Live music highlights for the week of Feb. 20, 2019
Ella Mai creates soulful R&B grooves that will make you feel like falling in love can be empowering as well as all-encompassing. Reminiscent of the earlier, more love-struck R&B of the ’90s, her intimate, emotive stylings weave through the highs and lows of relationships with personal storytelling and incredible vulnerability. Her voice is bright and assertive, complimenting thick, heartthrob bass notes and back-up harmonies oozing amorous inclinations. No matter how hot the track may get, Mai keeps her message focused: self-knowledge is what’s most sexy. AMY BEE
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $27.50 adv/$30 door. 423-1338.
Moshe Vilozny exudes buoyant playfulness as he jams on the lighter side of American roots music, often finding the silver lining in the personal, and inspiration in the most unlikely places, including the environment. “The world is an ocean/And it’s easy to drown/But you can ride on the same wave/That’s been holding you down,” he jauntily sings on the title track of solo album Lost and Found. An easygoing candor permeates Vislozny’s musical arrangements, making what could be dismal redemptive instead. His ever-promising lyrics promote rose-colored hope. AB
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Michael’s on Main, 2591 Main St., Soquel. $10. 479-9777
SLY & ROBBIE
Sly & Robbie’s list of credits are too long for your meager human brain to fully comprehend. Sly Dunbar (drummer) and Robbie Shakespeare (bassist) had separate careers in the early ’70s in Jamaica, but then teamed up in the mid-’70s to become one of the best and most prolific production teams to ever come out of Jamaica. They’ve worked with reggae legends Black Uhuru, Dennis Brown, Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs, and Peter Tosh. They’ve also worked with people like Madonna, No Doubt, Bob Dylan, and Grace Jones, and managed to release their own incredible reggae-dub music as well. AARON CARNES
INFO: 9 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $26 adv/$30 door. 479-1854.
What do you get when you cross seven badass women in music for one night only? The Vagabonnies Roadshow, duh! Featuring Stacey Dee and Jennie Cotterill (Bad Cop/Bad Cop), Jen Razavi (Bombpops), Beebs and her Money Maker, Jen Carlson (Angry Amputees, Tiger + Bunny), Jen Johnson (F-Minus, Tiger + Bunny) and Gillian McGhee (Hi Ho, Turnspit), this feminist mini-Warped Tour shows a side of these punks most audiences aren’t familiar with: the acoustic one. Don’t worry, with a line-up like this, it’ll be one unplugged show that still delivers a no-holds-barred night of politics, poetry and destroying the patriarchy. MAT WEIR
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $7. 429-6994.
HABIB KOITE & BASSEKOU KOUYATE
Habib Koité is a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter born in Senegal and raised in his ancestral homeland Mali, where he forged an irresistibly grooving sound that unleashes traditional instruments from traditional roles. He’s joined by Malian vocalist Bassekou Kouyaté, a master of the ngoni, an ancient string instrument that preceded the banjo. He appeared as a special guest on Koité’s acclaimed 2014 album Soô, the guitarist’s first release in decades that did not feature his working band Bamada. The duo has continued to develop the partnership, which gives the two bandleaders plenty of space to stretch out and deliver Bambara soul from the source. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7 and 9 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $31.50 adv/$47.25 door. 427-2227.
Antibalas are celebrating their 20th anniversary with a tour highlighting the gold standard of Afrobeat and funk music. Diverse influences often sound like a rumination on repetitive beats and vocal callbacks—groovy jams to get lost in. The horns and percussion work hard to keep the infectious mood going, allowing the guitar and vocals to explore multiple sonic interpretations. It’s like one long, jazzy, dance-inducing jam session. The music is mesmerizing and pleasing to body and ear, both top notch and peerless. AB
INFO: 9 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $28 adv/$32 door. 479-1854.
Every once in a while, a band will come along that marks a defining moment in music evolution. San Francisco’s the Seshen is one of those bands. Their soul-filled, electronic jazz flows under a sky of politically charged poetry that is unlike anything you’ve heard—but, somehow, warmly familiar. MW
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10 adv/$12 door. 429-6994.
SOB X RBE is one of the most interesting hip-hop crews to come out of the Bay in a while. The beats are raw, yet with an eye toward pop, and still keep a foot in the hyphy sound that at one time defined the Yay Area. The individual members all have distinct personalities that make them a group to be reckoned with. Now we’re seeing them start to break off with some excellent solo records—as is the case with Yhung T.O., the member with probably the most pop radio upside. His album Trust Issues, released late last year, shows clear breakout potential. AC
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $15 adv/$20 door. 423-1338.
In 2011, Hawaiian singer-songwriter Makana was invited to perform at a dinner in Honolulu, which was attended by then-president Barack Obama. Makana took the opportunity to play a song he’d recently written about his dissatisfaction with the current wealth gap called “We Are the Many.” In no time, this Guthrie-esque folk song became the unofficial anthem of the Occupy movement. He had been around since the ’90s, known for melding Hawaiian slack-key guitar and folk, with a generally political bent. “We Are The Many” offers a taste of the authentic protest spirit that’s all over his lesser-known catalog. AC
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $25-$40. 427-2227.