Dennis Quaid in Great Balls of Fire: the man can command a room
  • Dennis Quaid in Great Balls of Fire: the man can command a room
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Hillbilly Moon Explosion — bouncy and percussive

Past Event

The Hillbilly Moon Explosion

  • Saturday, June 9, 2018, 8 p.m.
  • Soda Bar, 3615 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $12 - $14

Headquartered in Sweden, but sporting two British members, Hillbilly Moon Explosion is celebrating 20 years of playing jump blues, swing, and barroom rock ‘n’ roll with a tour that hits Soda Bar on June 9. Founded in Zurich’s apparently rich rockabilly scene, English singer-guitarist Oliver Baroni and Italian-Swiss singer Emanuela Hutter aren’t so much an authentic retro act, but rather the funhouse mirror of one. Having switched out their guitarist and drummer back in 2006, the current touring unit has a dozen years of gigs and several albums of increasingly rich material under their collective belts, from the aptly titled 2006 reboot, All Grown Up, through their newest, With Monsters and Gods. Browsing their videos online, studio productions like their most recent for “Depression” are at their best when matching the bouncy, percussive sounds with performance clips, as opposed to promos comprised of arty footage (usually black and white) with little to offer outside of band members making their way through this or that forgettable placeholder. Far more representative are the live clips on YouTube, especially the ones shot by fans careening into each other in front of the stage. The bill includes local roots rockers Hard Fall Hearts and Johnny Deadly Trio.

Armors — like Tori Amos on Xanax

Past Event


  • Saturday, June 23, 2018, 8 p.m.
  • Space, 3519 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $10 - $12

San Diegans probably don’t fully appreciate just how many important bands we get first dibs on seeing, thanks to the musically fertile Orange County punk and alt-rock scene. A good example is Armors, whose initial tracks in 2014 were fairly generic indie rock, made more engaging thanks to the oddly droning vocals of Olen Kittelsen, who frequently slides into a glass-harp falsetto that comes across like Tori Amos on Xanax. They recently paired down to a duo featuring Kittelsen, who also plays ukulele and drums, and keyboardist Sam Beresford, so older tracks with a departed singer don’t really give a clear indication of what to expect of the group playing Space on June 23. Their most recent singles with Kittelsen at the mic strive for a sort of electro-R&B, as on the track “Overdose,” produced by fellow Orange County creator Sir Sly, which sounds for all the world like Eurythmics crossed with Pink Floyd.

Regrettes — female-fronted punk

Past Event

The Regrettes and Mt. Eddy

  • Saturday, June 30, 2018, 7:30 p.m.
  • Ché Café, 1000 Scholars Drive, San Diego
  • $12 - $14

If you think we’ve long since seen enough female-fronted punk bands from L.A., or that no punk group who debuts on Warner Brothers Records in 2017 could possibly be worth your time and download dough, you obviously haven’t checked out the Regrettes. Hey, I was skeptical too, so I went all the way back to their self-produced 2015 EP, Hey!, and was pleasantly surprised to find them in the same accomplished class as likeminded ensembles such as Dum Dum Girls, La Sera, and Frankie Rose. Then and now, it’s girl-group moonshine as distilled in the back of a smoky garage, with powerhouse singer Lydia Night tearing into singles like “A Living Human Girl” and “Hey Now” as if they were love letters from a cheating ex. Think Mazzy Star at 78rpm. A new EP dropped in February, Attention Seeker, with a video for the single “Come Through” streaming online. Their appearance at the resurgent Che Café on June 30 will be opened by Bay Area punk quartet Mt. Eddy (previously known as Jakob Danger) and Sacramento garage rockers Destroy Boys.

Dennis Quaid — T Bone Burnett approved!

Past Event

Dennis Quaid & the Sharks

  • Friday, July 20, 2018, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+ / $28 - $49

How often have you felt conned by going to see a Hollywood actor turned musician? For every Johnny Depp (who really does have some impressive chops) and Kiefer Sutherland, there are countless Russell Crowes, Keanu Reeves, Corey Feldmans, and Kevin Bacons out there cruising on the fumes of their film careers. Then there’s Dennis Quaid, most recently seen on the big screen in A Dog’s Purpose. He’s actually had a couple of toes dipped into the music pool as far back as his 1987 film The Big Easy, for which he wrote and performed “Closer to You.” His entirely credible impersonation of Jerry Lee Lewis in 1989’s Great Balls Of Fire should dispel any doubts that the man can command a stage (although the soundtrack vocals were supplied by Lewis, at Lewis’s insistence). As a bandleader, he strives for a kind of Springsteenian persona and performance, usually clad in jeans and flannel and leading his band, the Sharks, through a track selection that could easily and happily be pulled off by anyone from NRBQ to Roomful of Blues. His infrequent San Diego gigs usually happen at the Belly Up (other than a side trip to the Music Box last year), where he returns on July 20 with a setlist likely to include staples such as his Doors cover, “Light My Fire,” which he cites as the first song he ever learned to play as a child with his Kmart guitar. Also expect brand new tracks recently recorded with T Bone Burnett, whose seal of approval should assuage any reluctance over making the trip to Solana Beach.

George Benson — two times the George!

Past Event

George Benson

Past Event

George Benson

  • Saturday, August 25, 2018, 7 p.m.
  • Thornton Winery, 32575 Rancho California Road, Temecula
  • $105 - $180

It’s the Battle of the Bensons, with Temecula’s Thornton Winery adding a last-minute act to their summer jazz series for August 25: George Benson. That happens to be one night before his previously announced appearance at Humphreys. Can both venues pull in sellout crowds on consecutive nights? Well, they are over an hour’s drive apart. Plus, the guy can really make his signature Ibanez sing with a tone and purity that few jazz players ever attain, which goes a long way toward explaining Benson’s immense mainstream appeal and popularity in a world where few have ever even heard the names of more prolific studio guitarists whose work is often mistaken for Benson’s. A case could be made that many, if not most, of his own albums are over-produced and buffed to such a pop sheen that they sparkle with unnatural glare. Perhaps that’s why he rarely records any more, other than the occasional retrospective like his 2013 tribute to Nat King Cole, Inspiration, preferring nights on the road to days in the studio. Which seems to work fine, since few in the pop jazz field arrive on stage with a catalog of crowd-pleasing tunes as deep and diverse as his, making it doubtful that anybody willing to break a Benjamin for a Benson concert seat ever walked away feeling ripped off.

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