FREQUENT FLIERS: If there is one thing Gillian Welch isn’t, it’s predictable. You never quite know where the Nashville-based singer/songwriter will turn up next, or who might turn up with her, for that matter. From Emmylou Harris to Willie Nelson to Ryan Adams, Welch’s vocals have graced the recordings of some of the best. Just last week, when Welch and longtime partner and collaborator David Rawlings were playing The Basement in their Tennessee hometown, Norah Jones decided to stop by for a song or two. Last weekend also saw Welch and Rawlings venturing off into the Californian desert for the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival before heading to the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans.
The duo is obviously using some frequent flier miles. On Saturday, May 5, they will be back on the West Coast supporting Bright Eyes at the Arlington Theatre (1317 State St.). The addition of Welch and Rawlings to the current Bright Eyes tour stems from the recording sessions for the band’s recently released Cassadaga. Along with the likes of Ben Kweller and M. Ward, the Tennessee two joined Bright Eyes frontman and Omaha native Conor Oberst in the studio. Rawlings ultimately played guitar on four of the album’s tracks and Welch contributed vocals to one. The duo will be supporting Oberst throughout the month of May before getting the summer festival season going with an appearance at Bonnaroo. So grab your tickets (there are just a few left) and check out a few of the best Midwestern transplants on the touring circuit today. -Brett Leigh Dicks
OAK FOLK: The Song Tree Concert Series is a long-running monthly music showcase held at the fellowship hall at the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation (820 N. Fairview Ave., Goleta). This Saturday, May 5, the series presents singer/songwriter Alan Thornhill. An Ojai native, Thornhill has a couple traditional singer/songwriter albums under his belt, but his latest release, Guitarpenter’s Dream, is a more intimate, instrumental affair that showcases his knack for fingerpicking. -Max Burke
Thornhill’s previous albums were studio-produced and included an ensemble of other players, but Guitarpenter’s Dream was recorded at his home with minimal accompaniment. The style change paid off, making for a superb record that fits in nicely among the recent revivalists of the American acoustic tradition, including Jack Rose and Sir Richard Bishop. But Thornhill’s gift of melody and lyrics infuse the songs with a flavor all their own. A chance to see the man in action should not be missed. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. with a suggested $15 donation and, as with all Song Tree shows, proceeds benefit the congregation’s operations. More information can be found at .songtree.org
EXPERIMENTAL I.V.: Those culturally cool, environmentally clean, socially conscious cats at Biko House (6612 Sueno Rd., Isla Vista) are hosting Experimental Music Night tonight, Thursday, May 3, at 8 p.m. The evening features jazz band the Crush-A-Lots, direct from CalArts, and eminent jazz bassist and Halo Quartet leader Hal Onserud. If you’re not already hip to it, Biko is a student-run cooperative house in Isla Vista. The Biko garage functions as an all-purpose, donation-run community space for meetings, music, and art exhibitions. It’s a great place to hear music and a wonderful way to support the local arts community. The show is free and all ages are welcome, so you really don’t have an excuse not to check it out. -Greg Nichols
SO GOOD, THEY’RE BAD: The Bad Plus is an alchemical fusion of jazz, pop, and indie. The consortium of the best parts of each genre makes for a truly soulful, generally unpredictable, and utterly listenable sound. The trio-featuring bass, piano, and percussion-comes from well-established roots in the L.A. and New York jazz scenes. The group’s new CD, prog, drops on May 8, and they’ll be celebrating with a show at SOhO on Wednesday, May 9. Join them for an unforgettable night as they kickstart the West Coast leg of their international tour. Visit sohosb.com for show info. -GN