Live music highlights for the week of Dec. 5, 2018
Hearing country singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier sing “Mercy Now” could pull the heartstrings of even the grinchiest cynic, and compel them to call their estranged loved ones, even if those loved ones are a damned, loathsome [insert preferred hated political party here]. Gauthier’s songs have always been wrought with the personal and the confessional, giving her the ability to tap into our collective narrative. And when we see ourselves mired and inflamed by the tribulations that surround us, Gauthier sweetly reminds us to let our hearts fall on the side of mercy. AMY BEE
INFO: 7:30 p.m., Michael’s on Main, 2591 Main St., Soquel. $22/adv, $25/door. 479-9777.
Renowned for their grungy, untamed, and chaotic unpredictability, Skating Polly live shows explode with energy even when both members are seated at a piano. They’ve recently added a full-time drummer, giving singers Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse more room to rock. After tours with Deerhoof, Babes in Toyland, X, and plenty more of indie rock’s luminaries, the duo-turned-trio’s live show is the most dialed-in chaos you’re likely to see any time soon. MIKE HUGUENOR
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10. 429-6994.
Don’t get hung up on whether John Maus is an absurdist art school jackass making fun of your musical proclivities or a brilliant, avant-garde synth genius in love with all things pop—all the articles you read online will both confirm and deny your worst fears. Who cares? He’s back on tour, and supposedly he’s got lights and sounds and other emotionally manipulative tricks up his sleeve. All I know was last night, I stayed up late listening to “Addendum,” and this morning I can’t stop singing, “Take that baby to the dump/To the dump!/Dumpster baby.” AB
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $18/adv, $20/door. 423-1338.
Laura Gibson has an ear for the ethereal, hitting chords such that they crack, and the wispy dust of the cosmos begins to come through. “I was born a wolf in women’s clothing” she sings on “Domestication,” an ominous line that floats naturally atop the song’s sinister bass line. Soon, the strings come in, and with them the hazy edges of the known universe. Trained in fiction, Gibson’s lyrics are evocative, sometimes shocking, but always couched comfortably within her songs. Gibson is an inspiring force of nature. MH
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8/adv, $10/door. 429-6994.
POOR MAN’S WHISKEY
With a mix of psychedelic rock, bluegrass, folk, and country, San Francisco’s Poor Man’s Whiskey has blazed a musical path that hits every corner of the broad Americana category. Not only do they come armed with an array of original tunes, but this sextet of outlaw bards is also known for their bluegrass renditions of songs by Paul Simon, the Allman Brothers, Pink Floyd and more. It’s a combination of hills and hippie that screams Santa Cruz. MAT WEIR
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. 479-1854.
What’s the best word to describe L.A.’s Buttertones? I’m going with “saucy,” because the band has such a swagger and primitive attitude about it. Maybe it’s just the natural byproduct of the influences they are wedging into their music. There’s overt elements of doo-wop, garage-rock, post-punk and surf, all competing for attention in different sections of each song. They got a nice lineup of classic ’60s styles guitars, drums and a saxophone, and yet it’s far too strange to be retro. There’s just so much sauce in it. It’s probably that squealing saxophone. Yeah, definitely the sax. AARON CARNES
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $14/door. 423-1338.
Even though she currently lives on a houseboat in the Puget Sound in Olympia, Washington, Kendl Winter’s Arkansas roots can’t help but shine through in her rootsy, folk music. For fans of Kate Wolf and Gillian Welch, Winter’s smoky voice delicately dances over her sun-soaked folk tunes of love and loss. She is currently touring California on the heels of her excellent solo album, Stumbler’s Business, released this past July on Team Love Records. MW
INFO: 8 p.m. lille æske, 13160 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek. $10-$20 sliding scale. 703-4183.
MARIACHI REYNA DE LOS ANGELES
To understand Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, you need to know two things: First, Mariachi music has historically been dominated by men. Second, Los Angeles has had a thriving scene of Latino music for decades now. It’s there that this group formed back in 1994, as the first ever all-female mariachi group anywhere in the states. The ensemble plays a very traditional mariachi style, and have been inspirational in the formation of more all-female mariachi bands in this country. The music is absolutely stunning and true to the traditions of mariachi, while bucking a pretty substantial tradition in the process. AC
INFO: 7 p.m. Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $36.75. 423-8209.
BELA FLECK AND ABIGAIL WASHBURN
The banjo is an unlikely instrument to produce a bona fide power couple, but then Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn have always hewn to their own paths. More than a virtuoso, Fleck turned the ancient West African-derived instrument into a vehicle for investigating the strange new sonic lands with his singular Flecktones. The formidable Washburn made a name for herself playing clawhammer in the acclaimed all-female old-time string band Uncle Earl. Their self-named 2014 debut album and their 2017 follow up Echo in the Valley showcases the banjo in all its permutations. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $42 adv/$50 door. 427-2227.