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And now for something not completely different! 

Toad the Wet Sprocket rises like a Phoenix

Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket, has had to have an elbow removed following their recent successful worldwide tour of Finland. Flamboyant ambidextrous Rex apparently fell off the back of a motorcycle,” says Monty Python member Eric Idle on the comedy troupe’s Contractual Obligation Album, and the next thing you know, four kids from Santa Barbara have figured out their band name.

click to enlarge THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN :  Nineties favs Toad the Wet Sprocket have reunited and play SLO Brew on Aug. 17. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TOAD THE WET SPROCKET
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF TOAD THE WET SPROCKET
  • THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN : Nineties favs Toad the Wet Sprocket have reunited and play SLO Brew on Aug. 17.

In the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, Toad the Wet Sprocket helped redefine alternative rock as they delivered folk-based but soaring melodies that became the darlings of college radio. Theirs was a real homegrown success story. After self-releasing Bread & Circus, they began recording their follow up, Pale, during which they were signed by Columbia Records, which offered to have them re-record Pale, but instead the band negotiated to have Columbia reissue Bread & Circus. Both albums were popular on college radio, but it wasn’t until their third record, Fear, that they found mainstream success with singles like “All I Want” and “Walk on the Ocean.”

I’ve always had a soft spot for Toad since I wrote my first cover story about the band about 20 years ago. Then New Times managing editor Todd Kleffman and I drove down to Santa Barbara and interviewed the band in bassist Dean Dinning’s parents’ basement. Seriously!

The group followed up Fear with Dulcinea, which spawned a couple more charting singles: “Fall Down” and “Something’s Always Wrong.” Then they put out a rarities collection called In Light Syrup that included the single “Good Intentions,” before offering a proper follow-up to Dulcinea in Coil, which featured the singles “Come Down” and “Crazy Life,” which had previously appeared on the soundtrack to the film Empire Records.

By now it was 1997, and the wear and tear of touring had finally taken its toll. The band broke up, citing creative differences, in 1998. They’ve worked together off and on since then, doing a national tour in 2006, and in 2009 they sort of decided they’re not broken up anymore, and last I heard, they’re writing songs for their first new studio album since 1997’s Coil.

That means when Toad the Wet Sprocket plays SLO Brew on Wednesday, August 17 (7:30 p.m.; 21-and-older; $28 presale or $30 at the door), you’ll no doubt be hearing some brand spanking new material along with their deep catalog of hits.

Garrison Star will open the show. Here’s what her bio says: “I started out in this business when I was about 15 in Hernando, MS. I played clubs in Memphis in high school, started touring in college, and got signed to Geffen records in 1996 at 21. Since that time, I’ve been signed to two other record labels and have been touring consistently in all kinds of capacities, sometimes thriving, sometimes failing miserably and wanting to quit this business and crawl in a hole. I’ve been disillusioned, bitter, beat up, and to hell and back in my career, but I’ve never lost faith in music. How it heals me all the time. And what it means to all sorts of people.”

The rest of SLO Brew’s line-up this week offers a rich variety from which to choose, starting with The Cab on Thursday, Aug. 11 (7 p.m.; all ages; $10). If you like Fall Out Boy or Panic at the Disco, you’ll dig this polished, earnest boy band. They’ve recently released a new album, Symphony Soldier, and their single “Bad” is heating up commercial radio stations and is in heavy rotation on Sirius Hits.

click to enlarge COUNTRY BOY :  Nick 13 of psychobilly act Tiger Army turns his crooner voice toward vintage hillbilly, honky-tonk, and California country sounds, Aug. 12 at SLO Brew. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NICK 13
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF NICK 13
  • COUNTRY BOY : Nick 13 of psychobilly act Tiger Army turns his crooner voice toward vintage hillbilly, honky-tonk, and California country sounds, Aug. 12 at SLO Brew.

On Friday, Aug. 12, check out Nick 13 of psychobilly act Tiger Army (8 p.m.; all ages; $13 presale or $15 at the door). Here in his solo incarnation, he turns his crooner voice toward vintage hillbilly, honky-tonk, and California country sounds.

“When I wrote [the pedal steel-driven Western anthem] ‘Outlaw Heart’ for the first Tiger Army album, I figured people would hate it as a lot of our audience at the time came from the world of punk rock,” said Nick in press materials. “I released it anyway because it was a song I loved and it meant a lot to me. People were more open-minded than I thought, and it became not only one of my favorites, but one of the favorites of our fans. It was conceived as one song, but it was just the beginning.”

On Saturday, Aug. 13, check out Eyes Like Satellites (7:30 p.m.; all ages; $6 presale or $7 at the door). The local band describes their sound as “original yet nostalgic … that takes you right back to the excitement of your first high-school kiss.”

Finally, on Sunday, Aug. 14, Pelican will hit SLO Brew (7:30 p.m.; all ages; $12 presale or $14 at the door), with their “glacier-thick walls of guitars.” According to press materials, “The instrumental quartet from Chicago is not only a group of talented musicians with past features in New York Times and more, but their seemingly operatic compositions take a life of their own, drawing from varied traditions ranging from post-rock to stoner metal.”

Still playing

Steve Key’s Songwriters At Play showcases has a pretty sweet line-up again this week, starting with Philip Gibbs, who’s currently touring in support of his fourth studio release, The Petroleum Age, bringing his rambling western show to The Porch on Thursday, Aug. 11 (6:30 p.m.; all ages; pass-the-hat).

click to enlarge SONGWRITER’S SONGWRITER :  Shawn Colvin collaborator Jim Bruno plays Aug. 14 at Sculpterra. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM BRUNO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM BRUNO
  • SONGWRITER’S SONGWRITER : Shawn Colvin collaborator Jim Bruno plays Aug. 14 at Sculpterra.

Then on Sunday, Aug. 14, you can check out Jim Bruno, who’s been called a songwriter’s songwriter, maybe because his songs have been performed by some great songwriters such as Shawn Colvin, Mary Lou Lord, Chuck Prophet, and Thad Cockrell. The Bay Area resident has also played bass, guitar, and sung in the Shawn Colvin Band for a number of years and often performed with Shawn as a duet (1 p.m.; all ages; pass-the-hat).

The Kreuzberg showcase on Tuesday, Aug. 16 features Susan Marie Reeves, a Santa Barbara performer who calls her original music “Gypsy Newgrass”—a combination of bluegrass, folk, Irish, and alternative pop-rock (6:30 p.m.; all ages; pass-the-hat). She celebrated the release of her second solo CD, Young Heart, produced by the late, legendary multi-instrumentalist, Kenny Edwards.

click to enlarge GYPSY NEWGRASS :  Santa Barbara resident Susan Marie Reeves brings her original sound to Kreuzberg showcase on Aug. 16. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSAN MARIE REEVES
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSAN MARIE REEVES
  • GYPSY NEWGRASS : Santa Barbara resident Susan Marie Reeves brings her original sound to Kreuzberg showcase on Aug. 16.

As always, each showcase features five or six other performers playing four-song sets.

End of one era, start of another

Molly’s Revenge is a true force to be reckoned with, a Celtic juggernaut that transports listeners to the verdant green hills of Ireland, where gingers with pipes are kings!

I caught their act at Live Oak this year, and they were simply amazing—warm, engaging, virtuosic. For $10 this Saturday, Aug. 13 at the Red Barn at South Bay Community Park in Los Osos, you can see this terrific group of performers in an intimate setting beginning at 6 p.m., but if you come early at 5 p.m. with a dish to share, you can enjoy an impromptu jam during the potluck.

click to enlarge FLOG THIS! :  Celtic powerhouse Molly’s Revenge plays the Red Barn on Aug. 13. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MOLLY’S REVENGE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MOLLY’S REVENGE
  • FLOG THIS! : Celtic powerhouse Molly’s Revenge plays the Red Barn on Aug. 13.

“The band has big news for local fans of the popular fiddle-and-bagpipe group,” said multi-instrumentalist Stuart Mason. “With a heavy heart and many fond memories, Pete Haworth (aka—“The Admiral”) has decided to step down as singer and spokesman for Molly’s Revenge as of Dec. 31. After 10 years of joyous music making, ten CDs, hundreds of performances, thousands of travel miles, and tens of thousands of hours looking for gigs, Pete Haworth has finally decided it’s time to hang up his bouzouki.

“Haworth is looking forward to his second retirement and finally getting to work on projects that have been on hold for the last 10 years,” added Mason. “Of his time with the band, he says, ‘I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time with Molly’s Revenge and feel hugely fortunate that I was able to be a part of such a great band. I’ll never forget the musical experiences, the amazing musicians I’ve met along the way, and the wonderful fans that have made the last ten years, the experience of a lifetime. I wish the rest of the band the best of luck as they go forward, continuing the legacy of Molly’s Revenge.’ The remaining members will continue to honor Pete’s vision for the band as they continue into 2012 and beyond.”

This is a BYOB concert. Come celebrate one of The Admiral’s final performances.

More music…

The Cache Valley Drifters delivered an awesome set of contemporary bluegrass at this year’s Live Oak Music Festival, so I know they’ll be in good form when they play Thursday, Aug. 11 at Painted Sky Studios (8 p.m.; $20 tickets are Boo Boo’s, the Cambria Business Center, or by calling 927-8330) and Friday, Aug. 12 at Windsong House Concerts in Paso Robles (visit reverbnation.com/show/3727349). These guys are masters at interpreting non-bluegrass tunes in a bluegrass style, so you may here songs by Paul Simon, Etta James, Cream, and more.

Portland-based act Rare Monk is touring through town with a stop at Frog and Peach this Thursday Aug. 11 to support their newest release, Astral Travel Battles. The Paul Chesne Band will open the show right after Farmers Market, followed by Rare Monk. Get your pop, rock, psych, jazz, and funk on with a band that took first place in Ethos Magazine’s “Bandest of the Bands” competition in Eugene.

Unfinished Business plays the next Paso Robles Concerts in the Park show this Friday, Aug.12, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the City Park. “The ‘60s may be over, but the members of Unfinished Business still have a passion for the rock’n’roll of that era—arguably the best music of all time,” said organizers in press materials. “Come and enjoy the great artists of the ‘60s, ranging from the Animals to the Zombies and including the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, and various Motown artists.” The concert is free!

click to enlarge JAZZ HEROES :  Trumpeter Dominick Farinacii (pictured) will join vocalist Inga Swearingen and vibraphonist Christian Tamburr at Cuesta College for an Aug. 12 concert. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DOMINICK FARINACII
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF DOMINICK FARINACII
  • JAZZ HEROES : Trumpeter Dominick Farinacii (pictured) will join vocalist Inga Swearingen and vibraphonist Christian Tamburr at Cuesta College for an Aug. 12 concert.

I can never get enough of Inga Swearingen, whose gorgeous voice and kind spirit shine through whether she’s performing one of her own songs or interpreting someone else’s. At 8 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 12, the jazz vocalist will be joined by a couple jazz heavyweights—vibraphonist Christian Tamburr and trumpeter Dominick Farinacii—in the Recording Arts Room (7160) of Cuesta College. Quincy Jones said of Farinacii’s playing, “This kid is 360 degrees,” and Tamburr’s playing has been compared to Stefon Harris by helping “to inject young blood into the art of vibes and marimba performance.” Tickets are $15.

Award winning jazz vocalist Giacomo Gates performs at D’Anbino Winery this Friday, Aug. 12, at 8 p.m. Heavily steeped in the traditions of the vocal improvisers from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald to Betty Carter and Leon Thomas, Gates is “known for his interaction with the audience through witty comments and informative introductions, [and] every performance becomes a lesson in jazz history. Giacomo’s sheer joy, talent, exuberance, wit, and creativity make him one of jazz’ most compelling artists.” He’s touring in support of his most recent recording, Giacomo Gates Sings The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution Will Be Jazz, which was released last month. Tickets are $15 at the door. Call 773-4131 for more info.

Court Street and The SLO Jazz Festival Present a free outdoor concert with the incomparable Tipsy Gypsies this Saturday, Aug. 13 from noon to 3 p.m. If you like your jazz hot, dirty, and sexy, you’ll love this blistering Gypsy jazz combo.

Maheyla and The Ritual brings their blues, alt-rock, worldbeat, and reggae sounds to Day with Creative Women at the Mission Plaza at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13. The daylong event will feature a number of excellent performers, so stick around all day!

Way back about a million years ago when I was a bellman at the Inn at Morro Bay, I used to dig the cool jazz sounds of piano man Brett Mitchell, who played regularly in the lounge. That’s why I know there’s going to be a cool show this Saturday, Aug. 13 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. when Brett and his wife Julia Mitchell present an evening of standards and torch songs made famous by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Diana Krall, and others. The cover’s just $5 (free for Record Club members).

This Saturday, Aug. 13, check out jazz saxophonist David Baron Stevens at Linnaea’s Café at 8 p.m. “I’m new to the area and have had my most recent major performance at the Bakersfield Jazz Festival 2010 where I opened for Dave Douglas, Charlie Hunter, Christian Scott, and Hiroshima. I’ll be working with local musicians, so it should be a very fun night. We’ll also be recording live that night, which will go directly to iTunes and Amazon for purchase. I could sure use some energy from the locals to make that night special.” Check out this world jazz performer, the newest addition to our community of local performers.

click to enlarge FREE ANIMALS! :  Animal Liberation Orchestra plays a free show at Avila Beach Golf Resort on Aug. 14. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ALO
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ALO
  • FREE ANIMALS! : Animal Liberation Orchestra plays a free show at Avila Beach Golf Resort on Aug. 14.

This Sunday, Aug. 14, the Avila Beach Golf Resort continues its “Sundays on the Sand” concert season with a real humdinger: Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO), with opening sets by Dan Curcio of Still Time (acoustic) and The JD Project. This is an all-ages, family -friendly environment where they’ll have lawn games, barbecue, and a full bar for those 21-and-older. Best of all, the 1 p.m. concert is free, and AOL is an awesome live band! Don’t miss it!

Soul Stew will provide the sounds at this week’s Sizzlin’ Summer Concert Series show at Ramona Garden Park in Grover Beach on Sunday, Aug. 14 from 3 to 6 p.m. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to kick back on the grass, enjoy a glass of wine or beer, and dance or just listen to the great music. Shop for freshly grown fruits and vegetables, freshly canned jams, jellies and salsas, fresh flowers and plants, and much, much more at the adjoining farmers market.

On Sunday, Aug. 14, bassist Luther Hughes and his Cannonball/Coltrane Project is the next attraction at the Famous Jazz Artist Series at the Hamlet. The band has been praised as one of America’s most exciting new projects, with its most recent recordings atop the national jazz charts for many months. Besides the leader Hughes on bass, the band includes Glen Cashman (tenor sax), Bruce Babad (alto sax), Ed Czach (piano), and Paul Kreibich (drums). Series co-producers Charlie and Sandi Shoemake (vibraphone and vocals) will also be on hand. There’s a 4 p.m. show for $15, a 7:15 p.m. show for $12, or see both shows for $20. Call 927-0567 for reservations.

Jack Grisham of punk act TSOL will be at Boo Boo Records this Sunday, Aug. 14 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. as part of his “The Jim Jones of West Coast Punk” Tall Tales and Q & A event (The cover’s $5; free Kool Aid with your admission!). You can get up close and personal with this legendary punk icon, who’ll be reading excerpts from his new book An American Demon as well as telling tales from his storied past.

click to enlarge SONGBIRD :  Amy Cunningham will play Linnaea’s Café on Aug. 16. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY CUNNINGHAM
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY CUNNINGHAM
  • SONGBIRD : Amy Cunningham will play Linnaea’s Café on Aug. 16.

Amy Cunningham will play Linnaea’s Café this Tuesday Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. According to her press materials, she’s “been writing and performing for as long as she can remember, and the love she has for what she does is evident in every performance. Opening for acts like Jeremy Fisher, Wil and Craig Cardiff, she continues to hone her craft and write songs about life and change. ‘There’s a hold that her voice has on people,’ says former band-mate Rachel McBride. ‘There’s something about its purity and soul that makes you want to listen and connect with her.’”

Seattle-based act Aldea, featuring Alex Aldea, has embarked on a West Coast tour that will take them to Last Stage West this Wednesday, Aug. 17. Call 461-1393 for details. 

Keep up with Glen Starkey via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at Myspace.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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