Music highlights for the week of November 29, 2017.
What is “cosmic California rock,” you ask? Short answer: Southern California band the Higgs. Long answer: a whole assortment of styles—funk, psych-rock, jazz, prog rock—done with some elements that are structured, and also some free-form improvisation. I guess you could call them a jam band, but the jams aren’t long guitar solos, they’re group explorations of groove. AARON CARNES
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $7/adv, $10/door. 479-1854.
IRISH CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA
Now in its 12th year in Santa Cruz, Irish Christmas in America is a celebration of Irish music, humor, dance and history—all imbued with holiday spirit. The tour and performance is produced by Oisín Mac Diarmada of award-winning lrish group Téada and is traveling to venues around the country, including the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. Performers at this year’s family-friendly concert include special guest singer Niamh Farrell, Séamus Begley, and dancer Samantha Harvey. CAT JOHNSON
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $26/adv, $30/door. 427-2227.
QUEEN ESTHER MARROW with THE TAMMY HALL TRIO
Queen Esther Marrow received her crown directly from a duke—Duke Ellington, that is. As a complete unknown just starting to think about pursuing music professionally, the 22-year-old Marrow got the call from Ellington to sing in the 1965 Concert of Sacred Music that consecrated San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Her soaring voice provided a highlight of the evening, and she went on to work with other royalty, performing at events with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Over the years she’s recorded in gospel, jazz, and R&B settings, but has spent much of the past two decades working in Europe. Looking to re-establish herself back stateside, she’s performing in California with an ace trio. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $25/adv, $30/door. 427-2227.
THE PACK AD
The video for Pack AD’s song “Dollhouse” is unsettling. The entire video is a continuous shot of singer Becky Black, who stares directly at your soul while her head bleeds, and she sings the words “Do you realize we live in a dollhouse?” to you. Her image goes in and out of focus. But that’s not the weirdest part. The video opens with a solid 20 seconds of her just staring, with no music playing. It’s like she knows you’re there! The group, a minimalistic duo, plays beefy bare-bones garage rock riffs backed by darkly humorous lyrics about depression and grief. Fun! AC
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.
In 2011, the indie world became obsessed with Tune-Yards, the project of Merrill Garbus. It’s not hard to see why. The song “Gangsta,” for instance, is a highly infectious African-beat-influence pop song and will immediately make you want to jump out of your chair and dance with total abandon. Discussions revolved around the fact that a white girl was playing music so clearly pulling from African sounds. But this critical perspective was short-lived, especially as she proved that her influences were much vaster, and that her execution was authentic to her own oddball artsy self. She’s got a new album scheduled for January, and the single mixes some electronic elements. AC
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $16/adv, $21/door. 429-4135.
KPIG HUMBUG HOEDOWN
The KPIG Humbug Hoedown is back and bringing the holiday season in piggie-worthy style. Kicking things off is the Carolyn Sills Combo, our hometown heroes of the national Western swing scene. Headlining the evening are the T Sisters (pictured above), a California-based family band comprising three sisters—Erika, Rachel and Chloe—who have been writing and performing together their entire lives. The group’s repertoire includes folk, pop, indie and Americana. On Sunday, they present a special acoustic show. Bring at least five cans of food—for people or for pets—to save $5 at the door. CJ
INFO: 7 p.m. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $15. 335-2800.
Prince once called Hawaiian multi-instrumentalist Willie K a “funky mother#%@&er.” In the music world, I’m not sure there is any higher praise. And Willie is well-deserving of the title. A musical force who can play any style of music thrown at him, he is also a down-to-earth, kind-hearted person who derives great joy from playing music and loves to share that joy wherever he is and whatever he’s playing. From indigenous Hawaiian music to country, reggae, jazz and classical, Willie has something in his repertoire. He’s particularly fond of the blues and, on Sunday, he performs at Moe’s as part of the Afternoon Blues Series. “Playing the blues makes me happy,” he has said, “and everybody loves it when I do.” CJ
INFO: 4 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $25/door. 479-1854.
Outside of the hip-hop world, it’s hard to find teenage artists with No. 1 hits, but that’s just how Jonny Lang broke into the scene. Twenty years ago, at the ripe age of 16, Lang burst onto the airwaves with his first hit, “Lie To Me,” off his second album of the same name. Since then, the Grammy-winning artist has continued to grow with his blend of blues, gospel and rock to perform with some of music’s biggest artists, like Aerosmith, Buddy Guy and the late B.B. King. This year, he returns with his first new album in four years, Turn Around, which hit the Billboard 200 charts. MAT WEIR
INFO: 8 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $28/adv, $30/door. 429-4135.
CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD
When describing the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, the namesake frontman recently told Rolling Stone, “Our business model is based on the soul more than anything,” and we’d have to agree. There aren’t many major bands today that capture the rawness of the blues while elevating their listeners to the height of psychedelia. Yet, somehow CRB has managed to continuously do it throughout their five-year and six-album career. Separate from Robinson’s Black Crowes, the Brotherhood mixes the Grateful Dead with Muddy Waters and douses it in Led Zeppelin for a raging jam of passion and fun. MW
INFO: 8 p.m. Cocoanut Grove, 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz. $30. 423-2053.
IN THE QUEUE
Indie-rock meets country-rock. Thursday at Moe’s Alley
Guitar and looping phenomenon. Friday at Don Quixote’s
Surf rock and pop out of Oakland. Saturday at Crepe Place
American/Bermudian reggae. Sunday at Catalyst
NORA JANE STRUTHERS
Folk-rock singer-songwriter. Monday at Don Quixote’s