Not overstuffed, but certainly not empty -- the mid-summer brings us a straight-up solid week of shows here in the Bay Area. We'll have a couple big names heading through town, while several smaller venues are taking a pause. Yet there are still plenty of exciting shows -- and opening bands -- to see. Here are five reasons to get there early this week:
Wednesday: So Many Wizards at Cafe Du Nord with A B & the Sea and What Laura Says
There is always going to be room for more songs about heartbreak. But whether writing from a lovelorn place or not, Nima Kazerouni, in his project So Many Wizards, assembles shattered, heartfelt -- and somehow fun -- distressed pop songs, with his own distant vocals capping off the moodiness. Here are jaunty tempos, long, bittersweet organ chords, and surprising atmospherics. The film grad's live show should be a visual treat, too.
Sean Rawls' 15-or-so-member-strong indie pop assemblage blasts the kind of quirk-folk that no one would be surprised to find comes from San Francisco. Old school girl-group harmonies, a mix of pop-melodic singing and shouting, and lyrics about "slamming poetry with Jim Morrison" make the group and its music not exactly, uh, straightforward. And as with the city that birthed Rawls' group, the oddities make for a merry old time.
Would Alexa Wilding's entrancing folk be just as gently hypnotic if she had a cardboard box for a face? Her sweet voice is delicate, powerful instrument with enough character to set it apart. Wilding's songs ride a plump, fingerpicked guitar, with the occasional bit of organ and slide guitar embellishment. With her limber vocal chords climaxing in chorus lines like, "I refuse to love you, too," the New Yorker's spare songs easily stand out from the legions of would-be folkie femmes. So yes: Wilding may not need her striking looks, but they certainly don't hurt.
Starting Sunday, Neil Young will play three solo shows here in the Bay Area. And in case you thought the master himself was the only one worth showing up for, well, don't underestimate Young's handpicked opener. Scottish songwriter Bert Jansch influenced generations of folkies with his intricate fingerpicking and unpolished vocals -- including Nick Drake, Devendra Banhart and Young himself. But despite a five-decade career, Jansch hasn't quite gotten his due. You can see why that's a tragedy this Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday.