Alibi V.14 No.15 • April 14-20, 2005 
Gwyneth Doland

Music to Your Ears

It's been a tough scene for our blues guys and gals ever since Club Rhythm & Blues closed its doors for good, taking one of the best open mics in town right along with them. But if there's a silver lining to be found here, it's that artists like Michael Holt are strengthening their own scene from the roots up. Holt and his Hollywood Holt Band host a new weekly open mic just for blues and R&B performers at Ned's Downtown. The Wednesday night showcase is a step up from traditional blues jams, with a nice stage, a full sound setup and professional live mixing. Holt says his motivation springs from when he first cut his blues teeth at open mics under the tutelage of Darin Goldston, front man of the Memphis P. Tails. “They say you've got to give it away if you want to keep it, and this is my way of giving it back.”

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Blue Note

Piano Man

By the time he'd reached the ripe old age of 23, Connecticut-bred pianist Kevin Hays had already toured for a year with the Harper Brothers, worked with Joshua Redman and Benny Golson to name but a few, and waxed his first record as a leader, El Matador (Evidence). Considering that most of us spend the period of our "professional" lives between college graduation and the age of 25 spinning in the wind, Hays' comparative beeline toward the pinnacle of post-bop piano craft stands as an even more miraculous feat. And just wait until you hear him play.

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Music Magnified

The Slow Signal Fade

Wednesday, April 20; UNM Sub Mall (all ages, noon): The Slow Signal Fade's exotic and dark vocals are what make them stand out from the pack. The Los Angeles-based group formed in 2002 and in a short amount of time have managed to craft a polished sound and, from what I've heard, a stellar stage performance.

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Music Magnified

Dead Meadow

with Jennifer Gentle, The Outcrowd and Jealous Gods

Wednesday, April 20; Launchpad, 21 and over, 10 p.m.)

Paisley's not dead, it's just discreetly tucked under jackets. This isn't your childhood paisley (Prince) or your dad's (Blues Magoos), but a night of four distinctly different takes on modern psychedelic music.

Dead Meadow is cold funk, a grim and smoky version of the psychedelic experience 20 minutes before it turned narcotic. The flowers aren't still in anyone's hair at this point, although they're just as colorful in the mind.

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Sonic Reducer

Brooke Valentine Chain Letter (Virgin)

She's only 19 and she's co-written her debut CD, Chain Letter. About half of the CD sounds like any number of female R&B/pop artists on the market, but Valentine takes a few risks and rises above the countless others with some mesmerizing and distinguishing hits. Songs like "I Want U Dead" and "Blah Blah Blah" have distinctive beats, while the music is hauntingly aggressive, not blatant slap-you-in-the-face hip hop. And Valentine seems even stronger when accompanied by rappers such as the late Dirt McGirt, Lil' Jon, Big Boi and others. Valentine threads her way from lust to love to hate, and leaves a trail of men battered and beaten behind.

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Courtesy of the Artist

EVENT HORIZON ()

Their Kindness is Charade

Crystal Castles • electropunk, synth pop, witch house

Remember the thing called Witch House? How about darkwave? The constant bifurcation of artistic paths in the field of electronic music can be damnably confusing and irritating, as well as rewarding and helluva lot of fun too—as long as you pick the right band. When adherents of these sorts of genres aren't busy sorting their rainbow-colored toe socks and looking for tubes of Vick's Vaporub to snatch up at the local Walmart, then it's a pretty fair bet that they are listening to the likes of Crystal Castles, a duo of Canuck electro-arhats who've made their mark in the music world with a febrile and spooky glitchiness that has outlasted any names critics might apply in favor of an honestly, intimidatingly pure exploration of sounds that make humans dance and rejoice as they swirl around the very noisy and icy maelstrom of life and death. Ethan Kath and Edith Frances, AKA Crystal Castles, perform live in Burque on Thursday, Oct. 19. Viewed as an opportunity to joyfully and ferociously embrace the void, this ought to be a damn good show, but don't blame me if you can't remember your name afterwards.
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Courtesy of the Artist

EVENT HORIZON ()

Special Beat Service

The English Beat • ska

Here's a brief on a band with three names, but unlike Eliot's bunch, these dudes are not a coterie of cats. At home across the pond, they're known as the Beat. In the land down under, kindly refer to them as the British Beat. Here in 'Merica, we call them the English Beat. But no matter what you call them, this estimable ensemble that still includes founder and guitarist Dave Wakeling—but not vocalist Ranking Roger—was partially responsible for the upsurge in popularity that two-tone ska saw on both sides of the Atlantic during the '80s and '90s. With a retinue of classic, upbeat jams like “Monkey Murders,” “Spar Wid Me” and “Save It for Later”, the band's touring the states again, impressing OG ska lovers as well as the next generation of horn-crazy youth with their combination of crazy stage antics and terrific tuneage. You can catch the outfit live here the the Duke City on Sunday, Oct. 22, at the Historic El Rey Theatre, but don't worry you don't need checkerboard pants or a smart little hat to enjoy this gig—just make sure those great big feet of yours are rested and ready to dance.
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