~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

Mike Jones

In 2005, after simmering as a mostly regional phenomenon for well over a decade, Houston’s distinctive brand of Southern hip-hop went national, and suddenly the entire country knew about diamond grilles, purple drank and “chunkin’ the deuce.” What else entered the American vernacular when the Texas city suddenly became rap’s favorite city? The cell phone number of a guy named Mike Jones. Who is Mike Jones? Aside from being the name of his now double-platinum breakthrough album, he’s the dude responsible for blowing Houston up in the first place with his scene-defining single “Still Tippin’.” In one fell swoop, Jones introduced the world to his hometown’s vibe, lingo and swagger, busting down the mainstream door for compatriots Slim Thug and Paul Wall as well as rivals like Chamillionaire. H-Town couldn’t have asked for a better representative: It’s hard not to love a rapper who comes into the game with no pretense, admitting that he had trouble getting laid before he became famous and imploring his fans to hit him up “on the low,” repeatedly shouting his digits on record until it’s burned into the brain of every listener. Even as others have risen up in the wake of his success, Jones remains Houston’s greatest ambassador, and he’s continuing to spread the good word, coming to the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara on April 1 (and no, this isn’t an April Fools Day prank). Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, 687-0766

Sublime Remembered

He may not be held in the same regard as Kurt Cobain in terms of broad social importance, but in the hearts of many, Sublime frontman Brad Nowell was the voice of a generation. He certainly spoke to disaffected teenagers as much as Cobain did, except he made wasting youth sound like a bitchin’ party rather than a painful grind. This May will mark the tenth anniversary of Nowell’s drug-induced death, which is the perfect time for pundits to re-evaluate his legacy and possibly raise his status from doomed could’ve-been to prodigiously talented beach-bum visionary. Some, of course, don’t need to do any reassessments. For tribute artists Sublime Remembered, Nowell and the two misfits he made music with — bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh — are already legends. Remember Nowell and the ska-punk-reggae institution he represented at the Canyon Club on April 2.

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

Silverstein

Upstart Canadian screamo-ites Silverstein may be named after beloved children’s author Shel Silverstein, but their music isn’t so much about the celebration of youthful innocence as it is about having that innocence stomped, lit on fire and fed through a wood chipper. Just check out the cover of their 2000 debut, When Broken Is Easily Fixed: It features a despondent-looking robot holding his own metallic heart in his hands after having had it ripped from his (or her) chest. If that’s not the most stereotypically emo image ever illustrated, then nothing is. Luckily, the quintet manages to avoid much of the sonic clichés that such a drawing might suggest, tempering their full-throated, power-chord-laden assault with snatches of violin, programmed electronica, herky-jerky time signatures and — gasp! — melodies. Lyrically, singer-growler Shane Told sticks to the script of deception, depression and lovelorn confusion — the kind of things that make a robot want to tear its heart out, and a teenager with a lip-ring blog on MySpace. Silverstein performs at Alpine on March 25.

Steel Pulse

At one point in history, before it was confiscated by suburban neo-hippies, reggae was a music of protest so potent it raged in tandem with the British punk movement. An influx of immigrants from the West Indies first imported the island rhythms to the streets of London in the 1960s, and by the next decade their children were using the sounds of Jamaica to convey the experience of growing up in England at a time of serious youth revolt. Stationed at the forefront of this cross-cultural convergence was Steel Pulse, a group of young Rastafarians who formed out of Birmingham in 1975. Avoiding the romantic platitudes of many of their peers, the band struck a militant pose, denouncing racism and governmental oppression while celebrating the power of dance, Rasta spirituality and, of course, marijuana. Their defiant stance immediately established them as brothers-in-arms with their angry white brethren in such outfits as the Clash and Generation X, whom they often played with. But their brand of righteous indignation has proven to be more durable: While punk ignited and burned out quickly, Steel Pulse is still performing to this day, with a sound that’s been polished by three-plus decades of experience and a force that has not weakened over time. The legendary ensemble marches into the Ventura Theatre on March 29.

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

Unwritten Law

Unwritten Law sound like where they come from: San Diego. Playing speedy, poppy punk with the high-octane energy of a Mountain Dew commercial, the band reflects the skate and surf-centric vibe of L.A.’s southernly neighbor. Formed in 1990, the group are unlikely veterans of the Warped Tour scene, unpretentiously sticking to their guns and honing their sense of melody over the years, and, in doing so, earning themselves a devoted fan base — if not the mainstream success of some of their peers. The Law rollerblades up north and into the Ventura Theatre (a few months early for the Warped season) on March 19th.

Angry Samoans

In a genre that made bad taste a virtue, few were as brilliantly offensive as Los Angeles hardcore icons the Angry Samoans. Led by Mike Saunders, an ex-music critic who purportedly coined the term “heavy metal,” the band made their infamy in the 1980s with songs like “They Saved Hitler’s Cock” and “Tuna Taco” and for gigs as such, um, unorthodox venues as the Camarillo state mental institution. One would assume a group such as the Samoans would run out of steam rather quickly, but here they are, some three decades later, still performing sporadically at places like Alpine, where they’ll appear on March 18th. Hey, it ain’t a mental institution, but it’ll do.

Oso

Rising from the ashes of respected math-rock practitioners Volta Do Mar, guitarist Phil Taylor has created Oso, a literal bear of a band displaying the same musical eclecticism that earned his previous project its devoted cult. On its debut 48507, the group proves capable of leaping from acoustic folk to neo-King Crimson art-prog-rock in a single bound. His touring partners are an extension of that diversity: He’s shared the road with everyone from indie heroes Mates of State and Wolf Eyes to the Gambian national dance band and a UK street dance troupe. Seeing him live is definitely worth the time — from how often he skips genres, it’s like seeing five concerts in one. Taylor and the rest of Oso perform at Billy O’s on March 21st.

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

Death By Stereo

When Corey Feldman tossed a radio into a bathtub and fried a vampire in the 1980s proto-Gen X horror classic The Lost Boys, a demon died … but a band was born. After making the blood-sucking bastard’s head explode, Feldman uttered perhaps the greatest victorious one-liner in the history of cinema: “Death by stereo.” Eleven years later, punk quintet Death By Stereo rose out of the Southern California hardcore scene to become one of the most popular artists among the Warped Tour sect. Mixing a great sense of rage with a love of Van Halen, DBS create a potent Molotov cocktail of aggression that has inspired mosh pits and intense sing-alongs at clubs across the country. Is it just a coincidence that a band taking their name from a great flick would be excellent themselves? Probably not. Creatures of the night beware: Death By Stereo is coming to the Alano Club on March 11, with local vampire-slayers the Fucking Wrath opening up. Alano Club, 235 E. Cota St., Santa Barbara, (805) 962-5013

Benefit for Dawn Diaz

Recently, Dawn Diaz, a nurse in the ER of Ventura’s Community Memorial Hospital, was seriously injured in a car accident. Her significant other, local blues stalwart Guy Martin, is helping fund her recovery the only way he knows how: through music. On March 11, the guitarist will be joined by his friends in Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, as well as Sir Real, Jackass and other guests, at the Ventura Theatre, in a special benefit concert to help pay for Diaz’s medical bills. Great music, good cause — the perfect mix for a Saturday night.

The Adicts

Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is probably the punkest movie of all time. England’s the Adicts understood that at the height of the movement in the late 1970s, which is why they dressed as the ultraviolent “droogs” depicted in the film. They also knew that spelling words correctly is totally un-punk. Despite their grammatical failings, the band has lasted for more than 20 years, inspiring 15-year-old kids to take up sewing and stitch their logo onto dirty leather jackets. And they haven’t even bothered to change their top hats, monocles and beating sticks. The Adicts top a packed lineup at the Alpine on March 11, that also includes Career Soldiers, the Ignorant, Homesick Abortions, One Word Solution, Willie Psycho and Media Blitz, among others.

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

John Doe

As one half of the best male-female songwriting duo in punk, X bassist-singer John Doe offered a scowling, cynical counterpoint to former wife Exene Cervenka’s view of love and life in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. As a solo artist, Doe continues to present his street-level observations of the world, albeit to a relatively gentler soundtrack. Expanding on his old band’s roots rock and country leanings while stripping away the tumult, Doe’s songs work as both starry-eyed confessionals and angry manifestos. Whether he’s bleeding his wounded heart or venting his spleen, Doe consistently proves himself to be one of alt-rock’s national treasures, with or without his life partner-in-crime at his side. He brings his extensive discography to SOhO in Santa Barbara on March 8. SOhO, 1221 State St., Suite 205, Santa Barbara, 962-7776

Hail The Black Market

Anyone proclaiming Ventura County’s rock scene dead obviously hasn’t heard Hail the Black Market. Combining whiplash guitar work with jackhammering drums and urgent melodies, the band is almost single-handedly keeping rock alive in this area. In celebration of the release of their new CD, the group performs a free gig at Salzer’s Records in Ventura on March 7.

GBH

Raging out of Britain in the late 1970s, GBH are considered one of the links that eventually bridged punk and metal in the ensuing decade. Formed in Birmingham, England, the band released its seminal record, City Baby Attacked By Rats, in 1982, and immediately drew a line in the sand between the old sound and the new sound, revving up the speed, increasing the volume and, regrettably, upping the misogyny (on tracks like “Slut” and “Big Women”). A few years later, their raging brand of hardcore would morph into an entirely new genre — speed metal — and GBH themselves would be overshadowed by louder, faster and even more misogynist bands who followed their lead. But the punks have kept on truckin’ well into the new millennium. GBH plays the Ventura Theatre on March 2.

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