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Tuned In

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF IHEG<br/>Punch Brothers
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF IHEG<br/>SteelDrivers
  • Photo by Rick Marr<br/>Aesop Rock

The “abstract rapper.” It was once a nickname for Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, but soon enough there was a whole exploding universe of hip-hop lyricists whose work got labeled “abstract rap,” with brain-scrambling wordplay that demanded repeat listens.

Up at the top of the list of labyrinthic lyric-spitters is Aesop Rock. The San Francisco-based rapper was on hiatus for some time, but last summer he released “Skelethon,” his first album in five years. He’ll headline a show with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz that also features Busdriver and DJ Jay Skee, at Pearl Street in Northampton Saturday at 9 p.m.

“Skelethon” is another hit for the critically acclaimed hip-hop artist (born Ian Bavitz), full of self-produced tracks with creative beats and words that shoot by at head-spinning speed, sending you looking for a lyric sheet to steady yourself, or at least the rewind button to make sure you heard what you thought you heard. (“Undead orcs pulling oars through the algae?” Indeed.)

And a song like “Grace” has immediately accessible humor woven into it, his own personal version of the “Rapper’s Delight” verse about being stuck at the dinner table and the “food just ain’t no good” — except in Aesop’s case, it’s his own family’s meal and his own dislike of vegetables that’s making him nauseated.

His two brothers down their greens by holding their noses and chasing them down with cola and they’re free to go, while Aesop remains alone with his parents, and the evil string beans still on his plate. “Two have been released / leaving me the legroom and the legume police / going ‘Freeze, you with the pretzeled arms / send your fabricated nausea my best regards / and know this kitchen is a prison e_SSRqtil the pea pods die / I could sit here all night’ / So could I.”

Punch Brothers, led by mandolin man Chris Thile, bring their progressive bluegrass to the Calvin Theatre in Northampton tonight at 8 p.m. Opening the night is celebrated singer/songwriter Anais Mitchell.

Reggae band Kudzu plays a free show tonight at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls at 9:30 p.m.

The Roger Salloom Band — joined by Charles Neville and vocalist Jessica Freeman — holds a concert and dance at the Garden House at Look Park in Florence Saturday at 7 p.m.

Nashville-based bluegrass quintet The SteelDrivers plays “new music with the old feeling” at the Iron Horse in Northampton Sunday at 7 p.m.

The Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra, a 20-strong avant-garde ensemble of acoustic and electric guitarists from all walks of musical life — founded by musical director Peter Blanchette — returns to the volunteer-run arts space Flywheel in Easthampton on Sunday at 7 p.m.

Local bands Fiesta Brava and The True Jacqueline are on a bill that includes touring twosome Broken Anchor (an indie-rock duo from Los Angeles) at the Elevens in Northampton Monday at 9 p.m.

“Synth Party!” is, as advertised, a night of musicians playing synthesizers. At the Elevens in Northampton Wednesday at 9 p.m.

The long-running Magic Triangle Jazz Series features trombonist/composer Craig Harris (who’s played with Abdullah Ibrahim, David Murray, Sam Rivers, Lester Bowie and many others) and his 10-piece ensemble performing their tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois, “Souls Within the Veil,” at Bowker Auditorium at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Thursday at 8 p.m.

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