Sweet Honey In the Rock
Muriel Kauffman Theatre
Formed 40 years ago in Washington D.C., the revered a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey In the Rock remains a vital force in the preservation of the African-American vocal tradition. The ensemble is closely associated with material related to its interest in social justice and traditional civil rights causes. The venerable act's repertoire includes gospel favorites such as "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," the African-derived folk of "Cum Bah Ya," children's ditties like "Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me" and odes to the struggle for equality including "Ella's Song." While its membership has evolved, Sweet Honey In the Rock's commitment to soaring harmonies remains constant. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show range from $35 to $61.
With its unforgettable 2003 hit "I Believe In a Thing Called Love", the Darkness merged the pop smarts of Boston, the cheeky excesses of Queen and the power of AC/DC. Just because it may never surpass that impeccably absurd combination of styles again doesn't mean that the British band isn't still good for a hearty laugh. The Darkness may resemble a real-life version of Spinal Tap, but its members are in on the joke. The band continues to embrace bombast on hilarious new material like "Every Inch of You." Opening act Hell or Highwater, a California-based band in the tradition of Mötley Crüe and Van Halen, will get the party started. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $24 in advance.
Independence Events Center
Brantley Gilbert's "Kick It In the Sticks" may be the definitive contemporary country song. The rowdy celebration of "frog giggin', cow tippin', skinny dippin', and bass fishin'" also references AC/DC, George Strait, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams, Jr. The hit isn't Gilbert's only tribute to rural America. The narrator of the chart-topping "Country Must Be Country Wide," Gilbert's signature song, boasts that he's "stone cold country by the grace of God." Gilbert's rustic sensibility clearly resonates with listeners. Only two albums into his burgeoning career, the Georgia-born Gilbert is headlining hockey arenas. Opening act Kip Moore is best known for his 2011 hit "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck." Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert are $24.75 and $37.
The Latenight Callers with Tiny Horse, Jorge Arana Trio and Eyelit
Friday's eclectic bill at the Czar Bar successfully conveys the wildly diverse experience on tap at the annual SXSW music conference. The event is the second in a series of fundraisers designed to raise money for the Midcoast Takeover's Kansas City-themed showcase in Austin during SXSW. Each of the four acts is capable of filling area music fans with pride. The Latenight Callers is a noir-tinged rock band that performs in the spirit of Kansas City's glorious jazz past. Tiny Horse is noble little roots-rock act. The Jorge Arana Trio blends jazz fusion with blistering noise rock. Eyelit is a promising folk-based ensemble from St. Joseph. A third benefit concert takes place Saturday at the Riot Room. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $10 in advance.
Kid Rock's career-altering 2008 hit "All Summer Long" allowed him to make an unlikely transition from disreputable ruffian to distinguished music industry veteran. The proud Michigan native's new semi-respectable image doesn't mean that his proven hybrid of raw blues, ribald hip-hop, sordid country and mangy classic rock is any less entertaining. The composition of the audience might be slightly more upscale, but longtime fans can expect the self-proclaimed Rock n Roll Jesus' current "Rebel Soul" tour to be almost as rowdy as ever. Hyperactive rockers Buckcherry and Hellbound Glory, a loud honkytonk band from Nevada, open the show. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show range from $35.50 to $83.50.
The spacious Americana of Tuscon's Calexico evokes the harsh beauty of the Arizona landscape. Savvy filmmakers have taken notice. Calexico's dusty music has filled the role once held by Ennio Morricone's scores for classic spaghetti westerns in several movies. Calexico has also built an impressive discography of customary albums during the last fifteen years. Even without the benefit of a significant hit, Calexico's reputation as a quiet but consequential band continues to grow. Bahamas, the beguiling project of Canadian guitarist and singer-songwriter Alfie Jurvanen, opens the show. Tickets to the 9 p.m. show are $18 in advance and $20 on the day of the show.
At 21, Ed Sheeran is slightly older than each of the four members of the massively successful pop act New Direction. Like the teen idols, Ed Sheeran is based in London and sports a distinctive mop of hair. The similarities end there. While One Direction is a carefully-constructed boy band, Sheeran is a sensitive troubadour who creates resonant soft rock in the vein of OneRepublic and Coldplay. His original material like "The A Team," a thoughtful examination of drug abuse, indicates that Sheeran's talent will allow him to outlast his contemporaries in One Direction. Rizzle Kicks, an intriguing hip hop duo from Brighton, and Foy Vance, a Bon Iver-esque artist from Northern Ireland, open the show. Tickets to the sold-out 8 p.m. concert were $25.
The bond Lady Gaga has with her most devoted fans- she refers to them as Little Monsters- is so strong that outsiders may get the sense that the pop star's music is often a secondary consideration. Lady Gaga's fashion cues and political advisements shouldn't be allowed to obscure her exemplary music. Although she's often characterized as the Madonna of her generation, Lady Gaga's output also compares favorably to the music of Elton John. Teenage French electronica artist Madeon and Lady Starlight, a New York-based DJ who specializes in spinning heavy metal, serve as the evening's opening acts. Little Monsters enamored of Lady Starlight can catch the DJ spinning at the Czar Bar after the show. Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert range from $49.50 to $175.00.
Semaphoro and Gallo
Kansas City's Making Movies may be the toast of the town, but the band's acclaimed bilingual sound is merely a compelling variation on a long and proud tradition of rock en español. Semaphoro, a scruffy Kansas City-based outfit, formed in 2007 to pay tribute to Panda and other Mexican punk bands. Semaphoro has since added original material to its aggressive rough-and-tumble attack. Opening act Gallo approaches rock en español from a less abrasive perspective. The Los Angeles duo's anxious electronica-infused rock is aimed at the dance floor. Tickets to the 10 p.m. show are $10 in advance.
| Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star