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The Most Serene Republic

THU, 5/6

Canadian indie-rockers The Most Serene Republic have never been conventional. Their first two records of sprawling, progressive indie-pop were solid but forgettable. Last year's ... And the Ever Expanding Universe is a bit better, but not much. On the album's first four tracks, the band repeats past sonic highlights. But they switch gears in "The Old Forever New Things." Adrian Jewett and Emma Ditchburn's tandem vocals hit on something that's in the same vein as fellow Canucks Broken Social Scene. It's an enchanting and mystical number accentuated by Nick Greaves' banjo. And in "Don't Hold Back, Feel a Little Longer," the band branches out in a more synthy direction. Expect to also hear a few tracks from Fantasick Impossibliss, the band's just-released digital EP when the band shares the bill with Annuals, What Laura Says, and Gregory & the Hawk at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216-321-5588, grogshop.gs). The show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets: $10. Jeremy Willets

Oberlin Folk Festival

FRI, 5/7

The annual Oberlin Folk Festival starts at 6 tonight at the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse (180 W. Lorain St.) with the Front Porch Swatters. Headliners Lucy Wainwright Roche (daughter of folkies Suzzy Roche and Loudon Wainwright III) and the Two-Man Gentlemen play at 9 and 10 p.m., respectively. And yes, as always, there will be free pizza for all (it's an Oberlin Folk Festival tradition). The fest continues at noon tomorrow with a full slate of acts playing at the Tappan Square Bandstand. That's followed by a 7 p.m. show at Finney Chapel (90 N. Professor St.) headlined by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a trio of black musicians who play string music. The up-and-coming band's roots go back to the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering, when multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons met bandmates Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson. They started jamming together and never looked back. Produced by Joe Henry (Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke), their latest CD, Genuine Negro Jig, features a great mix of traditional tunes ("Trouble in Your Mind") and originals ("Kissin' and Cussin') that wouldn't sound out of place on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and should go over well at the festival. Go to oberlin.edu for more information. It's free. Jeff Niesel

The Saw Doctors

SUN, 5/9

Authors of "I Useta Lover," Ireland's biggest-selling single of all time, the Saw Doctors have been steadily going at it for close to 25 years (though they didn't release their first album until 1991). Bold enough to tour the U.S. even when it's not St. Patty's season, the Irish band has a loyal following that doesn't need to be lured by the promise of green beer. Taking a more traditional approach than the Pogues, the Saw Doctors rely on narrative songwriting, which has netted them comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. The guys are currently touring behind To Win Just Once, a best-of that came out last year. But they've also been in the studio working on a new album that should be out by the end of the year. So expect to hear at least a few new songs when they play House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583, houseofblues.com) at 8 tonight. Tickets: $25 advance, $27 day of show. Niesel

MC Chris

WED, 5/12

MC Chris is a nerd who raps, but don't go filing him under the nerdcore tag. While he may have songs about Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars, the 34-year-old rapper doesn't like to be associated with the subgenre. Well, that is, unless 60 Minutes comes calling: The news program interviewed him for a special on nerd culture in 2008. But you can't really blame the dude for not wanting to be included in the movement. Besides MC Frontalot, who coined the word, there aren't a lot of skilled rhymers in the bunch. Of course, MC Chris isn't exactly Chuck D. His rap career essentially blossomed from his role as MC Pee Pants on Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Sure, it's funny in a cartoon, but not everyone can stomach his high-pitched voice for an entire album. But there's a legion of fans who can. Without the help of a record label, Chris manages to attract a decent amount of attention, and the hype even landed him on the Van's Warped Tour the past two years. Math the Band opens at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216-321-5588, grogshop.gs). Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show. Eddie Fleisher

Leslie and the Badgers

WED, 5/12

Today's music scene is something of a zoo, populated with an abundance of bears (Bear Hands, Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear), wolves (Sea Wolf, Peanut Butter Wolf, Peter Wolf) and rabbits (White Rabbit, Frightened Rabbit, Gram Rabbit) just to mention a few animals. The badger, however, isn't a particularly popular critter with bands, so Leslie and the Badgers are leaders of this pack. While the sharp-toothed creature might suggest snarling hard rockers, this L.A.-based group comes from Southern California's laidback country-rock scene. It's easy to cozy up to their latest album Roomful of Smoke. Frontwoman Leslie Stevens sings with an alluring twang that evokes Emmylou Harris' sweetness coupled Neko Case's feistiness. As captivating as Stevens is, the rest of the Badgers shouldn't be overlooked. While they don't do anything too fancy, they delivers the tunes with a nimble versatility. On Smoke, they whip up a delightful Western swing in "Don Juan" and rip into roots-rock turf in the title track. "Los Angeles," "Americans in Rome," and "Ballpark Lights" shine as exuberant slices of melodic Americana. Smoke forecasts bright days ahead for this up-and-coming band. Fellow Angeleno Ferraby Lionheart opens at 8:30 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124, beachlandballroom.com). Tickets: $7. Michael Berick

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