Few metal bands take their theatrics as seriously as LA’s In This Moment, who have been known to wear costumes themed to the music, with masked guests onstage enacting bits of scene-setting that make performances as much dark carnival as concert. Founding duo Maria Brink and Chris Howorth at first seemed inspired by the worst excesses of Queensryche and Dream Theater when they formed their band around 2005, though they had clearly embraced their dark side by the time their fourth album, 2012’s Blood, carried them into the Billboard top 40 for the first time, debuting at number 15. A follow-up, Black Widow, reached number eight, but by that time the world was being overrun by goths-gone-Broadway like Muse, Motionless in White, Avatar, etc. Last summer’s Ritual album debuted at number 23 but never climbed any higher, perhaps due to the more stripped down sound and the less stripped down wardrobe of singer Maria Brink, who told interviewers that the band intentionally wanted to focus less on sexuality and more on strength. They’ve definitely gone from Linda Carter Wonder Woman to Gal Gadot, as evidenced by a new action-packed live video featuring a log-splitting performance of “River of Fire,” and things are taken to an even more Wagnerian level of epic histrionics in the video for “Black Wedding,” which features a guest turn from Judas Priest singer (and occasional Hillcrest neighbor) Rob Halford. Arriving with them at Harrah’s on August 24, headliners Halestorm have also gone from blush to butch on recent efforts like their new single “Uncomfortable,” previewing a full-length called Viscious due later this month, and the bill includes fellow female-fronted rockers New Years Day.
- Saturday, September 8, 2018, 7:30 p.m.
3090 Polk Avenue,
$13 - $15
Detroit songstress Alexandria Maniak, aka Shortly, has a voice that comes up on you like that creepy little girl in the well from The Ring, both soft and dangerous and haunting as hell. On the strength of her first high profile single “Matthew,” produced by Citizen singer Mat Kerekes, she soon found herself being invited to open for other dark pop whisperers like Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, the Decemberists, Title Fight, and now Mom Jeans, who’ll bring her to the Irenic on September 8. It’s the second date of a short tour sponsored by her new label, Triple Crown Records, which just dropped her second single “Spare Time,” recorded in Philadelphia with Hop Along guitarist Joe Reinhart, who moonlights as a producer for Modern Baseball, Smidley, and others. Headliner Mom Jeans hails from San Francisco and presents itself as an emo group, but their sophomore full-length dropping this week, Puppy Love, indicates a band with aspirations more akin to contemporary melodic punkers like Modern Baseball and Sorority Noise. The bill includes funk ‘n’ soul group Just Friends, who dropped a new full-length in June, Nothing But Love.
- Thursday, November 8, 2018, 8 p.m.
3615 El Cajon Boulevard,
$12 - $14
This seems to be the age of musical marriages and power couples, e.g. Jay-Z and Beyonce, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, etc. It’s a noble tradition in music going back at least as far as Ike and Tina Turner and Johnny Cash and June Carter, continuing up through John Lennon and Paul McCartney with their respective matrimonial mates, Richard & Linda Thompson, the Captain & Tennille, Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo, Tuck & Patti, Exene Cervenka & John Doe, and even timeless collaborations that long outlast the unions that produced them, like the best of Timbuk 3, the White Stripes, and Sonny & Cher. Add to the tuneful team-ups Nashville duo Zack and Dani Green of Birdtalker, who had already been married since 2012 when they decided to start writing songs together, soon recruiting a drummer, guitarist/mandolinist, and – around a year later – a bassist. Though many of their songs are variations on tried and true themes of love and loss, there’s also a mildly sharpened edge of social awareness and wit, with Zack’s guitar providing an occasionally frenetic backdrop to his wife’s more pastoral, free-flowing keys. Their debut EP in 2016, Just This, was a refreshing blast of intricate Byrdsy harmonies and hook-heavy folk guitar. They sound positively Dylanesque on the first single from their new album One, “Outside the Lines,” a scathing screed that calls out hypocrisy in everything from relationships to politics. A support tour hits Soda Bar on November 8.
- Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 8 p.m.
Belly Up Tavern,
143 S. Cedros Avenue,
When cult rock star Todd Rundgren isn’t dying streaks into his hair and backing up Ringo Starr on tour, he sometimes makes short side trips with his Unpredictable Evening showcases, which he brought to town last September at the Music Box. Another night of requiems, requests, and deep cuts from throughout his career (including possibly his ‘60s group the Nazz or even his brief tenure standing in for Ric Ocasek in the Cars) is promised for the Belly Up on November 14, where his website indicates he’ll be backed by recently reunited Utopia bandmates Prairie Prince (on a break from the Tubes), Kasim Sulton, and Jesse Gress. However, sticking to songs he’s already known for would hardly be unpredictable, so among the other oddities known to make his hit list are offbeat covers like Cheap Trick’s “Hello There,” Tony Bennett’s “Are You Havin’ Any Fun,” “Fire” (the Crazy World of Arthur Brown), “Muskrat Love” (the Captain and Tennille), and even “Endless Prairie” by Lorne Greene. Last year’s San Diego setlist included Rebecca Black’s pop anthem “Friday” and a tribute to San Diego’s own Strawberry Alarm Clock with “Incense and Peppermints.” Maybe this year, we’ll be treated to something by locals like Tom Waits, Jewel, or Blink 182? Maybe Frank Zappa? I know I’d hock a used Honda for a chance to hear a Runt version of the Monroes’ “What Do All the People Know.”