If one takes a step back for perspective, Howe Gelb is something of a focal point for a great deal of post-1984 Southwestern alterna-rock history. Though born in Pennsylvania, Gelb made his mark amid the dry heat of Tucson, Arizona with Giant Sand. The latter's debut disc Valley of Rain is a "desert rock" classic -- perfect accompaniment to hipsters' drunken reveries, befitting its melding of Neil Young's parched electric crackle, vivid spaghetti-Western twang, garage band snarl, and born-of-Bukowski world-weariness, desperation, and resignation. Fittingly, Gelb's singing shares many of the qualities of the Sand's sound.
Counting Joey Burns and John Convertino as members, Giant Sand birthed Calexico (heirs to that desert ambiance) and Friends of Dean Martinez. In 1997, Gelb, Burns, and Convertino collaborated with little Miss Sunshine herself, Lisa Germano, forming OP8 (get it?) and their sole offering Slush. Along the way Gelb made music with Steve Wynn, Neko Case, and S.F. expat Richard Buckner. Gelb's most recent platter (under any name) is 2006's 'Sno Angel Like You, recorded with Voices of Praise, a Canadian gospel choir, and Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara. While some "roots"-oriented performers confuse earnestness with inspiration, Howe Gelb presents a truly individual outlook on American music, as raw and multihued as his arid Southwestern environs. Kate Maki opens.
Thu., April 24, 8 p.m., 2008