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John Vanderslice

Music Calendar

May 19 - 26

Thursday | 5/20


While Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, the hipster heartthrobs of indie syth-pop act MGMT (also playing Santa Cruz this month), were out chasing tail in the ivied halls of Wesleyan University, folk princess Chris Pureka was in her dorm room writing melancholy ballads and not eating enough. She struggled through, however, and the results are nothing short of haunting. Like Dolores O'Riordan of the Cranberries at her gloomiest, Pureka's voice takes white-knuckled grips of the heartstrings and yanks. Typically set against her skillful guitar strums and a lone fiddle or cello, it's music you'll need a pocketful of Kleenex for. Catalyst; $12 adv/$14 door; 9pm. (Curtis Cartier)

Friday | 5/21


After scraping their way to the top of the rankings over the past two months, the last seven local bands left standing go head-to-head at the finals to Your Music Olympicks. While only one band will walk away with the grand prize, the top three winners will win prize packages amounting to $5,000, including $2,000 cash, guitars, studio recording time and more. The seven bands competing are A Band of Orcs, Eliquate, Cylinder, Mordor, Pariah Faction, Hollywood Scars and Almost Chaos. It's up to the people of Santa Cruz to decide which band will reign triumphant when all is said and done. Catalyst; $12 adv/$15 door; 8pm. (Paul M. Davis)


San Francisco's John Vanderslice is something of a Bay Area institution at this point: an indie-rock standard-bearer, sought-after producer and fine songwriter in his own right. His mid-decade releases Pixel Revolt and Emerald City stand as pitch-perfect slices of thoughtful Oughts indie pop, although too much studio obsessiveness at times undermined his melodic gifts. It's a relief, then, that his latest, 2009's Romanian Names, seems so free of fussiness. The straightforward songs benefit from Vanderslice's unadorned production and evoke a melancholy tone free of the oppressive paranoia that defined his post-9/11 work. While those albums remain powerful works of Bush-era protest rock, it's good to hear Vanderslice's dread lift a bit. Crepe Place; $11; 9pm. (PMD)

Saturday | 5/22


After a 15-year run as the keyboardist of the Jerry Garcia Band and several more years at the helm of JGB (essentially the Jerry Garcia Band minus the late Jerry Garcia), Melvin Seals began work on his own solo ventures, proving that he was not just a great organ and piano player but a talented composer and bandleader as well. The strong gospel and soul influences he brought to the Jerry Garcia Band are evident in the other groups he has played with since, like Vitamin B-3 and the Mix, the Melvin Seals Rhythm Factory and most recently the psychedelic rock band Shady Groove. From this latest collaboration, expect to hear some of Seals' originals, as well as plenty of JGB classics. Don Quixote's; 8:30pm; $20adv/$22 door. (Sean Conwell)


Fronted by the wildest husband-wife duo in today's underground heavy metal scene, Nashville Pussy is every bit as sleazy as the name implies. High on the release of its fifth album, From Hell to Texas, the band is storming clubs and bars with a voracious appetite. Ruyter Suys doesn't have to take her shirt off to prove she's a bitchen lead guitarist, but she almost always does. Raw like a steak reduced for quick sale, this is straight up southern rock & roll at its unfettered best. Expect to be showered with beer, slicked with sweat, and smacked with in-your-face lyrics delivered in throat-shredding growls. Catalyst; $15 adv/$19 door; 9pm. (Maria Grusauskas)

Monday | 5/24


"Mezcla" is the Spanish word for "mixture," and it's an appropriate title for this particular Cuban jazz band, led by guitarist Pablo Menendez. Their music is a mixture of styles that defies expectations by drawing from old-fashioned jazz and bop, show tunes, rock and world fusion. The band is a mixture of races, genders and generations, with its members including seasoned master musicians as well as a few young lions. And, of course, Mezcla hails from Cuba, a country that is a mixture of different cultures. Although their visas were once denied by U.S. officials, no such problem is expected to prevent the bandmembers from playing in Santa Cruz. Kuumbwa; 7pm; $20 adv/$23 door. (SC)

Tuesday | 5/25


They come with guitars, harmonicas and dreams. The Santa Cruz Singer/Songwriter Showcase, a contest between local amateur musicians, has been going on for weeks and wraps up this Tuesday night in a grand finale of play-your-heart-out passion and derring-do, all for the grand prize of coveted recording time at Mars Studio. Britannia Arms; free; 7pm. (SC)

Wednesday | 5/26


Though she maintained a relatively low profile at the time, buzzed-about folkie Emily Jane White honed her songwriting chops while living within Santa Cruz's confines, most notably as leader of the ethereal local trio the Diamond Star Halos. Half a decade later, White has evolved into a startlingly assured talent, earning a following the world over as well as plaudits from tastemakers such as Pitchfork. White's spare compositions are effortlessly transporting, steeped in equal parts airy beauty and hard-won pragmatism. Her 2007 solo debut Dark Undercoat was a strong effort, but her latest, Victorian America, operates on a completely different level, as a confident statement by an artist who has grown into her talents to stunning effect. Crepe Place; $8; 9pm. (PMD)

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