Now Hear This

Dark Star Orchestra
Thursday, April 22, Boulder Theater, 303-786-7030; Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 303-297-1772.
Crank up the Waybac machine, Sherman, 'cause Mr. Peabody needs to take another long, strange trip to catch the Dead, back when they were still Grateful. Maybe we should trip the light fantastic at one of Ken Kesey's Acid Tests. Or how about Barton Hall in 1977? Better yet, let's catch that dank Veneta, Oregon, show from August 1972; I still have flashbacks from that thirty-minute rendition of "Dark Star." Whaddya mean, the machine's broken? I've got to get my hippie fix somehow. Wait, I've got it! According to my calculations, the Dark Star Orchestra, the outfit the Dead hires as its house band nowadays, is coming through town again with its cosmic re-creations of historical Grateful Dead shows. And if you squint just right, I swear Rob Eaton and John Kadlecik look just like Bobby and Jerry. Sherman, I don't think we need the Waybac after all. But if you can help me find my rolling papers...-- John Kreicbergs

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Thursday, April 22, Ogden Theatre, 303-830-2525.
Honoring late-'80s English guitar bands like the Verve and the Stone Roses, three guys from San Francisco summoned Marlon Brando through a narcodelic haze, donned leathers and so forth. After dropping by the apothecary for fuzz pedals and supplies, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (above) mastered the finer aspects of indie-drone rock. It's loud, primal, riff-solid, raw and can often induce euphoria -- the kind usually reserved for generator parties in the desert, with guys named Tiny guarding the keg. Revving it up since 1998 -- when dual frontmen Robert Turner and Peter Hayes enlisted expat English drummer Nick Jago -- the BRMC specializes in dense, relentless walls of white heat and swirling noise. The band's trippy, messianic lyrics and hymn-like drug anthems draw constant comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain, but the pack has more in common with stateside stoners like Kyuss or the Warlocks. Sure, it adheres to a simple formula, but lust and aggression rarely have a bad day at the quarry. -- John La Briola

Toots and the Maytals
Friday, April 23, Fox Theatre, 303-443-3399.
Bob Marley is such a towering figure in reggae that he tends to obscure all of the genre's other practitioners, no matter how talented they may be. That's particularly unfair in the case of Toots Hibbert (below), leader of Toots and the Maytals, who gave the music its name by way of his 1968 composition "Do the Reggay." As a songwriter, Hibbert has penned a handful of stone-cold classics, and he remains the best interpreter of his work. Even the Clash's first-rate rendition of "Pressure Drop" pales beside his -- and no wonder, since he's arguably the single finest singer in reggae history. Listen to his cover of John Denver's "Country Roads," in which he does the impossible: He makes an incredibly drecky song sound cool. In an attempt to finally give Toots his due, V2 Records has just released True Love, which pairs Hibbert with an incredible array of admirers: Ben Harper, No Doubt, Trey Anastasio, Willie Nelson, Keith Richards and more. The label's giving the disc a significant push, as shown by Toots's recent appearance on Saturday Night Live, where he was joined by Bootsy Collins and the Roots, who also cameo on the CD. Despite these good intentions, however, the new recordings can't compare to the ones on 1973's Funky Kingston, as thrilling and joyful a reggae collection as has ever been committed to wax. Obviously, Toots doesn't need any help, even from his famous friends. He's brilliant all by himself. -- Michael Roberts

Air
Saturday, April 24, Gothic Theatre, 303-788-0984.
In light of recent world events, hiring a French travel agent may not seem like the brightest idea -- unless that guide happens to come in the form of the Parisian duo Air. More sonic guides than traditional musicians, Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin create Moog-flavored icy soundscapes, barren staccato melodies and cool, breezy ozone pop stylings that play like the travelogue to a synthetic paradise. They also provide their own vocals, believing that the self-stated weakness of their singing adds power to their latest release, Talkie Walkie. Actually, the Partridge-Family-on-helium harmonies and Bowie-style melodrama simply add a new odd and intimate dimension to the trip. Tuba solos, a few banjo raveups and the sporadic flourish of a funeral organ further augment the soundtrack to the opera in your head. Sofia Coppola agrees: The recently honored film director employed the artists to aurally color the backdrops of The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. For both the familiar and the uninitiated, Air's live performance promises to simultaneously alienate and engage a captive audience. And if you think about it, isn't that what the French do best? -- Patrick Casey

Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash
Tuesday, April 27, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 303-297-1772.
It's audacious as hell to cop your moniker from one of the most lauded and legendary performers of all time and think you'll get away with it. It may even seem disrespectful, especially considering that the Man in Black has effectively been reduced to worm food. But don't call the boy named suit: The San Diego-based Bastards come with a certificate of authenticity. Before Cash was fitted for his halo, he reportedly stamped his seal of approval on the boys, and progeny John Carter Cash even produced a couple of cuts for Walk Alone, the group's 2001 debut. All too often, honky-tonk revivalists are lionized as this country's salvation from Trashville -- you know, taking the country back, and all that crap -- but fortunately, the Bastards don't buy into any of that horseshit. They just make good music that pays homage to those who paved the road beneath them. On Walk Alone, they took a drive down the dusty "Streets of Bakersfield" with Waylon and Merle riding shotgun; Distance Between, their 2002 followup, finds the illegitimate sons leaving California in the rearview, as the taillights trail off into the arms of Americana. -- Dave Herrera

 
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