Who they are: Masters of helium-inflated, digitized indie rock, helmed by a frontman whose bipolar swings come couched in hyper-energetic pop melodies with festival-sized bass boost.
Why this matters: Passion Pit is one of the biggest names in indie rock right now, and its festival-honed live show hits with the force of an Autobot while still sounding human.
Who else will be there: The pleasant but inessential indie-lite combo Cults.
One song to sell you: “Constant Conversations,” the blown-out ballad that proved Passion Pit’s depressed compression party has room for a slow dance.
7 p.m. Friday
405 Neil Ave., Arena District
Who they are: A Moroccan-born, Queens-raised, lovably lunkheaded breakout success with a knack for hooks (the creeping chorus from Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin,’” for instance) but not enough star power to outshine the production on his biggest hit (“Pop That”). He is a sidekick-shaped peg being jammed into a superstar-shaped hole.
Why this matters: French just (inexplicably) headlined the Hot 97 Summer Jam, arguably rap’s grandest stage, and both Diddy and Rick Ross have a stake in his official debut album Excuse My French. Like it or not, he’s on the A-List.
Who else will be there: A bunch of terrible no-name local rappers, probably.
One song to sell you: “Freaks,” the Nicki Minaj collab that suggests French might have a bright future in delightful sex romps rather than mean-mugging street rap.
Long Street Entertainment Complex
10 p.m. Friday
40 E. Long St., Downtown
Who they are: The oddly-coupled team of brainy backpack rap oddball Aesop Rock, formerly of Definitive Jux Records, and antifolk maven Kimya Dawson, formerly of the Moldy Peaches.
Why this matters: Aesop and Kimya are such a strange pairing, two acts with small but fervent cult followings that might overlap more than anyone realized before they teamed up.
Who else will be there: Another cult favorite with an outsized persona, the inimitable high-strung rambler Hamell on Trial.
One song to sell you: “Bats,” which somehow melds both halves of this partnership without showing the seams.
Wexner Center for the Arts
1871 N. High St., Campus
Who they are: Former Florida hardcore kids who fell in love with shoegaze, post-punk and nasal wailing, influences they sometimes combine into entertaining music.
Why this matters: Although SPIN’s Chuck Eddy effectively depantsed Merchandise in a recent review (“Merchandise live rhythmically in Nowherezville”), they remain one of the underground’s most fascinating and fawned-over new acts. Plus they’re bringing some fellow hype fiends along with them (see below).
Who else will be there: Girthy SST enthusiasts Milk Music and ragged volume warriors Destruction Unit, making this one of the more impressive underground rock showcases in town lately.
One song to sell you: “Who Are You?” — (thankfully) not a Who cover but a hazy, harmonica-laden swoon.
Ace of Cups
2619 N. High St., Campus
Who they are: Soft, safe, cookie-cutter alt-rockers who happen to be fabulously good at songwriting. Consider it an Australian take on Phoenix’s effervescent It’s Never Been Like That sound.
Why this matters: Although Atlas Genius might not have much critical cache or name recognition yet, it’s getting a lot of CD102.5 burn, and it’s selling enough tickets to bump this from The Basement to the Newport.
Who else will be there: The Postelles and Haerts, two bands you will probably enjoy in the moment and forget immediately.
One song to sell you: “Trojans,” a crisp, cool single that sounds like sunshine pop disguised as midnight music.
Newport Music Hall
7 p.m. Friday
1722 N. High St., Campus