Santa Cruz live music highlights for the week of April 17
Gaelynn Lea is a talented, classically trained violinist, but it’s her captivating vocals that seduce the ear. She sounds wispy, yet powerful; controlled, but free. Most inexplicably, she has an Emerald Isle lilt coupled with a touch of twang. It’s a great combination, adding tons of feeling to her songs, which touch upon disabilities and empowerment. In “Dark to Light and Dark Again,” Lea matter-of-factly croons: “Muscles, nerves and skin and bones/They carry us on our journey home…But our bodies, they never fully contain us/We rise above that matter which seeks to detain us.” It’s an honest, accessible assessment, gracefully delivered. AMY BEE
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Michael’s On Main, 2591 Main St., Soquel. $12 adv/$15 door. 479-9777.
M. LOCKWOOD PORTER
“The Dream Is Dead” is an optimistic song. No, really, it is. M. Lockwood Porter wrote it to talk about how the myth of the American Dream is just that—a myth. The problem with believing in myths is that is traumatizes people who don’t understand that no matter hard they try, they can’t achieve them. If we can accept this, we can build a whole new society where maybe people can be a lot happier. This kind of unexpected optimism is all over his latest record Communion in the Ashes, an album of heartland rock ’n’ roll that will make you feel whole again. AARON CARNES
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $7. 429-6994.
You don’t have to be a hippie, stoner, Rastafarian, or iconoclast to appreciate reggae music, though it doesn’t hurt. Soul music at its core, Jamaican reggae fundamentally changed the sound of the world, and Freddie McGregor played a large part in it. Starting out at the tender age of 7, McGregor sang in pre-reggae rocksteady group the Clarendonians before going out on his own. In the ’80s, he had a string of hits worldwide, including UK Top 10 hit “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely.” Today, he’s a living reminder of reggae’s connective power across generations. MIKE HUGUENOR
INFO: 9 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $25 adv/$30 door. 479-1854.
GERALD CLAYTON TRIO
An inordinately talented pianist who hails from a vaunted Los Angeles jazz dynasty, Gerald Clayton turns every performance into a bedazzling sojourn. His latest album, 2017’s Tributary Tales, explored an array of jazz and funk idioms with an expansive cast of players, but as a touring artist he usually works in a trio context. The L.A.-based pianist heads north with a different kind of trio for a gig that marks the Kuumbwa return of guitarist Anthony Wilson. They’re musical lives are deeply intertwined, as Wilson spent years performing with Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Alan Hampton rounds out the combo. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7 p.m., Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $29.40 adv/$34.65 door. 427-2227.
L.A. rapper Earl Sweatshirt emerged with his debut Mixtape Earl at the age of 16. From the moment that album dropped, it was clear that he was not only an incredible voice, but the most talented rapper in the bizarro Odd Future crew. His latest record, Some Rap Songs, seems at first like a throwaway with short (mostly under-two-minute) rap tunes most likely spit off the top of his head. But he delivers some of his most profound and personal raps yet. “I think … I spent my whole life depressed/Only thing on my mind was death/Didn’t know if my time was next.” AC
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $28 adv/$32 door. 423-1338.
Zenith Sun might not be a household name, but the two guitarists in the emerging group are more familiar. Eric Lindell and Anson Funderburgh hit the stage for some classic rock ’n’ roll, Chicago blues, and good ol’ fashioned Americana goodness. These two friends have played together throughout the years, but Zenith Sun is a new venture for the seasoned musicians. This is part of Moe’s “Afternoon Blues Series,” so don’t forget doors open at 3:00 and the house begins rockin’ at 4:00. MAT WEIR
INFO: 4 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $20 adv/$25 door. 479-1854.
“Rollicking” is one of those descriptors only appropriate for a certain kind of sound, and Seattle’s Norman Baker has it. Rootsy and rollicking in equal measure, Baker’s country is far from the Florida-Georgia Line, tucked in behind the rusted-out truck about halfway up the hill. “She don’t mind I don’t got much money/My tattered shoe don’t matter to you,” he sings, with Pacific ease, on “Dinner Plans.” Simple needs brought to vivid life: that’s Norman Baker. MH
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Flynn’s Cabaret & Steakhouse, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $10 adv/$12 door. 335-2800.
Gonna be honest, I hate Florida. In a matter of 30 minutes, the weather can change to half-sunny, half-cloudy, somehow-raining-with-wind yet still too hot for shorts. To see how crazy that makes anyone, look no further than a simple “Florida man” Google search. However, if it keeps producing strong lyricists like Tokyo Jetz, I’ll reconsider my opinion. This Jacksonville rapper gained notoriety from her freestyle videos she would record in her car and quickly caught the attention of the Grand Hustler himself, T.I. Two albums later, her gritty rhymes and disgusting beats are drawing more blood than ever. MW
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $15 adv/$20 door. 423-1338.