.Music Picks: Aug. 28-Sept. 3

Santa Cruz County live entertainment picks for the week of Aug. 28




Some of On Drugs’ songs sound like they were recorded on a tape recorder; screams cut to buzzy screeches, interrupted by background conversations that fade to droning instruments. Other songs are surprisingly heartfelt; sweeping falsettos croon over twinkling guitars while a comforting, Pavement-esque drumbeat keeps all those sad feels moving toward angsty release. No matter the song, fun or sad (at shows, they’ll let you choose), On Drugs has affable punk energy to bolster the eccentric mood swings and anthemic tirades. Like many drugs, On Drugs takes what’s comedic and makes it deep. Or is it the other way around? I dunno. I’m high. AMY BEE

9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $5. 429-6994.  



What makes a great country song? Good pickin’ and singin’ is a start, but songs about hard living and sad heartbreaks are essential. Just like the blues or punk, it has to be authentic, because true believers can spot a fake a mile away. Folks, it doesn’t get much more authentic than Vincent Neil Emerson. This Texan’s tales of inebriation, sobriety, bad luck, and dreams of stardom travel on a road of twangy guitars, haunting organs and a wounded voice. Joining him will be local honky-tonk torch bearer Jesse Daniel. MAT WEIR

7:30 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $15 adv/$20 door. 479-1854.





Catching a Blasters show is like strolling through the annals of American music, an audio tour of blues, country, rock, and R&B by a band whose members have been playing for decades. Today, the Blaster’s lineup includes vocalist-guitarist Phil Alvin, guitarist Keith Wyatt, bassist John Bazz, and drummer Bill Bateman, who all have impressive chops and distinguished musical careers. They’re the perfect group to explore the diverse musical legacy of American music with an energetic passion born from the love of playing live shows. AB

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8 p.m. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $20 adv/$25 door. 479-1854.



During his life, San Jose bassist John Shifflett earned universal recognition as a consummate jazz musician whose commanding tone and supple sense of time elevated countless ensembles. With drummer Jason Lewis, he formed one of the region’s definitive rhythm section tandems that recorded with everyone from pianist Taylor Eigsti and saxophonist Mike Zilber to guitarist Mason Razavi and reed expert Kristen Strom. Following Shifflett’s death in 2017, Strom set about revealing that Shifflett was more than a first-call sideman. On last year’s Moving Day, she recorded a gorgeous album of his compositions. She’s been playing Shifflett’s music ever since. ANDREW GILBERT

7 p.m. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $21 adv/$26.25 door. 427-2227.





Torio Van Grol isn’t a stoner, but he does have some hilarious weed stories, like the time he got so high that when he played foosball, he got too distracted by the inner lives of each individual “player.” His entire delivery and point of view is stoner-esque, with his oddball perspective and left-field takes. Maybe that’s because all his friends are stoners. As he points out, he likes to hang out with people that are having snacks. Whether you partake or not, you will enjoy Grol’s absurd observational humor. AC

7 & 9:30 p.m. DNA’s Comedy Lab, 155 S River St., Santa Cruz. $20 adv/$25 door. 900-5123. 





Peach Kelli Pop’s Gentle Leader sounds like a punk album recorded after hours in a Sanrio store. Not that PKP’s earlier albums don’t—the Canadian one-woman-band has always had been endearingly sweet, making a point to expand the punk-rock cannon beyond male misanthropes and ‘80s outsiders to include characters like Sailor Mars, Lisa Frank, Keroppi, and Badtz Maru. On tracks like “Cherry (That’s Not Her Real Name)” and “Hello Kitty Knife,” PKP veers towards art-punk weirdos like Eat Skull and OOIOO, but without losing the music’s candy-coated core. MIKE HUGUENOR

9 p.m. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10. 429-6994.





Australian singer-songwriter Xavier Rudd is an optimist. On his latest single “Walk Away,” he captures our moment in time of social inequality and political dysfunction. In the midst of highlighting how dire everything is, he closes the song with a call for action and hope over an uplifting folk-rock melody. Rudd has always highlighted social injustices like the plight of indigenous Australians, the decay of our environment and racism. But he creates arena-worthy folk-rock songs that will fill your heart with the possibility of all the good we can do if we just try a little harder. AC

9 p.m. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $23. 423-1338. 





Perhaps you’ve heard of Stephen Marley’s father, Jacob Marley. An ex-business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge, Marley visited the “Humbug” businessman on Christmas Eve to offer him a chance of redemption from his greedy ways. Wait! No, hang on. I might have that wrong. Let’s start over. Stephen Marley is a six-time Grammy winner, and a living link to the roots of Jamaican popular music. His 2011 album Revelation Part 1: Root of Life won Best Reggae Album and features the beautiful “Made in Africa” (featuring the cast of Fela!), a powerful reminder of the genre’s transformative, spiritual power. MH

8 p.m. Felton Music Hall, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $56 adv/$60 door. 335-2800.


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