Smoking Popes at Soda Bar on February 20
- Wednesday, February 20, 2019, 8 p.m.
3615 El Cajon Boulevard,
$17 - $20
Had Frank Sinatra had been born in Chicago circa 1971 and grown up on Naked Raygun and the Ramones, he probably would have founded the Smoking Popes. Their pop-punk-lounge act has retained the novelty punch first delivered by the three Caterer brothers in the early ‘90s, carrying them through the breakthrough success of landing a song on the Clueless soundtrack (“Need You Around,” their only charting single), through the failed stint at Capitol Records that left them nearly bankrupt, and past a late ‘90s breakup while brother Josh pursued a career in Christian rock. A 2006 reunion tour was well received enough that the trio has occasionally reconvened for follow-up road trips. Their newest, Into the Agony, is the first studio full-length to feature the original lineup in around two decades, though they did test the waters a couple of years ago with a quick EP, Simmer Down, which they claimed was only released so fans could have some new music to sing along with for their reunion set at Riot Fest. Last year, they played a few festival dates in support of Side One Dummy’s re-release of their 1997 Destination Failure album, which may have disappointed Capitol back in 1997 but contains some of the most concert-friendly selections of cacophonous crooning ever assembled. Their February 20 appearance at Soda Bar includes Milwaukee punk band Direct Hit, touring behind their third album, Crown of Nothing, which frontman Nick Woods says “describes the relationship between a vengeful angel, put to death by a demon she then torments in the afterlife for eternity.”
Just ask Bob Dylan and Travis Barker how nearly dying in a transportation mishap can boost one’s career profile. Dylan took the opportunity to vanish for a while to fix his motorcycle and cook up a new sound with an old Band. Barker went out to find a tattoo repairman and got all paranoid about flying (who can blame him for either). But 20 year-old Chicano pop star Cuco, who was already selling out SoCal venues before his first official single dropped, bounced back from injuries sustained on tour in an October car accident by filming a comedic video for “CR-V,” named for the dependable but drab little Honda he receives as a graduation present in the promo filmed at a south L.A. school, near where he grew up. “I look like a mom in my CR-V, flexin’ on your friends in my CR-V, got like five seats in my CR-V.” It’s basically Cuco’s barrio reply to Randy Newman’s iconic and sprawling “I Love L.A.” video. His all-ages show at Observatory North Park on February 13 is one of the first two dates of a “comeback” tour, intended to pick up where he left off in October when all his remaining shows had to be cancelled while he recovered from the crash (which was serious enough to merit a mention in the news scrolls at both Fox News and CNN). From the left coast, he’s heading off to London’s All Points East festival and Barcelona’s Primavera Sound fest, before finishing up a full-length debut being prepped for release later this year.
- Saturday, March 9, 2019, 8 p.m.
3519 El Cajon Boulevard,
$10 - $12
Don’t tell Jesse Welles that rock and roll is dead; he’ll either punch you in the face or write a song about you that makes your own mother want to buy you to a one-way ticket to Siberia. The Arkansas songsmith has been steadily on the rise, thanks to availing himself of today’s standard stepladder to success. In his case, that meant hooking up with an A-list studio magician (Sturgill Simpson producer Dave Cobb) around the same time he reached legal drinking age, landing opening slots for likeminded acts whose audience he covets (Greta Van Fleet and Royal Blood), and then making the scene with memorable stage takedowns at highly visible star-making stopovers like Austin City Limits and the Bonnaroo festival. He’s actually been going by Welles for only around two years now. You may have heard previous releases under names such as Jeh Sea Wells, Dead Indian, and Cosmic American, but the same sort of passive-aggressive, slice-of-wandering-life songwriting can be found on Welles singles like “Are You Feeling Like Me” b/w “Into Ashes.” Last year’s Nirvana-ish Codeine EP spawned a minor hit song and video for the track “Life Like Mine.” His March 9 performance at Space is ostensibly to promote his debut full-length from last year, Red Trees and White Trashes, but he’s also reportedly working on a new release that may be previewed from the stage as well.
Remember back in 2013 when people were posting video snippets on Vine that briefly made them famous? Vine may no longer be a thing, but at least one hero of Vine went on to become an actual pop star. Canadian folk-pop singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes used his online exposure to land a major label record deal that soon resulted in “Stitches,” a top ten hit in the U.S., England, and Canada that was only the first of many chart visits. The 20 year-old’s self-titled third album from last year found him working with top shelf talents like Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, and Khalid. It predictably topped the charts in Canada, but surprised many by becoming his third number one album in America as well. That makes him the third youngest artist to hit number one with three albums, alongside far more famous acts like Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. As such, you’d best get your tickets ASAP for his July 8 date at the Sports Arena, I mean Valley View Casino Center. Wait, it’s Pechanga Arena now? Are you sure? Okay, that big round place on Sports Arena Boulevard. They haven’t changed the street name yet, have they?