The Short List: This Week's Recommended Shows

From James McMurtry to James Blake.

James McMurtry/Thursday, September 22 What's weirder: That Americana stalwart James McMurtry (son of Larry) is playing a Thursday-night gig on Bainbridge, or that Stephen King is his most ardent booster? Neither, really. In just over a year, the Treehouse Café has proven itself a formidable option for island dwellers who'd prefer not to have to miss the final quarter of an artist's set to catch the last boat home (and for touring musicians looking for a convenient double-dip). As for King, he's simply hitched his wagon to a stoic Texan who's easily one of America's half-dozen or so greatest songwriters. McMurtry's vivid brand of country-rock has always been more deep woods than pristine prairie; his narrative compositions will fall on more knowing ears in an affluent island enclave than on, say, the Puyallup Fair's mainstage. And unless you find a worn-out fedora and monotone banter to be the sexiest of tics, rest assured that when McMurtry takes the stage, there will be little to distract from his remarkable music. Treehouse Café, 4569 Lynwood Center Rd. N.E., Bainbridge Island, 842-2369. 8 p.m. $30. Also at the Tractor Tavern on 9/21. MIKE SEELY Active Child/Friday, September 23 Pat Grossi began his career as a vocalist at age 9, when he joined the Philadelphia Boys Choir as a Soprano I, the highest of the high singers. Grossi, who is now in his 20s and records under the name Active Child, still incorporates that early experience into his songwriting. Active Child's first LP, the shimmering You Are All I See, matches beatific choral melodies, sung in Grossi's operatic voice, with lush synth tones and electronic drumbeats. The resulting songs are sometimes solemn, almost hymnlike (i.e, the title track), sometimes snappier with an oddly R&B feel ("Playing Houses," the sensual single featuring How to Dress Well's Tom Krell), and always, according to Grossi, romantic. "It was written in a way to be like, 'You're the only one I want. I'm not interested in anyone else. You're the only one I see,' " he said of the album during a recent phone call. "I definitely hope it's romantic in every sense of the word." With Chad Valley. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $10. ERIN K. THOMPSON Duran Duran/Friday, September 23 Dripping in eye makeup, synthesizers, and perfectly frosted hair, Duran Duran personified '80s pastel excess. Girls from 8 to 30 drooled over these baby-faced bad boys and fantasized about the flavor of John Taylor's lip-glossed mouth. Marrying heiresses, courting exotic supermodels, and getting mega-rich only solidified their image as glossy pop gods. Because they are so deeply immersed in persona, some tend to dismiss them as a boy band, easily forgetting these calculating Brits were actually a band with interesting musicality. Borrowing some swagger from rock and applying it to slickly packaged, juicy electro-pop, Duran Duran helped create a musical hybrid we now take for granted. That said, this show is going to be chock-full of moms and (good Lordy) grandmas, so remember to duck and cover. The underwear being hurled at them onstage is a size or two larger than that they fielded in 1985. With Neon Trees. Everett Events Center, 2000 Hewitt Ave., Ste. 200, Everett, 425-322-2645. 8 p.m. $49.50–$75. All ages. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR Carissa's Wierd/Saturday, September 24 For a band so obsessed with leaving, loss, and endings, it must be weird enjoying such a successful homecoming and comeback as Seattle slowcore chamber-pop ensemble Carissa's Wierd has been riding for the past year. So, appropriately, their first new single in seven years, "Tucson" (b/w "Meredith & Iris," released last month by Hardly Art, the Sub Pop sub-label which has lately been championing CW), begins with Jenn Ghetto and Mat Brooke, in well-worn harmony and over a bright guitar line and swaying violin, sighing, "You've been gone so long/You can never go home again." Maybe that's true in the larger existential sense, but for Carissa's Wierd it's so far proven blessedly false. For who knows how long, they're back. Don't miss them while they're still around. With Royal Eyes, Mattheu Canvas. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9467. 8 p.m. $18. ERIC GRANDY James Blake/Saturday, September 24 If you caught the precociously talented James Blake the last time he came through Seattle (May) and played a beyond-sold-out show at the Tractor Tavern, consider yourself very lucky. At the time, the Tractor was already much too small a venue to contain the hype, which has only increased since then: Blake's fantastic self-titled debut LP was shortlisted for the prestigious Mercury Prize as the best British album of the year; he's performed on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon; he's been introducing a scattering of brand-new songs on tour; and last month he premiered a duet with fellow critical darling Bon Iver, a solemn stunner called "Fall Creek Boys Choir" (to be included on Blake's forthcoming EP, Enough Thunder, due Oct. 10). All this is to say that the Showbox is still a cozy, intimate venue, so get to this show—at the rate Blake's going, he's only going to be more in demand as time passes. With Teengirl Fantasy. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 8 p.m. $22.50 adv./$25 DOS. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON Bon Iver/Monday, September 26 Ever since Bon Iver's eponymous second album was released in June, there's been contention over its closing track, "Beth/Rest"—even among those who loved everything else about the record. While most of Bon Iver is made up of muted, soulful, stripped-down tunes, "Beth/Rest," with its smooth-jazzy electric keyboards and saxophone solos, is a direct flashback to Christopher Cross' 1980 smash "Sailing." Rolling Stone used the word "schmaltz" to describe the song, Slant magazine said it was "hilariously outdated," and AllMusic.com called it "the theme song to a horrible '80s movie about unicorns." But the song's squealing solos and reverbing percussion don't take away from its absolute poetic grace—we say it's the record's loveliest and most memorable song. The stunning solo piano version of "Beth/Rest" that Bon Iver recently performed on NPR's World Café (with the sax and electronics gone) further attests to the song's genuine emotional power and to Justin Vernon's brilliant intuition as a songwriter. With Other Lives. Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 467-5510. 7:30 p.m. Sold out. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON Weekend/Monday, September 26 Man, tough time to be the properly spelled Weekend (from San Francisco) and not the truncated, faux–shy guy R&B/emo project The Weeknd (from Toronto). The latter might have the greater share of the spotlight right now, but,beyond the name, nobody's likely to confuse the Slumberland Records trio with its Canadian counterpart. Weekend trades in the kind of fuzzed-up, reverberating jangle-pop recently back in vogue, and they do it with both more muscle and more finesse than many of their lesser peers. Their best song might still be "Coma Summer," the cresting, crashing liftoff of their 2010 LP Sports (nothing on their recent stopgap EP Red comes close, and a couple of its songs downright drag). Live, expect pop tunes delivered with a delightful wash of noise. With Talk Normal. Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., 441-7416. 8 p.m. $10. ERIC GRANDY

 
comments powered by Disqus