It’s hard to pin Saul Williams down to a single descriptive phrase. You might say, in the simplest terms, he has a way with words. But that’s not entirely accurate. He destroys words. As the world’s most famous slam poet, he uses words as bullets, as Molotov cocktails and in the film Slam, in which he starred as a shield, to protect himself against the harshness of an unjust prison sentence. But in recent years, Williams has proven to be more than just an adept wordsmith. His albums are brash, kinetic explorations of genre, ferocious and fiery as they leap from hip-hop to rock to electronica. He dropped his latest, the Trent Reznor collaboration The Inevitable Rise & Liberation of NiggyTardust!, Radiohead style, releasing it on the Internet and allowing fans to pay whatever they felt to download it. Pundits have decried this new marketing strategy as revolutionary, but for Saul Williams, being revolutionary has been part of his program from day one. He performs at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara on March 22.
Velvet Jones, 423 State St., Santa Barbara, 965-8676
Mikal Blue Reared on the Beatles, singer-songwriter Mikal Blue spent his formative years on the treacherous Northeast England club circuit before heading west, ultimately founding his own studio in Southern California. Although Blue set his stakes in Orange County a decade ago, his contract with Emergent Records put mountains between him and the label’s CEO, sound engineers and producers. He relocated his studio to Westlake in 2002, and, he says, never looked back. Blue has found considerable commercial success: His single, Gold, has over a thousand hits on iTunes. But the focus on his own music proved a striking contrast from his more recent stint “behind the console,” producing groups like Augustana’s demo tracks (which led to their contract with Epic). MySpace starlet Colbie Callait saw her collaboration with Blue land her a contract with Universal. Now, however, it is Blue’s time to shine in the front of the boards. He performs at Zoey’s Café on March 21.