Doin’ it live

By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  October 27, 2008

Back in Somerville’s Davis Square, Johnny D’s Uptown Lounge (17 Holland St; 617.776.2004) gets down and dirty in late February, with Clifton Chenier on the 23rd and the Holmes Brothers the following night. Louisiana’s Chenier is the son of the late inventor of zydeco, Clifton Chenier, and he does his daddy proud, generating plenty of heavily swinging dance-floor stomp. The Holmes Brothers are Harlem’s reigning blues ambassadors, and though they may be playing the Devil’s music, they sing in angelic harmonies and throw the occasional gospel song into the mix just to keep Satan’s minions at bay. But you don’t have to wait that long for a good dose of blues. Locals Bill McQuaid, Lloyd Thayer, and Mark Tolstrup play the room on January 10. Farther afield, New Orleans–bred songwriter Chris Smither is there on March 7, in a rare local club date, and fellow Louisiannes Beausoleil deliver their Cajun artistry on March 25. Afropop fans can also catch Sankai Sound 7 on January 20.

Like a little poetry with freewheeling music? Then Sunday is your night at Cambridge’s Lizard Lounge (1667 Mass Ave; 617.547.0759), where spoken-word master Jeff Robinson and his trio hold court. The music ranges from jazz to blues to country to rock to groove, sometimes all in the same piece as Robinson and guests keep the words and the ideas flowing. On January 20 at the Lizard, local rocker Chris Mascara and his band Mascara celebrate the release of their new Spell (Mr. Fibul’s) along with co-billers Binary System (featuring Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller and Bad Saints’ Larry Dersch), Ramona Silver, and RevEREND Glasseye.

P.A.’s Lounge (345 Somerville Ave; 617.776.1557) has emerged as a well-needed refuge for avant-garde rock as it’s hosted recent shows by Eugene Chadbourne and Bright. On January 12 the unpredictable Sunburned Hand of the Man collective arrive at the club’s intimate stage; guitar wrangler Chris Brokaw (of Codeine, Come, Consonant, and a slew of bands whose names begin with other letters) brings his own group in February 4.

They don’t call Allston “Rock City” for nuthin’. Proof: Paranoid Social Club cart their psychedelic-garage-plus-funk-soul-ska sound to Harpers Ferry (156 Brighton Ave; 617.254.7380) on January 20 with openers Headcold, a tribute to Radiohead and Coldplay. (I’m betting they won’t play much from Amnesiac.) But the club’s much more than a home for three-chord fusion and Thom Yorke clones. On January 27, bluegrass youngbloods Steep Canyon Rangers and Hot Day at the Zoo step in; they respect the music’s tradition but tug the genre in ways Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs never expected. Also worth noting are the regular Tuesday-night bluegrass jams at the Cantab Lounge (738 Mass Ave, Cambridge; 617.354.2685), where players at all levels get an opportunity to dive in and host Geoff Bartley features headliners that are often among the best up-and-comers on the national touring circuit.

Given Boston’s eclectic tastes and demographics, it’s no surprise this is one of the country’s top markets for world music. Or that one of the nation’s chief world-music promoters, the aptly named World Music, is based in Cambridge. World Music and its more experimental arm, CRASHarts, have a very active line-up of concerts this winter; visit or call 617.876.4275. Among the highlights is their annual “Flamenco Festival,” which runs January 26-29 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre (219 Tremont St, Boston). The first two nights feature the traditional dancing of Noche Flamenca, the next two an appearance by the innovative Nuevo Ballet Español.

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