~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

De La Soul For Ventura County hip-hop fans, this is quite a week. How often does our sleepy little burgh get not one, not two, but three of the most progressive artists from any genre, let alone from rap, a musical world in which true innovation is as rare as a white buffalo? Back in the late ’80s, De La Soul was just such an anomaly. Sporting a bugged-out bohemian image and a colorful, almost psychedelic sound built upon carefully layered samples and a wicked sense of humor, the Long Island trio was an oasis in a desert of increasingly hard-edged gangsta rap when they dropped their infinitely classic debut, 3 Feet High & Rising, in 1989. Though things darkened with subsequent releases De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate and Stakes Is High, the group has always been ahead of the curve, gleefully irreverent, smarter than most. And as if it weren’t enough having those still recording and touring legends in the house at the Canyon on April 4, hip-hop’s cultural gatekeeper, KRS-One, is opening! This is a show not to be missed.

Slum Village Speaking of shows not to be missed, Slum Village rolls into the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme on March 30. In 1998, all underground hip-hop heads anxiously awaited the arrival of Fantastic Vol. 2, by a Detroit trio featuring beats by visionary producer Jay Dee. The pre-release hype was massive. Then it dropped, and the album lived up to its title. The record, laced with Dilla’s smooth, minimalist production and the schizophrenic rhymes of T3, Baatin and Jay Dee himself, formed an instant classic among fans of so-called “alt-rap.” Since then, things have changed — Baatin went nuts and, tragically, Dee succumbed to lupus last year — but SV is still around, with T3 and relative newbie Elzhi on the mic, and still dropping hip-hop light years beyond what most everybody else is doing.

Confessions of a Monster Armed with rollicking drums, blitzkrieg standup bass and “a voice to wake the dead,” Confessions of a Monster doesn’t fit into any particular category too comfortably. Some may call it psychobilly — that mutant mash-up of punk and ’50s rockabilly — but, in practice, this local female-fronted trio (two women, one guy) incorporates a spirit and a fervor entirely of its own design. Categorize them however you want, but there’s one thing for sure: They’re quickly making headway on becoming the best band in the county. See for yourself at Billy O’s along with Johnny Cash tribute act the Cash Prophets on March 31.

~PICKS OF THE WEEK~

~PICKS OF THE WEEK~

Norma Jean Georgia’s Norma Jean is a Christian band, but you wouldn’t know it just by listening to them. Hearing them deliver their punishing, monstrously heavy metal, it would appear as though the group, who once performed under moniker Luti-Kriss, were sired by the devil himself. No matter, though. Regardless of religious affiliation, headbangers of all faiths have been drawn to the band ever since the 2002 release of Bless the Martyr & Kiss the Child. Their previous two albums under their previous name (which they changed to avoid confusion with fellow Atlanta native, rapper Ludacris) leaned more in the rap-metal direction, but after reinventing themselves, the group removed the rap and focused on creating the most bruising, brutalizing hard rock possible, which is what they have done on Bless The Martyr’s two followups, O God, the Aftermath and the Ross Robinson-helmed Redeemer. Be prepared to put a hole in a floor when Norma Jean performs at Alpine on March 27.

Vagabond Opera Performing a mixture of swing, tango, hot jazz and Ukranian folk, Portland’s Vagabond Opera is a 1920s European cabaret act stuck in the 21st century. It’s hard to pin these guys down, considering how many genres they have mastered and that they’ve shared stages with everyone from indie eggheads the Decemberists to comedian Al Franken, but suffice to say, their performance at Zoey’s Café on March 28 is going to be a rare experience this county has not likely seen for a while.

Blue Oyster Cult It isn’t often that a band achieves immortality through a Saturday Night Live sketch, but Blue Oyster Cult did just that, with the help of Will Ferrell as a bearded, over-enthusiastic cowbell player bashing his way through the group’s 1976 hit “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” Long before being affectionately lampooned on NBC, Blue Oyster Cult carved out a niche for itself in the world of rock, playing melodic, heavy and intelligent proto-metal anthems. Maybe not surprising given their literary bent, the band members were mostly critics who formed on the campus of Stony Brook College in Long Island in the late ’60s. While they never matched the success of “Reaper” and never reached the commercial stratosphere of some of their peers, BOC remains a vital riff-monster to this day, thanks to stamps of approval from their modern metal descendents, such as Metallica. And, of course, because of the cowbell. Got a fever? Cure it at the Canyon Club on March 23.

~PICKS OF THE WEEK~

~PICKS OF THE WEEK~

TIMMY CURRAN A headline about Timmy Curran appearing in any Ventura County publication could read: LOCAL BOY DOES GOOD. Curran was born in Oxnard, in the beach community of Silver Strand to be exact, and at age 18 was voted “Most Favorite Surfer” in an international poll of surfing aficionados. A few years later, he was ranked sixth in the world. As tremendous as his accomplishments on a surfboard are, however, Curran has always wanted to do more. He began playing guitar at 13 and writing songs at 16, but it wasn’t until he was in his mid-20s that he finally gathered up the courage to perform them for other people. After being encouraged by his wife and brothers, Curran used his clout as a pro surfer to release an EP on indie imprint Record Collection. Citsusca dropped last year and was a hit among fans of that other surfer-turned-musician, Jack Johnson. After that, he scored a gig opening for the Foo Fighters in Australia. Now on the even-more-indie label Foe, Curran’s anxiously awaited debut full-length is slated for release later this year. And after all this, he still finds time to make it back home. Curran performs at Zoey’s Café on March 21.

LOS DIFUNTOS Chris “Spooks” Torres is just a few years out of high school, lives in East L.A. and has had his band, Los Difuntos, since he was 14 years old. These are the crucial facts of his life, none more crucial than the last one. From the day it was born in his garage, the intense psychobilly group (whose name means “the Deceased” in Spanish) has been Torres’s No. 1 priority, the thing that defines his existence. He’s had difficulty finding musicians to match his level of commitment — he says he has already played with more than a dozen different people — but his dedication is beginning to pay off, in a major way: They are on the verge of finalizing a deal with Hellcat Records, the label run by Torres’ biggest inspiration, Tim Armstrong of punk vets Rancid. “It’s been fucking crazy to have a band, especially because we have so much people talking shit,” he says. “Now, once the Hellcat thing comes through, that’ll shut up everybody.” Everybody — except for, possibly, his mother, a devout Jehovah’s Witness who never understood punk as a lifestyle, let alone a career. Still, the roadblocks that exist in his path only serve as inspiration, to prove everyone wrong. And so far, Torres is doing just that. Los Difuntos perform at the second annual Trailer Daze 2 mini-festival at Red Cove on March 17 along with Confessions of a Monster, Tornado Bait, Sweet Sensations and the Stellar Corpses.

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

Ky-Mani Marley As far as the sons of reggae’s evergreen kingpin Bob Marley go, Damian, with the massive crossover success of his Welcome To Jamrock, and Stephen, who has a hit of his own on his hands with the recently released Mind Control, are currently at the top of an admittedly large heap (old Bob was a fertile man, that’s for sure). But don’t forget about Ky-Mani. His The Journey, with its pop-reggae energy, was a critical hit way back in 1999. He followed that up in 2001 with the even more acclaimed Many More Roads, for which he competed against — and ultimately lost to — his brother Damian in the Best Reggae Album category at that year’s Grammy Awards. It has been a while since fans of the Marley clan have heard from Ky-Mani, but his performance at the Canyon on March 8 is sure to be packed on name recognition alone. And that’s all the quality assurance you need: Bob hasn’t produced a dud yet.

The Exploited If you’re young and punky, chances are you have an Exploited patch either covering the entire back of that dirty leather jacket you wear every single day or filling in for a pocket on those ripped, smelly, too-tight jeans you also wear every single day. At this juncture in their career, it is easy to call the Scottish group a gateway punk band. With their skyscraping mohawks and straight-from-the-gutter clothing, they are basically the model for the image people see when they close their eyes and think of punk rock. The band started in 1981, long after the heyday of founding Euros like the Sex Pistols and the Clash. That led them to record the street-style classic Punks Not Dead, essentially signaling that a second wave of UK punk was gathering. Considering that they’re still playing today, that assertion has proven to be correct. The Exploited invade Alpine on March 9.

Brendan James Most successful musicians can recall the moment of their personal big bang — that explosive instance where the path of their lives suddenly appeared before them, beckoning them to follow. Brendan James, the 26-year-old frontman for Ojai-based quintet Shades of Day, is no different. Only, he’s not quite sure there was any single catalytic experience. Music is certainly burned into his DNA: His mother plays guitar, and his father replaced Sammy Hagar as the vocalist for ’70s proto-metallurgists Montrose. But up until his mid-teens, James virtually ignored what appeared to be his birthright, preferring sports and other, more “traditional” adolescent activities. Then, at 14, he picked up a bass, and nothing else mattered. Call it “immaculate inspiration.” Since then, the LA-born songwriter has been chugging straight toward his goal of becoming a professional rocker. And he just recently crossed a significant mile-marker: Last month, his band celebrated the release of MAYDAY!, their first self-produced disc of driving, Southern-tinged hard rock. But on March 11, James will find himself back to where he was in his mid-teens: alone, with an instrument in his hands. His solo show at Zoey’s should be just as intense as those with his rocking quintet.

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

~ PICKS OF THE WEEK ~

Dropkick Murphys Coming from the streets of Boston, Dropkick Murphys know a thing or two about toughness. It shows in their music, a hard-hitting blast of heavy punk with a dose of traditional Irish tunefulness. The band formed in 1995, and it only took a handful of EPs for them to catch the attention of Tim Armstrong, who signed the group to his Hellcat Records. Another Rancid alumnus, Lars Frederiksen, produced their 1998 full-length debut, Do Or Die, which introduced to the Warped Tour sect the group’s signature sound of barrelhouse drums, chugging guitars and fist-pumping, athemic singalongs. Aside from adding some more Irish folk flourishes such as accordion and fiddle, they haven’t messed with the formula much over the course of six studio albums, but their fan base has increased exponentially. And with The Departed having won a Best Picture Oscar, and the band providing one of the film’s signature tunes, their audience could soon explode like a brawl at a local pub. Speaking of brawls, Dropkick Murphys perform at the Ventura Theater on March 4 with Sick of it All and the Aggrolites opening up.

Shawn Wayans It ain’t easy being born into a family that also includes Keenen, Damon, Marlon and Kim Wayans, but Shawn Wayans has somehow found a way to stand out. Teaming with brother Marlon on such cinematic masterpieces as Little Man and White Chicks, the second-youngest Wayans Bro. has become known as a writer and performer of over-the-top comedies that, while not being the most praised films critically, are about as consistent box office performers as you’ll find today. But stand up is where Shawn truly shines, and attendees at the Canyon on March 3 are sure to find that out.

Delaney Gibson Delaney Gibson started singing in kindergarten, in a production of Noah & the Ark, and hasn’t stopped since. A longtime lover of all things musical, Gibson’s impressive resume is stacked with accomplishments: singing backup for Barbara Streisand and Barry Manilow; appearing in several stage musicals, films and television shows; winning multiple vocal contests; earning a BA in Music from Cal State Northridge; and, most importantly, recording an “intoxicating” EP, Cruel & Beautiful, last year. But none of these high watermarks can compare to the experience of hearing Gibson sing live. Hear her at Zoey’s Café on March 2 with Rikka Z and Bruce Kimmel.

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