Kaiser Chiefs @ House of Blues, June 12
One of the buzz bands at this year's South-by-Southwest Music Festival, the Kaiser Chiefs are what happens when a garage-rock band sells out. They added some more pop, dropped their horrible last name (Parva) and ended up with a great new sound.
The Hold Steady @ The Casbah, June 14
This is officially one of CityBeat's new favorite bands. A hyper-literate nutjob who can't sing for shit, but barks, rants, raves and tells these pop-cultural tales of doom over a bitchin' bed of thunder-rock. Awesome.
Meat Beat Manifesto @ The Belly Up, June 14
The electronica duo that's been around for nearly two decades is still assaulting your idea of what machines should do for humankind. They've been doing some remix work as of late, so expect extended sine-wave jams.
J-Live @ 'Canes, June 16
This hip-hop MC/DJ/producer was some white-hot shit in the middle of the '90s, but his first album got held up due to some record label politicking. He quit music altogether and taught middle school, only to realize rugrats are even bigger pains in the asses. So now he's back and the world's a better place for it.
Aesop Rock @ The Epicentre, June 18
The main attraction of white-boy indie hip-hop label Definitive Jux, he's a strange one, à la Kool Keith, and he's getting spacier by the tour.
Rhonda Vincent & The Rage @ La Paloma Theatre, June 19
She and Alison Krauss are interrupting the old boys club of bluegrass by matching the men blow-for-blow on complex chord structures and fast-paced rompers. This ain't your demure women's b-grass.
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter @ The Casbah, June 19
A New York gal with a vapor-trail of a voice that slowly lifts your soul from your body. Her last two albums have been collaborations with Phil Wandscher, formerly a teammate of Ryan Adams' in Whiskeytown.
Digable Planets @ The Belly Up, June 24
One of the original jazz-rap acts, Butterfly, Doodlebug and Ladybug were spaced-out mellow cats whose debut album, Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time & Space) is a classic. They've been gone a while, but now their brand of slick is reborn again.
Robert Earl Keen @ Humphrey's, June 20
Along with Steve Earle, this is one'uh Texas' best songwriters, with a cutting dry sense of humor and an ability to weave a tale that suggests maybe he paid attention at journalism school at Texas A&M.
The Futureheads @ The Casbah, June 20
Another buzz-worthy British band who penned the greatest song about how we should all realize that being the entry-level shmuck at a Fortune 500 company is the destiny that we should smile and enjoy. Sarcasm with punchy guitars and four-part harmonies.
Merle Haggard @ House of Blues, June 22
Merle's a dirty old country bastard, the sort that won't sell millions of records because it's not pop with a slide guitar. He bedded down with the punks at Anti-Records for a bit, but now he's on his own and just as nasty.
Si*Se @ The Belly Up, June 28
Imagine a bilingual Sade with just as much sex appeal, but sped up a few notches for clubby effect. The septet from New York is signed to David Byrne's label (Luaka Bop) and is perfect for Kinky fans.
Maximo Park @ The Casbah, June 28
This is yet another British band (Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs... it's getting old) that genuinely deserves the buzzy whispers. A bit like the Smiths for the post-Interpol years.
Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
@ House of Blues, June 30
The pint-size man with the lion-size lungs plays his first hometown show at the new House of Blues. That venue may as well have been built for Denson and his groove-jazz ensemble.
Café Tacuba/Kinky @ House of Blues, July 4
A great bill featuring two of the most talented alternative Latin bands. Café Tacuba's Cuatros Caminos is a gem in any language, and Kinky marries old-world Mexican with new-world computer technician. A perfect boycotting exercise for July 4.
Brazilian Girls @ House of Blues, July 7
This is what happens when a former jazz vocalist hooks up with a keyboardist, bassist and drummer who've played on albums with John Zorn. Adventurous, groovy and eclectic-jazz, electronica, dub, tropicalia, etc. And no, no Brazilians in the band.
Built to Spill @ House of Blues, July 10
One of the few indie-rock bands (Dinosaur Jr. famously being the other) that wasn't afraid to rip a mean guitar solo. Frontman Doug Martsch was solo for a bit, but now they're back.
Oh No & Diverse @ The Casbah, July 12
Diverse is one of Chicago's top dogs on the mic, and Oh No is probably more famous for his brother, Madlib. One of the best hip-hop shows this summer at a rock dive that's getting more and more beat-friendly.
Ray Lamontagne @ House of Blues, July 19
A bearded, quiet man who lived without electricity for a year like some Thoreau-ian outcast. And though he plugs in for shows, LaMontagne's got a grizzly shout-croon that could fill an arena in a brown-out.
Aterciopelados @ House of Blues, July 21
This was Colombia's flagship entry into the rock en español boom a decade ago, with Grammy nominations in 1997 and 1998. Their name means "The Velvety Ones" in Spanish, and judging by vocalist Andrea Echeverri's new solo album (holy shit, it's good), they live up to it.
Chris Whitley @ Winston's, July 21
A Texas songwriting phenom whose bluesy shout is second only to the way this mothertrucker can rip the guitar. Getting to see this guy in a small Ocean Beach bar is one of those rare "great venue, great artist" combos.
G. Love & Special Sauce
@ The Del Mar Racetrack, July 22
G. Love is an honorary San Diegan it seems, coming through town every six days or so. But to get to see the Philadelphia jive-singer among the beach sunset, green summer grass and smell of horse shit is especially cool.
Femi Kuti @ House of Blues, July 23
The son of legendary Afro-beat artist Fela Kuti, Femi spent years in papa's band before breaking out on his own with the traditional funk-thump music of Nigeria. He's done more for his father's legend in the U.S. than his father ever could manage.
Kings of Leon, Secret Machines
@ 4th & B, July 24
The Kings' Caleb Followill sings Southern rock the way it should be sung-with a mumble-rumble that sounds like you just chased a blind rage away with a mason jar of moonshine. The Secret Machines are a really, really good Led Zeppelin-like band that's kinda still a sleeper.
BB King Blues Festival @ Humphrey's, Aug. 3
Look, B.B.'s the man, we all know that. We just don't know for how much longer. And when he's playing with deep-throated, lovely Cassandra Wilson, you best recognize.
Turin Brakes @ The Casbah, Aug. 5
Two English blokes who tried out for the choir because the choir got to perform before that old royal bag with the funny hats and purses. They did indeed minstrel for the queen, but even better is they formed this soft 'n' lovely folk duo.
Jack Johnson @ RIMAC Arena, Aug. 6
Yeah, we're kind of over Jack, too. But you gotta admit the first time you heard Bubbletoes croon through a surf-groove acoustic tune, it warmed your cockles. And what better time to revisit that first love than during the summer months, yo.
John Hiatt & Shawn Colvin
@ Humphreys, Aug. 11
After all these years of people getting famous with his songs, John Hiatt has finally come into his own as a country-folk artist. He's playing with Shawn Colvin, whose commercial success with "Sunny Came Home" and "Get Out of This House" paved the way for an independent, creative career.
Cake @ The Del Mar Racetrack, Aug. 13
These guys are master ironists. And they write one hell of a catchy tune. But screw all that and go see 'em just to hear "he's racing, he's pacing..." at the racetrack. It's perfect, almost suspiciously so.
Ben Folds, Ben Lee, Rufus Wainwright
@ Copley Symphony Hall, Aug. 21
This is a great mix of talented piano-boys that runs the gamut from self-indulgent drama queen to funny-ass entertainer. Plus, Ben Folds co-wrote William Shatner's latest album, and that gets big ups from our Vulcan intern.
Xiu Xiu @ Che Café, Aug. 21
This is your art project for the summer. While most of the time we wish you nothing but sing-by-numbers white-boy dub that's harmless and easily ignorable, we feel compelled to blow your brain with scathing psychosis over walls of ambient feedback. Cuz it keeps you balanced.
TRIO! w/ Stanley Clark, Jean-Luc Ponty and Bela Fleck @ Humphrey's, Aug. 23
A jazz-funk bassist, a spare jazz pianist and the man who gentrified the banjo by making a jazz instrument out of it. Should be one of the best jazz shows in town this summer.