The best in live music in Santa Cruz this week…
Brooklyn-to-Nashville transplant Michaela Anne is an outlier country artist whose tender take on the genre offers a unique and often-overlooked female perspective. Her songs range from energetic honky-tonk to bittersweet ballads, with a flexible poignancy. Michaela’s raw emotion shines with confidence and intensity; her expert country-rock songwriting calls to mind influences like the Eagles, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. The singer has achieved new creative heights with the catchy, complex songwriting of her latest release, Bright Lights and the Fame. KATIE SMALL
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.
Cumbia is currently huge in Mexico, but it’s originally Colombian music. Mexican pop music also tends to encompass a blend of tropical and Caribbean styles. On both of these fronts, Celso Piña was a pioneer. He started playing cumbia in the ’80s, when no one in the country cared. (Hence his nickname, “El Rebelde del Acordeón”—“the rebellious accordionist.”) His fondness for fusion music inspired a whole generation of Mexican pop artists to broaden their genre palettes. AARON CARNES
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $25/adv, $30/door. 479-1854.
BRUBECK BROTHERS QUARTET
The Brubeck Brothers features bassist/trombonist Chris Brubeck and drummer Dan Brubeck touring intermittently with guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb. The brothers have been playing together since childhood, and first gained attention in the early 1970s performing with their legendary father, pianist/composer Dave Brubeck (and older brother Darius, on piano). They play some of their father’s standards, but Chris is a renowned composer in his own right (who’s received numerous symphonic commissions), and Dan’s latest album is the gorgeous two-disc live project Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave and Iola Brubeck, which includes some lesser-known gems. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $27/adv, $32/door. 427-2227.
GREG KIHN UNPLUGGED
A legend of Bay Area rock, Greg Kihn took to music early, playing Baltimore coffee shops when he was still in his teens and winning a radio songwriting contest—which netted him a typewriter, a stack of records and a Vox guitar—when he was just 17. He was originally inspired by the Beatles, but his career has seen him walk a winding music road that includes punk, disco and ’80s pop. He and his band landed on the pop charts with “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ’Em)” and “Jeopardy.” On Saturday, Kihn goes acoustic with the help of guitarist and vocalist Robert Berry. CAT JOHNSON
INFO: 8 p.m. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $20/adv, $25/door. 335-2800.
SWITCHFOOT + RELIENT K
Switchfoot and Relient K are searching for America again, according to the name of their co-headlining tour. I’m not sure what that means, but the important thing is that these are two of the biggest Christian crossover rock acts in the world. Both started in the ’90s, and had mainstream success in the early 2000s. Lyrically, these bands aren’t beat-you-over-the-head preachy, more like inspirational and spiritual in their messaging. Switchfoot can best be described as arena rock with epic choruses, while the members of Relient K play polished emo punk. Catch this double bill while you can, as I doubt there’ll be a “Searching For America Part III”—if they can’t find it after two tours, they should probably just give up. AC
INFO: 8 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $36/adv, $38/door. 429-4135.
A CAPELLA CHOIR
LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO
For more than 50 years, the voices of Ladysmith Black Mambazo have combined the intricate rhythms and harmonies of their native South African musical traditions with the sounds and sentiments of Christian gospel music. Formed in 1964 by Joseph Shabalala, the all-male singing troupe hails from the Ladysmith district of South Africa—their isicathamiya harmonies reflect the traditional music of the Zulu people. Dubbed “South Africa’s cultural ambassadors to the world” by Nelson Mandela, the group’s lineup continues to change, but their message of peace, love and harmony does not. With more than 50 albums under its belt, Mambazo is now touring its most recent CD, Walking In The Footsteps Of Our Fathers. This latest album also marks the group’s 17th Grammy Award nomination. KS
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $35/gen, $55/gold. 423-8209.
MARK HUMMEL’S ULTIMATE HARMONICA BLOWOUT 2017
East Bay harp ace Mark Hummel isn’t afraid of a little competition. He’s been organizing the Blues Harmonica Blowout for more than a quarter of a century, showcasing the world’s greatest harp players—which means he’s always on the hot seat as a player. This year’s lineup ranks amongst the best, with a brilliant multi-generational cast including harp innovator Howard Levy (best known for his work with Bela Fleck), Duke Robillard (whose credits range from Roomful of Blues to Bob Dylan), Chicago harp icon Corky Siegel, and Jason Ricci, a vocalist and highly sought-after harp player who is a rare out gay man on the blues scene. Canadian harp star Son of Dave, aka Benjamin Darvill, who gained notoriety and three Grammy Award nominations as a founding member of Crash Test Dummies, is also on the bill. AG
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $25/adv, $30/door. 479-1854.
When’s the last time you heard a cellist play bluegrass? Or the blues? Or rowdy covers of pop songs? Perhaps the last time Dirty Cello was in town? This outstanding Bay Area outfit, led by classically trained cellist Rebecca Roudman, will inspire you to toss everything you think you know about the instrument out the window with its blend of roots and modern music, genre-defying instrumentation, and the top-notch musicality of its members. Prepare for a night of unforgettable music and entertainment. Sharing the evening’s bill is Café Musique, a Central California five-piece that plays gypsy, swing, tango, folk, and “wild classical” music. CJ
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $25/gen, $32/gold. 427-2227.
There is an art to writing good noise-rock songs. The process isn’t as simple as “write pop songs then slather a bunch of feedback over the top and call it a day.” OK, some bands do that, but not No Age. If there’s any doubt as to the thoughtful artistry of the noise in the band’s songs, check out its lackluster third LP, An Object, an experiment in which they stripped all extraneous noisy sounds away. Fortunately, that appears to be a blip on the radar. The couple of EPs and singles they’ve since released are full of noise, and god bless these two L.A. boys for it. AC
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $15. 429-4135.
IN THE QUEUE
SANTA CRUZ REGGAE ALL-STARS
Members of Animo Cruz, Soulwise, Ancestree and more. Wednesday at Moe’s Alley
Prog-rock legends Tony Levin, Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto. Friday at Kuumbwa
Santa Cruz reggae-rock. Saturday at Crow’s Nest
Singer-songwriter and activist. Saturday at Kuumbwa
San Diego-based reggae-rock outfit. Tuesday and Wednesday at Catalyst