Live music highlights for the week of Nov. 21, 2018
As they near the 20-year mark, Shady Groove is a local institution. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably witnessed long stretches of improvisational jams that are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This is true for the assortment of covers they play, as well as for the originals which pull from rock, jazz, New Orleans, reggae, gospel, R&B and just an overall Haight Street “dance band” vibe. Just don’t lose your shirt as you try to catch the colorful flashing lights with your hands. AARON CARNES
INFO: 9 p.m. Flynn’s Cabaret & Steakhouse, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $12/adv, $15/door. 335-2800.
THE MYSTERY LIGHTS
A modern proto-punk band, the New York-by-way-of-Salinas group the Mystery Lights sound like a lost contemporary of the Sonics or the Seeds, all swagger and wailing treble. Their self-titled debut was released in 2016 by Daptone subsidiary Wick Records, a welcome expansion of Daptone’s all-things-’60s catalog. Live, the Lights have an ability to find the spaces where punk and drone overlap, creating thick waves of psychedelic noise between high energy blasts of a howling thing called rock ’n’ roll. MIKE HUGUENOR
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $14/door. 429-4135.
Portland’s Fire Nuns don’t know if they want to be a fuzzed-out garage-rock Burger Records band, or if they’d rather be razor-focused math rock nerds. They somehow manage to encapsulate the wild abandon of garage-rock and the technical prowess of math rock, and meld it together in a way that stays true to the contradictory ethos of both. The band has been releasing a steady stream of albums since 2013; their latest, Band on Holiday, is a messy, straightforward rocker with guts, heart and robotic precision. AC
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.
Jesse Daniel is a bit of a rockabilly rebel, but his songs are full on honky-tonk revelry. He twangs his pithy, anecdotal stories with all the swagger of a bad guy gone good (but still a little bad, in all the right ways) and turns his troubled backstory into rollicking one-liners which manage to give everyone in the audience a vicarious shit-eating grin. ’Cause we’ve all known trouble of some sort, haven’t we? Daniel makes light of our silly, fragile human egos, but still somehow comes off as a major badass in the end. Swoon. AMY BEE
INFO: 9 p.m., Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $10/adv, $15/door. 479-1854
Reno’s Blasphemous Creation are celebrating a dozen years of blast beats, thrashing riffs and mayhem. This diabolical power trio is for pure metal lovers only; their tunes harken back to the good-ol-days of Kreator, Morbid Angel and Death. Not only will they share the stage with black metal trio Sledge and Santa Cruz’s own Blood Omen, but Blasphemous Creation will also be releasing their long-awaited fourth album, Forsaken Dynasty. Don’t say you weren’t warned. MAT WEIR
INFO: 9 p.m. Blue Lagoon, 923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $5. 423-7117.
Some of Smokeshow’s songs sound like acoustic versions of classic rock ballads, like Led Zeppelin if those dudes had sweet, sweet lady harmonies. Other take on a melancholic vaudevillian vibe, with modest mandolin riffs accompanying gritty-sweet vocals lamenting, “Oh fire/Mighty agent of change/ But stick around too long it’ll make you deranged.” Sometimes the indie folk duo will do a sing-out, call-back style with their lyrical stanzas, resulting in a powerful cascade of imagery, like two Robert Plants fighting over the same narrative vocal structure. Which voice will win? Who knows! AB
INFO: 9 p.m., Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.
SUNDAY, NOV 25
With one of the strangest pedigrees in jam music, Moonalice boasts members of Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship, Phil Lesh and Friends, and … a venture capitalist? In addition to penning “It’s 4:20 Somewhere,” singer Roger McNamee was an early investor in Facebook, worked at T. Rowe Price in the ’90s, and is dead certain that “music and technology have converged.” In the past, Moonalice has included both G.E. Smith and Jack Casady, but when they come to Moe’s Alley they’ll be bringing Grateful Dead alum Big Steve Parish in the role of “road scholar.” MH
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Drive, Santa Cruz. $10/adv, $15/door. 479-1854.
RAY BROWN QUINTET WITH EDDIE MENDENHALL
Longtime Cabrillo College professor Ray Brown returns to Kuumbwa with his new quintet, a stellar band featuring some of the region’s top improvisers. Trading his horn for the vibraphone, Brown gives top billing to Pacific Grove pianist Eddie Mendenhall. His daughter, the Juilliard-trained bassist Kanoa Mendenhall, is home from New York for the holidays long enough to add a vivifying jolt of youth to the ensemble, while the brilliant drummer Alan Hall is worth the price of admission himself. Rounding out the band is Erik Jekabson, an essential creative catalyst on the Bay Area jazz scene. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $26.50/adv, $31.50/door. 427-2227.
By blending funk, rock, blues, soul and everything between, August Sun creates an original sound that is as full as it is expansive, not to mention kick-ass. This Santa Cruz Mountains-based quintet is the brainchild of fiery singer-songwriter Christian Walsh, perfect for fans of the Grateful Dead, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Rolling Stones or just good old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll. MW
INFO: 8 p.m. Crow’s Nest, 2218 E Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. $5. 476-4560.