Sweet Honey in the Rocks

Music Picks: Jan. 15-21

Live music in Santa Cruz County for the week of Jan. 15, 2020




If you like your folk from way back—and I’m talking way back—look no further than Nordic folk quintet Sver. Presented by the Celtic Society of Monterey, Sver brings the crisp flavors of the Scandinavians across space and time while keeping the traditional music alive. More than spirited followers of the music, they are all fantastic musicians, as evidenced by their latest album, Reverie, “recorded live…completely free of chopping” as they put it on their Bandcamp. MAT WEIR

7:30pm Michaels on Main, 2591 Main St., Soquel. $18/adv, $20/door. 479-9777.





Are you tired of hearing all your favorites songs not as bluegrass? Good thing the Grateful Bluegrass Boys are hitting the Michaels stage, banjos intact. I know you’re thinking that this is clearly a Grateful Dead cover band—and yes, they do bluegrass-ify some Dead tunes—but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of tunes by Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, the Cars, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles—done in the most bluegrass-iest of ways. With the GBB, you’ll never have to suffer through another rock beat again! AC

7:30 pm Michaels on Main, 2591 Main St., Soquel. $10. 479-9777. 




It’s been almost 20 years since Sage Francis dropped his era-defining Personal Journals, but he hasn’t slowed down. Averaging about four albums a decade (not counting mixtapes), the Providence rapper still sounds just as nimble (and tormented) as he did around Y2K. Last May, he released This Was Supposed to Be Fun, the debut full length for his new project Epic Beard Men, a collaboration with rapper B. Dolan, whose unrushed delivery is a nice counterpoint to Francis’s KRS-One-style spit. Coheadlining on Thursday is the incandescent Sa-Roc, one of the best MCs on Rhymesayers. MIKE HUGUENOR

9pm Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Dr., Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $25/door. 479-1854.





Aviva le Fey’s brand of Americana love songs aren’t the kind of slow-burning heartthrobs or giddy, marveling-at-first-love odes meant to be shared with your one and only. They’re the songs you sing along with alone, sobbing your way home from a break-up. They’re the ones you sing late at night, staring at the ceiling, trying to puzzle what when wrong, and when. Full of romantic yearning and aching introspection, Aviva’s piercing vocals lead you through the haunted fields of fallen lovers and unrequited attraction, searching for answers yet finding yourself forever lost, ever lovesick. AMY BEE

8pm Lille Aeske, 13160 Hwy 9, Boulder Creek. $20. 703-4183. 




L.A. hard rockers All Souls say their biggest influence is the Pixies, but on recent single “Silence” there’s another ‘80s/’90s act they sound more like: Ozzy Osbourne. From the demented verse riff and creepily crooning melody (both of which sounds like they came straight of a haunted manor), to the Randy Rhoades-style guitar solo, “Silence” could be a page Ozz forgot to write in his Diary of a Madman. When All Souls come to Blue Lagoon, they play with San Jose’s Kook, who sound like Black Sabbath’s phantom limb. MH

8pm Blue Lagoon, 923 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz. $5. 423-7117.





When Pawn Shop Soul started nearly a decade ago, they distinguished themselves from the other crate-digging retro soul tribute bands by placing their dynamic horn section up front and keeping the songs strictly instrumental. Now the group is releasing its first ever CD, and half the songs will feature locally revered vocalist Simone Cox providing actual singing. Unfortunately, Cox is leaving the area, but in the future, expect more vocal performances with with Angela Porter. Catch this show as one of the final opportunities to hear Cox sing the songs from the album. AC

8pm Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. 427-2227. 




Pause for a moment and go check out the Steph and Deb three-episode mini-series on Comedy Central. Done? Great. Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with Steph Tolev’s brassy sketch comedy, you’re ready to check out her even brassier stand up. Her sets are full of all kinds of boorish little absurdisms that somehow end up charming and personable rather than full-on gross (although you may want to hurl a smidge during her cabbage soup diet bit). Relatable, respectably raunchy, and funny as hell, Steph Tolev will definitely make you pee a little, and laugh a lot. AB

7 & 9:30pm DNA’s Comedy Lab, 155 S River St., Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $25/door. 900-5123.




It’s 2020, so have your third eye open for some clear-minded foresight, starting with local psychedelic riders Supernaut. Since 2014, these guys have been delivering the heavy, fuzzed-out sounds of their twisted minds, but don’t start to freak out. You just arrived! Or so they say on the opening track of their killer new album, The Green,  which dropped last November and is filled with apocalyptic, head-banging, smoke-sesh tracks. MW

9pm Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $6. 429-6994.





Born in the waning days of the civil rights movement, Sweet Honey In the Rock was founded and directed by activist, vocalist and educator Bernice Johnson Reagon, a powerhouse singer deeply versed in an array of sacred and secular African-American musical idioms. She was such a potent presence that it was an open question whether the Grammy-winning all-women a cappella ensemble would continue to thrive after her retirement in 2004, but rapturous harmonies still flow from Sweet Honey. The group’s 45th anniversary tour brings the ensemble with a multi-generational cast. ANDREW GILBERT

7:30pm Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $42. 423-8209.
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