As I grow long in the tooth and gray in the hair, I find that I'm more exacting when it comes to live music. I don't want to brave the mega-aggravating Bay Bridge traffic just to hear a band play its songs exactly like they are on record, with the same tempos, the same guitar solos, the same vocal inflection. I might as well be at home, my feet up on the sofa, surfing the net for nekkid pictures of Lost's Evangeline Lilly.
I'm fickle; I want surprises, or I just might fall asleep. I want a singer to crawl through glass or dance like a monkey or rock the glockenspiel. Give me energy, give me attitude, or go home.
In summer, this show angst grows even greater. Why stand shiftless for two hours next to someone whose cardigan smells of ripe old ladies when you can be quaffing a cold one at Zeitgeist? Why brave the Frisbee-tossing punk rockers at an outdoor show when you could be kicking it with baby backyard ribs at your buddy's place? Why stand elbow to jowl with hoochie mamas in Daisy Dukes when you could be floating down a river in an inner tube?
I know what you're thinking. "Hey, Grandpa, get that hip replacement, or get the hell away from the pit." Well, I'll do you one better. I'll tell you about the shows this summer that are soooo good that even the old codgers like me will be out in force. (Don't say I didn't warn you.)
For starters, there's the Jolie Holland and Sean Hayes show at Bimbo's on Saturday, July 1, which will be full of old and new codgers. Holland never gives the same performance twice her vocals are as fluid and improvisatory as a jazz singer's and her band is equally adept at imbuing old songs with new vigor. Fans should be lining up just to see what new guitarist Roger Riedlbauer will bring to the gig.
Kurt Heasley of the Lilys, who plays Bottom of the Hill on July 8, has confounded expectations for 15 years now. Starting out as a My Bloody Valentine wannabe who emitted sheets of noise, Heasley (and whomever he collaborated with) eventually tried his hand at Kinks-ian power-pop and XTC-ish funk. Philly's Human Television is a perfect tour mate, displaying a host of '90s indie influences Galaxie 500 slo-core, Slumberland Records buzz-and-howl, Razorcuts-y jangle with pluck and charm.
Edinburgh's Ballboy, which performs on Sunday, July 2, at the Make-Out Room, is something of an Anglophile's wet dream, combining the clever storylike lyrics of Belle & Sebastian with the fast guitar strum of the Wedding Present. Live, Scottish bands always seem a bit daft read: drunk so amusingly laddish songs like "I Wonder If You're Drunk Enough to Sleep With Me Tonight" and "Sex Is Boring" should play well in public.
Speaking of Belle & Sebastian, if you can't get enough of twee singing, heartbroken lyrics, and '60s-ish symphonic pop, then you should check out Camera Obscura on Thursday, July 20, at the Great American Music Hall. I'm a little nervous that lead singer Tracyanne Campbell won't be the dancing fool that Stuart Murdoch is, but if she kicks the heartache of her band's third LP, Let's Get Out of the Country, up even one notch, we'll need a truckload of Kleenex by show's end.
Minimalist techno can get mighty "architectural" live. By that, I don't mean it has nice eaves; rather, it gets pretty dang nerdy, with a bunch of dudes in fancy eyewear doing the stiff, white-guy dance. If anybody can unhinge that crowd's inner booty bopper, it's London duo Swayzak, which plays on Friday, July 21, at BOCA. Swayzak's genius lies in its unpredictability, with the pair's improvisatory sets swerving from stripped-down funk to huge, spacy dub to icy, pounding electro.
As for inspired looniness, you can't ask for more than dual headlining sets by the Flaming Lips and Ween, which occur on Saturday, July 22, at the Greek Theater. The Lips' latest, At War With the Mystics, is a bit heavier than the last disc, so that should give Wayne Coyne and folks even more latitude to go nuts whether that means handing out flashlights to people in animal costumes or bouncing giant balls off the Greek's faÇade is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, Ween's been recording new tunes in a 200-year-old farmhouse with a leaky roof and a rodent problem, which can only mean crazy inspiration.
Perhaps the most anticipated show of the summer nay, year is on Monday, July 24, when Brazilian group Os Mutantes reunites to play the Fillmore. In the late '60s, Os Mutantes was the freakiest combo of Brazil's Tropicalia movement, offering a crazy form of Latin psych-rock that mixed wild rock riffage and avant-garde noise with sweet samba rhythms. Chanteuse Rita Lee won't be performing with the group, but if past sojourns by Tropicalia artists like Tom Ze are any indication, this should be a mind-blower.
For those who require less zany rock and more outernational funk, there's the world's only Afro-Funk Festival, which returns for a second year to the Independent, Thursday, July 27, through Saturday, July 29. Curated once again by local outfit Sila & the Afrofunk Experience, the fete will feature musicians from Guinea, Algeria, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, all laying down the kind of grooves to which even old people will succumb.
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