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Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn plays Cuesta College on April 24

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Bruce Cockburn had been recording more than 20 years when I "discovered" him and his 1991 album Nothing but a Burning Light, which positively floored me. The songwriting, his voice, his guitar—how could he have flown under my radar for so long? He wrote these incredibly human, deeply resonant songs, poems really, like the lyrics to the bridge of "A Dream Like Mine": "When you know even for a moment/ That it's your time/ Then you can walk with the power/ Of a thousand generations."

CANADIAN EXPORT Amazing singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn plays on April 24, in Cuesta's Performing Arts Center. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK PUCCI MEDIA
  • Photo Courtesy Of Mark Pucci Media
  • CANADIAN EXPORT Amazing singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn plays on April 24, in Cuesta's Performing Arts Center.

His songs ask philosophical questions, like "Soul of a Man": "I read the bible often/ I try to read it right/ As far as I can understand/ It's nothing but a burning light// Well won't somebody tell me?/ Answer if you can/ I want somebody to tell me/ Tell me what is the soul of a man."

Bruce Cockburn comes to Cuesta College's Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, April 24, (8 p.m.; all ages; $57.50 to $75 at my805tix.com). In his long career, the Canadian singer-songwriter has explored spirituality, politics, and the human condition, creating a sound that embraces folk, jazz, rock, worldbeat, and more. He's sold 9 million albums, is a member of both the Canadian Songwriter and Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a winner of Folk Alliance's People's Voice Award, as well as 13 Juno Awards from more than 30 nominations. He's touring in support of O Sun O Moon, his 35th album.

Also this week at the Cuesta College PAC, see Al Stewart with his band The Empty Pockets on Saturday, April 20 (7:30 p.m.; all ages; $57.50 to $75 at my805tix.com). After a U.S. tour in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined him, but the Scottish singer is back to play his old favorites, like "Year of the Cat," "Time Passages," "On the Border," and "Modern Times," along with selections from his deep catalogue.

"I'm just a folk singer that's interested in history and wine that got lucky with some hit records," he said in press materials. "It's as simple as that really. I was always a huge music fan and originally, I had wanted to be Brian Jones and then Bob Dylan, but those two jobs were already taken. And in many ways, I'm still pretty much the same troubadour that I was back in 1965. I still get a kick out of hearing the Zombies, Hendrix, or They Might be Giants on the radio."

Vina Robles Amphitheatre

I think the best way to describe the music of Koe Wetzel is contemporary outlaw country. In his "Good Die Young" video, it opens with a man announcing he has 24 hours before he begins a very long prison sentence. What's he going to do?

GOOD OL' BOY Contemporary outlaw country singer-songwriter Koe Wetzel plays April 19, in Vina Robles Amphitheatre. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NEDERLANDER CONCERTS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Nederlander Concerts
  • GOOD OL' BOY Contemporary outlaw country singer-songwriter Koe Wetzel plays April 19, in Vina Robles Amphitheatre.

"I'm running 'round like a fish with my head cut off/ I know, it don't make much sense to me either/ The sun is shinin', I'm still broke as hell/ But it's good to see the grass got greener/ My mama called to say she's prayin' for me/ And Jesus called but I wasn't there/ He left a message on my answerin' machine/ Just to tell me how much he cared// And I don't want to think about tomorrow/ What if tomorrow never comes?/ Take me to a place without the sorrow/ The story's getting' old, where the good di young."

Some songs hint at hip-hop, rap, and grunge sounds. He's purportedly been known to call his music "hillbilly punk-rock." Basically, his persona is as a hard-partying good ol' boy who likes hunting and fishing and exotic dancers and his mother.

Born in Pittsburg, Texas, to a construction worker dad and a touring country singer mom, Wetzel would accompany her on tours and first performed onstage at age 6. He went on to be a linebacker at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, but soon he decided music was his life. He formed Koe Wetzel and the Konvicts, released a popular EP and album, and never looked back.

See him on Friday, April 19 (8 p.m.; all ages; $40 to $85 at vinaroblesamphitheatre.com), with openers Cam Allen and Tanner Usrey.

Also, don't forget about Cumbia superstars Los Angeles Ázules play on Thursday, April 18 (8 p.m.; all ages; $60 to $90 at vinaroblesamphitheatre.com), with special guests Angela Leiva and Jay de la Cuerva.

DIRTY BIRDIE Raunchy hip-hop artist Mickey Avalon plays a 420 Party on April 20, at The Siren. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SIREN
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Siren
  • DIRTY BIRDIE Raunchy hip-hop artist Mickey Avalon plays a 420 Party on April 20, at The Siren.

The Siren

The dirty filthy bad boy of hip-hop returns on Saturday, April 20, to play a 4/20 party. I'm talking, of course, about Mickey Avalon, a storied artist with a sordid past whose living-on-the-edge experiences influence his music and songs such as "My Dick," "Stroke Me," "Dipped in Vaseline," and more. His dad was a heroin addict who later died in a drunk driving accident. Mickey started selling pot as a kid and later became a heroin addict himself, eventually turning to prostitution to survive. His sister overdosed on heroin. This man has experienced tragedy but turned his pain into art. If this sounds like your jam, be there (doors at 8 p.m.; 21-and-older; $20 at tixr.com). A Win for Wolves opens.

Get your bluegrass on when Never Come Down returns on Thursday, April 25 (doors at 7 p.m.; 21-and-older; $15 at tixr.com), with Fog Holler opening. Hailing from Portland, Never Come Down mixes traditional and modern bluegrass sounds. The quintet is dedicated to thoughtful songwriting and polished arrangements. Fog Holler, also from Portland, was described as "the next generation of the many shades of grass," by two-time Grammy winner Cathy Fink. With an edgy approach to the old genre and matching outfits, they breathe fresh life into bluegrass staples such as power waltzes and murder ballads.

FINGER ON THE PULSE Iconic reggae act Steel Pulse will continue to be the messengers of social consciousness on April 21, in the Fremont. - COURTESY PHOTO BY PATRICK NIDDRIE
  • Courtesy Photo By Patrick Niddrie
  • FINGER ON THE PULSE Iconic reggae act Steel Pulse will continue to be the messengers of social consciousness on April 21, in the Fremont.

Fremont Theater

Reggae icons and socially conscious juggernauts Steel Pulse return to the Central Coast Sunday, April 21 (8 p.m.; all ages; $37 prekindle.com), in support of Mass Manipulation, their 12th studio album that aims to heal humanity.

"Bearing witness to the accelerating negativity of global affairs, Steel Pulse emerges with musical vengeance to halt the disarray of humanity," their bio explains, adding that their new record "reflects four decades committed to bettering mankind through music. Steel Pulse continues to be revolutionary in engaging controversial topics of racial injustice and human rights on a global scale. Their musical stance and conceptualizations are as potent and relevant today as they were at the beginning of their career."

Rod and Hammer Rock

Don't forget Australian pop rockers Lime Cordiale play on Thursday, April 18 (doors at 7 p.m.; 18-and-older; $25 at ticketweb.com). They mix various genres such as indie pop, rock, funk, and reggae.

Grateful Dead fans, take the brown acid when China Cats play on Friday, April 19 (doors at 7 p.m.; 18-and-older; $20 at ticketweb.com). This is the Bay Area's longest-running tribute to the Dead with the same lineup since 2012. "That consistency shows in the band's ability to turn on a dime, pull out any of hundreds of different Grateful Dead songs, and sound rehearsed without losing that sense of adventure that Dead fans covet," their bio reads. "Tight but loose; loose but tight."

Casual Coalition, playing outlaw country classics and countrified Dead tunes, plays on Sunday, April 21 (3 p.m.; all ages; free). The band features a rotating cast of supporting musicians recruited by multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter Craig MacArthur and multi-instrumentalist/engineer-producer David Simon-Baker.

I'm sensing a Grateful Dead trend. An evening with Steely Dead comes on Thursday, April 25 (doors at 7 p.m.; 18-and-older; $20 at ticketweb.com). Mixing Grateful Dead and Steely Dan songs, this band carefully fuses the two bands' sounds.

Guitar Show and concert!

It's time once again for the annual Central Coast Guitar Show this Saturday, April 20, at the SLO Veterans Hall (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; presale $13.99 at my805tix.com or $15 at the door). According to organizer Ed Miller, "Manufacturers, dealers, collectors, and local musicians will be displaying, selling, and trading their new, used, and vintage guitars and guitar-related products, as well as other musical instruments and services."

NEW BAND, OLD COUNTRY On April 20, '80s and '90s-era country cover band Red Oak Country plays the SLO Vets Hall after the annual Central Coast Guitar Show. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RED OAK COUNTRY
  • Photo Courtesy Of Red Oak Country
  • NEW BAND, OLD COUNTRY On April 20, '80s and '90s-era country cover band Red Oak Country plays the SLO Vets Hall after the annual Central Coast Guitar Show.

Later that evening in the Vets Hall, Miller's new '80s and '90s country cover band, Red Oak Country, will perform (doors at 6:30 and concert at 7 p.m.; all ages; $10 presale at my805tix.com or $15 at the door). According to Miller, the band plays "hits by artists such as Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, Alabama, Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, and many more."

More music ...

Reminder! Good Medicine and Numbskull present San Diego power trio Sitting on Stacy this Thursday, April 18, in Club Car Bar (7 p.m.; all ages; $16 at goodmedicinepresents.com). The Alive opens the show.

SLO Earth Fest at Laguna Lake Park is on Saturday, April 20 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), with info booths, vendors, a car show, and live music by indie rock duo Forever Green (11 a.m.), a Chumash blessing at noon, local surf rock act Riff Tide (1 p.m.), and local rock act The Bogeys (2:30 p.m.). It's all ages, it's free, and it's fun.

In honor of Record Store Day and 4/20, Twang N Bang hosts the Trailer-Tones at Atascadero's Raconteur Room on Saturday, April 20 (8 p.m.; 21-and-older; $5 at the door). They'll cover selections from the Supersucker's 1997 album Must've Been High.

According to organizer Patrick Hayes, the album "was the band's mostly maybe tongue-in-cheek turn towards countrified post punk. It's always been a classic in my mind, and I wish they'd play more from it when I see them. Having a band dedicated to playing this era's tunes is a treat and 4/20 is just a perfect day to hear songs like 'Non-Addictive Marijuana' and deeper cuts like 'Killer Weed.'" Local cowpunk act Horse Water opens.

The SLO Master Chorale presents Sergei Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil this Sunday, April 21, in Cal Poly's Performing Arts Center (3 p.m.; all ages; $12 to $62 at pacslo.org). Expect "70 minutes of glorious a cappella singing," according to organizers, who call the piece Rachmaninoff's "signature choral work and has become a fixture in choral repertoire, standing as the crowning achievement of the 'Golden Age' of Russian Orthodox sacred choral music."

To celebrate the release of two new albums—Myopic Monday Quintet and An Electric Prayer for Derek Bailey—the SLO Gtar Ensemble (formerly the Chicago Guitar Ensemble) will be performing music for 12 guitars at The Bunker on Thursday, April 25 (8 p.m.; all ages; $10 presale at my805tix.com).

Record Store Day at Boo Boo's

This Saturday, April 20, is Record Store Day, and Boo Boo Records in SLO Town is celebrating with live music starting at noon with local acts Peaking Lights, Derek Senn, Hot 45, The Funk Junket, Grand Liquidator, and Max MacLaury. This year marks the independent store's 50th year in business.

Boo Boo's is also hosting an intimate in-store performance and signing on Monday, April 22, with Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, who's stopping to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pyromania (6:30 p.m.; free).

"We are offering early entry to individuals who pre-order the upcoming 40th anniversary editions of Pyromania as a CD, LP, or box set off our website [booboorecords.com] or in-store," Abe Gibson said. "Occupancy is limited and on a first-come basis after early-entry fans are let in. We'll be offering free Pyromania lithographs to all concertgoers for Phil to autograph." Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at [email protected].

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