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SOLAR POWER: Sleepy Sun flares up at the Crepe Place on Wednesday the 21st.

Music Calendar

July 21 - 28, 2010

Wednesday | 7/21


Bringing psyche rock back to its Sabbath-strength glory, Sleepy Sun is one of the rockingest squads of amplifier abusers ever to call the Cruz home. Admittedly, the group has since moved its headquarters to San Francisco, but the six shaggy songsters still belt out the same fuzzed-up head-banging dirges that made them local darlings and will no doubt receive a hero's welcome at the Crepe Place. Keeping the night on the subterranean power chord tip, S.F. dream rock quartet Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound warms up the stage for Sleepy Sun with its brand of distortion-rich rock operas. Crepe Place; $10; 9pm. (Curtis Cartier)

Thursday | 7/22


For his many years of service alongside Bob Weir and Ratdog, Mark Karan has long been associated with the giant celestial body that is the Grateful Dead. Fortunately, Karan has come into his own in recent years, stepping out of the shadows with his 2009 solo debut Walk Through the Fire and demonstrating his chops with his own band Jemimah Puddleduck. The band's sound is a spicy gumbo of rock, soul and R&B that borrows much of its flavor from the Big Easy. It's a triumphant end-run for an artist who has never drawn too much attention to himself, but deserves far more. Moe's Alley; $12 adv/ $15 door; 8:30pm. (Paul M. Davis)


Guitarist Lee Ritenour may stand as the platonic ideal of a session musician: professional and unassuming, yet virtuosic. Early in his career, Ritenour's most notable talent was his ability to adapt his style to whoever he was playing with. But over the past two decades, Ritenour has achieved a fair amount of notice as a solo artist, performing light jazz and instrumental pop with Brazilian flair. On his latest album, 6th String Theory, Ritenour celebrates his 50th birthday with an all-star guitar extravaganza, trading licks with the likes of Keb' Mo', B.B. King, George Benson and more. Even with such heavy-hitters, Ritenour commands the set in his characteristically unassuming manner. Kuumbwa; $32 adv/$35 door; 7 and 9pm. (PMD)

Friday | 7/23


Anyone who's traipsed through the boulder-strewn alien landscape of Joshua Tree in Southern California will likely agree that a band that calls it home is bound to be pretty eccentric. Gram Rabbit, with its glam wardrobes and pretentious album titles like Music to Start a Cult To and RadioAngel & the RobotBeat, certainly fits with the peculiarities of its hometown. But while the desert of Joshua Tree only looks like Mars, Gram Rabbit sounds like it's from there as well. By weaving freak folk acoustics with cosmic eletropop, the group has effectively written a soundtrack for any forthcoming films involving hipsters sent into space. Crepe Place; $8; 9pm. (CC)

Saturday | 7/24


Paul Thorn's rough-and-tumble roots—he started out as a professional boxer—have informed his musical career, marked as it is by his straightforward songwriting and no-bullshit sensibility. This sense of hard-earned grit pervades Thorn's latest album, Pimps and Preachers, which finds him attempting to reconcile his religious upbringing and hard-living background. The tension works in his favor: it may be Thorn's liveliest and most purposeful set of songs in recent memory, a reckoning of the holy and the debased that is as unpredictable as a live wire. While his peers settle into a comfortable late-career holding pattern, Thorn keeps weaving and bobbing, the mark of a perennial contender who still has something to prove. Rio Theatre; $22 general/ $40 gold circle; 7:30pm. (PMD)


Matt Masih & the Messengers are an up-and-coming jam band based right here in Santa Cruz. A six-piece outfit featuring guitars, keyboards and a tenor saxophone, they deftly blend funk, soul, reggae, pop and R&B. A self-titled EP released a couple of years ago gives a taste of this funky pop sound. The production may be slick and glossy, but the music is heartfelt. A full-length album from the band is due this fall, and until then, listeners can enjoy the Messengers' live shows, which are lit up with catchy hooks and plenty of improvisation. Crepe Place; $8; 9pm. (Sean Conwell)

Sunday | 7/25


Musicians like country/folk artist Iris Dement were supposed to have gone extinct years ago. Nominated for a Grammy in 1995, she sings about family, forgiveness and the pain of remembering, and songs such as "Our Town" and "Let the Mystery Be" are honest enough to play the heartstrings of her fans. Unexpected vocal twangs keep her music, otherwise embellished only by a guitar and occasional violin, away from predictability. She sings from the past, and her distinctive voice echoes the nostalgia felt by anyone who has ever reminisced. Kuumbwa; $30 adv/$34 door; 7pm. (Katie Jacobson)

Monday | 7/26


These four classically trained young women have been raising eyebrows around the world with their slow, sultry approach to Cuban jazz and bossa nova. They have performed with giants of Cuban music like Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes and Chucho Valdes, the latter of whom has called Sexto Sentido "creators of the most important vocal jazz work in Cuba in the past three decades." Immensely popular in their home country, the quartet has also appeared throughout Europe and Latin America. Their first tour of the United States is now under way, and American fans are sure to be pleased by Sexto Sentido's modern spin on Cuban classics. Kuumbwa; $22 adv/ $25 door; 7pm. (SC)

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