If you’re someone who doesn’t like change, then Sleepytime Gorilla Museum probably isn’t the band for you. Maybe one of the quirkiest if not the weirdest groups out there right now, the Oakland quintet refuses to stay consistent. From song to song, measure to measure, show to show, they change more times than John McCain’s mind (although they seem more in line with Obama’s campaign of change). One minute they sound like opera singers banging around in a junkyard, the next they sound like the blackest of black metal bands from some Scandinavian hinterland.
On their fourth studio album, In Glorious Times, the Museum exhibits a veritable freak show of songs. The 10-minute lead track, “The Companions,” lulls you into a trance with twinkling xylophones, sleepy horns and singer Nils Frykdahl’s histrionic croon before the song veers through a maze of prog rock, avant-pop, cabaret and metal, clobbered out on a hodgepodge of homemade instruments. About seven minutes in, the song could be mistaken for the soundtrack to someone’s bad acid trip, or maybe that psychedelic boat scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. This psychedelic cacophony of an introduction only leads to more mindbending dissonance and whiplashing genre-hopping as each song proudly tops the previous one in the bizarro department. Live, the group is oddball incarnate, adorned in horror-show costumes and black-and-white makeup, slithering through cockeyed time signatures and bashing away on metal pans, trash can lids and other found objects. The closest comparison might be the absurdist mutant theatrics of Mr. Bungle, but even they come off like Britney Spears next to the Museum. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum plays with Mute Socialite at 8 pm Sunday, July 6, at the WOW Hall. $13 adv. $15 door. — Jeremy Ohmes
Old-timey Acoustic Weekend
This Fourth of July weekend (and beyond), jug bands and folk music are taking over local venues, offering plenty of opportunities to celebrate the holiday grooving to old-timey tunes or the acoustic musings of folk rockers. Start the weekend off at Axe and Fiddle, where Sour Mash Hug Band will play old-time dance music, gypsy swing and originals on such old-fashioned instruments as the washboard, jug and washtub bass. (8 pm Thursday, July 3, Axe and Fiddle. $4.)
Stick around in Cottage Grove and catch Brokers Three and Glutton Mouth on Friday, July 4. Glutton Mouth, a folk rock band of “dustbowl pirates,” also features old-timey instruments and sound with elements of grunge mixed in. (8:30 pm Friday, July 4, Axe and Fiddle. $3.)
On the same night, two other jug bands play at Sam Bond’s: The Blair St. Mugwumps and Gin Mill Sallys. The Blair St. Mugwumps add a Hawaiian touch to the jug band sound with ukulele. (9:30 pm Friday, July 4, Sam Bond’s Garage. $3-$5.)
Stretch out your weekend with The Wrong Trousers at Cozmic Pizza on Monday. The trio of harp, mandolin and upright bass plays fun, uplifting songs and even a folk cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star.”(9 pm Monday, July 7, Cozmic Pizza, $5.)
Two singers and guitar players, Courtney Robbins and Leila Lopez, perform at Cozmic Pizza on Tuesday. Lopez plays folk music with jazz and Latin influences. Robbins, a skillful guitar player, describes her music as folk rock with more rock than folk. (8 pm Tuesday, July 8, Cozmic Pizza. $3-$5.)
On Wednesday, Green Mountain Grass, a string quartet of mandolin, fiddle, banjo/guitar and upright bass, keeps the party going with folksy bluegrass at Sam Bond’s. (9:30 pm Wednesday, July 9, Sam Bond’s Garage.)
Finally — for the moment, anyway — Cozmic Pizza hosts a Jug Band Hoe-Down on Thursday, July 10 featuring Below the Salt, Sour Mash Hug Band, Gallus Brothers and Crow Quill Night Owls. Below the Salt sounds influenced by Eastern European folk music while Gallus Brothers and Crow Quill Night Owls have more of a country sound. (9 pm, Thursday, July 10, Cozmic Pizza, $5.) — Inka Bajandas
As public arts funding withers and mainstream arts institutions narrow their foci, what’s a conscientious, out-there artist to do? DIY, of course. Do it Yourself was the motto of the original punk movement and that attitude has increasingly fueled artists of all genres whose appeal doesn’t exactly fit white-bread culture. And evolving, ever-cheaper technology — from desktop publishing to laptop recording — makes DIY increasingly EZ. Milwaukee noise musician Peter J. Woods picked up his entrepreneurial attitude in the punk bands he played in as a teenager. He’s also a playwright, arts advocate and performance artist involved in the city’s independent theatre scene. (Theater is another long-standing source of scrappy DIY artistry.) Now a Marquette University student, Woods started a local experimental arts organization to “break away from the mindset that progressive art, music and theatre … must come from an established source and exist in an established venue. Together, we will return art, music, and theatre to the hands of the community and form our own arts scene … one we control, no one else.” If that self-starting philosophy sounds similar to the attitude emanating from Olive and Broadway in Eugene, you won’t be surprised to hear that Woods, now embarking on a West Coast tour, will be bringing his sometimes harsh, often searing noise to DIVA. Peter J. Woods performs at DIVA at 8 pm Thursday, July 10. $5. — Brett Campbell
Read This Song
In his promotional photograph, Jared Mees looks like a cross between that hot guy who always slouched in late to philosophy class and a jolly vagrant who happily lives in a dumpster. Musically, it could be argued he’s both of these things. Mees the songwriter operates from a platform clearly grounded in the use of stylized language and a well-hewn ability to comment on the world from a classically informed context. Mees the total musician, on the other hand, is much more raw, lives more in the moment and is in no way ashamed to sing about the lowest of low points in his robustly imperfect voice.
Pretty much everyone in the music business lists Bob Dylan as one of their influences. Lyrically, Jared Mees is one of the few who can say it without looking like a total chump sack. His songs are like books you can’t put down, taking firm grasp in the first few lines and seeing the listener through a miniature journey of strung-together moments and reflections that are often dark and just as often hilarious. Backing band The Grown Children wisely operates as primarily supportive cast members; while Mees’ melodies are catchy, it would be a shame to overwhelm his words with overblown instrumentation. Now, far be it from me to say that great lyrics and great music can’t go hand-in-hand. But songs that include such a large number of lyrics on subjects from watching TV to being paralyzed by fear of death deserve accompaniment in the true sense of the word. Truly literature in musical clothing, Mees’ songs are perfect for people who would rather get their poetic jollies with a tap of the toe than a turn of the page. Jared Mees and the Grown Children, The Wherewithalls and Thought Train play at 10 pm Thursday, July 10, at Luckey’s. 21+ show. $3. — Adrienne van der Valk