While Detroit’s Sponge hit their creative high watermark with wonderfully tense 1996 single “Wax Ecstatic (To Sell Angelina),” their robust blend of anthemic classic rock and hooky alt-pop has proven durable, with frontman Vinnie Dombroski continuing to perform under the name ever since. While they rode in on grunge’s coattails, with ’94’s gold-certified Rotting Piñata album, Sponge simply never stopped touring and — unlike many so-called “legacy” acts — recording new material (and high-quality stuff, at that). Recently championed by Howard Stern, and benefiting from something of a grassroots resurgence in interest for ’90s rock, Dombroski and his current Sponge incarnation (which has retained a stable lineup for longer than the original band) represent the both the best of the post-grunge era and a heartening example of a band sticking around long enough to enjoy a second wave. Gallagher’s Pub, 300 Pacific Coast Highway Ste. 113, Huntington Beach.
Tennessee-raised Yves Tumor occupies an ever-changing creative space sufficiently artsy to earn simultaneous shunning from the masses and cult-like devotion from the few. His recent output reflects a Throbbing Gristle-esque fascination with sounds both hypnotic and ominous, soothing and disruptive. A former fixture on SoCal’s experimental music scene, he crafted post-chillwave bliss as Teams and toured with alt rapper Mykki Blanco before re-emerging in Europe under his current name. Critically embraced from the get-go, Tumor made a paranormal leap forward of 2018’s Safe in the Hands of Love, an unusually transparent outpouring of coexistent conviction and vulnerability all the more resonant for refusing to pander to either genre or audience expectations. Gambling carefree through U.K. bass, plunderphonics, rock and noise, the incongruously easy-to-listen-to experimentalism of Safe is a small revolution unto itself. Constellation Room @ The Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana.
Karla Bonoff and Livingston Taylor
Best known as a songwriter for the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and Wynonna Judd, SoCal native Karla Bonoff is also a popular performer in her own right, who scored a 1982 hit with “Personally” (ironically, a song she didn’t write). Bonoff’s solo performances are a joy for anyone with a passion (or nostalgia) for the sort of folk-tinted soft rock that wafted from radios in the 1970s, full of lamenting melodies and soaring hooks, immaculately delivered. Her peer Livingstone Taylor — brother of singer-songwriter James Taylor — enjoyed a trio of successful singles straddling the turn of the 1980s. Livingston, who turns 70 this year, still tours extensively, punctuating his acoustic guitar-accompanied singing (which, yes, can sound very like his more famous bro) with warm, relatable tales from his 55-year career and beyond. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.
Ten-time Grammy winner Arturo Sandoval preserves a palpable passion for jazz trumpet that defies the rigors of a 40-year career and a list of accolades that would spill off this page. Born in Cuba, Sandoval, who defected to the U.S. in 1990 while touring with his mentor Dizzy Gillespie, has retained the inclusive swagger of his Caribbean street-performing roots, even as his virtuosity has found him at the world’s most stately venues (including the White House in 2012) and most glamorous occasions (such as 1995’s Super Bowl Halftime Show). Also an accomplished composer and pianist, Sandoval has been both a prolific band leader since the early ’80s and an in-demand sideman for the likes of Gloria Estefan, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and Paul Anka. Every Sandoval performance remains an ode to music itself, lovingly transcending both genre and fashion. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine.
Quintessentially of their time, Transviolet originated as an online collaboration (since centralized in L.A.) and creates radio-ready, intelligent indie pop that feels like it was conceived in a laboratory backstage at Coachella. Centered upon the sometimes detached yet oddly soulful croon of Sarah McTaggart, the foursome indulgences subtly danceable, xx-indebted arrangements, and production influenced as much by hip-hop and electronica than anything guitar-based. On stage, McTaggart’s interpretative dance-y gyrations and delicate self-assuredness bring a transfixing humanity to the sleek and contemplative, come-down moods created by her bandmates (with some digital support). Championed by the likes of Katy Perry and Harry Styles, Transviolet join a super-cred clique — including Sia, Lana Del Rey and Børns — that has made shameless pop music once again palatable to hipsters and even self-styled music snobs. Constellation Room @ The Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana.
Austrian septet Mnozil Brass was founded more than a quarter-century ago by graduates of the prestigious Vienna College of Music. As their educational pedigree suggests, these are virtuoso musicians (trumpet, trombone and tuba players), yet they’re on a mission to remind us that classical music needn’t be — and maybe shouldn’t be — po-faced. Their sets comprise original compositions alongside classical faves, jazz standards and popular hits (including happy-go-lucky Austrian and German schlager songs) brilliantly enmeshed with borderline slapstick, Monty Python-ish humor. Delving into various historical strands of European brass band music, Mnozil Brass references circus bands, village bands, vaudeville orchestras and marching bands in crafting musical foils for its clever skits, mimes and even magic. Not always hilarious, but nonetheless a fun night that asks serious questions about the artificial constraints so often imposed upon classical music. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.
Mexico’s The Warning initially earned YouTube notoriety in for what was, in retrospect, a fairly unremarkable 2014 cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Unremarkable, that is, were it not for the fact that these three sisters were then aged just 14, 12 and 9, with bassist Alejandra Villarreal little taller than her instrument. Unlike most viral cover sensations, the Villarreals have followed through — assisted by GoFundMe, The Ellen Show, and even Target — in crafting a legit career that has already included opening for the likes of Aerosmith and The Killers, and now, after two albums of robust original rock, their first full-blown tour. While the entire trio has hugely matured since their Rock Band beginnings, drummer Paulina in particular has stepped up as a natural performer, her stick-smashing virtuosity embellished by rare showmanship and potent lead vocal stints. Constellation Room @ The Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana.
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