Wednesday, Nov. 11
While never quite receiving his due as an outstanding songwriter, Loudon Wainwright III boasts an impressive resume, not only as a musician, but also most recently as a bit actor in movies by Judd Apatow, Cameron Crowe and Tim Burton. For his current tour, Wainwright has teamed with fellow should-be superstar and Fairport Convention founder Richard Thompson, as the two perform songs both separately and together during a special seated show at Belly Up Tavern. Expect plenty of ex-hippies to come out of the woodwork for this one ($38).
Thursday, Nov. 12
What makes Young Widows one of America's best hardcore bands? Well, probably that they're not really a hardcore band at all. The Louisville trio has a firm grasp of dynamics—tension and release that don't simply play into the soft / loud dichotomy but, rather, inject nuance in a genre that's often prone to bludgeoning simplicity. With more varied tempos than many of their contemporaries, their songs have the room to breathe, akin to intimidating and unpredictable Midwest bands like The Jesus Lizard or Shellac. It may sound like they've been inhaling large amounts of asbestos and chemical waste, but it's that toxicity that gives the band its reputation for bracing live shows. Young Widows open for acclaimed instrumental metal groups Russian Circles and Red Sparowes, and are preceded by abrasive Pacific Northwesterners Helms Alee at The Casbah ($15).
If negative vibes are your thing, there's an abundance of them currently flowing underground from coast to coast. The key, however, is knowing where to look. This atypical show at Music Trader Sports Arena (3112 Midway Drive) teams hermetic drone addicts Wet Hair, no-wave acolytes Talk Normal and death-rock fiends Entertainment and Blessure Grave, each hailing from disparate areas of the country (Iowa City, Brooklyn, Athens / Atlanta and San Diego, respectively) but all sharing a more damaged outlook than most.
Friday, Nov. 13
Next to UC Santa Barbara sits the small community of Isla Vista, a student ghetto serving up unparalleled debauchery on a nightly basis. This is where I first encountered An Albatross in a tiny, humid living room, and at the time, they were like a hippie version of The Locust, writhing through brief bursts of absurdist grindcore before vocalist Eddie Gieda stripped naked, rubbed his sweaty member on crowd members and took off sprinting down the street. All in all, one of the funnier concerts I attended in college. Not coincidentally, they're performing with Locust vocalist Justin Pearson's electro project All Leather, as well as sinewy rockers Drug Wars and Temecula punks Aristides at Che Café ($7).
Saturday, Nov. 14
One thing The Dutchess and the Duke, Greg Ashley, Christmas Island and Little Claw all have in common is that each act's music seemingly hangs together by the thinnest of threads, threatening to fall apart at any second. It lends a certain homemade charm to each band, and whether it's The Dutchess and the Duke's Stones-influenced acoustic sing-alongs, Ashley's voodoo-possessed bad trips, Christmas Island's anxiety-induced nihilism or Little Claw's inverted, deformed pop songs, these outsiders are each equally worthy of serious consideration. Leave the smoking patio, get inside and give them your full attention for once. At The Casbah ($10).
Monday, Nov. 16
It speaks highly of a folk band to forge a relationship with a label as synonymous with punk ethics as Kill Rock Stars, but that's who released Horse Feathers' House with No Home last year. And what a surprise it was—Justin Ringle's devastatingly gorgeous vocals provided the warmth of a well-stoked fireplace on an album of otherwise stark, wintry songs. It's rare when an album like this stands out among the glut, but along with Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago and Sun Kil Moon's April, this was at the top of the pile for 2008. Just don't mistake Ringle for Will Oldham—the two look almost like twins, but Ringle's sweet, soft voice speaks for itself. Fellow Portland folkies Loch Lomond also perform at The Loft @ UCSD ($8).
Not to diminish the accomplishments of local heroes and headliners Pinback, but Italian/American openers Bellini perform more sparingly around these parts, giving extra incentive to catch this show at The Casbah. Rising from the ashes of long-running Sicilian cult rockers Uzeda, Bellini began as a project between the husband and wife duo of Giovanna Cacciola and Agostino Tilotta, who weaved knotty tangles of guitar around a driving rhythm section. Topped with Cacciola's impassioned vocals, the group sounds like PJ Harvey fronting Fugazi at their most brooding and aggressive, quite a lofty comparison for fans of challenging rock music. A strong collaborative relationship with producer Steve Albini only adds to their rough-hewn bluntness, and 2005's Small Stones was a small wonder of oddly-tuned guitar work and fiery, apocalyptic lyrics ($20).
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