Best Bets This Week in Live Music, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Edition
Before we get going here, a quick important public service announcement from the week that just was: J. Tillman, bandleader and singer for Father John Misty, might be the most fascinating onstage figure in music today. Anyone who saw the Fleet Foxes drummer at the Independent on Friday witnessed a man dripping with confidence and swagger, with sassy hips to match a biting wit. Just … here.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti rather brilliantly digs into the psych-pop of the '60s and '70s (and the psychiatric wards of any time-space continuum), and he knows exactly what he’s doing. On his latest critically adored album, Mature Themes, Pink invites listeners to “Step into his time warp” in “Is This the Best Spot?,” and we’re happy to do it. Pink has always managed to make old, timeless pop clichés fresh and odd, courtesy of some weird vocal percussion devising. The proof is only identifiable in his live shows — Pink uses his well-calibrated mouth to swoosh and swirl and whoock and whap. It's hardly lyrical or digestible most of the time, but occasionally he stumbles upon some sublime melody, and it all suddenly makes sense.
San Francisco’s Deerhoof seems to live in some absurdist alternate universe, musically speaking (to say nothing of the alternate, bizarro universe that is San Francisco). Time must work in different ways there, too. The oddball indie heroes have become a thoroughly prolific propagator of albums. They’ve put out two albums in two years, including this year’s Breakup Song, which we’re still trying to make sense of — and make no mistake, that’s a good thing. The band’s endlessly complex song structures and various moods and tempos take time to absorb, making the inevitable epiphany of understanding Deerhoof’s songs all the more rewarding.
Patrick Wolf first won these ears over with the ambitious 2006 statement The Magic Position, a tour de force journey inside one man’s resilient psyche. Lordy, it’s a special one. The British singer-songwriter has since continued his devotion to crafting alternately somber and reaffirming songs and albums. And when he hits the road, well that’s when the fun really kicks in. Wolf has a reputation as one of the more expressive, flamboyant performers/man-divas on the other side of the pond, so expect something theatrical appealing to all your hidden senses.
If you’re banging your head against a wall because you can’t catch Florence and the Machine Friday at Shoreline, worry not. The Jezabels have ya covered in the anthemic-rock-with-transformative-female-vocals department. The Australian four-piece routinely makes grandiose statements in ~4-minute intervals. Opener Yukon Blonde is also worth checking out. The Vancouver quartet just released charming sophomore album Tiger Talk, and they’re ready to rock and/or roll.
We don’t get nearly enough excuses to champion the reggae world in this space, but this one’s a no-brainer. Stephen Marley, son of Bob, is a proud torch-carrier for his father’s causes and spirit, and there’s no denying his ability to channel his noble lineage. But recently he’s made a habit of incorporating various external genres in his artistic undertakings, from adult contemporary to hip-hop to rock and back. And he’s clearly doing something right — he nabbed his fifth Grammy in February for Best Reggae Album of the year, Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life, a must-listen for casual and hardcore reggae fans.
Yep, it’s that time of year again. The HSB institution continues. Of course, this year will be an especially important entry in the festival’s fabled life. 2012 marks the first year the festival moves on without its eccentric founder and bluegrass champion, Warren Hellman, who passed away last winter after a bout with leukemia. San Francisco and a predictably eclectic and impressive lineup will toast his memory. Among this year’s top dogs are Conor Oberst, Patty Griffin, Elvis Costello, Beachwood Sparks, The Head & The Heart, and many, many more. See the full lineup here.