THURSDAY, AUGUST 28
Junior Brown at the Key Club
Honky-tonk renegade Junior Brown is the consummate misfit. Beating the hell out of his one-of-a-kind guit-steel ax (the custom ax that he had built after it appeared to him in a dream), roaring lyrics with coarse, chain-saw toned vocals and always displaying the sort of nimble fingered facility that makes guitar geeks around the world go limp and twitchy, the Arizona-born, Texas-informed, Oklahoma-based musician works a drastic mixture of hard-country philosophy and heavy-gauge rock & roll. It’s a combination so wildly disparate that only a certified genius could make it work, and Brown has deftly exploited it: Winning an award from the incestuous, highly politicized Country Music Association is a small feat, but he took its Video of the Year honor for 1996’s “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead,” conferring a degree of legitimacy that Brown has subsequently (and wisely) done little to further. The man strictly goes his own way, and every jaunt is like a Tilt-A-Whirl ride to a gaudy, absurdist and perfectly realized country-music realm. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Thursday:
RADIOHEAD at Santa Barbara Bowl; Matthew Sweet, Greg Laswell at the Echo; Nortec Collective, Bostich, Fussible at the Knitting Factory; CARLOS GUITARLOS at Eastside Luv; Toots & the Maytals at Santa Monica Pier.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 29
Southern Culture on the Skids at Malibu Inn
The fun-loving North Carolina trio Southern Culture on the Skids expanded the boundaries of their goofily mythical version of rural America a bit on their 2007 CD, the all-covers collection Countrypolitan Favorites (Yep Roc). Singer-guitarist Rick Miller tore it up on versions of such country tunes as Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me” and the Kinks’ “Muswell Hillbilly,” but he also turned the Who’s “Happy Jack” into a banjo-spiked hoedown, which was smartly driven along by stolid drummer Dave Hartman, whereas his duet with singer-bassist Mary Huff on Marc Bolan’s “Life’s a Gas” was unexpectedly spectral instead of cornpone and rootsy. Underneath her gravity-defying, seemingly sentient wigs, Huff packs a powerhouse voice that she put to good use on remakes of “Rose Garden” and Wanda Jackson’s feverishly enchanting classic “Funnel of Love,” as well as two songs by John Fogerty (“Tombstone Shadow” and “Fight Fire”). Meanwhile, Miller’s unpretentious garage-surf originals are generally about the pleasures of drinking, eating and making love, sometimes all at once. Dig in. Also at the Echo, Sun. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
HOT WATER MUSIC at El Rey; MELISSA ETHERIDGE at the Greek Theatre; THE BONEDADDYS at the Mint; LITTLE BROTHER at the Key Club.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 30
The Knitters, Tex & the Horseheads at Safari Sam’s
Dedicated to the late Chris Gaffney, the inaugural Dog & Pony Show is intended to raise funds for ailing, financially struggling musicians by rounding up some of this town’s key roots-rock, country and rockabilly performers over the course of three days. The longtime folk revisionists the Knitters (with three members of X joined by Dave Alvin and the Red Devils’ Jonny Ray Bartel) headline tonight with their rattling-train rhythms and wayward harmonies, followed on Sunday afternoon/evening by Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men, the Plimsouls’ Peter Case, and two of Gaffney’s bands, the Hacienda Brothers and the Cold Hard Facts. Monday’s bill includes the Blasters, Big Sandy, Mike Stinson and rockabilly cat Levi Dexter. Don’t miss this evening’s reunion of Tex & the Horseheads, the most expansively weird and unclassifiable group among these variously traditional rebels. Originally spun off from the Gun Club and lumped with the early-’80s cowpunk scene, the Horseheads have a dusty, tumbling-tumbleweeds sound that frequently rambles into trippier territory, thanks to the onstage interplay of gruff-voiced, no-nonsense guitar wrangler Mike Martt and charmingly daft singer Texacala Jones. They’re the real Burns & Allen. The show starts at 6 p.m. (Falling James)
Chuck Berry, Pinetop Perkins at the Long Beach Blues Festival
Maybe we should cut Chuck Berry some slack. After all, he invented most of what we now call rock & roll, and even though countless acolytes like the Rolling Stones have goosed and juiced up his licks, no one has ever really duplicated the suave way his lyrics pop with melody, wit and rhythm while succinctly painting memorable characters and telling perfect little stories. He has a reputation for dogging it live with randomly assembled backup bands (which have included Keith Richards and a pre-fame Bruce Springsteen), but perhaps the fault is ours, dear brutes. If only we had higher expectations than needing to hear “Johnny B. Goode” for the gadzillionth time. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if he did all new songs tonight or, considering the occasion, a full set of his beloved slow blues ballads. It would certainly blow some minds if he had room to explore obscurities like “Pass Away,” the mystically wise psychedelic/art-funk/pre-rap experiment that closes Berry’s excellent, if overlooked 1979 album Rock It. Brit blues-rock veteran John Mayall and the certifiably legendary Mississippi pianist Pinetop Perkins are also spotlighted tonight, followed Sunday by folk-blues shaman Taj Mahal, the terminally groovy instrumentals (“Green Onions,” “Time Is Tight”) of keyboardist Booker T. Jones and stacked further with Stax Records’ Eddie Floyd (“Knock on Wood”). Rainbow Lagoon Park, Long Beach. (Falling James)