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Best Bets for Live Bay Area Music

Pharoahe Monch

Big-hook rapper Pharoahe Monch plays Brick & Mortar this Wednesday.

There's LOTS of fun to be had this week. Let's get right to it. 

Sonny & The Sunsets, Eagle Tavern, Tuesday

Duuuuude. Local weirdcore champion Sonny Smith has a new album out, and it’s everything we hoped it would be. Antenna to the Afterworld is predictably odd, yet unpredictable in every other way. It’s another new direction for Smith, who channeled inspiration from an unusual corner of the metaphysical world this time around. True story: Smith sought out a psychic with the hopes of connecting with a recently deceased friend, and somehow managed to connect with another late friend’s spirit. He covers the experience and many other dark, life-and-more-importantly-death themes via trippy abstractions such as “Palm Reader,” below. Check. It. Out. Here.

Pharoahe Monch, Brick & Mortar Music Hall, Wednesday

2007’s Desire still stands as one of my favorite hip-hop albums over the last 15 years. For the unfamiliar, it’s the best entry point for the NYC rapper. All the Pharoahe Monch hallmarks are present: mammoth hooks, sophisticated word play, profound message engineering, et al. But there’s always more to the Pharoahe Monch story. He’s currently making the rounds in support of his latest “art project” (as he calls it) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is already stirring up some blog buzz. Put it in on your summer listening list ASAP.  

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They Might Be Giants, The Warfield, Friday

Approved for all ages, They Might Be Giants has a future as bright as its decorated past. The critically celebrated band has made a point of harnessing the attention of a younger demographic. And it makes so much sense. The band’s playful, larger-than-life storytelling style works well with imagination-forward audiences (see the music video for “Birdhouse in Your Soul” below). It’ll be interesting to see how generations grow up with They Might Be Giants, and whether or not their early impressioning has staying power. 

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The Thermals, The New Parish, Saturday

Thermals frontman Hutch Harris has such declarative vocal command over crowds that shows border on the cultish. Their firesale power pop-punk makes fists raise, no matter the topic. On the 2006 breakthrough album The Body, The Blood, The Machine, the band covered some serious existential ground with a biblical-allegorical theme hovering over the entire work. Other albums have considered human relationships and more genre-line-toeing, emotion-driven concepts, but never on a superficial level. But no matter what frontier they’re presiding over, we always come back to this pivotal song:

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Cold Cave, Public Works, Saturday

Cold Cave is unveiling new tracks sporadically, and that’s fine. Most folks can only stomach so much darkness before the Xanax runs out. Like this latest release, “Black Roots,” which spooks the soul but inspires the dance happy. The spirit of Joy Division is still alive and well in Cold Cave, refining their stamp on a genre that remains relevant some 30 years after its inception. Listen here.