Over the past few years, a lot of great local players have shuffled through the David Bowie tribute Ziggy Shuffledust & the Spiders from Mars, including members of Creedle, but the central figure with the orange hair and jumpsuit remains founder Gary Shuffler, who played hard rock with Honey Glaze until that band split in 1993. Shuffler has also fronted tributes to Bauhaus, Queen, Guns N’ Roses, the Who, and Adam & the Ants, but demand for faux Bowie has skyrocketed since the singer’s death in January 2016, and so the Shuffledust show turned up nearly every month on local stages that year. They’ve been laying surprisingly low this year, but with Bowie’s birthdate and deathdate looming, December 20 seems a good time for a great time, singing and cheering the praises of rock’s late Thin White Duke. And what better place to do so than the Casbah, which practically had a cot with Shuffler’s name on it stashed in the back room, they played there so often last year. Apropos to the glam ‘n’ glitter theme of the evening, openers Electric Warrior will pay tribute to T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan, a performer that Bowie himself was essentially tributing when he cannily “borrowed” from Bolan’s increasingly successful circus rock act, even before creating his own Bolanesque persona as Ziggy Stardust.
Despite the fact that he was a longtime local, we haven’t seen a lot of singer-songwriter A.J. Croce since his mom’s restaurant and jazz bar Croce’s closed its doors in early 2016. He’ll return to the Belly Up for the first time in a little over three years on January 3, with a new album to promote called Just Like Medicine. Always an engaging performer, Croce specializes in a soulful, almost New Orleans sound, but with an urban city twist that comes across like an old soul in a new coffeehouse. Over the course of nine albums, he’s covered nearly all genres, landing over a dozen top 20 singles on radio stations formatted for blues, jazz, Americana, and even top 40, as well as covering nearly all TV viewing hours with appearances on The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and The Late Show. His newest full-length is a collaboration with producer/songwriter Dan Penn, featuring guest players like Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood, blues guitarist Colin Linden, honorary Eagle Vince Gill, Blues Brother Steve Cropper, and gospel singers the McCrary Sisters. It also includes his first recording of “The Name of the Game,” an unreleased song by his father, the late Jim Croce.
Jim Heath and his psychobilly trio Reverend Horton Heat clearly love San Diego, usually playing at least once or twice a year at various venues around town, most often HOB or the Belly Up. For only the second time, they’ll take the Observatory North Park stage on January 28 for a heady triple bill that includes Voodoo Glow Skulls and Big Sandy & his Flyrite Boys. Though it’s been four years since their last studio album, Heath’s band has a back-catalog spanning over three decades, with their genre-crossing live sets offering up a little something for just about everybody: country, surf, big-band jazz, Appalachian folk, blues, swing, and even a bit of punk. Those who caught them earlier this year at House of Blues may have noted that longtime drummer Scott Churilla was no longer with the group. According to a recent announcement, Heath and Jimbo Wallace have tapped Arjuna “RJ” Contreras (Eleven Hundred Strings) as their permanent third member. Riverside ska-core band Voodoo Glow Skulls also averages a couple of local dates each year, most recently at the Casbah and the Space Bar, but this will be their first Observatory set. Ditto for Big Sandy, and the all-ages event only costs 5 bucks in advance (they’ll ding you for 20 at the door).
Whether you’re into movies, stage plays, TV shows, music standards, or even autobiographical books, chances are you’ve come across the tiny dynamo known as Kristin Chenoweth. Not since Pia Zadora has so small a woman promised so much entertainment, only in Chenoweth’s case, she seems to be able to consistently deliver (not that Zadora doesn’t still deserve some kind of all-time-WTF Award for Voyage of the Rock Aliens). I first noticed Chenoweth in the dark cult comedy TV series Pushing Daisies, for which she won an Emmy as Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2009. On looking her up, I found she also had a Tony Award for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, as well as being nominated for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked, a gig that spawned her autobiographical book A Little Bit Wicked, which landed her on the New York Times best-seller list for Hardcover Non-Fiction. I’ve since spotted her in everything from Glee to West Wing, the Bewitched movie, and as Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray Live!, and she even voiced Snoopy’s French poodle sweetheart in The Peanuts Movie. Musically, she really does have a powerful set of pipes, which she’ll demonstrate at the Music Box on February 2 as she tours in support of her album of American Songbook classics, The Art of Elegance. It debuted in the top slot of both Billboard’s Current Jazz and Traditional chart and Amazon’s Vocal Pop chart, notching yet one more success on a diverse résumé that we can only hope in the future will include her own sci-fi rock and roll musical à la Rock Aliens.
The aptly named Fresh Sound series at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights continues on February 17 with New York pianist David Friend, whose compositions are informed both by his background growing up in coastal Louisiana and his years at the Manhattan School of Music, where he marinated in the city’s experimental music scene, underground art world, and street culture and activism. In addition to his solo works, Friend has performed and toured with a number of ensembles, including the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Alarm Will Sound, and Transit New Music, in configurations ranging from the Bent Duo to the Grand Band Piano Sextet and the American Composers Orchestra. Pursuing his musical ambition has taken him around the world, from rural Alaska to Carnegie Hall, European experimental music festivals, and countless orchestral performances. As a solo artist, Friend updates the traditional piano-recital format with wildly inventive explorations that veer into the realms of experimental electronica and noise, while maintaining at least a patina of the structure and discipline of classical music. According to the Fresh Sound press for this show, “By programming and collaborating with composers and creative artists who are working on the cutting edge, and by rethinking the conventional frameworks in which we are usually presented piano music, David Friend seeks to create new pathways of mutual relevance between piano music and contemporary culture in the twenty-first century.” That about sums it up!