Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band shows in Hartford have become legendary. Part of that is due to the occasional outbreak of excess and rowdiness by concertgoers, but the shows are noteworthy for being another summer ritual for fans.
DMB is a little like the Grateful Dead and Phish in that the band’s enduring popularity has little to do, at this point, with current chart success, and everything to do with the devotion of fans. (And the devotion of those fans is part of what spurs a nose-wrinkling response in those who don’t get it.) Matthews and his band have put their stamp on popular music, threading in jam band elements with soft soul, bluegrass, jazz, hints of reggae and pop. Matthews can sound like Sting or Peter Gabriel at times, with his band playing dramatic but subdued settings behind him.
DMB just released “Come Tomorrow,” its ninth studio album, in early June. The band can still roll out chopped-up and stuttered grooves and even work in some heavy and angular riffs. Matthews’ burnished voice can go low but always pulls the music up toward soaring high points. Despite touring and making records for more than 25 years, Matthews still manages to sound like he’s driven by a powerful romantic yearning. He writes of his love for his family now, too. Matthews has written about the environment and injustice in the past, but he’s said that for this record he’s not writing about politics because he “doesn’t want to sink as low as the so-called political leaders of this country.”
Dave Matthews Band plays Xfinity Theatre, 61 Savitt Way, Hartford,on Saturday, June 23, at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $49. livenation.com.
Black-Eyed and Blues Festival
Summer festival season is in full swing this week, with numerous all-day events and weekend-long blowouts unfolding around the state. Free music in the open air is on tap just as the long daylight hours hit their peak.
Hartford’s Black-Eyed Sally’s has long been a destination for blues and barbecue, with notable national and international artists routinely making stops there. Over the decades the venue has helped turn its annual Bluesfest, held at Bushnell Park with the majestic view of the Capitol in the background, into a jubilant day of live music with the well-matched smells of smoked pork wafting through the air.
This year’s festival runs from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. and it will open with the CT Blues Challenge, featuring the five final bands from the annual competition. The remaining bands are Murray the Wheel, Vitamin B-3, Cole Morson Band, D. Smith Blues Band and Jake Kulak & the Low Down. The Connecticut Blues Society will choose a winner, who will go on to represent Connecticut in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge.
Michael Palin’s Other Orchestra and the Slam Allen Band will perform. Headliner Studebaker John and the Hawks will take the bandshell stage at around 9 p.m. Studebaker John has been playing Chicago blues, with its grit, growl and electric surge, since the ‘70s. He got his start playing at the famous Maxwell Street market in the Windy City. Fans of Junior Wells and Stevie Ray Vaughan will went to get an earful of Studebaker John.
In addition to all the blues, there will be beer, barbecue and Ben & Jerry’s. (Bring a blanket, but no coolers.) The Black-Eyed and Blues Festival takes place at Bushnell Park in downtown Hartford, on Saturday, June 23, starting at 3 p.m. The festival is free. blackeyedsallys.com
Two Roads Road Jam Music Fest
Given the often ridiculously exorbitant price of (generally mediocre) beer at music festivals, the fact that the $25/$30 and $40/$45 price of admission (depending on which day and whether you buy in advance or at the gate) to the Road Jam Festival at Two Roads Brewery also gets you a pint of one of the brewery’s fine beers, the deal is already sort of a bargain. Add to that the impressive line-up of jam-centric bands for the two-day event, and there’s reason to feel like Road Jam, now in its fifth year, is doing a nice job filling the hole left by the absence of the Gathering of the Vibes.
This year’s acts include the ever-morphing Colorado-based rhythm monsters the Motet and the slightly crazed fusion-funk menagerie of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Also on the bill are the suitably wide-ranging electronic jam explorers Lotus, who have bounced around geographically over their almost 20 years about as much as they have stylistically. Deep Banana Blackout, TAUK, Monophonics and more will also perform. This is a bright bouquet of musical offerings from the varied world of the jam scene, and one that will pair nicely with the bold brews from Two Roads.
Dozens of food trucks will be on hand at the brewery’s Cluster Truck zone.
The Road Jam Festival takes place at the Two Roads Brewery Campus, 1700 Stratford Ave., Stratford, on Friday and Saturday, June 22 and 23. (Friday runs 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday runs 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.) Tickets are $18 to $60. tworoadsbrewing.com
The Neighbourhood knows how to pair a high-flying falsetto vocal with a gut-rumbling low-end synth line. The California band makes hard-to-peg, dark, electro-pop, with a mopey streak.
“I’m just a fake,” sings frontman Jesse Rutherford on “Flowers,” the first track off of the band’s new self-titled record, its third. Percolating arpeggiations fill in the background of many of the songs, but the band also has a knack for letting all the clutter drop out for brief moments of depth-adding silence. The Neighbourhood lives in a world where actual romantic intimacy is frightening and off-putting: “Your love is scaring me,” goes one refrain.
The Neighbourhood has evolved its sound a bit from the icy romantic thrill of its 2013 hit “Sweater Weather” and the narcotized pulse of “Daddy Issues” from 2016. Rutherford doesn’t mind revealing his shallowness. “I confess I’m obsessed with the surface,” he sings on “Nervous.” Points for honesty may offset demerits for character flaws, who knows. But getting hung up on substance is perhaps the wrong approach here, since this is music that operates by having shiny surfaces that often mimic the sound and appearance of depth. That’s a measure of success on the band’s own terms.
That mimicry is part of the subject of these songs. In his way, Rutherford, with his moaning self-fixation and child-actor star quality, can make one think of a slightly more sinister Justin Bieber, in a good way. (Rutherford has said he’s been doing some writing with Bieber collaborator Benny Blanco.) A song like “Sadderdaze,” off the new record, pushes into curious places, with touches of acoustic guitar, dramatic strings, stripped-down beats and an almost emo hip-hop bleakness. (Is that a children’s choir?) Don’t let all of the swerves and tangents distract you though, this is pop music.
Malian Musician Cheick Hamala Diabate
West African musicians often serve a kind of informal diplomatic role, telling stories of the past, expounding on parables and family lineages.
That’s particularly true of those who practice the art of the griot — the hereditary caste of bards, instrumentalists and singers. Grammy-nominated Malian multi-instrumentalist Cheick Hamala Diabate serves double duty in the outreach department, routinely performing for statesmen and politicians and generally elaborating on the deep connection between West African traditions and American music.
Diabate plays the ngoni, a lute-like instrument that is commonly thought to be the ancestor of the banjo. Diabate also plays guitar and banjo, teasing out the rippling polyrhythmic patterns of Malian music on those instruments as well.
Diabate’s guitar playing is particularly liquid and hypnotic, with percussive taps and pulls off the strings giving every line an ornamental complexity. His band is quietly energetic, supplying the mesh of interlocking supporting parts that help showcase the dramatic contrasts built into the music.
Cheick Hamala Diabate plays at The State House, 294 State St., New Haven, on Friday, June 22, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13. statehousepresents.com
The Brass City Jazz Fest
There’s a certain kind of material-based logic to the idea that Waterbury, a city known as the Brass City, would have a jazz festival, since the music has often been a showcase for exceptional brass players. (No slight to the reeds, strings, rhythm sections, pianists and others who anchor the music as well.)
This year Waterbury hosts the inaugural Brass City Jazz Fest, a free family-friendly event. Jazz has hundreds of tendrils and offshoots, but it originated as popular dance music, and the festival orients the music in its crowd-pleasing roots, with acts that make connections to smooth jazz, R&B, soul, and adult pop.
Vocalist Maysa fronted the group Incognito for years. But, for a taste of her genre-spanning talents, listen to her soul-groove vocal version of Thelonious Monk’s classic “Round Midnight,” which brings a little quiet-storm smolder to the standard. Pianist Alex Bugnon is also on the bill. Bugnon has worked with numerous smooth jazz artists but he has a delicate touch with standards, too, as can be heard on his treatment of the dusky Billy Strayhorn gem “Lush Life” on his 2013 album “Harlem.”
Saxophonist Art Sherrod Jr. fuses funk, gospel, hip-hop and more into his music. The Steve Clarke Trio, Dana Lauren, Sez Zion, and Marty Q are also on the bill.
The Brass City Jazz Fest takes place at the Waterbury Library Park, on Saturday, June 23, starting at 2 p.m. brasscityjazzfest.com
Harlem rapper Dave East’s 2018 mixtape “Paranoia 2” starts out with a disorienting loop of tinkling harp sounds, female vocals and brass, over which East unleashes a steady stream of syllables about hardship, poverty and suffering.
East, who converted to Islam while in prison and almost pursued a career playing basketball, is enjoying his fame and success, but he still keeps cycling back to his youthful struggles, with stories about selling drugs and shoplifting in order to get by as a kid.
“I love to rap but I don’t like to talk at all,” he raps on “Prosper.” East dips into the realm of trap and pop on “Woke Up,” with its falsetto hook (“Woke up with some money on my mind”), but he still opts for a clearly enunciated and rapid flow, demonstrating his debt to artists like Big Pun, Nas and Raekwon. East keeps a close eye on the bitterness and resentment of those who have watched his rise to success. (“If you’re hatin’, I just want to say ‘thank you,’ you know you’re doing something right if they hate you.”)
Dave East and Don Q perform at The Dome @ Toyota Presents Oakdale Theater, 95 S. Turnpike Road, Wallingford, on Saturday, June 23, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42 and up. 203-265-1501, livenation.com.