Live Music

Justin Townes Earle, Cut Copy, Willie Nelson, Black Kids, Hoots & Hellmouth, Sam Champion, Vocal Tracts

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Willie Nelson

Fri., Sept. 26, 8pm. $49-$59. Tower Theater, 69th and Ludlow sts., Upper Darby. 215.336.2000.

Willie Hugh Nelson, 75, is undoubtedly one of America's finest actors. The understated emotionality he brought to his debut performance as "Wendell Hickson" in 1979's The Electric Horseman, opposite Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was nothing short of remarkable. And who could forget Nelson's work in 1998's Half Baked--in which he slyly poked fun at his real-life love of marijuana--or his turn as "Uncle Jesse" in the recent cinematic remake of The Dukes of Hazzard, or his scintillating small-screen appearances in Nash Bridges and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman? Oh, and his cameo in Beerfest. Classic. Since the early '60s it seems Nelson has also engaged in a modest side career as a country music singer, but I don't know much about that. (Michael Alan Goldberg)

Hoots & Hellmouth

Sat., Sept. 27, 9:30pm. $12. With Jim Bianco. Johnny Brenda's, 1201 Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684.

Amid the art rock hipsters, pop punkers, singer-songwriters and jazz cats filling Philly's music venues are the unexpected Hoots & Hellmouth--some of the most energetic, wholesome Americana you'll hear out of Philadelphia. Combining elements of gospel, classic rock, modern country and balladry, Hoots & Hellmouth write tunes that are soulful, passionate and evocative. Songs conjure images of rolling wheat fields, blowing tumbleweeds and barnyard stomps replete with do-si-dos and tall-tale telling under starlit skies. Live, the band captivates with its boundless energy--mandolins shake, the double bass shudders and the players alternate between cooing, howling and growling the lyrics, tossing in a couple barbershop-quartet wails for good measure. (Katherine Silkaitis)

Cut Copy

Thurs., Sept. 25, 8pm. $19. With the Presets + Heartbreak. Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.LIVE.

In an ongoing echo of Newton's third law of motion, dance/electro-pop proliferates like sampler-spawned mushrooms on a steaming pile of '80s New Wave and British dance. A reaction to noise rock and metalcore's recent ascendance, the indie ranks flooded with coy, fey, synth-addled acts barely capable of balling their hand into a fist. But while Aussie trio Cut Copy don't have your back, their generous, dreamy hooks do vacillate between burbling dance grooves and jangly college rock in effortlessly engaging way which, at their best, recalls early New Order. Tim Goldworthy of DFA fame produces their latest In Ghost Colours, targeting the hipster sweet spot with a fuller, catchier synthesis of dance and rock. (Chris Parker)

Black Kids

Mon., Sept. 29, 8pm. $14. With the Virgins + Magic Wands. First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. 866.468.7619.

Sure, we could discuss much-Internet-hyped Jacksonville, Fla., quintet (and only 40 percent African-American) Black Kids' deliberately provocative moniker, but racial politics and implications are perhaps best left to New Yorker music critics and the current U.S. presidential campaign. So the music: yearning, aching yelps and croons as if from the throat of Robert Smith supercollided with the mega-processed synth, drum and quasi-funk bass sounds of old Sheena Easton and Spandau Ballet albums, texturized by the occasional electric guitar gnash and indie-cheerleader chant (� la Tilly and the Wall) and produced with all manner of Phil Spectorisms for a swooning, colorful kind of dance-pop that, more often than not, justifies the buzz. (M.A.G.)

Justin Townes Earle

Sat., Sept. 27, 8pm. $10. With Scott Silipigni Band + Amanda Penecale. J.C. Dobbs, 304 South St.

Justin may not have adopted his father's roots rock style--favoring instead Bakersfield honky-tonk and acoustic country-blues--but he has strong evocative vocals, a talent for conjuring characters, and adventurousness which suggest the influence of nature and nurture. Hints of Earle's nascent skills bubble up all over his spring debut The Good Life, from the bluesy organ rag "South Georgia Sugar Babe" to "Far Away in Another Town," in which Earle breaks it off with a lover, singing, "I think I can be lonesome on my own." Nearly sidelined by a drug habit several years ago, his since renewed focus begat an album of unusual confidence and supple, almost casual beauty. (C.P.)

Sam Champion

Wed., Oct. 1, 9pm. $8. With Jotto. Silk City, 435 Spring Garden St. 215.592.8838.

Named after a particularly triumphant-sounding TV weatherman, New York quartet Sam Champion conjured the unlikely vibe of Pavement gone country on 2005's laid-back and crookedly twangy Slow Rewind. Three years later comes its more raucous and varied follow-up, Heavenly Bender, which hops from gnarled blues ("Be Mine Everyone") to entrancing garage-psych ("Dead Moon") to tear-jerking balladry ("Lorraine"). In between, though, there's plenty of the back-porch lilt and drawl (dig "Like a Secret") that first set Sam Champion apart from the young indie-rock pack. Sporting an extra-lively stage presence, the boys should rattle to the bone anyone who's simply trying to chill at Silk City on a weeknight. (Doug Wallen)

Vocal Tracts

Sun., Sept. 28, 8pm. $10. Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St. 215.446.3027

The Bowerbird experimental music series proceeds into fall with a triple bill devoted to the human voice, in all its ambiguity and variety. We're not talking about anything as pedestrian as "singing" here. Trombonist and Philly resident Steve Parker, an accomplished improviser and classical player, will present compositions using prerecorded vocal material. Bernhard Gal, a cutting-edge sound sculptor and multimedia artist from Austria, will offer a performance and lecture. And id m theft able, a red-haired, long-bearded fellow from Maine, will astound and maybe scare the shit out of you with that improvised thing he does. Imagine human beatbox gone wrong, sucked into some dark parallel universe. (David R. Adler)

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