Part of me thinks that Bill Callahan is a ghost. Few in the RecordBar crowd, last time he was in town, seemed to even notice that he had taken the stage; the set started both abruptly and unassumingly. After the last song, he thanked the crowd, put down his guitar and walked right out the front door and into the parking lot. He opened his van, got in and sat by himself in the backseat. Essentially, he existed neither before nor after his performance. Callahan's supernatural gift for writing deeply strange, yet oddly accessible country music — 2011's Apocalypse is, by my count, his fourth consecutive instant-classic album — serves to support my theory.
Wednesday, May 8, at RecordBar (1020 Westport Road, 816-753-5207)
Big Boi's most recent album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, is not his best work — a guest spot from Nathan Williams (of surf-punk group Wavves) is just one of many genre-bending ideas that fails to excite. Then again, it's an album full of Big Boi rapping, which makes it better than roughly 96 percent of the rap albums that have been released in the history of the world. And it still boasts some trunk rattlers, like "In the A," which finds Big Boi, Ludacris and T.I. dropping the kind of first-class bars that remind you, in case you've forgotten, that the best hip-hop of the last 15 years was created in Atlanta.
Sunday, May 5, at the Granada (1020 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-842-1390)
Everything I know about Crystal Castles leads me to believe that they're humorless assholes, but if your goal is to make frightening electronic music, then I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense to frown in press photos and lament global injustices in interviews. The Canadian duo fleshes out its dark, pounding dance beats with occasional Nintendo bleeps; sometimes there is also shrieking and, live, aggressive stage diving.
Friday, May 3, at Liberty Hall (644 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-749-1972)
In Back of a Black Car, Molly Picture Club
This bill of local acts is anchored by Molly Picture Club, a likable dance-pop group that worships at the altar of Byrne. MPC is celebrating the release of its new EP, I'm My Own Time Machine. Joining in is In Back of a Black Car, which also traffics in new wave ("Lips," which you can stream on its Reverbnation page, is an impressively crafted ode to 1980s synth pop), and the bright-eyed garage-pop act Rev Gusto.
Saturday, May 4, at the Brick (1727 McGee, 816-421-1634)
Trapper Schoepp and the Shades
I caught Trapper Schoepp (who is 22 years old) and his band, the Shades, a couple of months back in Austin, during South by Southwest. The Milwaukee group was playing poppy country-rock tunes — a little bit Exile on Main Street, a little bit Lucero — on a makeshift stage on the patio of a barbecue joint called Freedmen's. At the end of the set, Jakob Dylan joined them for the Band's "The Weight" and the Wallflowers' "One Headlight." This show might not be quite that cool, but there's a decent chance you'll come away with a new favorite roots-rock group.
Monday, May 6, at RecordBar ;(1020 Westport Road, 816-753-5207)
The Carper Family
The aesthetic of Hank Williams' music is not particularly alive in Hank II or III. But it lives on regardless. In the case of the Carper Family, it resides among three harmonizing women from Austin, Texas, who play waltzes, swings and bluegrass tunes on acoustic instruments. If you've ever gotten tingly listening to the pedal-steel cry during a Hank tune, these ladies might be your jam.
Friday, May 3, at Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club (3402 Main, 816-753-1909)
Sunday, May 5, at the Replay Lounge (946 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-749-7676)