After what happened to Calvin Johnson the last time he came to Louisville, last November, it’s amazing he’s coming back. During that visit, when he performed at Old Louisville Coffee House, as he will again next Monday, Johnson had an unpleasant surprise.
“Apparently a young woman, a drunk driver, did a hit-and-run on our van and then the police showed up,” Johnson explained. He was performing with his back to OLCH’s floor-to-ceiling window, which faces Fourth Street. “But all this happened while I was playing. So the audience is watching me and they’re watching this drama outside … So it was kind of exciting.”
For those living under a rock the past 20 years: Johnson is considered one of the founding fathers of underground music. He formed K Records in 1982. K has released early records by artists like Beck, Built to Spill, Elliott Smith and Modest Mouse, among others. Johnson has also recorded and performed music in a solo capacity and as a member of several groups, including Beat Happening, Halo Benders and Dub Narcotic Sound System. Lately, he’s been enjoying the simple pleasures of being a solo artist on tour.
“With a band you have to coordinate with all these people. It’s complicated. But when it’s just me, I can just jump in a car and drive off.”
Lucky for us, Johnson has decided to point his car in our direction again this year, in spite of last year’s troubles.
“I’m looking forward to returning to Louisville,” Johnson said. “But hopefully the excitement will be limited to the indoor activities this time.”
Johnson plays OLCH — 1489 S. Fourth St., 635-6660 — on Monday, Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. Cover is $7, Karl Blau opens, and the show is, as usual, all ages.
After discussing an indie forefather, it’s fitting to mention a newcomer to the scene. Black Magic combines the efforts of ukulele-toting siren Bootsie Anne with those of Joe Meredith of The Merediths, who previously worked together in Horseless. The duo shares the songwriting and vocal duties and are joined by percussionist J.C. Denison and enlist help from Jessica Bartley and Zach Willenbrink of One Small Step.
Various members of Black Magic’s all-star ensemble have performed together in different one-off bands in the past few months, but the full cast has only performed twice. Denison says right now the group is working on blending the material from its two songwriters. It’s often thought that a combination will equal more than the sum of its parts, but in their case, if they even come close to equaling that sum, Black Magic is likely to be just about the most haunting band you’ve ever heard. Denison says, “Many
are about the harsh realities of love, death and religion. That’s the basics of it, anyways.” Basics, indeed.
Black Magic will perform this Friday at The Pour Haus (a newcomer itself, the joint at 1481 S. Shelby St. was for years called Club 21, 637-9611) alongside instrumental act The Photographic, gypsy-folk-punk group Barbez and frighteningly primal experimental group Queen Mae and the Bells. Doors open at 9 p.m.; it’ll cost you $5, and you must be old enough to drink.
Sometimes forefathers and newcomers cross paths with interesting results. Jay Bennett is probably most known for his time in Wilco, which (coincidentally? unlikely) spanned the band’s musical peak, though he has several solo albums and is a well-respected producer to boot. Bennett’s new album, The Magnificent Defeat, is a complex studio masterpiece that he spent several months perfecting. When it came time to take Defeat on the road, Bennett needed to find just the right backing band to effectively interpret the multiple layers of instrumentation that he personally put down for the record.
He ultimately selected Death Ships, a band that formed in 2001 and finds itself right in the same intersection of indie pop and alt-country that made Wilco such a hit several years back. Death Ships lean more the way of the sweetly sad pop song than the high-and-lonesome country tune, which works perfectly for Bennett, since he shares that leaning.
Death Ships must be enjoying the sweet deal they’ve come across. For this tour they’ll be acting as Bennett’s opening act and his backing band. Their new album, Seeds of Devastation, shows that Death Ships is already poised for a next step.
Jay Bennett and Death Ships play Uncle Pleasant’s — 2126 S. Preston St., 634-4147 — on Monday, Oct. 23, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 day of show. It’s 21+.
Ecdysis is the process by which cicadas shed their skin in order to go on living. Tokyo-born Miho Hatori is probably best known for her work in Cibo Matto, but like Jay Bennett, Hatori has moved beyond her past, which explains her new album’s title. Ecdysis has a complex, layered sound like much of Cibo Matto’s material, but a much earthier sound than the electronically driven Cibo Matto stuff, and a closer connection to Hatori’s cultural background. Also, this time around, the theme is bugs, not food.
Catch Hatori at Phoenix Hill — 644 Baxter Ave., 589-4957 — this Sunday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 day of show. It’s 21+.
Hatori is also part of the Hotel Café Tour stopping at the Hill the night before, along with the Cary Brothers, Joshua Radin, The Weepies, Jim Bianco and Louisville’s Peter Searcy. That one gets going at 7 p.m.
In other multicultural music news, this Saturday, the Clifton Cultural Center will be hosting Sahara Gypsies, a fusion group consisting of three men from incredibly varied cultural backgrounds, spanning Russia, the Middle East and the United States. They’ve joined forces to show what people who seem to have very little in common culturally can accomplish when they come together with one shared goal. It has been said before, but in this case it is clear that music is indeed the universal language that can bring together people from all over the world.
The Clifton Cultural Center is at 2117 Payne St. Doors open at 8 p.m. and it costs $10. All ages are welcome. Call 589-6419 for more.
This weekend, Louisville will also play host to the first show in what is planned to become an annual National Jug Band Jubilee (that is, if you don’t count last year’s event, which was held on the Belle of Louisville). The Jubilee will be held at St. Joseph’s Children’s Home — 2823 Frankfort Ave., 451-7981 — and will feature jug bands from all over the country, including the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Louisville’s own Juggernaut Jug Band. All ages are welcome. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. Saturday ($10) and 11 a.m. Sunday ($8), and a two-day pass costs $15.
Send suggestions and correspondence for “Sight Unsound,” a new weekly feature from the LEO Music Desk, to music editor Stephen George at [email protected]