Don't worry: This man has not been harmed. He's simply very intensely hopeful that you'll come see his show. If you don't--well, he could stop bleeding, or he could bleed even more. It's hard to tease out his emotions.
Schaffer the Darklord - Pub Rock Live - Tuesday, January 14
The internet makes local music confusing. Mega Ran is from Phoenix, but it might be equally enlightening to just say he's from the internet--the reigning champion of Mega-Man-related hip hop, a chronicler of videogames and the videogame fandom, and a well-known face on the gaming convention scene from PAX to MAGFest. If you don't know any of that, though--if his New Year's Eve review of the year in gaming lost you at PS4, let alone Ouya--you just might know him as Random, a teacher-turned-rapper who puts his smooth, practiced flow to use talking about the travails that come with being the kind of person who's a big videogame nerd, and not just the videogames themselves.
Either persona is a fitting opener for Schaffer the Darklord, whose material is more general-purpose nerdy and whose stage name belies tongue-in-Heath-Ledger-Joker-cheek tracks like "Afraid of Everything" and "The Rappist," the only job title the anxiety-ridden New Yorker non-rapper is willing to cop to. As it turns out, the internet makes hip hop pretty confusing, too.
Pickwick - Crescent Ballroom - Tuesday, January 14
The debut album from Seattle's Pickwick is a shot of gritty, soulful rock 'n' roll, with sharp guitar stabs, light organ fills and a groovin' rhythm section, all hung out on the line of Galen Disston's passionate vocals. But it wasn't always so for the band. Pickwick's first incarnation was as a mellow acoustic folk project, on the heels of Fleet Foxes' breakout success. But the music, with accordion and pedal steel, felt derivative, and Disston and his bandmates nearly gave up before jumping off in a different direction. It turned out that finding the band's true sound led to a creative explosion. "Changing up the sound and writing collaboratively was very new to us, and we try to preserve that feeling as we continue. It really aids in the creative process," Disston says.
That changed-up full-length, Can't Talk Medicine, finds Pickwick fully formed, a brilliant collection of songs dynamic in their musical construction and raw with emotion. The band describes themselves as garage R&B. "Sometimes the soul tag gets a little bit misappropriated. We revere soul as a genre and don't claim to be able to emulate anything actual soul artists do," Disston says. "We play the way the '60s British rock 'n' roll bands like The Spencer Davis Group and The Animals and, here in Tacoma, The Sonics interpreted soul music." -- Eric Swedlund
Haymarket Squares - Last Exit Live - Thursday, January 16
The Haymarket Squares spent the better part of 2013 growing their in-state following, and judging by how packed their most recent shows have been--especially a last-minute New Years Eve set at Welcome Diner--their strategy is working. That final set of the year had people so packed into the Welcome Diner's front yard that movement was hardly an option. They also attracted nearly as many people as the right Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band when they toured through in November.
It's starting to look like the Squares can pack any Valley venue they choose, so they're taking their punk-grass show on the road for a 10-day California adventure, going up and down the Golden Coast until the end of January. Before the countryish, bluegrassish, punkish, five-piece hits the old dusty trail, they're going to host their own send-off at Phoenix's Last Exit Live. Helping the Squares off on their voyage will be Nashivlle's Legendary Shack Shakers-frontman J.D. Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers as well as locals Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold. -- Jeff Moses
Sundressed - Crescent Ballroom - Wednesday, January 15
Sundressed, Northern Hustle, and Ryne Norman would like you to get mellow with them. That is not editorializing, at least on my part--that's what it actually says ontheir Facebook event
. Sundressed and Northern Hustle aren't especially un-mellow at their loudest moments; Sundressed has a clean, echo-y guitar sound and a plaintiveness that would go well underneath a particularly affectingPete & Pete
scene, while Northern Hustle'sForgether
will be pretty recognizable so long as they're allowed to keep the bells and the nimble little riffs. Ryne Norman'sThis Tempered Tongue
splits pretty cleanly between stompy rock and songs that were born to help you get mellow.
DakhaBrakha - MIM Music Theater - Friday, January 17
Move over Gogol Bordello, a new "ethnic chaos" band is making a mark on American ears. Hailing from Ukraine, Kiev's DakhaBrakha offer a high level of musical and visual stimulation, turning a world-based palate of regional folk music into hypnotic, trance-inducing mystic revelations. The percussion-heavy quartet formed in 2004 at the Kyiv Center of Contemporary Art (DAKH) through avant-garde theatre director Vladyslav Troitskiy, leading to ornate costumes featuring tall hats, long braids, and bangles extending to the colorfully patterned drums and instruments. Intoxicating, yes, but it's the music--the triple harmonies and crosscut vocals of Iryna Kovalenko (djembe, bass drums, accordion, percussion, bugay, zgaleyka, piano), Olena Tsibulska (bass drums, percussion, garmoshka) and Nina Garenetska (cello, bass drum), bolstered by Marko Halanevych's impassioned singing with darbuka, tabla, didjeridoo, accordion and trombone accompaniment--that truly captivates.
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DakhaBrakha means "give/take" in the old Ukrainian language, which also provides a lyrical base. A fitting name, as the music starts on a platform of vintage Ukrainian melodies before incorporating African, Asian, Eastern European and Middle Eastern aspects into the mix. Add in some creative effects pedal usage, and the resulting juxtaposition of styles and textures proves that what was once old can thrive as something new, fresh and moving. -- Glenn BurnSilver