There are a few things in life that are unmistakable: the saccharine sting of cotton candy, the gluey musk of sex and the voice of Calvin Johnson. Since 1983, when he formed Olympia, Washington's legendary Beat Happening, Johnson has stood markedly apart from the flocks of cutesy, whining indie-pop singers that followed him. His larynx, you see, is coated in black tar and cough syrup, when he opens his mouth, gobs of darkness and lassitude pop out. Sure, he croons about hot chocolate and pajama parties, but not without hinting at the lascivious undercurrents boiling away inside each. Subsequent projects such as the Halo Benders -- a collaboration with Built to Spill's Doug Martsch -- and his current group, the funk-infused Dub Narcotic Sound System, clearly demonstrated that the basso's sultry grumbling still held power and mystery no matter what was being played around it. But it was his 2002 solo debut, What Was Me, that finally put Johnson's pipes on center stage. Half acoustic, half a cappella, the disc oozed a folksy foreboding through songs like "Can We Kiss" and "Lightnin' Rod for Jesus," nearly monotone pop dirges that wrenched eyes wide open in the face of both coy innocence and raw lust. The singer will be doing a rare intimate set sans backing band tonight, and the show is all-ages, so show up before 8 p.m. if you want to catch every eerie, enchanting note.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.