- Sunday, August 5, 2018, 8 p.m.
2501 Kettner Boulevard,
$10 - $12
Although they’re usually considered a quintessential NYC art-rock band specializing in re-imagining cinema soundtracks, Morricone Youth actually has roots in mostly long-gone San Diego groups such as Rust, Creedle, aMiniature, Crash Worship, and one of the city’s best known exports, the Rugburns. Founder Devon E. Levins (Creedle, Rust) moved from San Diego to New York in 1998, and the following year started Morricone Youth, named after legendary spaghetti western composer Ennio Morricone. Before long, he talked three more San Diegans into defecting their Finest City for the Big Apple; John Castro (the Rugburns), Dreiky Caprice (Crash Worship), and Greg O’Keefe (aMiniature). Their first album of original music dreamed up for an imaginary film, Silenzio Violento, dropped in 2005, earning wide acclaim but failing to result in a followup for a number of years. That was mainly due to the band carving itself a lucrative niche playing new soundtrack arrangements live to vintage films, something that sells a lot of theater tickets but fails to translate on record, especially when you factor in the music licensing fees. Over a dozen members have come and gone since then, but Levins and Castro remain at the forefront of the band playing a homecoming show of sorts at the Casbah on August 5. Expect the setlist to be heavy on the 2016 EP that brought their live soundtracking back on record for the first time in years, The Adventures of Prince Achmed (updating a 1926 Lotte Reiniger film, part of an ambitious planned re-working of 15 silent film soundtracks), and last year’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (from a 1927 film).
Note, however, that Morricone Youth plans on taking full advantage of their time in San Diego, with the Casbah date being the third time the band performs in town that week. The previous day, August 4, finds them playing the first of two live film soundtracks as part of the Oceanside International Film Festival, with tickets available to the general public separate from the full admission package. The first performance, accompanying George Romero’s original black and white classic Night of the Living Dead, begins at 8:20pm, with the band re-creating their 2016 NOTLD EP live in front of the screen.
Morricone Youth, "Mad Max" in concert
Mad Max concert trailer
The next day, a few hours before the Casbah show on the 5th, they’ll be up in Oceanside at the Film Festival again, warming up at 2:15 with George Miller’s post-apocalyptic 1979 film Mad Max, starring a young, pre-meltdown Mel Gibson. They released that soundtrack on album last year via Country Club Records, which has served as their label ever since their 2003 recorded debut, a re-imagined soundtrack for Clint Eastwood’s Magnum Force.
- Thursday, October 11, 2018, 7 p.m.
House of Blues,
1055 Fifth Avenue,
$17 - $20
Scottish singer and former model Nina Nesbitt is a Cher-level chart topping superstar in her native Scotland and a frequent visitor to the U.K. charts with singles like “Stay Out” and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” but she remains mostly unknown in the U.S. Which is a shame, because if you took a band with the dirty riffs and buzz-saw vocals of the Pretty Reckless and gave them an actual songwriter like Linda Perry, along with the pop chops of Ariana Grande, you’d have almost exactly the recipe that Nesbitt seems to be perfecting. She first hit most people’s radar touring and recording with Ed Sheeran, who she was romantically linked with for a while, as well as turning up in songwriting collaborations with groups like the Shires, who wrote two songs with her for their second album.
Nina Nesbitt, "Somebody Special"
Nesbitt's debut 2014 full-length Peroxide hit number one on iTunes, but U.S. love remained elusive, despite releasing her self-titled fifth EP exclusively in America by way of an introduction that was barely reciprocated with a nod, let alone a handshake. She’s bigger than ever in England, where she opened for Justin Bieber at Hyde Park last year, with four singles released over the past few months previewing an upcoming full-length: “The Moments I’m Missing,” “The Best You Had,” “Somebody Special,” and “Colder.” All rest sonically somewhere between old Pretenders and new Cher Lloyd, with impeccable modern production that matches leathery riffs to bubblegum rock ‘n’ pop that should set the House of Blues stage perfectly for soulful pop headliner Max on October 11. The Voodoo Room bill includes Milwaukee rapper IshDARR, whose career seems to have been kickstarted by a positive tweet review from popular actress Chloe Moretz.
- Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 8 p.m.
Whistle Stop Bar,
2236 Fern Street,
Exploded View - the international project of Welsh-bred, Berlin-based Annika Henderson, Mexico City-based Hugo Quezada (Robota), and Martin Thulin (Crocodiles) - are back with their second album, Obey, this time taking to the studio for its creation instead of recording live. Sites like Pitchfork and PopMatters somewhat oversold the ethereal aspect of Annika Henderson’s vocals as some kind of modern day incarnation of Grace Slick or Natalie Merchant, the sort of almost spooky sounding pop whisperer who would scare the hell out of you if her voice was coming out of a nearby dark alley instead of an iPhone speaker. Their appearance at the Whistle Stop on October 24 is likely to be highlighted by their recent single “Raven Raven,” a nearly spoken-word bit of gurgling darkness best described, somewhat paradoxically, as “quiet hip-hop.”
- Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 8 p.m.
3615 El Cajon Boulevard,
Mutual Benefit is the songwriting outlet for multi-instrumentalist and producer Jordan Lee, who like Henderson, has received the combination blessing and curse that comes with having sites like Stereogum (2013 Band to Watch) and Pitchfork (2014 Best New Music, the first BandCamp project ever acknowledged as such by the site) declare him the biggest thing in orchestral folk since the Fruit Bats, and the next worthy successor to Bright Eyes. Though he’s written his fair share of sad and lovelorn tracks, Lee’s upcoming album, Thunder Follows the Light (due September 21 via Transgressive Records), seems to announce his entry into the ethereal ghost-pop market once exemplified by buttery groups Cowboy Junkies and Portishead.
Mutual Benefit, "New History"
The first single from Thunder Follows the Light, “New History,” is a kind of Dylanesque lament, harmonica and all, unfolding a bittersweet take on the emptiness of loss courtesy of folksy harmonic vocals from Yohuna’s Johanne Swanson, who sings of how "It echoes all throughout this town, a past more present than it seems, with pained reminders all around of what's no longer history." The guest singer’s impassioned delivery may be hard to replicate when Mutual Benefit plays the Soda Bar on November 14, ‘pending who or what Lee brings with him to City Heights.