Our Weekly Concert Picks: November 20–November 26

What we’re catching live this week!

Wednesday, November 20: Jonathan Richman

For more than four decades now, Jonathan Richman has been writing songs and winning fans, thanks to his quirky, conversational style and penchant for simple melodies—both as part of acclaimed rock band The Modern Lovers (which he fronted, on and off, from 1970–1979) and independently. He now boasts more than 25 records, a huge cult following, and is responsible for both punk-rock classics like “Roadrunner” (a playlist stalwart) and lo-fi ditties like “Velvet Underground” and “Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild.” Born 1951 in Natick, Massachusetts, Richman started playing guitar at age 15, and formed The Modern Lovers in 1970, alongside Jerry Harrison (later of The Talking Heads) and David Robinson (later of The Cars). Their acclaimed, self-titled debut was produced by John Cale, but not released until four years later—at which point, both Harrison and Robinson had quit the band, leaving Richman on his own. He re-formed and then disbanded The Modern Lovers again in the late ‘70s—before easing into his role as solo artist, touring prolifically and enjoying guest stints on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. These days, he’s touring behind 2010 record, O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth—although we’d be lying if we said we don’t hope he busts out some “Roadrunner” live.

7:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $17.50. Tickets available here.


Wednesday, November 20: Escort with JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

Holy double-header! We’ve already shared our love for Brooklyn disco orchestra Escort, whose title of “NYC’s best live band” is certainly hard-won, and whose impressive, 17-piece line-up means the amount of energy radiating from the stage will be pretty much insane. Over the past ten years, we’ve loved watching  their transformation—from a pair of laptoppers, making beats in the Vassar College dorms—to a fully-formed disco revivalist machine, whose sultry tunes have earned them props across the blogosphere. This Wednesday, they’ll team up with Chicago rock’n soul group JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, for an evening of non-stop dancing. Front man JC Brooks cut his teeth doing musical theater, where his stunning falsetto (no one does falsetto like Brooks does falsetto) and impassioned, James Brown-inspired dance moves made him an instant sensation. Add a full backing band, funky R&B grooves, and surprisingly sweet+ soulful lyrics, and you have all the ingredients for an evening of feel-good vibes.

8:00 at the TLA, 334 South St., $15. Tickets available here.


Thursday, November 21: Shannon and the Clams

As front woman for Shannon and the Clams, Shannon Shaw possesses two key traits: a killer set of pipes (her husky alto has been compared to Etta James) and a great sense of humor: both of which come to fruition on tunes like “The Cult Song” (best use of “ooga boogas” in a punk track!) But don’t think for a second that that makes her a novelty act—on the contrary, her West Coast garage band (rounded out by guitarist Cody Blanchard and drummer Ian Amberson) has been on the rise since 2009, when they released their first LP, I Wanna Go Home, and starting gigging locally in the Bay Area. Combining classic doo-wop, R&B, rockability, and garage rock with sunny girl group harmonies and a fuzzed-out basement aesthetic, Shannon and the Clams—at their best—sound like a 1960s cover band, who indulged a bit too much before the show, and went wild with the volume and feedback levels. Live, the platinum songstress—who also performs with Hunx and His Punx—has been known to incite riots on the dance floor, so be prepared to unleash your flyest moves.

8:00 at Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., $12–$14. Tickets available here.


Friday, November 22: Mazzy Star

Much like ‘90s cult rockers My Bloody Valentine, who too emerged from a decade-plus hiatus to release a new record in 2013 and play Philadelphia—so will Mazzy Star, whose fourth LP, Seasons of Your Day, dropped last month, and who will bring their gently sparkling tunes to Union Transfer this Friday. Formed in 1983 as Clay Allison by David Roback and Kendra Smith (who soon departed, to be replaced by Hope Sandoval), Mazzy Star are most known for their 1994 hit “Fade Into You,” a tune that encompasses the sort of detached sadness of ‘90s dream pop—and for Sandoval’s gorgeous, dreamy vocals, which seem both effortless yet filled with emotion.  The band’s sound incorporates bits of rock, folk, shoegaze, and psychedelia, juxtaposing fuzzy guitar work with Sandoval’s twangy vocals. And while Seasons arrives after a 17 year break, it picks up right where the band left off, which is to say, gorgeous and haunted. Before you go: stream the entire record for free via The Guardian, and plan to lose yourself in the vibes.

8:30 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., sold out.


Saturday, November 23: Cheers Elephant

For eight years now, Philly rockers Cheers Elephant have been gigging locally, winning fans with sunny harmonies and bright, danceable beats. This winter however, the band will make a big leap, as they move to California—as a band—for a new perspective on life and music. Over the past near-decade, we’ve proudly watched them grow—from the opening band on a week night at The Fire, to high energy headliners rocking JB’s—and we wish them the best of luck out West. But before they go, we look forward to partying with them one last time, during their farewell show this Saturday at the TLA, alongside Nashville rockers the Kopecky Family Band (who are worth checking out in their own right!) Before you go: check out Cheers’ cheery animation for “Like Wind Blows Fire” (created by guitarist Jordan del Rosario) and get ready to bid the men adieu.

8:00 at the TLA, 334 South St., $15. Tickets available here.