Steady As He Goes 

Franz Nicolay Leads This Week's Concert Picks

Not sure what inspired mustachioed Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay to release a solo album. The guy's been plenty busy with his day job (the Hold Steady toured relentlessly after the release of last year's terrific Stay Positive). But Nicolay, whose solo debut, Major General, comes out this week, goes for broke, mimicking the Hold Steady's call-and-response vocals on "Jeff Penalty," a tune about the Dead Kennedys' replacement singer, and even trying to adopt a Springsteen vibe for the energetic "The World Is an Open Door." Yet the tunes sound like pale imitations of the Hold Steady, and even the band's diehard fans will find moody piano ballads such as "Hey Dad!" and "Note on a Subway Wall" to be second-rate. Safari and Max Stern open at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $7. - Jeff Niesel

Charlie Parr

If there's one thing Charlie Parr doesn't seem to trust it's a plug. Like his father before him, this Minnesota-born musician plays solely acoustic instruments, no matter what direction technology is going. His recordings have the down-home feeling of a bunch of people drinking whiskey and singing with a tape recorder and microphones in the room. Which is pretty much how he commits his music to disc. The same thing happens onstage. On his 2006 live album Backslider, you can hear background noises, clinking glasses and extraneous sounds that perfectionists would edit out. Parr doesn't seem to mind, preferring instead to keep things more organic - exactly what fans expect from him. Parr's original lyrics (he plays plenty of traditional tunes as well) tend to look at the struggles of the common man. On "Twenty-Nine," from 2007's Jubilee, he narrates the real-life story of a young schizophrenic who was thrown in jail for a minor offense, only to die in his cell after he didn't receive proper medication. Unlike Bob Dylan, Parr has no plans to pick up an electric guitar to change things around. With Parr, you know exactly what to expect and there are no surprises. Bill Fox, frontman of Cleveland '80s pop-rockers the Mice, kicks off the show at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $8. - Ernest Barteldes

Name the Band

How does a nameless band call attention to itself? Why, through audience participation, of course! Except in this case, we're not talking about crowd surfing, moshing or sing-alongs. And nameless doesn't mean that this group is underground or unpopular. The band literally has no name. So the four dudes in this Cleveland-based band are leaving the big decision to one lucky fan. Whoever comes up with the best moniker will be forever immortalized in a song title or lyric on the group's debut album and will have free pick of any of the band's merch. So if you feel like digging through thousands of already-taken band names on MySpace in search of something creative, go right ahead. You can send your ideas to myspace.com/namethebandcontest. The fast-paced, electric-guitar-heavy group will debut its new name at the show, along with songs like "Ready for the Girl," which sounds like it could get airplay on rock radio stations alongside Shinedown and Seether. Amplexus and NSDWHOA open at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $5. - Danielle Sills

Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding

Before Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats strutted out of Long Island to become MTV stars, New York was home to another rockabilly revivalist, Robert Gordon. After fronting early CBGB punk faves the Tuff Darts, Gordon teamed with six-string legend Link Wray on two memorable retro-rocking discs and achieved some fame covering "Fire," a gift from fan Bruce Springsteen (unfortunately for Gordon, the Pointer Sisters' glossier version became the huge hit). Gordon later hooked up with another guitar whiz, Englishman Chris Spedding, for his 1979 album Rock Billy Boogie; however, he retreated from the scene just as the Stray Cats jump-started the '80s rockabilly revival. Gordon re-teamed with Spedding (as well as Elvis Presley's renowned backup singers the Jordanaires) in 2007 for It's Now Or Never, a compelling album of Elvis songs. Presley is Gordon's longtime hero and he doesn't wander far from the King's musical template. His still-rich voice, however, evokes the authenticity of an original rock 'n' roller, which elevates him above mere Elvis impersonators. Likewise, Gordon's live show isn't a Presley revue but a true hepcat's joyride through the early days of rock 'n' roll and its roots. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets are $18 advance, $20 at door. - Michael Berick

Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials

Duck walks and back bends may not be the norm in the recording studio, but that apparently didn't stop Lil' Ed Williams. For their first venture into the booth, slide guitar-slinger Ed and band reputedly set up in stage formation and treated their producer and engineer to a full-blown show. It was a na•ve move to be sure, but one that drives home the point that for this Windy City foursome, the fun of performing is serious business, and the music and the show are one and the same. Ed's studio stunt landed him a deal, and his high-octane live sets have garnered gobs of praise-laden press and fan adulation. His onstage energy frequently propels him off the stage, onto the floor and sometimes on top of the bar. Akin to his stage presence is his guitar work. This nephew of late Chicago slide legend J.B. Hutto wields his axe like a straight razor in a street fight, preferring gut feeling to flash. Ed's lyrics are as unvarnished as his playing, and his recent release Full Tilt stands as one of his strongest. Some blues hits you where it hurts; Ed's make you want to party. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. at Brothers Lounge (11609 Detroit Ave., 216.226.2767). Tickets: $10. - Duane Verh


Like many other bands, Innerpartysystem's origins trace back to a nondescript town in Middle America (in this case, Mohnton, Pennsylvania). While most of their peers looked for ways to kill time on the weekends, the electro-rock quartet hacked away in recording spaces or on the road. Their first notable single, "Don't Stop," drew the attention of U.K. rock radio and dance floors, leading up to their self-titled debut on Island Records (IPS had previously released The Download EP on the Stolen Transmission label) last September. At first glance, the ideas explored in IPS' songs (getting the hell out of a stifling small town, dead-end lifestyles) seem familiar, but IPS make clever use of synths and loops to augment their sound. The result is music that balances electronic sensibilities with a good old sonic punch in the face. The band also earned a spot on Madden NFL '09. Not bad for a group with only one full-length record under its belt. IPS' live show is unlikely to bore the audience, with band members switching between synths and guitars to a blinding light show. This gig will be IPS' third in Cleveland, so that means someone around here likes them. Sonny, the Paper Route and Hearts open at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $10. - Norm Narvaja

Rotting Christ

If you're sick of all the Lord-loving that has engulfed the globe in the past few months, Peabody's may have your antidote. Rotting Christ, the forefathers of the Greek black metal scene, are bringing their savage hostility to town. Embarking on the second leg of the Lucifer Over America tour, Rotting Christ is playing in support of its 10th full-length, Theogonia, released back in 2007. Theogonia is lyrically inspired by the Greek world-creation myth, with eccentric ethnic arrangements that drag the listener through the veiled vicious underbelly of the folklore. Formed in the late '80s, Rotting Christ are sure to provide a night filled with enough loathing to slosh around in. Epicurean and Mantic Ritual open at 7 p.m. at Peabody's (2083 E. 21st St., 216.776.9999). Tickets: $15 advance, $18 day of show. - Hannah Verbeuren

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