Rebel With A Cause

Michael Franti & Spearhead At House Of Blues On Sunday Lead This Week's Concert Picks

When you fight the powers that be, it's wise to have an army at your side. Michael Franti's been building one for years - progressive but detached legions across the festival-going globe with an eye for his walk-the-walk aesthetic and an ear for his gratuitously varied groove. And when he says dance, like he does on his latest album All Rebel Rockers, they do. A worldly mix of German, Irish and African, a vegetarian and yogi, a composer and poet, a world activist and shoeless traveler since 2000 (originally as an anti-poverty protest) - the 42-year-old Oakland native has shown his fans for years how best to lead a peaceful yet revolutionary life. His music helps. Starting with fierce lyrics and hardscrabble rap, Franti led the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy to critical acclaim and an opening spot on U2's Zoo TV tour. Then, in 1994, he branched out to incorporate the funky soul in his heart by creating Spearhead. Since then, he's built a reputation for lyrical supremacy in hippie land. Perhaps you've seen this ubiquitous line from his post-9/11 song "Bomb the World" on a T-shirt or bumper sticker: "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace." It's one of dozens of stick-to-your-brain truisms that mark his work with distinction. But if it were just the stirring lyrics that stood out, you could read them in a book. Luckily, the musings are set to feel-good, head-bobbin' riddims coursing through a timeless roots/rock/soul/folk/rap heart of gold. Franti and Spearhead have evolved through stripped-down folk/reggae into more roots-rock-heavy riffs with wailing harmonic choruses on All Rebel Rockers, an album of dub-inflected dancehall music tempered with their ever-present issue-oriented approach. Sprinkle in some love songs, and what you've got is yet another evolutionary advancement for the People's Republic of Franti. The show starts at 9 p.m. at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583). Tickets: $22-$29.50. - DanHarkins

The Sub City Take Action! Tour

Every year, Sub City/Hopeless Records puts together a bunch of bands to tour around the country to promote awareness and raise money for involvement in charitable action. This is the tour's eighth year, and it boasts a lineup that includes indie/emo acts like Cute Is What We Aim For, Breathe Carolina, Meg & Dia, Every Avenue and Anarbor. Some of the money raised by ticket sales and a compilation CD benefits, an organization that "inspires, empowers and celebrates a generation of doers"- very appropriate for the youth of the Obama era. While lackluster popsters Cute Is What Is What We Aim For and Tegan and Sara wannabes Meg & Dia may not exactly send you running to the box office, the supporting acts (particularly hooky rock band Anarbor) and the concert's cause and message, may incite you to attend. Or you could just volunteer somewhere and listen to better bands on your iPod. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583). Tickets: $18 advance, $20 day of show. - Emily Zemler

Jonny Lang

When Fargo-born guitarist Jonny Lang broke into the music scene over a decade ago, blues fans couldn't believe they were listening to a kid still in his mid-teens. At 14, his voice already had the hoarseness of a weathered bluesman and he possessed the guitar skills of a veteran, inspiring a multitude of young guitarists to start their own bands. These days, Lang's music has taken a turn into soul and gospel, as evidenced by 2003's Long Time Coming and 2006's Grammy-winning Turn Around, which features the poignant "Anything's Possible," a tune about believing in one's dreams. Lang traces a parallel between his own career and the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the track, which includes a snippet of Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Lang has also participated in projects with other musicians - he had a cameo in the infamous Blues Brothers 2000 and has recorded with Hanson, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock and Stevie Ray Vaughan's former band, Double Trouble. He performs at 8:30 p.m. at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583). Tickets: $34-$49.50. - Ernest Barteldes

The Sea and Cake

Most side projects have the evanescent shelf life of milk and smell just as bad when extended beyond their expiration dates. Not so with Chicago's the Sea and Cake. The quartet - Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt, Eric Claridge, John McEntire - coalesced over 15 years ago as an adjunct to its various alter egos (solo artists, photographer, comic-book artist, painter, Tortoise drummer/producer) and is every bit as compelling as it was at the start. Its eighth album, Car Alarm, comes on the heels of 2007's Everybody, and basically continues in a similar vein, melding dreamy alt-pop with earthier indie-rock, suggesting a Cardinal/Pavement summit produced by Brian Eno. Previously, there had been several years' gaps between releases, so Car Alarm and this current road trip seem to represent a significant attempt by the members to push the band into more of a primary position - which is just fine for those who want to have their Sea and Cake (and see it too). Good Touch Bad Touch and Brian Straw open at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show. - Brian Baker

Charlie Louvin

What do you call a musician who has back-to-back Grammy nominations, released two records last year and goes from Beachland opening act to headliner in a matter of months? A hot up-and-coming star? Well, it's actually octogenarian Charlie Louvin. But this living legend has been living it up the last of couple years. For his Grammy-nominated 2007 self-titled disc, he enlisted the likes of George Jones, Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy. Last year, he turned out the stark Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs, as well as the stirring gospel-filled Steps To Heaven (which earned another Grammy nom). Louvin's career dates back to the 1940s when he started performing with his brother Ira. The Louvin Brothers were among country music's top brother acts during the late '50s and early '60s. Following Ira's death in 1965, Charlie soldiered on and is now experiencing a career resurgence. On recent albums, Louvin sings about damnation and redemption in a worldly wise voice that might not be a strong as it once was, but it's still stirring and inspiring. Not many performers make vital music in their 80s, but Louvin has always been a rare breed. JP & the Chatfield Boys open at 8 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $15. - Michael Berick

Too Pure to Die

Once you get past Too Pure to Die's horrifically bad name, you're faced with the task of trying to muck through the unimaginative, cluttered metalcore on the Iowa fivesome's new record, Confess. The formulaic elements are there - chugging guitar riffs, guttural vocals, double-bass drumming. They're all polished to a moderately overproduced studio sheen, but the overall result is pretty generic. "Can I Live" boasts what are probably meant to be impassioned lyrics, propulsive guitars and slick, shot-fire beats, but there's nothing new about its sound. In fact, songs like "Define Irony" (presumably a Reality Bites reference) and the charging "Gotham City" wind up feeling like rehashed songs from an endless number of like-minded bands (Poison the Well and All That Remains come to mind). The show starts at 7 p.m. at Pirates Cove (2045 E. 21st St., 216.776.9999). Tickets: $10. - Zemler

Eagles of Death Metal

With his full-time group, Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme makes fuzzbox sleaze-rock that winks at classic-rock conventions. With his side project, Eagles of Death Metal, Homme makes fuzzbox sleaze-rock that hugs those very same classic-rock conventions. On the Eagles' third album, Heart On, Homme (who plays drums) and Jesse Hughes (the frontman) dig deeper into the grimy, amps-to-11 guitar grind they've been mining since their 2004 debut, Peace, Love, Death Metal. "I'll tell you anything, baby, except the truth," sings Hughes on the opening "Anything 'Cept the Truth," and that pretty much sums up Heart On's plan: Hughes and Homme pile on riffs, jokes and '70s nods to get you into their album. But once you're there and all the dust settles, you realize there isn't much going on. The guys make a sufficient racket on "Wannabe in LA" and "Secret Plans," and "(I Used to Couldn't Dance) Tight Pants" is a funny hip-shaker. But after 40 minutes of detached debauchery and recycled hooks, it becomes clear they're all talk. The Living Things open at 9 p.m. at the Agora Ballroom (5000 Euclid Ave., 216.881.2221). Tickets: $17. - Michael Gallucci

Scroll to read more Music News articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.