by Ariel Shearer
| July 09, 2012
Craving a live-music fix? We chose one must-see show per week for the rest of the year. From pop icons to indie acts, rock gods to dubstep DJs, these headliners are sure to provide a killer soundtrack for the second stretch of 2012. You’re welcome.
Week of 7/16–7/22
Wednesday, July 18, at the Middle East Downstairs (480 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617.864.3278)
With Skrillex now winning Grammys, it’s easy to overlook the grimy origins of dubstep. Before pop stars like Usher were pilfering the clubby sound, underground British producers were crafting this wobbly mutant genre of electronic dance music. The Birmingham-based Emalkay has long been among them, and he finally dropped his debut album, Eclipse, in 2011. It was about time: with EDM now at the forefront of American pop culture, dubstep has infiltrated the mainstream. Check out this pre-bandwagon producer as he spins at one of the summer’s dubbiest dance parties.
Week of 7/23–7/29
Friday, July 27, at the Paradise Rock Club (967 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617.562.8800)
Twin Shadow, aka George Lewis Jr., rides new wave through gritty realms of rock and dark synth, and guitar-strong songwriting keeps him a safe distance from the doldrums of contemporary pop. His just-dropped second album, Confess, is the perfect soundtrack to neon nights; the new single “Five Seconds” embodies the spirit of an ’80s school dance. Twin Shadow brings a punky disco party to the Paradise this month, and while leg warmers are optional, dancing is mandatory.
Week of 7/30–8/5
Sunday, August 5, at the Middle East Upstairs (472 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617.864.3278)
If you enjoy lucid dreaming, you’ll love Little Spoon. The slow, hypnotic beats of the Allston artist (real name: Cameron Potter) have been described as “blankeywave” and “pillowpop.” We’d describe them as feeling like a sonic brain massage: listening to Little Spoon’s emotionally laden but lulling guitars, drums, found sounds, and FX in a dark room definitely makes for vivid mind wandering.
Week of 8/6–8/12
Friday, August 10, at the Paradise Rock Club (967 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617.562.8800)
New Jersey gets big points for Real Estate. These mellow East Coast surf rockers play dreamy guitar melodies and hum-sing through sensitive lyrics, a winning combination that creates instant summertime theme songs. Real Estate’s 2011 album, Days, became an indie-critic favorite, and soon after its release the band embarked on an international tour, followed by a gig at this year’s Coachella. Now they’re bringing their sunny sound to the Paradise.
Week of 8/13– 8/19
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and the E Street Band
Tuesday, August 14, and Wednesday, August 15, at Fenway Park (4 Yawkey Way, Boston, 877.733.7699)
The Boss turned Fenway Park into a music venue back in 2003, when he and his merry band staged the first rock concert ever played at our beloved ballpark. And this March, Springsteen dropped his 17th studio album, Wrecking Ball, a record built on heavy riffs and pointed cultural commentary. Its international tour will bring the enduring icon back to the stadium for a little “dancing in the dark” once night falls.
Week of 8/20–8/26
LA COKA NOSTRA
Saturday, August 25, at the Middle East Downstairs (480 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617.864.3278)
The elusive hip-hop supergroup known as La Coka Nostra is composed of hardcore-rap heavies DJ Lethal, Danny Boy, Ill Bill, and Boston’s own Slaine. Their 2009 debut album featured high-profile guests like Snoop Dogg and Immortal Technique. And their second full-length, July’s Masters of the Dark Arts, is bound to be another ferocious collaboration. (We’d expect nothing less from a collective that includes alums of House of Pain.)
Week of 8/27–9/2
Tuesday, August 28, at House of Blues (15 Lansdowne Street, Boston, 888.693.2583)
An indie-folk outfit heavily influenced by world music, Beirut offers pure aural escapism. Their 2006 debut inspired a cult-like following, but front man Zach Condon retreated to an isolated cabin for six wintry months to write songs for 2011’s The Rip Tide (while, ironically enough, nursing a perforated eardrum). The band has been touring internationally in support of this celebrated third full-length, and they’ll play House of Blues before heading to LA for this year’s FYF Fest.
Photo: MERT + MARCUS
Week of 9/3–9/9
Tuesday, September 4, at TD Garden (100 Legends Way, Boston, 617.624.1050)
It’s been nearly 30 years since her debut album, but Madonna is still flashing her nipple (on her current tour), shooting her mouth off (in Lady Gaga’s direction), and using her electric sexuality and massive stage presence to empower and inspire fans worldwide. The pop legend’s 12th studio album, MDNA, comes with an international tour, which is bringing Madonna’s ecstatic (get it?) live spectacle to the Garden. The set list includes classics like “Vogue” alongside the new single “Turn Up the Radio.”
Photo: KRISTIN VICARI
Week of 9/10–9/16
Friday, September 14, at the Paradise Rock Club (967 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617.562.8800)
Dragonette’s high-energy electro-pop is the musical equivalent of snorting Pixy Stix. The Canadian trio’s latest single, “Let It Go,” is a party monster so strong, we could use it as a post-funeral pick-me-up. (Sniffle. The dearly departed would have wanted it that way.) The group’s catchy creations have been adopted by DJs and Cyndi Lauper alike, so expect Dragonette to breathe fire on the ’Dise dance floor.
Week of 9/17–9/23
DAVID BYRNE & ST. VINCENT
Sunday, September 23, at the Orpheum Theatre (1 Hamilton Place, Boston, 617.482.0106)
Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has collaborated with the versatile singer-songwriter (and Berklee dropout) St. Vincent on a new album called Love This Giant, set for release in early September. Wondering what happens when a new-wave legend and a baroque-pop ingénue make music together? Fear not. The record’s opening track, “Who,” offers whimsical reassurance: Byrne’s voice is as strong as ever, and St. Vincent cuts his howls with melodic breathiness. Insert sigh of relief here.
Photo: NEIL KRUG
Week of 9/24–9/30
FIRST AID KIT
Friday, September 28, at Royale (279 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.338.7699)
Brace yourself: here’s a YouTube sensation that won’t offend your ear canals. Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg first wowed the Web in 2008 with a Fleet Foxes video cover; the duo have since mastered the art of heart-melting with their own spine-tingling folk ballads, which soften tear-jerking vocal harmonies with gentle acoustic rhythms. In late January, First Aid Kit released their second album, The Lion’s Roar, pairing painfully honest folk poetry with upbeat tunes in tracks like “Blue” and “Emmylou.”
Week of 10/1–10/7
Friday, October 5, at the Wang Theatre (265 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.482.9393)
One of the most influential musicians to ever emerge from England’s rock scene is visiting Boston to inspire an evening of alt-pop pandemonium. The legendary singer-songwriter first broke ground with seminal ’80s act the Smiths, but he still performs with such gusto, he makes age 53 look more fun than adolescence. Witness living rock history when Morrissey takes over the Wang on the first stop of his 2012 US tour.
Photo: ALEX SOLCA
Week of 10/8–10/14
TOWER OF POWER
Friday, October 12, at the Wilbur Theatre (246 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.248.9700)
In music, trends come and go (some mercifully faster than others). But whether it’s inspiring old-school disco, influencing modern hip-hop, or just found in its unadulterated form, funk music is always hip. That’s why Tower of Power has been gigging for more than 40 years, inspiring pelvic gyrations across generations. The heart of the band lies in its horn section, known for massive brass sounds guided by TOP’s founding sax men. Let the funky doctors give you a shot of soul.
Week of 10/15–10/21
Saturday, October 20, at Club Passim (47 Palmer Street, Cambridge, 617.492.7679)
Massachusetts native Mark Erelli earned a graduate degree in evolutionary biology, but now he pens whip-smart lyrics instead of academic papers. And by pairing his socially conscious poetry with twangy acoustic ballads, he’s reinventing country music with surprising sophistication. His folk musings have garnered plenty of accolades: for instance, in 2009, Erelli was invited to contribute to the Darwin Song Project, which created a compilation inspired by the father of evolutionary thought. (Ahem. Ted Nugent he is not.)
Photo: THOM KERR
Week of 10/22–10/28
Wednesday, October 24, at Royale (279 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.338.7699)
Working with Gotye on “Somebody That I Used to Know” brought her name to the mainstream, but this 22-year-old songstress is poised for independent success. Kimbra’s debut album, Vows, dropped in the US in May, revealing soulful idiosyncrasies and boundless vocal ambition. Her confident delivery makes the jump from candy-coated pop tracks like “Cameo Lover” to jazz scatting in “Good Intent” seem effortless. Catch this pop pixie when she rules over Royale.
Week of 10/29–11/4
Friday, November 2, at House of Blues (15 Lansdowne Street, Boston, 888.693.2583)
Citizen Cope (born Clarence Greenwood) has roamed across the sonic landscape. Though he released his debut album as a singer-songwriter and guitarist, he once cooked beats for the alt-hip-hop band Basehead. We love a multi-talented man, but we’ve gotten used to Cope’s bluesy howls, which capture the essence of old-time Americana in lyrical folklore designed for 21st-century romantics. Cope dropped his new album, One Lovely Day, on July 17. Tonight should be even lovelier.
Week of 11/5–11/11
Sunday, November 11, at the Orpheum Theatre (1 Hamilton Place, Boston, 617.482.0106)
Modern rockabilly is a sonic subculture — a world of ironic bouffant hairdos and skit-skattering drums fit for a concert in a beachside trailer park. But Isaak’s dreamy vocals and sex appeal have long taken elements of the genre mainstream. The musician and occasional actor has been writing and recording rockabilly and surf-rock originals since the mid-’80s, but for his 2011 release, Beyond the Sun, he covered tracks by legends like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Swoon.
Week of 11/12–11/18
Tuesday, November 13, at the Wilbur Theatre (246 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.248.9700)
Ani DiFranco started her DIY journey with angst-ridden albums and lyrics filled with disdain for major record companies. (So it’s no surprise that the righteous babe has run her own record company since ’89. Take that, label whores.) Though DiFranco remains a feminist and folk-music icon, her songs have seemingly softened over time. Released in January, her 17th studio album, ¿Which Side Are You On?, sounds like gentle poetry in comparison to her gritty songs of the ’90s. We’re intrigued to hear her reined-in righteousness live.
Week of 11/19–11/25
THE CHICKEN SLACKS
Thursday, November 22, at the Cantab Lounge (738 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617.354.2685)
With seven epic years of residency at the Cantab Lounge, the Chicken Slacks are one of our city’s best-known house bands. Every Thursday night at around 9 p.m., the Slacks use Southern soul and classic funk to fill the dance floor. If you still haven’t sought them out, there’s no excuse — and this year the band welcomed a new lead vocalist and drummer, giving even ardent fans a reason to watch the Slacks rejuvenate their groove.
Week of 11/26–12/2
CHUCHO VALDÉS QUARTET
Thursday, November 29, at the Berklee Performance Center (136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, 617.747.2261)
The jazz piano compositions of Chucho Valdés have earned this Cuban artist multiple Grammys and international praise. He’s worked with Omara Portuondo of the Buena Vista Social Club, along with legends like Herbie Hancock and Dizzy Gillespie. Tonight Valdés will bring his virtuoso piano stylings to Berklee as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston.
Week of 12/3–12/9
Thursday, December 6, at Converse Hall at Tremont Temple (88 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.523.7320)
You’ve probably experienced Oberst’s influence — even if you don’t recognize his name. The versatile singer-songwriter is best known as the voice behind Bright Eyes, but with other projects Oberst has churned out contemporary folk, indie toe-tappers, and even fuzzy rock made with Desaparecidos. He’s something of a wild card, and that Renaissance Man résumé has ensured a pretty broad influence on the indie-music scene. Tonight he takes his solo tour to Tremont.
Week of 12/10–12/16
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO
Tuesday, December 10, at the Paradise Rock Club (967 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, 617.562.8800)
When their rock band Simian split up, London-based musicians James Ford and Jas Shaw put down their drums and keyboard — and picked up DJing. As Simian Mobile Disco, they moved into electronic territory, remixing other artists and dropping throbbing house and shimmering nu-disco of their own production. The analog artists released their latest album, Unpatterns, in May — and we have every reason to believe they’ll drive us bananas on the Paradise dance floor.
Week of 12/17–12/23
Friday, December 21, at the Plough & Stars (912 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617.576.0032)
The Solstice Circus is a semiannual ritual celebrating the longest and shortest days of the year, and the Plough & Stars is the Cambridge bar where this wacky tradition was invented. Comedians and circus artists join musicians under one roof for an evening of eccentric entertainment. The Startenders are the house band of the Solstice Circus, and this impromptu supergroup of dedicated local musicians knows how to throw down all (extra-lengthy) night long.
Week of 12/24–12/30
THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES
Every year just after Christmas, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones host their annual Hometown Throwdown gig series to reward their devoted local following. This year brings the Bosstones’ 15th annual ska-core holiday celebration, and with the band currently on tour in Australia, it could be a while before the Hometown Throwdown dates and venues are announced. (Check bosstonesmusic.com for updates.) But plan to snatch a ticket, because one thing is certain: watching front man Dicky Barrett play “Santa” for ska kids is a Boston tradition not to be missed.