Chris Mann at Martinis Above Fourth on November 9
Hillcrest’s Martinis Above Fourth has been mining a rich vein of TV-music-competition vets, often selling out the house, thanks to instantly famous faces who arrive with a built-in boob-tube fan base. In 2012, singer Chris Mann wowed the judges on the second season of The Voice, where the Wichita native managed to pull off everything from Andrea Bocelli to Coldplay, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Verve. He eventually came in fourth place, quickly moving on to a Christmas EP (a Walmart exclusive), followed a few weeks later by his debut studio full-length, Roads. Aided by the TV exposure and a major label push via Universal Republic, that album topped the U.S. Heatseakers chart, as well as hitting number five on the U.S. Classical chart. Before the year was out, he even had his own PBS special, A Mann For All Seasons. He’s gone on to singing for several movie soundtracks and touring with India.Arie and Indina Menzel, with a sophomore album, Constellation, released last year. That one wasn’t on a major label and pretty much sank with little notice, but he’s managed to console himself by becoming one of the most acclaimed vocalists to portray the title character in U.S. touring versions of The Phantom of the Opera, a role he’s taken on for over 700 performances. When he hits the stage at Martinis Above Fourth on November 9, expect to hear his new single, “I Wanna (One Dance) with Somebody,” a novelty mashup of Drake and Whitney Houston that has already earned the classically trained crooner a coveted slot on Dr. Demento’s Funny 25 list.
L.A. Witch, just riotous West Coast girls
The world may not have asked for an alt-country goth-pop band, but female trio L.A. Witch is all about defying expectations. Sounding for all the world like San Diego’s own Dinettes as if produced by Meatloaf’s sound architect Jim Steinman, the West Coast trio is definitely a product of their L.A. environs, albeit as that city existed around 50 years ago, in the days of Phil Spector and the Doors. Not that there’s any Manson or Vampira style Hollywood witchery going on. Their name isn’t meant to evoke the supernatural so much as riotous West Coast girls in charge of how they look and sound. Their self-titled debut album was just released last month on Suicide Squeeze Records, but many of the songs have already been heard as singles released over the past several years. Particularly evocative of their overall leather-clad sound is the opening track, “Kill My Baby Tonight,” a fuzzy power rocker with teeth that would be beyond the capabilities of drifty ’luded-out acts they’re too often compared with, like Mazzy Star and Portishead, none of whom could crunch a riff if you deep fried it in oil first. Their impending show at the Casbah on December 22 is just the latest date in what’s been around two years of constant touring, though this will be the first leg where attendees will be able to pick up their CD at the merch booth, as well as a pink vinyl variant pressed in a limited run of 1500 copies (each of which includes a download card for a digital version).
The Ramones or Billy Idol like Third Eye Blind
Few bands are as polarizing as Third Eye Blind. You either scream along like a rock star whenever you hear one of their tunes or you curse the very mothers who birthed the perpetrators of such an unholy noise. There’s no denying that it’s lowest common denominator songwriting, like genetically engineered earworms designed to get you snarling your lip and pumping your fist, but that’s a formula that few would begrudge the Ramones or Billy Idol (both of whom 3IB cite as influences). It will have been a little over a year since their most recent release, the We Are Drugs EP, when they play Observatory North Park on January 1. Their current incarnation only includes one founding member from their formation in 1993, singer-guitarist Stephan Jenkins, and their almost-original drummer Brad Hargreaves, who joined a couple of years later, now backed by a trio of players picked up between 2001 and 2013. Their merch will include a new 36-page Summer Gods Tour book that comes with a live album, as well as a multidisc 20th-anniversary reissue of their self-titled album, featuring unreleased music and newly recorded tracks said to have been written for, but discarded from, that 1997 LP. In keeping with their oft-stated dedication to ecology and sustainability, bracelets made from used guitar strings once played by Jenkins and fellow stringsmith Krys Reid will be given to attendees who purchase VIP ticket packages.
Converge, cruising the world on Pitchfork fumes
Hard-rock heroes Converge have taken five years to record a studio followup to their 2012 album, All We Love We Leave Behind, which was so lauded on sites like Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound that the band has been cruising the world on its fumes ever since. Formed in 1990, the Massachusetts mathcore-metalcore group has staged dozens of tours and played countless festivals, where they’ve become such mainstays that singer Jacob Bannon was recently invited to curate next year’s Roadburn fest in the Netherlands. Their 2016 Roadburn set was released this past March as a concert album, Jane Live, featuring a performance of their entire 2001 LP Jane Doe. November will finally see their followup studio full-length, The Dusk In Us, which has already been preceded by three hard-driving singles that continue their penchant for brutal, bloody-sounding headbanging: “I Can Tell You About Pain,” “Under Duress,” and “Reptilian.” Their appearance at Brick By Brick on January 27 finds the band still fronted by founding duo Jacob Bannon (vocals) and Kurt Ballou (guitar), backed by the same Jane Doe rhythm section: bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Kollar. The show will be opened by Canadian-American metal trio Sumac and Salt Lake City metalcore band Cult Leader.
Husband-and-wife folk duo Shovels & Rope at the Belly Up
Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, husband-and-wife folk duo Shovels & Rope weren’t married yet when they recorded their 2008 debut album under their own names, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst. The album’s title became the duo’s moniker after they married the following year, though they both recorded solo albums before and after launching Shovels & Rope as a duo. A lot of people first came across them in a documentary that began screening at festivals in 2014, The Ballad of Shovels & Rope, which helped their third album released later that year, Swimmin’ Time, to reach number 21 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. They’ll still be touring in support of last year’s Little Seeds full-length when they headline the Belly Up on February 20, though their setlists also regularly include tracks from their individual solo careers as well as cuts from their 2015 covers album, Busted Jukebox Vol. 1, featuring tunes by Shakey Graves, Lucius, the Milk Carton Kids, Butch Walker, JD McPherson, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and more.