Mutemath - Tuesday, March 1 - Crescent Ballroom
The emotional documentary-style short film for Mutemath’s latest single, “Monument,” which has gone viral with the help of Ellen DeGeneres, features Charles “LaLa” Evans. He built a shrine to his widow, to whom he was married for more than 59 years, in his Starkville, Mississippi home. The song was written before Evans and the quartet had crossed paths. Upon meeting the retired mailman, the frontman Paul Meany knew Evans embodied the theme of the song: a love determined to stand the test of time.
When people see the moving clip, they’re compelled to share their own love story. “It’s why we made the video and wrote the song in the first place,” Meany states emphatically. The story behind “Composed,” another track off the indie band’s 2015 return-to-form album Vitals, won’t win the hearts of daytime talk show hosts, but it’s just as compelling. Years ago, Meany started having debilitating panic attacks. In the song, he describes the experience with soulful falsetto, crying, “Who’s that panicked stranger on his knees?” only to find someone who keeps his head afloat to give him hope. Music has helped free Meany from his anxiety, and it shows in Mutemath’s joyful performances. JASON KEIL
Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys - Tuesday, March 1 - Rhythm Room
Rockabilly's endurance continues to defy those who regard the genre's resurrection as more of a fashion statement than a musical movement. While you'll probably see less gingham and grease in local clubs these days, interest in rockabilly's rabble-rousing sounds remains solid. Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys are a fine example of why this music continues to please: The Southern California outfit led by the amiable, appealing Big Sandy (né Rusty Williams) approaches it with a dexterity and musicianship that makes the stuff look easy. While Sandy's sound — a kind of retrobilly fused with a big-band flair, peppered with occasional excursions into country, swing and even calypso — is certainly rooted in nostalgia, there's a timeless quality to it. It could be the band's smooth, almost seamless delivery, or the way the tunes make you want to take to the dance floor. Then again, maybe it's just Big Sandy's big ol' smile. LAURA BOND
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band - Wednesday, March 2 - Last Exit Live
As that one popular Internet meme so adeptly illustrates, there is a big difference between what a touring band actually does, and what society and the band members' mothers and lovers think that they do. Some members of society may be even more prone to projecting fantasies onto a band named Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band. No doubt, they are living the fun life, right? Right. Also though, they are working their asses off. "There is a little bit of a myth that being in a band on tour has all this glamor to it," says saxophonist Greg Hollowell. In reality, says Hollowell and the meme, the band spends lots of time doing stuff other than playing music, which is the activity that keeps their personal wheels rolling down the road.
"I can definitely speak for everybody," Hollowell continued, "when I say that we really love performing, playing music. We love interacting in that way with each other and our audiences." Funk musicians make an especially friendly offering as they perform. There is something inherent to that particular style of music that wants everybody it touches to loosen up, let go, and have fun. There is something healing about that. "People have stress in their lives," says Hollowell, "I have stress in my life. It's cool to just get together and let loose. You know, that kind of thing." He went on to quote Dr. Funkenstein himself: "I think George Clinton said it best. He said 'Funk cannot only move, funk can remove.'" TRAVIS NEWBILL
Galactic - Wednesday, March 2 - Livewire
You could say Galactic actually are big in Japan, as outside the United States, and following Canada, the Asian country is second on the New Orleans’s funky jam band’s list of most visited countries to play. But Galactic bassist Robert Mercurio wouldn’t put it that way. “I would say we’re small in Japan, but they like us,” he says. “There is a strong connection with New Orleans music and Japanese people. We were one of those bands with a modern funk aesthetic they liked, and we were lucky to be brought over to Japan in 2000. I think that was our first year. We just clicked with them. Also, being mostly instrumental helped. If they don’t understand the English lyrics, they can connect with the instrumental side of our band.”
That’s one theory. And while the term "big in Japan" is often used in the music business as a slight, meaning the band is not popular in its homeland but in some faraway place, Galactic's massive tour schedule, which includes a visit to Livewire in Scottsdale this week, in support of its new album, Into the Deep, would indicate otherwise. This marks Galactic's twentieth year of doing its funky soul-groove thing, which adds up to an amazing feat for an independent band. LINDA LABAN
Basia Bulat - Thursday, March 3 - The Rebel Lounge
Singer/songwriter Basia Bulat hasn’t garnered nearly enough notice on this side of our northern border, but it’s not because she’s not deserving. In her native Canada, she’s gained significant airplay and even had her debut album, Oh My Darling, shortlisted for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize. Tall Tall Shadow, her third effort — and first to be accorded Stateside distribution — was also considered for that particular prize while nominated for a Juno Award as well. Though she possesses a voice best-suited for a forlorn folkie (think a mash-up of Kate Bush and Sandy Denny), Bulat is no willowy troubadour. Her deceptively delicate entreaties often give way to boisterous rhythms, an obvious reflection of bold, perhaps even brash, confidence. Still, despite occasional kudos from a few knowing critics and an extensive touring schedule that’s taken her as far afield as Australia, she’s yet to make the kind of inroads her easily engaging songs would seem to call for. That’s a shame, because Bulat has an ear for winsome melodies that we hope will attract a larger following in 2016. LEE ZIMMERMAN
Robyn Hitchcock - Thursday, March 3 - Musical Instrument Museum
Robyn Hitchcock's music mixes in enough British eccentricity and psychedelic pixie dust to rank him as one of alternative pop's most esteemed elders. Beginning as a folksinger on the UK college circuit, the London native broke through as leader of the Soft Boys, who notched an early ale-radio standard with 1980's "I Wanna Destroy You."
The further success of his 1984 solo album I Often Dream of Trains and work as front man of the Egyptians ("Balloon Man") secured Hitchcock a cult audience, as did a longtime relationship with filmmaker Jonathan Demme, who directed the 1998 concert film Storefront Hitchcock and has placed him in several other films. Recently he has migrated to venerable roots-rock label Yep Roc, which released 2014's The Man Upstairs. CHRIS GRAY
Freakwater - Thursday, March 3 - Valley Bar
Throughout its long career, irreverent humor and compassion for the human condition has been at the core of Freakwater's alternative country music. On its latest record, Scheherazade, its first album of new material since 2005's Thinking of You, founding members Janet Beveridge Bean and Catherine Irwin explore modern myths and archetypes and the interconnectedness between narrative and memory. In titling the album after one of literature's most famous storytellers, Freakwater examines people's attempts to understand experience, to preserve fond memories and move past hurt.
Freakwater formed in 1989 in Louisville, Kentucky, when friends Bean and Irwin decided to make music together. Bean had been a member of rock band Eleventh Dream Day, an impressionistic-yet-urgent noisy dream-pop act, with future Tortoise guitarist Doug McCombs. Departing from Eleventh Dream Day, Freakwater was more overtly connected to folk and country, but its dissonant melodic structures ensured that it never fell fully in line with '90s Americana or alt-country. TOM MURPHY
Correction: This post originally stated the wrong date for the Basia Bulat concert.