Trampled by Turtles, with Carl Broemel
Because of its terrible name and the people on my Spotify feed who stream its songs, I assumed that Trampled by Turtles was another shitty Mumford & Sons knockoff band. As it turns out, that's not entirely true, although it does employ a lot of acoustic instruments. The group, which formed in 2003 in Duluth, Minnesota, plays fast-paced bluegrass ("newgrass," if you must) minus the sheen and bombast of the folkies currently dominating the pop charts. They're better than I had them pegged for, although I still won't say their name out loud in public. Opener Carl Broemel, guitarist for My Morning Jacket, has released two pretty solid solo records. The more recent, 2010's All Birds Say, touches on the gentle gothic country that MMJ favored on its early albums, as well as a sunnier AM-radio pop.
Wednesday, January 23, at the Granada (1020 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-842-1390)
Billie Joe Shaver
Billy Joe Shaver has never tasted the success of outlaw country contemporaries Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. But if we're talking true outlaw cred, the Texas singer-songwriter has the rest of the pack beat by a country mile: In 2007, Shaver shot another man in the face outside a place called Papa Joe's Texas Saloon, in Lorena, Texas. In court, Shaver claimed self-defense. When the prosecution asked him why he didn't just leave the bar if he felt intimidated, Shaver responded that doing so would have been "chicken shit." (Before firing away, he reportedly asked the victim, who's now walking the streets with a bullet permanently lodged in his neck, "Where do you want it?") Because it's Texas, and that's just how things are done down there, Shaver was acquitted. Now 73, he's back on the road, Crazy Heart–style.
Friday, January 18, at Knuckleheads Saloon (2715 Rochester, 816-483-1456)
Sonic Spectrum Tribute to R.E.M.
The Pedaljets were indie-rock contemporaries of R.E.M.'s in the 1980s, so the idea of their playing a tribute show to the band feels strange. At first. Then, after about a second, the brilliance of the enterprise becomes evident. I have little doubt that they will absolutely murder whichever of Stipe and Co.'s songs they choose to cover. Similar hopes for Thom Hoskins, Kimberly Queen and the Cody Wyoming Deal, who round out this bill.
Sunday, January 20, at RecordBar (1020 Westport Road, 816-753-5207)
A bit of an anomaly on Omaha's Saddle Creek Records, Ladyfinger (ne) — the parenthetical refers to the band's home state of Nebraska — leans more Ozzy than Oberst. Openers (and fellow Cornhuskers) Back When mine similar post-metal territory; Everyday/Everynight and Maps for Travelers (both KC bands) operate along the emo-pop-punk continuum.
Saturday, January 19, at Riot Room (4048 Broadway, 816-442-8179)
Once or twice a year, when I'm feeling especially suffocated by Kansas City, I pick a night and drive to Columbia for a show, usually at the Blue Note. (One time, I ended up staying for six months, but that is a story for another day.) Being in the middle of Missouri purifies and rejuvenates some part of the soul. Incidentally, so does listening to the Drive-By Truckers, the unofficial poet laureates of Southern rock. The group's most recent release, 2011's Go-Go Boots, is a standout in DBT's already excellent catalog, and its sprawling live show is a massive bonfire party of stories, sing-alongs and deeply felt rock jams. Opener Houndmouth hails from the Louisville area; I caught its set at Forecastle last year and was impressed with both its bouncy, Band-like Americana and its ridiculously hot — like, she should be playing Don Draper's secretary on Mad Men; she is that hot — singer-instrumentalist Katie Toupin.
Tuesday, January 22, at the Blue Note (17 North Ninth Street, Columbia, 573-874-1944)