Anthony St. James
THURSDAY 9/22

MC SAGE FRANCIS MICS THE ROCK

Sage Francis used to be one of the wittiest, punworthiest, most acerbic rappers in the underground. Albums like Personal Journals and A Healthy Distrust trenchantly exposed hypocrisies within both the personal and political realms. His flow wasn't the smoothest, but Sage had a gruff, regular-dude likability that complemented his provocative, left-wing content and moving storytelling. Now with Li(f)e, Sage reckons himself an earnest heartland-rock singer-songwriter, thereby negating much of his initial appeal. On the "white rapper goes rock" scale, Sage falls between Everlast (terrible) and Buck 65 (pretty good). There'll be equal amounts of "WTF?" and "Yay! Change!" responses to Sage's new direction. Count me in the former camp. With the Metermaids and Sadistik. Neumos, 8 pm, $18, 21+.

SATURDAY 9/24

POST-DUBSTEP SOUL MAN JAMES BLAKE

James Blake has risen through Britain's hypercompetitive post-dubstep milieu to attain something like cult-pop-star status in the United States. It's a rare feat. Then again, Blake possesses a rare talent. His blue-eyed soul vocals hover somewhere between the hushed, crushed spirituality of Arthur Russell and Talk Talk's Mark Hollis (or the Formica'd emoting of Chris Isaak, if you're a hater), while his productions describe a womblike space in which keyboards simmer and shiver and bass pressure spreads like regret in a fighting couple's bedroom. Blake's self-titled, major-label debut album is world-class brooding music that somehow translates well to the live arena. With Teengirl Fantasy. Showbox at the Market, 8 pm, $22.50, all ages.

LOU CHAMPAGNE SYSTEM LP RELEASE PARTY

Epicurean reissue label Medical Records is throwing a release party for Canadian solo artist Lou Champagne System's No Visible Means LP. If you read my recent profile of Medical and its boss, Dr. Troy Wadsworth, you'll realize that attending this should be a high priority. Medical specializes in unearthing rare, obscure synth-based, cold-wave, and new-wave gems from the late '70s and '80s. No Visible Means (1983) is a mordant synth-punk masterpiece, abounding with malignant keyboard pulsations, astringent guitars, and angsty vocals that make Gary Numan sound affable. At Vermillion tonight, you can listen to the LP in its entirety, purchase the wax (and other Medical catalog items) for a dollar off the retail price, and meet the savants behind the company. Plus, snacks! Vermillion, 8 pm, free, 21+.