Live music highlights for the week of Jan. 16, 2019
Dancehall, the Jamaican musical genre that finds a meeting ground between hip-hop and reggae, has in recent years found a home in mainstream American culture with artists like Shaggy and Foxy Brown. Even Drake and Rihanna have embraced the genre. Cham (formerly Baby Cham) is a Jamaican dancehall artist who is both bringing the authentic dancehall sound to international ears and broadening its range with high-profile collaborations with Alicia Keys, DJ Khaled and T-Pain. AARON CARNES
INFO: 9 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $20 adv/$25 door. 479-1854.
Good classic rock epitomizes restless youth and reckless abandon. Howlin’ Rain exude both of these things, and will also goad you into selling your condo for a hippie van, warning you against a vague and problematic future and inviting you to live now. The endearing magic of their raucous rock ’n’ roll is at once nostalgic and invigorating. Howlin Rain howl and yowl and pierce your apathetic heart with the grittiest, sweetest, meanest, truest guitar riffs. AMY BEE
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $15 adv/$20 door. 423-1338.
Easygoing indie rockers the 131ers’ latest album Nothing’s As It Should Be sounds ripe for radio with its cool, breezy beats, pseudo-anthem power pieces, and slick-but-not-corporate production value. But these guys are proud of their working-class ethic and strive to keep the DIY vibe as long their audience continues to find worth in it—and they keep having fun doing it. With charming harmonies and catchy, well-executed riffs, the 131ers exude friendly confidence as they deftly navigate the space between “selling themselves and selling out,” as frontman Kaleb Davies once quipped. AB
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.
Twenty five years in, Lyrics Born is still as distinct a voice in hip hop as when the Tokyo-born Bay Area transplant first rapped over a DJ Shadow beat back in ’93. This year’s Quite A Life plays like a victory lap for the self-proclaimed “funkiest rapper alive,” stuffed to the brim with tenement-rocking party jams, huge funk beats, killer guest spots, and endlessly playful lyrics. “The biggest thing I hate about hatred is how it keeps us distracted from achieving our greatness,” he raps on standout track “Same But Different.” Truer words, LB. Truer words. MIKE HUGUENOR
INFO: 9 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Drive, Santa Cruz. $15 adv/$20 door. 479-1854.
Plaintive, soft-spoken and with vulnerability front and center, John Elliott’s music rides a diagonal which crosses the early work of Ben Gibbard. For those who wish the Death Cab singer’s work had stayed bedroom-sized instead of distending into stadium rock, Elliott’s gentle Rhodes and reverby guitar may have what you’ve been missing. On the recent album North Star, the California singer projects internal desires for meaning, connection and escape onto the night sky, following the same celestial metaphor for freedom that has inspired dreamers for generations. MH
INFO: 8 p.m. Lille Aeske, 13160 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek. $10-20. 703-4183.
It’s been said before, but we’ll say it again: there has not been a more influential band in recent rock history than the Melvins. For 35 solid years, the sometimes-trio, sometimes-quartet has created a fuzz-filled, distorted cacophony of sound that has influenced everyone from underground artists like Karp and Earth to mainstream gods such as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Tool. Now, King Buzzo, Dale Crover, Jeff Pinkus and Steven McDonald return to the Catalyst Atrium for a show that, if it’s anything like last time, will probably be elbow-to-elbow sold out, with 350 of your closest new best friends. MAT WEIR
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $25. 423-1338.
I first saw Sheila Jordan in the late 1980s at Kuumbwa in an astounding duo concert with bass virtuosos Harvie S. She was already a revered veteran who literally sang the praises of Charlie Parker, who mentored the young singer when she was starting out on the vibrant Detroit jazz scene in the 1940s. At 90, few figures in jazz are more beloved by their peers. The fact that her voice is in remarkable shape and her improvisational spirit is undaunted make Jordan a natural wonder. She’s touring as part of another high-wire duo with bassist Cameron Brown. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $31.50 adv/$36.75 door. 427-2227.
L.A.-based Dent May is determined to take yesterday’s corny pop clichés and make them sound cool again. Just about every trick up his sleeve would have been viewed as pastiche a decade ago: lounge music, ’70s am pop, retro keyboards that steer clear of the obviously cool-sounding analog synthesizers. Just about his only overtly cool move is his uncanny Brian Wilson-esque vocal style. And maybe that’s how he’s able to take all this retro silliness and somehow make timely indie pop. AC
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $10 adv/$12 door. 423-1338.
BILLY DON BURNS
In 2019, it’s hard to find country legends of the same caliber as the likes of Hank Williams or Willie Nelson. Then strolls in Billy Don Burns, and one can’t help but wonder if maybe some myths still live. If the name isn’t familiar you’ve surely heard his songs—everyone from Willie to Connie Smith to Whitey Morgan have recorded Burns’ outlaw honky-tonk tunes. On Jan. 22, he’ll lay down his stories and maybe even pass a thing or two along to Santa Cruz’s own outlaw kid, Jesse Daniel, who opens the show. MW
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Michael’s on Main, 2591 Main St., Soquel. $10 adv/$12 door. 479-9777.