Jeremy Jay: spare songs spotlight teen-idol vocals

With his colorful costumes, boogie-piano style, and distinctive growl, Dr. John embodies the spirit of his native New Orleans wherever he goes. The Louisiana Music Hall of Famer came to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s after a long career as a session man; his recordings display an eclectic style that covers traditional jazz, blues, and rock. That grand genre spectrum has often proved confusing to critics wanting to pigeonhole his work, but John has found support from the likes of Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, who have collaborated with him often over the years. At age 67, John continues touring and recording, alongside his activist work benefiting the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Dr. John performs from Wednesday, March 5, to Saturday, March 8, at Yoshi's in San Francisco. Admission is $28-$36; call 655-5600 or visit www.yoshis.com/sf for more info. Ernest Barteldes

Loose-limbed Chicago collective Mahjonng happily scrambles genres in its art-school sound, a gooey mess of tribal-damaged hypnosis and steamy junkyard funk. The group's new album, Kontpab, offers plenty of brain-melting party potential throughout. Certain songs nod to Kraftwerk and Gary Numan ("Problems"), others to Chic and !!! ("Teardrops"). The vocals are typically beside the point, although "Those Birds Are Bats" opens with a bouncy pop singalong and "Mercury" includes muddied singing to further its wobbly disorientation. As much haywire fun as Kontpab is, Mahjonng is best experienced live, when the members' homemade instruments and costumes will ignite a dance marathon. Mahjonng performs on Thursday, March 6, at Rickshaw Stop at 8 p.m. Admission is $10; call 861-2011 or visit www.rickshawstop.com for more info. Doug Wallen

Instead of trying to decide whether Jeremy Jay is the next Jonathan Richman or the next Buddy Holly, thank your lucky stars he exists at all. The foppish Los Angeles stringbean writes spare songs that bring out his teen-idol vocals and lean guitar work. Whether he has his eye on beautiful rebels or heavenly creatures, Jay takes the time for reassurances — "And remember I love you" — on his forthcoming album, A Place Where We Could Go. In addition to a radio spot on KUSF at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 7, and his in-store at Aquarius Records at noon on Saturday, March 8, Jeremy Jay performs on Friday, March 7, at the Knockout at 10 p.m. Admission is $7-$8; call 550-6994 or visit www.theknockoutsf.com for more info. — D.W.

A beacon of Los Angeles' fertile noise scene, Health delivers a racket fetching comparisons to Boredoms or Liars, with haywire electronics, tribal percussion, chanted vocals, and a perverse understanding of song structure. The band tracked its 2007 full-length debut at the venerable L.A. noise venue the Smell. The result was an inspired 28 minutes of caustic, exacting fun, as likely to impair your hearing as it is to make you dance. The group frequently employs what its calls a "zoothorn," a cryptic combination of microphone and effects pedals. Perhaps we can get a glimpse when Health joins Crystal Castles (whose remix of Health's "Crimewave" was a U.K. indie hit) on Saturday, March 8, at the Independent at 9 p.m. Admission is $16; call 771-1422 or visit www.theindependentsf.com for more info. — J. Pace

 
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