Sitting through a set by "America's Funnyman," as Neil Hamburger hilariously refers to himself, requires Olympian levels of good faith and stamina. Hamburger is a sort of anti-comedian, and the concept of his act is that he's a washed-up hack, bitter at the showbiz establishment. His show is one giant nose dive. His appearance is especially grotesque: He dons an old tuxedo, huge glasses and a greasy matted-down comb-over. As he delivers his horrible one-liners about dated celebrities (Smash Mouth, Madonna, Britney Spears), he coughs hideously and deposits phlegm into the drink glasses that he tucks in the crook of his arm. "Has anyone here ever changed dirty diapers? You get shit all over your fuckin' hands!" goes my favorite Hamburger joke. It's ... not for everyone.
Saturday, November 5, at the Jackpot Music Hall (943 Massachusetts, in Lawrence, 785-832-1085)
One summer in high school, I caravaned to St. Louis to see Paul Simon at the amphitheater there. It was awesome. Do you think that's lame? Then you're a parochial snob who doesn't understand what good songwriting is, and why don't you fuck off. Simon hasn't done much for me since Graceland, but he doesn't need to. That record, plus the '70s solo albums and late-era Simon and Garfunkel records are classics all, packed tight with inspired melodies and unshowy lyrical intelligence. Now 70, he has more than earned the right to write a song called "Getting Ready for Christmas Day," which appears on his most recent grandpa world-music record, So Beautiful or So What, and which, fuck it, I think I might even kind of like a little bit.
Tuesday, November 8, at the Midland (1228 Main, 816-283-9921)
Merrill Garbus, the brain and face of Tune-Yards, is a jarring character. Her haircut is confrontationally lopsided, and she performs with a pink boa around her neck and colorful streaks painted across her cheeks. Her pliable, confident voice frequently approaches a yodel, and many of her songs are built upon a ukulele, but there is a momentum to Tune-Yards' songs that provides a fierce counterweight to any hippie freak-show leanings. The band's latest, Whokill, is a kitchen-sink affair — saxophones, blunt noise, traces of punk, reggae and R&B — that has absolutely no business being any good at all, much less one of the more exciting records of the year.
Monday, November 7, at the Jackpot Music Hall (943 Massachusetts, in Lawrence, 785-832-1085)