Green Divas, As Heard On TV
The well-intentioned plans of eco-friendly musician club tours — complete with biodiesel tour vans and service projects at every stop along the way — oft go astray and give rise to compromises. Instead of a variety of service projects, Vienna Teng and her co-bill Jenny Owen Youngs will primarily volunteer with Habitat for Humanity (because the nonprofit works weekdays) and offset their petroleum usage (biodiesel tour vans were all rented for the spring season) with donations to Native Energy, an alternative energy company. In addition, fans who volunteer with Habitat for Humanity are eligible to get free tickets to the show, backstage passes, personalized song requests and a $10 discount off merch products (go to viennateng.com/greencaravan for info).
In case you are like “Vienna-who?” or “Jenny Owen-what now?” maybe you haven’t been watching quality television lately. Teng has had her songs featured on the smart-but-unfortunately-canceled NBC comedy Ed while Youngs had her cute, incredibly catchy song “Fuck Was I” featured on Showtime’s hit series Weeds. Yes, you say, so they are TV sell-outs, but what do they sound like?
File Bay Area-native Vienna Teng and her four-piece band just behind Tori Amos and maybe to the side of Beth Gibbons (of Portishead). She’s a pianist-vocalist with the breathy, downtempo jazz delivery of a contemporary Billie Holliday. Witness the way she navigates from the bass-laden lounge-jazz of “Transcontinental, 1:30 AM” to the newgrass string section of “1 Br / 1 Ba,” both off her 2006 album, Dreaming Through the Noise.
New Jersey-based Jenny Owen Youngs brings a more quirky songwriting style to the bill, more centered on urban-folk instruments (banjo!) and lyrics that make Cat Power seem fey by comparison. Youngs’ recently re-released Batten the Hatches comes packed full of meaty folk-pop ditties, including the beautiful “Voice on Tape,” which samples Regina Spektor in a moving tribute to postmodern breakup blues. Vienna Teng and Jenny Owen Youngs play at 8:30 pm Monday, May 14 at John Henry’s. 21+ show. $10 adv., $13 door. — Chuck Adams
At first glance, Mike Silverman, aka That 1 Guy, appears to be some sort of Amish cowboy inviting you on a trip to the moon. You might not end up at the moon, but Silverman’s new album The Moon is Disgusting will send your thoughts spiraling to a strange world where everything is animated.
Without even listening to the lyrics, a story unfolds in your mind. “Dig” inspires images of cartoon moles, clad in miner hats, digging their way through underground tunnels. When you listen to “Jigsaw,” gorillas running through the jungle pop into your head. It could be the simplicity of the lyrics or the playful way Silverman mixes electronica with tribal rhythms, but one can’t deny the animal magnetism and childlike joy encompassing his songs.
“The album was originally conceived as the soundtrack to an animated film I wanted to make,” Silverman says in press materials for the new album. “I love music that takes you on a trip, a journey.”
Like his songs, Silverman’s journey has been long but well worth the wait. He started as an upright bassist with a jazz background, but he became best known for playing his own invention, The Magic Pipe. This strange concotion has been described as a system of electronically wired steel plumbing, shaped somewhat like a harp, with a thick bass string running from top to bottom and a hole that billows smoke. He later added an electric cowboy boot that he plays like an African talking drum and an electrified musical handsaw.
In response to his live show, Silverman has said, “These last few tours, I’ve really noticed it taking off. People are starting to grab onto it and come back, bringing five or 10 others with them. It’s just growing exponentially.”
That 1 Guy and His Magic Pipe performs with Wolff (of Drums and Tuba) at 9 pm Saturday, May 12 at John Henrys. 21+ show. $10 adv., $12 door. — Deanna Uutela
Earth to Cozmic
A trio of talented singer-songwriters touches down at Cozmic Pizza this week as part of a tour presented by Utah-based Earthvillage. Eric Ethan and Erinn Williams hail from the City of Angels; their tourmate James Orr arrives via Idaho.
Ethan, the most earnest of the bunch, has a plaintive and vaguely familiar voice, boyish and thin. “Dedicated,” a summery, shimmery track, seems to cross decades, picking from Britpop, ’60s rock and more with slight chords and jovial percussion. “Good Morning Girl” is almost too sweet; those with even a slight cynical streak may want Ethan to tuck his heart just a little closer to his chest.
James Orr’s MySpace page immediately offers up a lovely song, the wispy “Listen,” synth-soaked and traced with a breathy female voice that matches Orr’s tired murmur. “In Conclusion,” poppy and swirling with guitars, shows that Orr isn’t just a balladeer while “City of Sin” calls to mind the better, quieter Dashboard Confessional songs. Orr’s songs are graceful, his unaffected voice appealing, but he seems to stop just short of the hook that would stick the song into the listener’s head for hours or days to come.
Williams is a redheaded siren — and if that makes you think of Tori Amos, at times (like in “Damsel With a 6 Gun”) you wouldn’t be wrong. Adventurous and in complete control of her versatile voice, Williams veers from spare, anxious tracks to songs like the rich and unforgettable “Dirty,” criss-crossing the territory of a dozen other singer-songwriters to ultimately land in a space all her own.
Erinn Williams, Eric Ethan and James Orr play at 7 pm Wednesday, May 16 at Cozmic Pizza. $4. — Molly Templeton
Ramble John Krohn — ouch! I bet that got shortened at an early age. These days, to the underground rap world he’s better known as RJD2 — the forward thinking beat maker who ushered instrumental hip hop from the DJ Shadow era into the RJD2 era. With his 2003 debut Deadringer, RJD2 turned a whole new generation of young’uns on to the stand-alone hip hop beat, yet again reinforcing the fact that a producer can have just as much of an impact on hip hop music as any MC.
Deadringer, which spawned the anthemic “The Horror,” rocketed RJD2 right up there with producer peers like glitch hop progenitor Prefuse 73 but also found him forging his own territory with soulful numbers like “Smoke and Mirrors.” Where tracks like “The Horror” proved that RJD2 could glitch out with the best of ’em, “Smoke and Mirrors” proved that his record crates were deep and his sampling skills were up there with the greats.
That soulful side of Deadringer kind of foreshadowed the mellowed grooves behind his second album, Since We Last Spoke, and the very non-hip hop soul ballads of his latest, The Third Hand.
There were always elements of rock music intrinsically tied to hip hop, and even DJ Shadow utilized rock samples and forms to craft hybridized hip hop instrumentals. But with RJD2’s latest endeavor, hip hop has taken a back seat to his interests in rock music and rock songwriting. Tracks like “You Never Had It So Good” find RJD2 playing a slew of instruments and crooning like a jaded Jamie Lidell. RJD2’s new direction undoubtedly testifies to his fine abilities as a musician and as a songwriter. This should be an interesting moment to see him live, especially if you’ve already witnessed the “hip hop” RJ. RJD2, Pigeon John and Happy Chichester play at 8 pm Wednesday, May 16 at the WOW Hall. $15 adv., $18 door. — Steven Sawada