- PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AQUABATS
- NERD-CORE! : See the utterly awesome Aquabats on Dec. 11 at Downtown Brew.
These champions of nerd-core have a cult following of such epic intensity, it frequently seems like the whole crowd is singing along. Part of the band’s mystique is their accompanying video, each one customized to the town they’re playing in. It’s that sort of personalized, savvy marketing that accounts for the number of bat-eared hoodies you’ll see in the audience.
This time around, the Bats return with their first new studio album in six years. Appropriately titled Charged!!, it continues the band’s relentless pursuit of making rock fun again.
As their promotional materials state, “The Aquabats cut through the dark façade of rock‘n’roll, encouraging people to lighten up, and not take themselves so seriously.”
See them on Friday, Dec. 11, at Downtown Brew (7 p.m.; all ages). The Action Design will open the show.
Don’t forget that blues/roots guitarist and vocalist Tommy Castro hits Downtown Brew on Thursday, Dec. 10 (7 p.m.; 21-and-older; $15 presale or $18 at the door). Castro won the 2008 Blues Music Award as “Entertainer of the Year” and is touring to support his new Alligator Records debut, Hard Believer.
Jangling folk, soul, and rock’n’roll are coming on Wednesday, Dec. 16, when local heroes Threes & Nines open for The Ragged Jubilee (7 p.m.; all ages; $6 presale or $8 at the door). All I know about Jubilee is that Ethan Burns is on guitar and vocals, Aaron Wick on drums, Chandler Jacob on bass, Philip Wahl on banjo, and they’ve been playing together for a little more than a year.
Finally, mark your calendar for Thursday, Dec. 17, if you want to see the Lil’ Wayne documentary film The Carter (7:30 p.m.; all ages; $8 presale or $10 at the door). According to press materials, “The film provides an in-depth look at the artist Dwayne Lil’ Wayne Carter Jr., proclaimed by many as the ‘greatest rapper alive.’”
- PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID ARKENSTONE
- NEW AGE! : Three-time Grammy nominee David Arkenstone and his band play Painted Sky on Dec. 12 and the Park Ballroom on Dec. 13.
In a rare holiday treat, David Arkenstone is bringing his popular Winter Solstice concert to two local venues.
The three-time Grammy nominee and his band play Painted Sky in Cambria on Saturday, Dec. 12; and the Park Ballroom in Paso Robles on Sunday, Dec. 13. Ten percent of ticket sales for the Dec. 13 concert will benefit North County Dance and Performing Arts Foundation’s production of The Nutcracker.
Arkenstone has sold more than a million records and has 20 Billboard New Age Chart hits over his long and storied career with Windham Hill. His blend of cinematic New Age rock and world music has captivated audiences since his 1987 debut, Valley In The Clouds, which he followed with two No. 1 albums: Citizen of Time (1990) and In the Wake of the Wind (1991).
“A musical storyteller, David is passionate about taking his listeners on a journey, creating sonic tapestries that evoke every emotion,” according to his press materials. “Critics hail his music as ‘full of thunder and feeling,’ yet a ‘dreamy soufflé’ of layered acoustic instruments and voices, which sends the listener on a ‘joyous expedition.’”
Tickets for both shows are available in advance at brownpapertickets.com, Boo Boo Records, Aardvark Music and Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce, Cambria Chamber of Commerce, and Cambria Business Center.
Kicked out of the UK at Christmas! Heartless Brits!
Here’s a heartwarming holiday story: “Mark Aaron James, the critically acclaimed American singer-songwriter and recording artist, has legally lived and performed in London for the past two years. During that time, immigration has become one of the hottest political topics in the United Kingdom. Eager to appear proactive on the topic, the current administration has changed the entire visa application system, making it surprisingly difficult for artists to gain access to the country. Without warning, the artist composer program that allowed Mark to remain in the UK was canceled, leaving Mr. James scrambling to be out of the country before his visa expires on Dec. 3.
“Faced with an expensive flight home, nowhere to live, and the canceling of his upcoming European performances, Mark went straight to his Internet fan base to see if he could set up a last minute U.S. tour to coincide with his exile from England. His plea to fans has resulted in house concerts being thrown in Orlando, Tampa, Nashville, and San Francisco. Two venues have also opened their arms to the suddenly homeless songwriter, the Bluebird Café in Nashville, and The Porch in Santa Margarita, where he will be appearing on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 6:30 p.m.”
And that’s why God, not Al Gore, invented the Internet.
More music …
Gotta love Tony Balbinot of Cadillac Angels. The man’s got a penchant for vintage equipment. Actually, “penchant” doesn’t quite sum it up. The dude’s a vintage equipment freak! Exhibit A: “I got ‘Hound Dog’ back,” he wrote to tell me. “It’s an old 1960s-era Japanese electric guitar I found, restored, gave as a wedding gift to a friend in Ohio, the wedding fell through, the guitar became a major custody battle, was kidnapped, disappeared for years, survived Katrina, and ended up back with me!” The Cadillac Angels play Frog and Peach on Thursday, Dec. 10, after Farmers Market. “Also, I was just recently contacted by Rhino Records and our version of Link Wray’s ‘Viva Zapata’ is going to be used in a film documentary coming out this spring. They were a little closed mouth on the film’s details, but we’re on the soundtrack, so as long as it’s not about Republicans, I’m cool with it!”
- PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL LEE
- ROCKABILLY REBEL! : Nashville-based rockabilly and roots artist Phil Lee plays The Porch on Dec. 10.
Americana act The Councilmen play Paso Robles’ The Pour House on Thursday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. They recently released their first video, “Boxcar Sermon,” in their hometown of Bakersfield.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF PATRICK BALL
- HAVE A BALL! : Master storyteller and harpist Patrick Ball plays Coalesce Bookstore on Dec. 11.
Holidaze got you down? Having trouble remembering what it’s all about? Sick of the gross materialism, the hollow pageantry, the forced good cheer? Well, then tap into some real spirituality when the Circle of Spiritual Enlightenment hosts a concert with Larisa Stow and Shakti Tribe on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. (541-1963; $15 presale or $20 at the door; at SLO’s 1500 Lizzie St., Adult School, room J-2). “Shakti Tribe’s music is a magic carpet ride for the soul as they boldly blend the ancient sounds of the East with the pop-rock melodies of the West. Larisa’s mesmerizing presence, heart-opening messages, and powerfully brilliant vocals captivate,” claims the group, which “celebrates unity, culture, and diversity through their music’s messages of peace, hope, and love.”
Ready for some vintage soul, blues, and rock’n’roll sung by a sultry singer who can deliver rockers and torch songs? Show up for The House Red Band, celebrating nine years of togetherness with a holiday season appearance at the Clubhouse on Saturday, Dec. 12. Dynamic vocalist Mary Welsh has a voice with “a smoky and sexy richness reminiscent of Norah Jones and Bonnie Raitt,” says the band, which features Burnin’ Jimi on guitars and vocals, Craig Welsh on bass and vocals, Terrance Kyer on drums/percussion, Daniel Haller on keyboards, and Charlie Katherman on congas/percussion. See them at 7 p.m. and 8:45.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF RAS DANNY
- REGGAE DONE RIGHT! : Ras Danny is one of many performers— including several bellydancing troupes—to perform Dec. 12 and 13 at the sixth annual Tribal Fusion Faire in the Arroyo Grande South County Regional Center.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF MOLLY’S REVENGE
- CELTIC CHRISTMAS! : Enjoy “A Celtic Christmas Celebration” at Los Osos’ South Bay Community Center on Dec. 13, when Molly's Revenge present a special holiday concert with Moira Smiley.
There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned sing-along to remind you what the holidays are all about, so the Arroyo Grande Rotary Club invites you to celebrate the season by lifting your voice with family, friends, and the talented performers who will be assembled for its second annual Christmas and Holiday Concert and Sing-A-Long, at 4 p.m. at Arroyo Grande’s intimate Clark Center on Sunday, Dec. 13. Sing all your holiday favorites with a little help from Village Carolers of Studio Sing, Sing, Sing; the Central Coast Celebration Chorus; the Grande Bell Ringers; the Country Christmas Band; the Coastal Dance and Music Academy; and Santa’s Kids from Harloe Elementary School. Santa, a welcoming dulcimer, an after-show reception, and more will also entertain concert attendees. The concert will be taped for broadcast specials on Christmas day on KCOY 12 (part 1 at 6 p.m.) and FOX 11 (part 2 at 7 p.m.). Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children and students (489-9444).
- PHOTO COURTESY OF NINA STOREY
- TELL ME A STOREY! : The incomparable Nina Storey plays the Steynberg Gallery on Dec. 17.
Music news …
Our own Inga Swearingen will return to the airwaves this weekend when Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion invites her to join him on stage during two live performances: Friday, Dec. 11, at Town Hall in New York City, and then on Saturday, Dec. 12, for the live radio broadcast, which you can hear locally on KCBX 90.1 FM.
“Inga has a gorgeous voice, very fresh and evocative and note-perfect, and that’s the sort of person you want to sing harmony to,” said Keillor, who’s had the Atascadero native on his program several times before.
Swearingen is also touring New York to support her excellent new CD, First Rain, which mixes compelling homegrown folk and soulful, bluesy jazz. If you happen to find yourself in NYC for the weekend, you can catch her on Sunday, Dec. 13, at North Square Lounge (12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.) and Caffe Vivaldi (6:15 p.m.); and on Monday, Dec. 14, at 55 Bar (7 p.m.).
Another local hero, Merrell Fankhauser, will be adding new content to his TV show: “Thought I’d let you know the Tiki Lounge show of the Rhino box set celebration at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, Where The Action Is! L.A. Nuggets 1965-1968, starts airing on Charter CH. 2 this Sunday, Dec. 13, at 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 12 noon; and Friday, Dec. 18, at 12 midnight. It will run for four weeks in these time slots. I interviewed Billy Hinsche of Dino Desi and Billy, John Charles of the Knickerbockers, Mark Tulin of the Electric Prunes, and the head of Rhino Records and producer of the box set Andrew Sandavol.”
Glen Starkey is taking the next two weeks off, so you won’t have him to kick around anymore. Don’t write him for at least two weeks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brain-soaked, guitar-fried psychedelic music may be closely associated with the late-’60s Californian counter-culture movement, but Stones Throw label boss Egon Alapatt takes an ethnomusicology approach to this compilation, examining the influence of this uniquely American style across musical genre and continental borders. Forge Your Own Chains rifles through an international bazaar of overlooked LPs and 45s, unearthing East Nigerian dark-fuzz afro-rock (The Strangers’ “Two to Make a Pair”) and ’70s melancholic Iranian psychedelica (Kourosh Yaghmaei’s “Hadjme Khali”) along with beat-heavy, unconstrained rock-outs from Colombia, Sweden, South Korea, and Thailand. But along with the exotic comes dusted-off American rarities like Southern Californian pysch-crooner Damon and his tranced-out Arabic-tinged “Don’t You Feel Me” and the funky organ-gospel, Holy Ghost preaching of Sensational Saints. Each track hits a warm spot for those who still treasure the garage haze of 13th Floor Elevators. A wonderful investigation of music across the globe, the selection here is top notch, and the richly detailed liner notes are rewarding.
Broadcast has always undercut its analog space-age pop jazz with experimental tweaks of psychedelic layering, knocking on the outer edges of abstraction. Conjoining with the aesthetic sci-fi surrealism of the Focus Group, Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age teeters on the delicate balance of art indulgence and audio soundscape. As a whole, it’s a fascinating and intriguing listen, like uncovering pictures of the future from a Sputnik-era attic. “The Be Colony” sounds like vintage Broadcast, with wavering synths and Trish Keenan cooly sung vocals. But tracks like “A Seancing Song” is where the “cosmic horror,” the influence of the Focus Group enters, as battering doors and ringing alarms unsettle and Keenan’s voice slowly evaporates like a specter. This is the epitome of headphone music, where the aural input directs your visual imagination. Fans of Wire magazine, this may be essential.
—Malik Miko Thorne, of Boo Boo Records and mikovision.blogspot.com, where you’ll find archived reviews and soundclips