DAVE HOLODILOFF BAND
A hot-picking bluegrass mandolin player and composer, Dave Holodiloff is one of a new breed of roots musicians moving traditional roots sounds into new realms, including jazz, rock, experimental, Gypsy swing, reggae and jam. The genre-bending mastery of Holodiloff and his ace sidemen is paired with a playfulness that is lighthearted and disarming. Called the “hardest working musician in Monterey” by the Monterey County Weekly, Holodiloff is one of the understated musical gems of the area. CAT JOHNSON
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $12/adv, $15/door. 335-2800.
On Leftover Cuties’ website there’s a photo that depicts the quartet walking away from the camera with dramatic flair, armed with instruments: trumpet, ukulele, banjo, etc. It’s kind of funny, and it really sums them up—there is something incredibly whimsical about Leftover Cuties, and the band’s throwback to the golden age of old-timey jazz. But man, do they have some melancholy lyrics. Nowhere else is this better exemplified than on the song they’re best known for, “Game Called Life,” which was the theme song to Showtime’s The Big C. “Is this some kind of a joke, will someone wake me up soon? And tell me this was just a game we played, called life?” AARON CARNES
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10. 429-6994.
Bay Area band the Waybacks has a long tradition of filtering classic rock albums through progressive bluegrass—where they are smoothed out, twanged up, sometimes slowed down, and given a deep roots groove. And their fans love them for it. We get to hear songs by the Rolling Stones, Eagles and the like—that have become bland due to overexposure—with fresh ears. We get to chill out and relax in our chairs rather than rocking and rolling our heads off down in front, and we get to trip down Memory Lane accompanied by sweet melodies, eclectic instrumentation and tight musicianship. And that’s just the cover songs. The band also has a deep catalog of original roots jams that span genres and styles. CJ
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $15. 335-2800.
A unique blend of jazz, Indian Bhangra music, go-go beats, hip-hop, funk and traces of cumbia, Red Baraat is an eight-piece brass band from Brooklyn. The group’s intense, energetic live shows have earned it the title “best party band in years” from NPR. The collective’s signature instruments include two full drum kits, the double-headed South Asian dhol drum and a sousaphone. In 2012, the band’s second album debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Music charts, propelling the members onto a nonstop three-year world tour that included performances at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Monterey Jazz Festival, and appearances made on behalf of the White House, TED and the Olympic Games. KATIE SMALL
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $15/adv, $20/door. 429-4135.
In the 1980s, a Monterey-based band called the Medflys was one of the biggest names on the Central Coast music scene. Blending the era’s trademark synth-pop sound with ska, New Wave and a healthy dose of silliness, the Medflys held “Best Local Band” honors for years, regularly toured with the Tubes, and shared stages with some of the biggest bands of the day, including Joan Jett, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oingo Boingo and the Violent Femmes. Their standout track was “Don’t Mess With The Mayor,” a spaghetti-Western-inspired tribute to Clint Eastwood’s 1986 mayoral stint in Carmel. On Saturday, the band hits Moe’s for a rare reunion performance. CJ
INFO: 9 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. 479-1854.
Otis is no tribute band. It’s inspired by the dynamic sounds of Stax, and, more generally, the soulful sound of Memphis in the 1960s. Even their name is a nod to the great Otis Redding. But they do their own tunes, and they do them well. This San Francisco four-piece is comprised of seasoned musicians; sometimes the group plays as an instrumental soul outfit, other times they are the backing band for whatever soul singer they bring with them. This Sunday, they bring singer Miss Nickki with them. She can really cut loose. AC
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.
TAMMY SCHIFFER & ELSA NILSSON
Tammy Schiffer and Elsa Nilsson are both gifted cutting-edge performers in the outer realms of modern jazz. Schiffer is a composer and vocalist, Nilsson is a flutist and also a composer. When either is leading their own group, it’s a unique musical exploration. Now they are embarking on a short Northern California tour together, and Santa Cruz is fortunate enough to be the final stop on this short little jaunt. They plan to rework some Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix tunes, and play some of their original songs. Expect them to take you to new heights with the creative use of looping pedals. AC
INFO: 8 p.m. Bocci’s Cellar, 140 Encinal St., Santa Cruz. Free. 427-1795.
Bob Dylan and David Bowie, Irving Berlin and Kurt Weill, Papa Charlie Jackson and Hank Williams—they’re all grist for the velvety mill of Paula West’s sumptuous voice. A jazz singer who makes an eclectic repertoire sound like each disparate song was written with her in mind, West is at her best using sly phrasing to reveal unexpected depths and intimations in a lyric. In a region brimming with exceptional singers, she continues to stand out as one of the very best. She’s joined by her stellar Bay Area band featuring pianist/arranger (and UCSC alum) Adam Shulman, veteran bassist John Wiitala, and drummer Greg Wyser-Pratte. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $27/adv, $32/door. 427-2227.
BLACK JOE LEWIS & THE HONEYBEARS
Rumor has it that Joe Lewis first picked up a guitar 10 years ago while working at a pawnshop in Austin, Texas. That was after a string of dead-end jobs, including a stint as a truck driver for a fish delivery service that paid $9 an hour. After discovering guitar, he immediately formed the Honeybears, where bluesy funk, gritty soul and garage rock collide with vocals reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf. Lewis’ bold, urgent voice is offset by distorted guitar, a powerhouse brass ensemble and pocket rhythm section. The band’s impassioned, frenetic live shows and dangerous stage antics are causing a stir—Lewis told Spin Magazine, “I just wanna keep it real; I don’t want to sit back when I’m 40, working at fucking Sonic, and be like, ‘Damn, I should’ve paid attention in class.’” KS
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $15/adv, $17/door. 429-4135.
IN THE QUEUE
British electronica producer and performer. Wednesday at Catalyst. Read our interview with the artist on SantaCruz.com.
Russian-American rockabilly, surf, funk, rock mashup. Thursday at Moe’s Alley
LITTLE JONNY AND THE GIANTS
Bay Area blues outfit. Friday at Pocket
Standout fiddler and roots composer. Friday at Kuumbwa
Legendary Jamaican reggae group. Saturday at Catalyst