Picks of the week

Robert Cray

A lot of musicians talk about performing live as their true love, but for Robert Cray, that cliché has an entirely different meaning. Last year, Cray and his skilled blues band performed their 1,000th concert, an incredible milestone for any group. But the 51-year-old singer has no intentions of slowing down. In 2005, he recorded another watershed moment, releasing his 14th album, Twenty. Engineered by legendary studio whiz Don Smith — known for his work with the Rolling Stones and Miles Davis, among other luminaries — the record ably melds elements of jazz, soul, reggae and, of course, the blues. The album captures the fiery sound the band achieves in a live setting. Catch the fire yourself when Cray and company perform at the Ventura Theatre on Feb. 25.

The Romantics

Heir apparent to the guilt-free pop throne of the Kinks and Big Star, the Romantics ruled the airways for a brief period of time in the 1980s with the still-inescapable hit “That’s What I Like About You.” Better known to children of the ’90s as the hummable soundtrack to roughly eight zillion commercials, the song has proven to be bigger than the band itself, but that hasn’t stopped the group from dropping catchy melodies well into the new millennium, despite not having recorded an album in decades. But with tunes this classic, who needs new material? The band plays the Canyon on Feb. 24. Honestly, do you know a better way to spend Flag Day?

Gregory Isaacs

Loverman, Rastaman, roots radic, ex-con — Gregory Isaacs has been them all in his storied 30-year career. The velvet-voiced Jamaican singer practically invented lovers rock — a brand of reggae focused on the bedroom lyricism of American R&B — but he was equally adept at vocalizing the suffering of the island’s underclass. Released from prison in 1982 after serving time for a drug offense, Isaacs’ productivity increased dramatically; he’s released so many albums since, the exact amount is a point of debate. Fresh from a co-headlining slot at the Ragamuffin Festival in Long Beach, Isaacs performs at SoHo in Santa Barbara on Feb. 26.


One World Drummers From Ventura County to the world — that’s the trip drumming instructor Jennifer Merlich has taken her students on over the last few years. A devoted disciple of rhythm, Merlich has assembled a group of some of her finest pupils to form One World Drummers, a group that’ll celebrate the release of their first CD, United In Rhythm, at the Selah Café on Feb. 18. The collective almost looks like a realigned version of the Village People: there’s a doctor, a police officer, a ski instructor, even a 10-year-old, all of whom have dedicated themselves to the art of drum. Live, and on the CD, Merlich focuses on the traditional songs of Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Completing this trans-global convergence at Selah are the Troupe Se Rang Belly Dancers. There will also be an open drum circle from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Come out and prepare to receive a serious drumming experience.

H.R. Dreads flailing, screaming praise to Jah in his singular elastic voice, H.R. introduced a healthy dose of Rastafarian spirituality to the otherwise atheist hardcore punk scene of the 1980s as frontman for the legendary Bad Brains. Melding breezy reggae rhythms with blitzkrieg punk anthems, the band wrote a new sonic and ideological vocabulary for a movement that was quickly stagnating. As the group dissolved, however, the unpredictable H.R. went off in his own direction, focusing more squarely on the reggae end of his musical adventures but still never sounding quite like anybody else. The last few years for the journeyman singer have been especially puzzling, as he’s jumped from backing band to backing band, not releasing an album since 2000 and generally never settling down. But, then again, settling was never part of the Bad Brains MO, and it certainly was never part of H.R.’s DNA. Still an icon despite his erratic behavior, the golden-throated vocalist makes what’s sure to be an intense appearance at the Drink on Feb. 16, along with the Dubb Agents.


Dwight YoakamIt ain’t easy being an outlaw. Reviving the traditions of old-school country greats, Dwight Yoakam earned himself wide critical praise in the late 1980s, but in doing so ensured that he’d never rise above cult status, at least not in the era of massive Garth Brooks-style concert spectacles and the dominance of Wal-Mart twang-pop. Well, the mainstream’s loss is the underground’s gain. For over a decade now, Yoakam has released a slew of magnificent records steeped in the history of Bakersfield country and classic honky-tonk — yet unafraid to dabble in rock and other forms — that haven’t barnstormed the charts but ensured him a solidly loyal fanbase. He’s also proven to be a respectable actor, appearing in memorable roles in Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade and Panic Room. Maybe it’s not so bad being an outlaw after all. Yoakam performs at the Ventura Theatre on Feb. 10, with opener Gis Johhannson.

Rock’n’Bowl It may sound like the name of one of those celebrity sports specials MTV used to host every year (in fact, I’m pretty sure it was), but in this case, Rock’n’Bowl is meant to be taken literally. Beginning Feb. 9, the people responsible for creating the popular Wednesday night hipster dance fest Sound & Vision at Billy O’s are going to bring an entirely different concept to the Ventura Bowling Center. You guessed it: It’s rock’n’roll plus bowling. While DJs spin rock, metal, punk and garage in the bar area, people of all ages can hit the lanes for just $1.50. No word on whether Dan Cortez is going to make an appearance, although at this point he’s probably working behind the cash register.

The Kacey Cubero Band Even by reading their name, you never know what you’re going to get from an artist appearing at Zoey’s. Take Kacey Cubero, for instance. Not exactly a household name, but the Washington, D.C.-born singer-songwriter has quite an impressive resume behind her: She’s collaborated with the likes of Jackson Browne, Louis Johnson and Gary Scruggs and performed with BB King, Lucinda Williams and Kim Wilson. She was chosen by Singer Magazine as one of their top Indie Artists of 2002, and has just returned from Memphis, where she and her band performed two nights at the International Blues Challenge. Seems like somebody who should be playing a place bigger than Zoey’s, right? Well, lucky you, you get to see this star-in-the-making at a pretty intimate venue on Feb. 11.


Katsumoto They’ve barely been together for a year, but Los Angeles-based foursome Katsumoto — whose members hail from all across Southern California, from Tustin to Torrance to Lakewood to Long Beach — are already carving out a niche for themselves in the adolescent metal underground. And what better way to cut deeper into that scene than a show at the county’s newest haven of all things heavy and hardcore, Alpine? The band performs along with Waking the Destroyer, Denounce His Name, As Blood Runs Black and A Dying Dream on Feb. 4. Also coming to Alpine this week: Full Service, This Flood Covers the World, Scars of Tomorrow and No Patience on Feb. 2 and the Last Priority and California Redemption on Feb. 3.

Hip Hop Workshop Oxnard’s underground hip-hop scene is one of the county’s best kept secrets. Out of the city’s mix of concrete and agricultural fields came prodigiously skilled rapper and beatsmith Madlib, who has gone on to earn national notoriety and collaborate with other outsider geniuses like MF Doom and producer Jay Dee. A successor to his crown as the Big Strawberry’s favorite son has been slow in coming, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of candidates. All they may need to catapult to that next level is a place to call home, an epicenter at which to congregate and hone their abilities. Kingsley Mannasa, a longtime member of the local hip-hop community, is giving them that venue. A bit surprisingly, it’s the Police Activities League. Long a supporter of youth expressing themselves through art, the PAL has opened its doors to an as-yet-unnamed weekly workshop for aspiring emcees, DJs, graffiti artists and breakdancers. There are very few rules as to how the event is organized: basically, anybody who feels they can contribute is welcome to do so. In essence, it’s an open mic minus the acoustic guitars and plus a whole lot more. Who knows — the next Madlib could be rocking the stage (or the turntables, or the wall, or the linoleum floor) this Friday.

Police Activities League, 350 S. K St., Oxnard, 385-8230








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