Wednesday, July 29
Adam Franklin isn't famous, but he damn well should be. It's hard to overstate how brilliant a songwriter the Swervedriver frontman is—within the span of four albums throughout the '90s, he wrote no less than five should-have-been hits, all of which were ignored by the CD-purchasing public. Really, if you haven't heard “The Birds” from Swervedriver's Ejector Seat Reservation, it's the kind of transcendent, soaring pop song that inspires chills. Probably the most high-profile show Soda Bar has hosted in its year-or-so of operation, this is a rare opportunity to witness a true craftsman run through his lesser-known solo material. And did I mention he's the opening act? Franklin collaborator Jimmy LaValle's The Album Leaf is the main draw here, because San Diegans just can't resist the magnetic pull of the local boy's lovely instrumentals ($10).
Skeletal pop three-piece Christmas Island show up quite a bit in this column for many reasons, only three of which I'll list here: 1) They're one of San Diego's most enjoyable bands to watch, 2) their live performances continue to improve and 3) they associate with out-of-town bands that, for the most part, share a similar outlook on playing music. The matchups never seem to be an accident, so I assume they simply have better taste than most. This time, they're paired with sloppy Mexican punks Ratas del Vaticano, who are scheduled to release a 7-inch single on DIY start-up Volar Records in the near future, a label operated by Island guitarist Craig Oliver. Coincidence? I think not. At Bar Pink.Ray Raposa, at times a San Diego resident, carries a mysterious vibe, one that's only exaggerated by his unnecessarily long beard and the stark, dystopian folk of his Castanets project. He seems to have adopted the lifestyle of a troubadour, performing with friends (or whomever else happens to be around) while forgoing the comforts of a consistent backing lineup. It makes sense, because this is desolate music—the kind of dustbowl dirges that conjure images of vultures circling a desert ghost town looking for any last bones to pick. The similarly inclined M.A. Turner and graceful Little White Teeth open at The Casbah ($10).
Thursday, July 30
Those looking to fill the gaping void left by disbanded superhero punks Hot Snakes could do far worse than looking to fresh-faced four-piece Drug Wars. Their free show at Bar Pink is doubling as a release party for their new single, and much like their forebears, this group specializes in sinewy down-stroke mantras of dissatisfaction. Coupled with decidedly Rick Froberg-esque vocals, the influence is perfectly clear, yet not overbearing. It doesn't hurt that the kids are still pissed about a few things, too. Sample lyric from “Fourty Six”: “I don't wanna be born again / There's something about the sight of a grown man on his knees / like a dope fiend in the street.” Amen, brothers. Eclectic L.A. ensemble Slang Chickens are also set to perform.
There are a few warning signs that should tip off any music fan looking to differentiate passing blog-rock fads from bands that have true staying power. Among them are overly clever names (including purposely misspelled words), the immediacy with which said band comes to prominence and whether or not the group happens to align with current trends (terms like “lo-fi” and “Afro-pop” are red lights). That said, it's hard to predict on which end of the durability chart Vancouver duo Japandroids will find themselves in a few years' time. Clever name? Check. Sudden rise in popularity due to Pitchfork review? Check. Alignment with current trends? Ummm, not so sure about that one. Like Hüsker Dü if it were formed by two nice Canadian hipsters, it's kinda hard to deny their distorted pop hooks, even if some of the emo affectations are cringe-worthy. At least they're not called Japandroidz. L.A.'s Happy Hollows and local rockers Roxy Jones open at Soda Bar.
Friday, July 31
Sometimes, you just gotta hand it to the kids. The three members of Murrieta's moody Ancient Crux pull double duty in Rapid Youth, who played at the Che Café last weekend. And because nobody in southern Riverside County seems to care about supporting the talented young trio, they're coming back to the venue for some more love. Unraveling their awkward pop melodies with wiry post-punk guitars, they're like the little brothers of L.A. scenesters Abe Vigoda and No Age, and given their work ethic, attaining similar status won't be too much of a stretch. San Francisco's Blank Tapes, Temecula's Aristides and San Diego's own Sunday Times play sets as well.
Tuesday, Aug. 4
I completely understand when people say they hate reggae, but that doesn't mean I necessarily agree. It's easy to empathize with the skepticism rock fans have for dreadlocks and pseudo-Rastafarian philosophies, but that doesn't take into account the fact that reggae bands have produced some of the greatest pop songs of the last 50 years. Don't even try to tell me Toots and the Maytals' “54-46 Was My Number” isn't the catchiest, most uplifting rhythm you've ever heard. Yeah, I know Sublime covered it, but that can't tarnish the original's soul. Get irie, mon. Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real and Dub Traffik Control DJs open at Belly Up Tavern ($30).