JAPAN JAM: The High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California, has been the coming-out party for many a band. Following last year’s event, the buzz was all about a group from Japan called Meltone. The quartet left a lasting impression playing on top of an RV in between stages. Ripping into an extra-funky version of Deodato’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (better known as the theme from 2001), Meltone had the crowd in the palm of their hand. “At High Sierra the audience really cut loose,” exclaimed front man Shinichiro Tomita.
Tomita started Meltone, he said, “not to become famous but to help strengthen Japan’s jam-band community.” Improvisational American music has always made a deep impact on the Land of the Rising Sun, ranging from Miles Davis to the Grateful Dead to Phish. The latter two have heavily influenced the free-ranging spirit of Meltone. Tomita’s guitar work draws comparisons to early Jerry Garcia with an aggressiveness complementing the fluidity.
Meltone makes its second sojourn to the U.S. in support of its sophomore album, Wonderful View. One only needs to hear the opening track, “So,” to understand the magnitude of the band’s potential. Aside from their instrumental prowess, the lyrical effect is one-of-a-kind, blending Japanese and English. They’ll be playing SOhO tonight, July 6, with the dazzling L.A.-based Seismic. With another high-octane jam-band led by ace axeslinger James “Laker” Lake, audiences should be advised to screw their heads on extra tight. — Tyler Blue
AKIMBO AQUÍ: On Saturday, July 8, Casa de la Raza welcomes Akimbo and the Fucking Wrath, two underground rock bands you should have heard about. With sounds inspired by the Who, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin, Akimbo has been touring Europe and the United States for the past six years, and will be playing songs off their latest album Alternative Tentacles, which came out this year. The Fucking Wrath arose to challenge contemporary ideals of music; or, as they say, “The end of your life will be but a speck in our all-trampling awesomeness up the decadently delighted forgotten souls of many.” — Megan Snedden
FLYING FINGERS: Banjo wizard Chris Cairns has been living and breathing bluegrass since starting his first band at age 14. Moving to Santa Barbara from New York in 1998, he quickly established a reputation with the ensemble Wild Sage. In 2003, the ambitious string-master pulled together an all-star cast for the Chris Cairns Band.
Inspired by the lonesome sound of traditional bluegrass as well as the more progressive elements of “newgrass,” the quintet is ready to swing from the branches of SongTree. Leading the supporting cast is mandolin maestro Tom Corbett, who recently taught Tom Selleck to play ukulele. Mahala “Haley” Fortner brings gorgeous vocal harmonies to the table. Prolific multi-instrumentalist Bill Flores claims to have played just about every West Coast venue at least once. Last but not least is SongTree organizer Tom Lee anchoring the bottom end with his wicked upright-bass chops.
Come join the fun this Sunday, July 9, at the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 820 North Fairview, in Goleta. The show starts at 3 p.m. and tickets are $15. They’ll be selling advance copies of their new CD, Cannonball Run, which doesn’t come out officially until September. — TB
WHAT ELSE? The Tearaways come to the James Joyce tonight, Thursday, July 6, for a free show in support of their new album Beat Yer Own Mersey. … SOhO unleashes the mellow fury of the Barefoot Natives on Monday, July 10, the humorous Hawaiian duo of Willie K and Eric Gilliom. … DJ RAP spins at the Wildcat on July 13. … Two Live Crew gets funky at Velvet Jones tonight and then the locals rock it on Friday when the Hairbrain Scheme, Giant Squid Show, and Mass Infusion hit the stage. — Matt Kettmann