One of the strangest things you can do with music, among the most feel-good notions ever concocted by humankind, is to make it depressing. Even the blues manages to celebrate rising above, or at least toughing it through, life’s most adverse happenstances and hardships. Then came goth and, later, an endless array of bleak, nihilistic subgenres that all share the same hopeless world view: everything sucks, and here’s why. L.A. trio Glaare embraces the same dark muse that haunts the grooves of Joy Division, the Cure, Zola Jesus, and all the other inward-obsessed oracles of depression, but in a reverb-heavy post-punk context that adds a welcome edge to the usual female-fronted shoegazers they’re compared with. And by reverb, I mean aggressive, just drenched in echoes that vibrate your eardrums like something recorded by Portishead on Xanax, but listened to on LSD. Psychedelic shoegaze, forever turning them from dream pop to something more akin to a fever dream. The band greatly benefits from Rachael Pierce’s powerful vocals, which somehow manage to rise above the razor-like guitar riffs that drive their new single “Desiree,” from their debut full-length To Deaf and Day, which dropped in October. Their appearance at Blonde Bar on January 21 will be preceded by openers Hexa, an electronic pop project featuring Carrie Gillespie Feller, who in the past three years has also launched bands Pleasure Model (with No Knife’s Mitch Wilson), Hours (with husband Scott Feller), and, recently, Possible Man with a Possible Gun.
The history of rock and roll is full of feuding siblings, from Ray and Dave Davies up through Liam and Noel Gallagher and San Diego’s own Collage Menage twins, Hans and Fritz Jensen, who seem to have parted ways after a quarter century of gigging together. You don’t hear so much about harmonious brothers with over a decade of increasingly successful collaborations under their belt, but that’s the situation that Spence and Shannon Koehler find themselves in with their San Francisco–based blues rock band the Stone Foxes. Their bond has only been strengthened by Shannon’s health problems, which so far have included nearly a dozen heart surgeries. A self-titled debut earned little notice, but a followup in 2010, Bears & Bulls, scored a couple of minor hits with “Mr. Hangman” and “Stomp.” Most of us got our first earful of the group’s blend of Southern rock and blues when their screeching version of Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” was heard in a prolific Jack Daniel’s commercial (the one with a glowing white super-bee zooming into a whiskey bottle). The online chatter really began to build over the year or so it took to release the tracks comprising their fourth album, Twelve Spells. By putting out one free song per month and then compiling them along with concert and bonus material in August 2015, they managed to keep their name in the blogs during the whole two years they spent touring in support of the record. The Stone Foxes recently resurfaced with a couple of new singles, “Broken” and “Fight,” from a reportedly back-to-basics EP titled Visalia that they’ll be plugging at the Casbah on February 1.
What do you get when you cross SNL’s original Not Ready for Prime Time Players with the Black Lips? Probably something a lot like Yacht Rock Revue, best described as the musical equivalent of TV’s The Orville, straddling an often baffling line between tribute and parody. No 1970s soft-rock act is safe from their setlist, from the worst of Michael McDonald to the best of Steely Dan, all presented as a vaudevillian late-night TV commercial for some half-remembered K-Tel compilation. The genius of the production is its ability to capitalize on the way classic-rock programming, from radio to satellite stations and retro movie soundtracks, has made that music part of the DNA of multiple generations, earning the band a fan base of Deadheadian devotion that calls itself the Nation of Smooth. We tried to find out if Yacht Rock Revue will be performing one of their entire-album shows at the Music Box on February 15, since past SoCal gigs at the Belly Up and elsewhere have found them tackling everything from Thriller to Dark Side of the Moon and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The only reply we received was a set of links to YouTube clips featuring occasions where the band has been joined onstage by Gary Wright (of “Dream Weaver” fame), Robbie Dupree (“Steal Away”), and John Oates of Hall and Oates. That could mean attendees will be treated to a special guest star, or it could just as likely refer to a new mashup or even a planned “battle of the bands,” where the group pits songs against each other as audience-fueled battle royales. Whatever they have in mind should be a lot more fun than anything else you’re likely to find in Little Italy on a Thursday night.
Inspired by socially conscious afrobeat collectives like Fela Kuti, Brooklyn’s 12-piece Antibalas modernizes that evergreen sound with touches of electronic, dub, and hip-hop beats that blend seamlessly with vintage funk grooves. They’ve only released a half dozen albums since forming in 1998, along with a handful of EPs and singles, but they’ve maintained a perpetual presence on the road as both headliner and opening act. They’re celebrating their 20th anniversary with a tour that hits the Belly Up on March 8, where you can expect them to showcase their first album in five years, Where the Gods Are in Peace, released via Daptone in September. It’s a typically politically charged record that kicks right off with a scathing condemnation of America’s treatment of Native American races, “Gold Rush,” with singer Duke Amayo shouting down a checklist of decimated or destroyed tribes. There’s also a 15-minute suite called “Tombstown” that seems almost Pink Floydian in both conception and scope, recounting the tale of an idyllic island of 1800s-era refugees from America who’ve abandoned the political division, corruption, and exploitation of their forsaken homeland in favor of utopian cooperation and cohabitation. It’s a somewhat simpleminded narrative — imagine Canada as if founded on Gilligan’s Island — that will surely play a lot more epic as performed live on the Solana Beach stage.
“Although not as well-known on the West Coast, especially Southern California, as they are in many places, the Mammals have been especially big in the world of festivals,” says AMSDconcerts honcho Carey Driscoll of his newest booking. The quintet from New York’s Hudson Valley struck sonic gold with a repertoire of originals mined from the same vein tapped by revivalists such as the Lumineers and Fiction Family who’ve opened up the charts to last-century sounds that were once the sole province of long-gone legends Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Johnny Cash. The Mammals’s March 9 appearance at the National City venue (currently housed in the Sweetwater High auditorium) will be the band’s first U.S. headlining gig south of San Juan Capistrano.