amph-ph-phetamine hooks of the Strokescetera crowd. The B-movie shtick of Detroit's Gore Gore Girls makes for retro-punk that's tighter and less shticky. HOARD


AL GREEN
October 21-23
Apollo Theater, 253 West 125th Street, 212.531.5300; Westbury Music Fair, 960 Brush Hollow Road, Westbury, New York, 516.334.0800; Beacon Theater, 2124 Broadway, 212.496.7070

Who now believes that Otis Redding, cut down in his raw prime, matched Green's subtlety—or his power? And quiet as it's kept, Marvin Gaye had trouble duplicating his studio virtuosity onstage. Only Aretha Franklin is in Green's class as a pop vocalist of the rock era, and though he's 58, he hasn't lost much voice. Don't wait till he does. CHRISTGAU


LYLE LOVETT+JOHN HIATT+GUY CLARK+JOE ELY
October 22
Beacon Theater, 2124 Broadway, 212.496.7070

Guys who sing stories and don't have three names? Well, a lot of singer-songwriters have stories, and some, like most of these gents, have songs that go big-time in Nashville, but not many have songs that last, or new things to say that just keep coming. With Clark's craft, Lovett's wit, and the barely suppressed rock and roll hearts of Ely and Hiatt, this should be a varied and memorable night. MAZOR


JUNIOR BOYS+MOUSE ON MARS
October 23
Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, 212.533.2111

I know Matthew Dear has started singing and stuff, but Junior Boys bring the sensitive singer-songwriter stylee to indietronica way better on Last Exit, their debut album. Their texture owes a debt to grime and Kompakt. With Mouse on Mars, the German ambient poppers who think harder but, recently at least, rock softer. CARAMANICA


MARCEL KHALIFE
November 13
Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, 212.840.2824

Khalife is the gray eminence among the generation of singers that emerged following Lebanon's civil war. An ambitious composer, he has written anArabic musical version of A Midsummer's Night's Dream. Khalife's Al Mayadine Ensemble will accompany the oud virtuoso at this show featuring material from his latest album, Caress. GEHR


MAGNETIC FIELDS
November 18
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Seventh Avenue and 57th Street, 212.247.7800

The new Fields album asked you to accept a less insulated Stephin Merritt, who had established himself as a Major Artist a few years back—though he toned famously insincere role-playing, his deadpan voice and pre-rock pop now range from catchy and clever to something like shtick. Live, thankfully, he can plumb a catalog up there with with that of any other Major Artist in indie rock. HOARD

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