Play Ball, Soon
Opening Day is here and so are five shows that are much warmer than the weather.
We are currently passing between the nonsensical marker for the first day of spring, which is some damned thing called the vernal equinox, and the only true and American transition to spring, which is the Opening Day of Major League Baseball.
This week also provides a wide variety of music to warm blood and bones. You can get rowdy in at least three distinct and potentially intoxicated ways, ponder your place in the universe via artful indie rock, or just get crunk.
Wednesday, March 26
Drive-By Truckers at Turner Hall Ballroom
Music critics sometimes do more harm than good when they type clichés like “more harm than good” and even more so when most of them praise one band as if they’ve all agreed to use the same terms and phrases. So let’s be a little realistic about Drive-By Truckers.
They are among the best rock ‘n’ roll bands in existence; they are also working in Southern-rock territory, an area that didn’t produce lots of hits even in its heyday. They have made yet another fine album with this year’s English Oceans; it probably won’t get them many more new fans than their last several fine albums did. They play energetic live shows without gimmicks or frills; gimmicks and frills are what sell now.
See what I mean about more harm than good?
Friday, March 28
Carolyn Wonderland at Shank Hall
A white woman who sings and plays the blues with a rockin’ style must be prepared for comparisons to the late Janis Joplin; only Joplin herself avoided them, although she did have to put up with many other comments from limited and sexist minds.
Carolyn Wonderland also plays guitar, which gets her further comparisons, this time to Bonnie Raitt (the red hair doesn’t help), but the Houston native and Austin resident has been less concerned with whom she might resemble than with refining her craft and capturing her live sound better in the studio.
On her most recent album, 2011’s Peace Meal, she’s done both pretty well, which doesn’t mean she won’t come across rawer and better onstage, not unlike… fill in the blanks with your favorite comparison.
Purling Hiss at Cactus Club
Just as one cannot get through a profile of actress Christina Hendricks without the word “curvy” being deployed, neither can one read about Purling Hiss and expect the absence of the word “fuzz” or some variation of same.
And this isn’t mere writerly laziness: Ms. Hendricks has a body that would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window (right, Raymond?), and Philadelphia guitarist, singer and songwriter Mike Polizze has built almost all his Purling Hiss recordings on a layer of fuzz as musty as, yet more thrilling than, the mold in his basement studio.
With last year’s Water on Mars, Polizze upped his recording budget and made Purling Hiss a genuine power trio, but the fuzz and the fun remain.
Saturday, March 29
Juicy J at the Rave
Does Juicy J ever collapse in fits of giggles? I think I would, if I had devoted my life to rapping about cash, guns, drugs and women and not only was rewarded beyond the dreams of avarice but actually handed an Academy Award for co-writing a song called “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”
That Oscar came in 2006, when Three 6 Mafia, the hip-hop group he and fellow producer and rapper DJ Paul had founded in Memphis, was still rolling (and smoking) along a wave of commercial success. J has been pretty popular as a solo act, as well, even though his most recent album, 2013’s Stay Trippy, expands not at all on his careless pursuit of hedonistic kicks.
I’d giggle all the time, especially while telling respectful people, “Please…call me Juicy.”
Sunday, March 30
Yellow Ostrich at Turner Hall Ballroom
This show could be considered a kinda sorta homecoming, because Yellow Ostrich frontman Alex Schaaf is from Wisconsin or at least attended college here (at Lawrence in Appleton, fancy man!). Sure, he didn’t really get this act going until he moved from Wisconsin to Brooklyn, but still…
Yellow Ostrich reflected Schaaf’s current home base particularly well on its early recordings, which could be summed up as “indie” and “lo-fi” and maybe even “artisanal.” Its third LP, this year’s Cosmos, has a grander reach and a more overtly listenable grasp that is almost worthy of the Carl Sagan series from which it is said to have taken inspiration.