Our picks for the best live music in Santa Cruz County this week.
STAN RIDGWAY TRIO
Wall of Voodoo may be a one-hit wonder, but that hit was one of the weirdest songs to chart in the ’80s, 1982’s “Mexican Radio.” Stan Ridgway was the brains behind Wall of Voodoo, and he’s been playing solo since 1983. His voice is right up there with David Byrne’s in terms of New Wave strangeness, and there’s always an unrelenting tension in his music. AC
INFO: 7:30 p.m. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $20. 335-2800.
PHAROAH SANDERS DUO
A pioneer of the ecstatic free jazz movement of the mid-1960s, tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders pointed a generation of musical seekers into the outer reaches—sonically, emotionally and spiritually. But he’s never been more influential than he is right now, judging by the crossover success of Kamasi Washington, who borrows liberally from the cosmic jazz recordings that Sanders and Alice Coltrane made in the wake of John Coltrane’s death in 1967. For this duo performance, he’s joined by pianist William Henderson, an underappreciated master whose credits include stints with Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, and Elvin Jones. He’s been the anchor of Sanders’ band for more than three decades. ANDREW GILBERT
INFO: 7 and 9 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $35/adv, $45/door. 427-2227.
People throw around the phrase “’70s rock ’n’ roll,” but there were so many vibrant subsets of rock in that decade, it’s hard to pin down one definitive sound. In the case of San Francisco’s Vandella, imagine a mixture of the cool soft-rock sounds of Fleetwood Mac, Donna Summers at her disco-est, and a bit of Exile on Main Street-era Rolling Stones as they dig into some grimy blues rock. AC
INFO: 9 p.m. Crepe Place, 134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10. 429-6994.
Simply mentioning that Willie Watson was a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show is probably enough to pack his upcoming gig at Don Quixote’s. But OCMS was just the launch pad for Watson, who is currently one of the darlings of the American roots music scene. A folk singer-songwriter who is firmly planted in traditional music, Watson does what the best folk singers have always done: make those traditional songs his own and pass them along to new audiences. With a style set that includes bluegrass, Southern gospel, Irish music and more, Watson keeps the troubadour tradition alive and well. CJ
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $20. 335-2800.
Musicians are used to spending time alone inside lonely buildings in strange urban landscapes, and they love to write songs about it. But rather than make another typical “road” album, Former Woods bassist and Babies frontman Kevin Morby decided to explore the same emotions in a different way. His new City Music is a concept album about a reclusive old woman named Mabel who spends her days in her Upper Manhattan house. It’s a captivating record that catches some of Morby’s Babies-style beach-pop, jangle-rock style, but with a bit more depth. AC
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $15. 429-4135.
BROKEN ENGLISH & FLOR DE CAÑA
On Friday, Sept. 22, two of the area’s hottest Latin bands join forces for a party that promises to be a cross-cultural celebration of all things rhythm and dance. Broken English is a high-energy outfit whose repertoire includes dance music from around the Caribbean and beyond. Flor de Caña is a Santa Cruz-based septet that blends Cuban son, Colombian cumbia and an otherworldly rhythm section, complete with bass, guitar, Cuban tres, button accordion, congas, bongo, timbales, maracas, guiro and bell to create a unique, lively, contemporary sound of its own. CJ
INFO: 9 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $9/adv, $12/door. 479-1854.
MICHAEL CRENSHAW & LOS STRAITJACKETS
It’s easy to see why Michael Crenshaw was once described as a “latter-day Buddy Holly.” For nearly four decades, his 1950s-style guitar and smooth crooning have been just as iconic as his signature glasses. So who better to team up with on tour than Los Straitjackets—the mighty, lucha-libre-masked quartet of 1960s instrumental surf music? Both acts are masters of their trade, delivering new and covered tunes with a unique dash of their own flavor that often has a lingering aftertaste of sweet nostalgia. MAT WEIR
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $25/door. 479-1854.
Jim Lauderdale is a quiet legend of American roots music. The North Carolina-born singer-songwriter launched his career in the late ’70s, and his work spans just about every genre in the roots lexicon: bluegrass, country, honky tonk, gospel, folk, soul. He came of age during the era where rock acts leaned heavily on folk traditions, so Lauderdale’s resume also includes collaborations with rock acts, including Elvis Costello, the Grateful Dead, John Oates and more. His songs have been recorded by a bunch of chart-topping stars—George Strait has recorded more than a dozen of them—but Lauderdale has managed to maintain a relatively low profile, and a creative integrity that has stretched over decades. CJ
INFO: 7 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $25/door. 427-2227.
All hail L7! This legendary Los Angeles band was a fixture of the grunge era, and influenced the riot grrrl scene. L7 also co-founded Rock for Choice, a pro-choice benefit festival that ran from 1991-2001. While their third album, Bricks Are Heavy, which spawned the alt hit “Pretend We’re Dead,” was voted by Rolling Stone as one of the essential ’90s albums, fans know any of their first four records should be recommended by any record store clerk worth his or her salt. L7 split in 2000, but in 2014 announced a reunion with all of the original members. MW
INFO: 9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $25. 429-4135.