British musician Ed Sheeran and Irish singer Gavin James have a lot in common. Not only are they both redheads with a one year difference in age, but they also make the same kind of music: sweet, earnest love songs.
Though James has yet to reach the same heights as Sheeran — whose 2015 tour he opened for — he has made major strides, especially in the last few years. Multiple publications named James an artist to watch in 2015, and Spotify chose him as a “Spotlight Artist” in 2016. James’ cover of David Bowie’s “Changes” was also the first song played on the newly relaunched Virgin Radio UK, and he headlined his first arena show last year.
His debut album, Bitter Pill, is certified double platinum in Ireland, and consists of a range of emotive, heartfelt ballads with cute names like “Nervous (The Ooh Song).” “Remember Me” is a fast, country rambler, and the record’s titular track is a fervent, soaring number that sounds like something Sam Smith would make. The album also does a great job at showcasing James’ various vocal styles, which range from singing to cooing to straight-up wailing.
At 9 p.m., on Saturday, May 27, at the Independent. $15-$18; theindependentsf.com
It’s a shame when really good singles aren’t released on albums, because it’s much easier to forget or overlook them.
Such is the fate of T.I.’s “Money Talk,” an elastic, keyboard-rich track from 2016 that failed to make it on the Atlanta native’s December 2016 album, Us or Else: Letter to the System. Word on the street is he’ll include it on his next project, The Dime Trap, but it’s likely the main reason it didn’t make the cut for Us or Else is because it’s not political.
In recent years, T.I. has become increasingly active in the Black Lives Matter movement, and just last month released a short film of sketches about racism and police brutality in the U.S. In fact, T.I.’s always had an interest in helping other people. He’s prevented two suicide attempts — one involving the lead singer of Creed, Scott Stapp — and his Atlanta nightclub has a history of donating new bicycles to the local Boys and Girls Club.
At 9 p.m., on Tuesday, May 30, at Mezzanine. $40-$319; mezzaninesf.com
This Detroit singer-songwriter’s name might not ring a bell, but perhaps his nickname, Sugar Man, does. In 2012, Rodriguez became the subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary called Searching for Sugar Man, based on the story of his belated career boom.
Born Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, the musician grew up in Detroit and released his first single, “I’ll Slip Away,” in the late 1960s. A few years later, he signed with Sussex Records, which released his first two albums, Cold Fact and Coming from Reality. Filled with noodling guitar, Rodriguez’s folk-pop songs — which often focus on political subjects from the standpoint of lower-class communities — never caught on in the U.S. In fact, his albums sold so few copies that Sussex dropped him from the label. At the time, he had been working on a third record, but he gave up on it, and it has never been released. For the next few decades, he remained in Detroit, where he worked in demolition and line work and ran unsuccessfully several times for public office positions like Mayor of Detroit.
Little did he know that his music had reached South Africa, where he was so popular that fans likened him to Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens — and sales of his records outnumbered Elvis Presley’s. For some reason, his South African fans believed he had committed suicide, and Searching for Sugar Man chronicles the efforts of two Cape Town fans who went looking for answers.
Rodriguez’s career has since been on an upswing, and he’s gone on several worldwide and national tours, and both of his albums have been re-released. Dave Matthews Band even covered Rodriguez’s song “Sugar Man” while on tour in 2014.
In terms of new music, the last we’ve heard from the 74-year-old was in 2013 when he told Rolling Stone, “I’ve written about 30 new songs.” They have yet to materialize, but here’s hoping they come out on album someday.
With Arum Rae, at 8 p.m., at the Warfield. $42.50-$69.50; thewarfieldtheatre.com
Too Many Zooz
A busking success story, Too Many Zooz got its start performing in New York City subway stations for two years, until they experienced unexpected stardom when a video of their set at Union Square was posted to YouTube in 2014. It went viral, and to date, the video has more than 3.6 million views.
The horn-heavy trio — which includes saxophone and trumpet — has since taken its blend of “brass house” on the road, ditching subway stations for legit venues and embarking on more than six national and international tours. Shortly after releasing their debut album, the appropriately titled Subway Gawdz, they were invited to perform alongside Beyoncé at the 2016 Country Music Awards in Nashville.
Though most of Too Many Zooz’s songs are instrumental, it is no stranger to collaborating with other acts, like the Bay Area’s world-fusion band Beats Antique and Philadelphia rapper Famey. Standout tracks on Subway Gawdz include “FTG Pt. 2,” a toned-down piano ballad featuring Harlem lyricist S’natra, and album closer “Talkin Bout,” a grimey, EBM track with bars from Armani White.
With Antique Naked Soul, at 9 p.m., Thursday, May 25, at the New Parish in Oakland. $17-$20; thenewparish.com
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