Live Music Tonight: Johnny Winter, Robin Holcomb, and More


Johnny Winter

From this week's Short List:

Ball of Wax #11 with Webelos, Beast Please Be Still, Corespondents, the Luna Moth, Snowman Plan, Seth Howard, Sweet Potatoes, Mike Dumovich and Virgin of Birds

9 p.m. $6, Sunset Tavern

Even though it sounds like an ancient, half-wrapped piece of butterscotch, Harry Candy is not what you find at the bottom of your grandma's purse. It's a musical game where musicians from several bands get together, form new bands, write, record, and mix down their love child of a track in a mere 24 hours. This melodious frolic (which I'm guessing gets mighty interesting around hour 17) produces some genre-bending results and serves as inspiration for the 11th Ball of Wax compilation, benefiting Hollow Earth Radio. Tonight's show features participating acts like Beast Please Be Still and Webelos among many others playing as themselves, but BOW mastermind Levi Fuller let me in on a secret, upcoming all-ages show (the location of which is disclosed at where the bands will be playing as their newly formed Harry Candy alter egos. With Webelos, Beast Please Be Still, Correspondents, the Luna Moth, Snowman Plan, Seth Howard, Sweet Potatoes, Mike Dumovich, and Virgin of Birds.

Johnny Winter, Joe McMurrian Quartet

7 p.m., $35, Showbox at the Market

Blues-rock legend Johnny Winter has never been the picture of health. Then again, when has any bluesman? But nowadays, the 63-year-old Texan plays while sitting down (he fractured his hip in 2000), and his fingers move across the frets like he has carpal tunnel or mild arthritis. Though he did give up the booze, pills, and powders, much damage has been done, rendering his live performances raw, exposed affairs. Some people might complain or wince, but Jesus, ain't that what the blues was always about? I'll take a tattooed, pale, and rickety picker like Winter over a wading pool like Clapton any day.

Varmint CD release Robin Holcomb, Tim Young, Wayne Horvitz, Jon Hyde, Keith Lowe, Andy Roth, Arni Adler, Nova Devonie, guests

8 p.m. $15., Tractor Tavern

Sophisticated musicians playing plainspoken music can result in either an annoying irony-fest or a beautiful embrace of simple pleasures. In the case of this great little Wayne Horvitz/Robin Holcomb unit, which held down a weekly gig in Columbia City for a couple of years, playing smart sets of sentimental tunes by Neil Diamond, Burt Bacharach, and various Nashville stalwarts, pleasure won out by a mile. "No originals and no rehearsals" was the guiding philosophy, but the band was nothing if not tight and focused. You can hear it in their new CD, recorded back in '06, and released tonight. Guitarist Tim Young, a freak when he wants to be, here mixes beautifully with the pedal steel of Jon Hyde, then steps out for some sweetly mournful soloing. Holcomb is gorgeous as ever, maybe more than ever, as happens with many great musicians when they put aside their need for innovation and just reawaken old truths. Tonight the band reunites for the release party with backing vocalists and special guests.

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