Whitey Morgan & the 78's
Though they hail from Flint, Michigan, Whitey Morgan and his band are closer to the old-fashioned heart of Nashville than most of what passes for country these days. Their hardheaded honky-tonk twang is pure outlaw, channeling a rebellious spirit that's as true to their name-checked predecessors (Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams) as it is to the MC5. They even brought in pedal-steel vet Fred Newell (who's played with Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed) for their 2008 debut album, Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels. Their namesake leader (who was born Eric Allen) grew up in Kentucky before his family moved to Detroit. He learned to play guitar by listening to old Hank Williams songs his grandfather, a country musician, taught him. Allen has a deep baritone suited to the material, which covers traditional territory: failing relationships, whiskey-drowned troubles, and wailing pedal-steel ballads dedicated to "Love and Honor." While Whitey Morgan & the 78's hew close to the dog-eared but long-shelved formula, they add knowing, self-deprecating humor ("Cheatin' Again"), a solid, if intermittent, rock backbeat, and a fine cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," surprisingly well-suited to their dusty backstreet style. — Chris Parker
Whitey Morgan & the 78's, with Not So Good Ol' Boys and Dan McCoy & the Standing 8's. 9 p.m. Friday, June 4. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $7; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
Dying Fetus have been around forever. The Maryland death-metal band formed in 1991 as a typically gore-besotted group. But by 2000 they had morphed into a fearsome and politically engaged band. Albums like Destroy the Opposition and last year's Descend Into Depravity bring powerful social critique to a genre most decry as lyrically and instrumentally mindless, while keeping the blast beats and down-tuned, hardcore-style breakdowns (and even some technical outbursts) coming. Through the years, the band has undergone countless lineup changes, leaving singer-guitarist John Gallagher the last original Fetus standing. These personnel shifts include the 2001 departure of several members who formed the grindcore-ish Misery Index, who'll be playing this show too. — Phil Freeman
Dying Fetus, with Arsis, Conducting From the Grave, Misery Index, and Annotations of an Autopsy. 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 4. Peabody's. Tickets: $14 advance, $17 day of show; call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com.
The Nashville-based bluegrass band Cadillac Sky recorded its latest and most electric album, Letters in the Deep, at the Akron home studio of the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach over four days last September. "The spirit moved and we caught the wave," says Bryan Simpson, the group's singer and mandolin player. "We went into record ten songs, and we just kept enjoying the musical experience so much that everyone just kept throwing new songs into the bath." Mixing guitars, mandolin, banjo, drums, and piano to a blend of country, folk, Americana, and rock, the five-piece band ended up recording 17 songs of raucous bluegrass fusion that's much different from its first two, mostly acoustic, albums, 2007's Blind Man Walking and 2008's Gravity's Our Enemy.
"There will be a lot of people shaken from the trees when it comes to fans of the last album compared to this one," says Simpson. "But we felt we needed to give each song what it needed. And if that meant the front of the song needed a banjo, mandolin, and fiddle, and the end of the song needed an electric guitar and someone going crazy like a monkey on the drums, then we did it." Cadillac Sky evoke the Band, the Avett Brothers, and everything in between on Letters in the Deep. The album has a living spirit — pretty much what you can expect to hear onstage. Says Simpson: "Our audiences have been coming to shows saying, 'We love you so much better live than on the record. We want to hear the same energy and inspiration on an album.'" This one's for them. — Keith Gribbins
Cadillac Sky, with JP & the Chatfield Boys. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 5. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $15; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart/Surfer Blood
On last year's self-titled debut album, NYC indie-poppers the Pains of Being Pure at Heart sing about being young, in love, and desperate for a good time. The obvious reference points for their jangle-powered buzz are '80s bands that played around in a similar place: the Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, the Smiths. But the rays of noise this twee foursome fills the room with aren't nearly as gloomy or claustrophobic. The album sounds like it was recorded in a basement (it actually was), and parts of it suffer from U.K. envy (see those aforementioned influences). But this was one of last year's most endearing records. Tour openers Surfer Blood are behind one of this year's best debuts, Astro Coast. These Floridians grab their inspiration from a later decade, sounding like a beach-bound Pavement at times. But there's also some meaty guitar riffs running through a few of the grooves, especially in the going-under "Swim." This is one of the best indie-rock bills to play town this year, so be sure to get there early. — Michael Gallucci
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Surfer Blood. 8:30 p.m. Sunday, June 6. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
On the surface, Josh Hoge's Nashville roots tag him as a sensitive singer-songwriter or an up-and-coming country buck. But glance over Hoge's debut album from 2008, Everything She Was, and you'll spot co-writing credits with R&B superstar Ne-Yo and One Republic's Ryan Tedder (who penned the ubiquitous pop hit "Apologize"). At various points, Hoge fits all of these bills — from "360"'s modern pop to "Take It or Leave It"'s contemporary country and blues swagger to his amazingly soulful take on Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." Hoge has walked a wild mile to get to this point. He followed a woman to Los Angeles for a relationship that crashed and now books his own gigs as he looks for a record company to release his music. He self-financed the recent Bedroom Sessions EP and sold 10,000 copies, which isn't too bad these days (it even got him into Billboard's Top 100). With gritty cool and a pop heart, Hoge makes a big impact on a number of demographics. — Brian Baker
Josh Hoge, with Joe Firstman and Marianne Keith. 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 8. House of Blues. Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
Wish You Were Here
Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is getting a lot of attention lately. The Flaming Lips performed the entire record in the studio and onstage, some guy recreated the whole thing using only sounds from a Nintendo video-game system, and a few folks in London used lumber and lasers to build a large-scale model of the iconic cover on top of a mountain. "It's very cool that there are all these different takes on the album," says Eroc Sosinski, frontman of our region's finest Pink Floyd tribute band, Wish You Were Here. "It's been a classic for so many years now, people are able to put their own spin on it. It's a testament to the strength of the songs that it can work in all these different mediums and genres. But in the end, there's nothing like the classic." The band will play all of Dark Side (and Animals) as part of Sandusky's Bike Week festivities. — Matthew Wilkening
Wish You Were Here. 8 p.m. Sunday, June 6. Erie County Fairgrounds. Tickets: $10; call 419-502-0022 or go to ohiobikeweek.com.