ED. NOTE: THE RUM DRUM RAMBLERS WILL NOT BE PLAYING BB'S TONIGHT. Two thirds of the band is on tour with Pokey LaFarge at the moment. The band's next show is July 3 at Off Broadway.
Little-known fact: According to our style guide (the big book of grammatical do's and don'ts that provide the RFT with its immutable styyyyyyle), all band names are to be treated as singular, not plural nouns. For example, when referencing a band such as "The Beatles," we'd write "The Beatles is coming to town," rather than "The Beatles are coming to town." It can get tricky for our music editor Kiernan Maletsky, who has to cleverly fix all the inconsistencies that arise when, say for example, someone such as myself piles a whole bunch of plural names into a blog post. And without further ado....
Local blues bros the Rum Drum Ramblers will play BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups on Tuesday night for a mere five bucks; use the money you save to get some soup -- it's in the venue's name, after all. It's probably going to be good. On Thursday indie-rocker the Walkmen come to Plush. Last time the band came to town it sold out Off Broadway, so maybe pick up your tickets early just to be safe. Down-south hip-hoppers Nappy Roots play Plush on Saturday, and the Mynabirds will be at Firebird on Sunday. The rest of our picks follow. (Take that, Maletsky!)
Nada Surf Mon., 8:00 p.m. June 25 @ Old Rock House - $18 By Daniel Hill Nada Surf's latest, The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, is its first offering of new material in four years and just may be the one that re-positions the band firmly back in the pop-rock limelight. Already being heralded by some die-hard fans as its best work since 2002's Let Go, Nada Surf's seventh studio album has has a drive and urgency to it that's been lacking in its last couple efforts. Credit may be due to the band's decision to focus on replicating its live experience rather than meticulously documenting the minute finer points in the studio. The end result finds the trio playing passionate rock anthems with pop-sensible conviction and more hooks than a lakeside bait shop. I'm King of the Class: If you haven't been paying attention since Nada Surf's breakout 1996 single "Popular," well, you should probably change that. Here's your chance.
Rum Drum Ramblers - CANCELLED Tues., 9:30 p.m. June 26 @ BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups - $5 By Roy Kasten "The past isn't dead. The past isn't even past." William Faulkner said that. "Never we change our ways. We can keep 'em guessing for days." Mat Wilson said that, or rather sang that. With a sly roll of the vowels and cool swing to his timing, the leader of the Rum Drum Ramblers barely needs the muted trumpets, jittery piano and hot-welded rhythm section to resurrect the golden era of string-band blues and country. Wilson's classic, unaffected songwriting and the sting and thwack of his guitar picking is more than enough to keep that sound vital and undeniably in the present. Still, when bassist Joey Glynn and harmonica and washboard player Ryan Koenig lock in with Wilson's songs, the group bursts into a full-on, juke-joint party.
Brave Combo Wed., 8:00 p.m. June 27 @ The Gramophone - $10/$13 By Phil Freeman For three decades, Denton, Texas's Brave Combo has mixed polka, cumbia and other accordion-driven styles with rock, salsa and anything else that strikes its fancy. The troupe has appeared on the Jerry Lewis telethon and The Simpsons, and recorded polka-ized covers of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and the Doors' "People Are Strange," and a cha-cha take on the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Brave Combo has also turned unexpected songs into stomping polkas and done something entirely different; see a freakish, funk-metal version of "The Hokey Pokey." Put simply, it's a unique band of weirdos totally committed to expanding listeners' musical horizons while always keeping the crowd rockin'.
The Walkmen Thurs., 10:00 p.m. June 28 @ Plush - $16-$18 By Roy Kasten In time, the Walkmen's seventh album, Heaven, may be reckoned the band's finest, perhaps even its most Walkmen-like recording. The New Yorkers' commitment to vintage minimalism has been refined into stories rooted in places -- sometimes, surprisingly, the South and the Midwest -- and emotions that run deep, whether happy or nervous in love, evoked in barreling rock & roll, Byrdsy twang or a single, fragile guitar. Hamilton Leithauser lavishes upon every line his most spirited bellow as the band pours out tunes with the amber-tinted romanticism of doo-wop on a radio in American Graffiti. And what's wrong with that? Last Time: The Walkmen sold out Off Broadway in October 2010 and delivered an exhilarating if short set. Here's hoping they'll stretch out in the larger confines of Plush.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Fri., 8:00 p.m. June 29 @ The Sheldon -$15-$20 By Michael Dauphin Five years and three proper albums into his solo career, Jason Isbell is today a different character than he was in 2007. Back then, Isbell was feeling his way around as a guy with a new lease on life; shaking off a failed marriage, settling into his new role as a bandleader and no longer serving as a Drive-By Trucker. If Isbell seems more grown up nowadays, musically and professionally, there are reasons for it. Having spent the last year playing solo shows as Ryan Adam’s direct support and rocking out with the talented 400 Unit in between, Isbell is a more refined artist in 2012. Pace Yourself: If you play your cards right, you can migrate down the street to Plush after Isbell’s show and still catch some of Lucero's set. Midtown will be moving some bourbon Saturday night.
Lucero Fri., 8:00 p.m. June 29 @ Plush - $18-$20 By Michael Dauphin From this 2010 show review: The band's opening tune "The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo" from Lucero's 2009 full-length, 1372 Overton Park, served as the perfect tune to showcase the band's new-found fuller sound. The horns blared through the verses and chorus like sirens, as keyboardist Rick Steff came in at the bridge with a clinking E-Street-approved keyboard demo. You could tell the band was having fun too. Nichols was appreciative of the turnout for a Tuesday night, aptly stating "Fridays and Saturdays are for amateurs... Tuesday night is the 'real drinker's' night." Nichols later took a break in the set to tell a story of how he was fined $100 by the band the night prior for puking on the tour bus. Apparently the band's sound guy gave Nichols the opportunity to decrease the fine by $20 if he was able to hit him behind the soundboard with a newfound hacky sack. No such luck for Nichols--he skied it into the balcony and found himself $100 poorer. Lesson learned? Doubtful. Lucero, as a whole, has always been greater than the sum of its parts. And by adding more parts, the whole has certainly grown stronger.
Signals Sat., 9:00 p.m. June 30 @ The Heavy Anchor - $5 w/ Ravenhill By Ryan Wasoba The Mae Shi spent years in the touring trenches as a spitfire noise-punk outfit not unlike Thunderbirds Are Now! or An Albatross, but in its final days the group embraced melody and morphed into a twisted pop punk outfit. A handful of its members reincarnated as Signals, a group that so effortlessly moves The Mae Shi's ever-evolving legacy forward that the name change is only a formality. By embracing the tour-forever mentality, Signals serves as the newest traveling ambassadors of the fertile Los Angeles D.I.Y. scene, where the band is an underdog alongside seasoned veterans like No Age, Abe Vigoda, and HEALTH. Name That Sound: Signals' video for "Mommy Issues" ends with forty seconds of either A: A malfunctioning robot, B: A malfunctioning toilet, or C: a fully functioning bong.
Nappy Roots Sat., 11:00 p.m. June 30 @ Plush - $12 By David Cantwell From this album review: Here's how you find Nappy Roots. Leave Atlanta, where OutKast reigns. Then head northwest through Tennessee, the state Arrested Development once employed as a metaphor for black (i.e., human) tradition and transcendence. Keep going and eventually you'll wind up in the presumably unlikely stomping grounds -- western Kentucky! -- of this six-MC collective. On their debut, an embracing of rural Southern stereotypes called Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz, these self-professed down-to-earth "Country Boyz" rap about "Blowin' Trees" and "Kentucky Mud." The members of Nappy Roots are, as they aver more than once, "knee deep, head over heels in this country shit."
The Mynabirds Sun., 8:00 p.m. July 1 @ The Firebird - $10-$12 By Christian Schaeffer Imagine Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made For Walking" as a political rallying cry instead of a sultry kiss-off, and you have an idea behind the Mynabirds' "Generals." The title track to the band's second LP is a call to action so catchy in its delivery and yet so vague in its politics that it could soundtrack an Occupy rally or a PTA meeting. Credit leader Laura Burhenn for making a record that seethes with personal and global discontent (see "Karma Debt" for a little of each) but never comes off as preachy or dated. Behind the Board: Generals' rich and sinister tone is thanks in part to producer Richard Swift, who records bands when he's not busy as a solo artist or as the new keyboardist for the Shins.