BY JEFF LEVEN
Coming out of its winter hibernation, the music industry gears up for spring as labels issue a flood of new releases and summer tours play their first dates. It may not quite ever be spring in Boston, but on stages around the city you might not notice.
April 11: Giant Sand at the Middle East. If J Mascis had been more into twang and acoustic guitars, he may have sounded a bit like Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb. Straddling that line between indie rock and alternative country, Giant Sand brings its scorched-earth grit to the masses.
April 12: A tossup. If you missed them in the fall, scrounge a ticket and hustle over to see the Beta Band in all their loopy beauty at the Avalon. But if O Brother Where Art Thou? has left you hankering for some down-home flatpicking, try the Yonder Mountain String Band at the Paradise. If you want to see one of heavy metal’s most pulverizing girl groups bash you good for lookin’ at ’em funny, then try Kittie at the Karma Club.
April 13: Bob Mould at the Berklee Performance Center. Normally when a punk rock legend dons an acoustic guitar and “grows up” it’s something to cry about. But the solo career of ex-Husker Du frontman Bob Mould, replete with forays into electronica on his most recent album Modulate, repeatedly threatens to make “maturity” sound downright appealing. Those who aren’t quite willing to part with the crunch of angry punk should check out SoCal phenoms Face to Face at the Axis instead.
April 14: Pat Metheny at the Orpheum. Modern jazz guitarists, particularly of the fusion ilk, tend to play a bit plastic-y and the elevator synthesizers never seem that far away. And then there’s Pat Metheny. It’s one thing to be a ripping guitarist who consistently brings rock and jazz together in a fresh and innovative way. It’s another to be mentioned in the same breath as Charlie Christian, Wes Mont-gomery and Django Rein-hardt. Metheny is both, and a master of his art.
April 15: Pick your blonde! Jazz bombshell Diana Krall entrances the Wang Center while Queen Gwen herself fronts No Doubt at the Tsongas Arena.
April 17: John Mayall at House of Blues. What do Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood and Steve McVie (Fleetwood Mac), and Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones) all have in common? Namely that their careers were started by the same man, England’s blues interpreter par excellence, John Mayall. His Bluesbreakers were the training ground for classic rock as we know it, and although the heady days of the ’60s blues revival have passed, Mayall continues to keep the faith and plays his brand of blues with all the intensity and reverence that marked his earliest work.
April 19: Paul McCartney at the Fleet Center. What can I say? You didn’t have to like Wings (I actually did) or his solo career to accept the fact that the man is one of the songwriters that has shaped the world we live in and that, well, the mere chance to hear him play “Let It Be” or “Hey Jude” probably justifies sitting through whatever filler might be in between.
April 20: Nada Surf at the Middle East. Remember that song “Popular?” Yeah, the video with the football player and the cheerleader making out in the bleachers…. Well, anyway, Nada Surf never really stopped playing – even after MTV unceremoniously dumped them from the “buzz bin” – and it turns out that they write pretty good grunge-pop notwithstanding.
April 23: Spiritualized at Avalon. “Trippy, man!” “Like, spacey, dude!” “Whoa!” This is undoubtedly a good portion of what you’ll hear around you as these space-pop pioneers journey to the center of your mind. But if the company of a couple hundred drug-fuzzed Bostonians isn’t what you bargained for, just get over yourself, dress preppy and let Spiritualized take your ears on a dense, organic, and beautiful journey anyway.
April 24: Willard Grant Conspiracy at Lizard Lounge. Vewy, vewy twicky. Turns out that opening for Jed Parish is a band (of local origin) has been getting a ton of hip insider press from those critics supposedly in the know. So what do they do to them around here? They bury them as the openers at a club below the Common. Go figure. At any rate, Willard Grant Conspiracy is two desperately depressed guys who make desperately depressed grippingly moving vital music. Don’t make a first date out of it, but by all means go and share their pain.
April 26: The Church at the Paradise Rock Club. Ethereal Aussies who rode the new wave of the late ’80s into a modest hit with “Under the Milky Way Tonight” come stateside for another round of shimmery pop exploration.
April 28: Big Daddy Kane at the Middle East. One of hip hop’s earliest progenitors, Kane helped define the look and the sound of the rhymin’ underground but remained a controversial figure (he posed, for instance, in Madonna’s Sex book) throughout. Back on the road, his show is not only a stirring reminder of the roots of heavy rap, but a great party to boot.