I have lived in Boise for thirty (30!??!?!) years now and I can tell you that we haven’t always had a thriving music scene like we do today. While we may still get passed up on many of the major national tours, leaving us forced to trek to Portland or (gasp!) Salt Lake City, each year seems to bring more great music than the one before it. I fully anticipate that 2018 will be no different. Surely the ever-growing Treasure Valley population doesn’t hurt, but I like to think that the many passionate people like me who pack the Neurolux, Olympic, and Knitting Factory on a regular basis have helped get the word out among the music community that Boise is not a place to overlook. The success and expansion of Treefort over its now seven-year run has done nothing but help also.
While the winter is notoriously slow for live music (at least of the non-local variety), rest assured that spring is coming, and with it will come dozens of worthwhile concerts across this fair city. Here is a list of shows on my radar to help get you through until then…
Cash’d Out – January 24th – Knitting Factory
Tribute bands are something I just can’t definitively make up my mind about. On one hand, if the artist being “tributed” is deceased or retired, then they serve as an opportunity for that artist’s work to live on in some sense. This can help a new generation discover music that they may have missed simply by, you know, not being born yet. On the other hand, you have copious bands that are really just hacks sucking on the teat of those that they are mimicking on a nightly basis…
This Johnny Cash tribute group (featuring frontman Doug Benson) has been touring since shortly after The Man In Black’s death in 2003, and appears to be the former in my above diatribe. I have had more than one person tell me that this is an act worth seeing. Still on the fence, but it is likely that I will go check this one out. Still bummed that I never got to see John R. Cash while he was still with us…
Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band – January 27th – Knitting Factory
Many of you are aware of Mr. Ritter, given his Idaho roots (Moscow) and successful twenty year career. His 9th studio record, 2017’s Gathering, was a highlight of his discography and one would expect a heavy dose of that album’s batch of tunes along with old favorites including “Getting Ready to Get Down”, “The Curse”, and “Homecoming”. Nicki Bluhm will be opening up the festivities with her country-tinged folk rock sound. Don’t miss this Americana evening, as it should be good from start to finish. I have my ticket, so see you there!
Drive-By Truckers – February 5th – Knitting Factory
Folks, this one is the highlight of the bunch – without a doubt. This band is one of my top five bands on the planet right now for a reason. If you have never seen a DBT live show, you are in for a treat. Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley play some straight-up guitar rock with flourishes of folk and country influence, and they can both write one hell of a song. In fact, they have shared songwriting and singing duties on their records for over twenty years, and they will alternate as the leading man throughout the night.
They have their ballads, including one of my favorite recent songs – “What It Means”, from their fantastic 2016 record American Band. This song captures the essence of police brutality, racism, the Black Lives Matter movement and our country’s response to it in a way that is intelligent, thoughtful, and captivating. The fact that these socially conscious men hail from Alabama is worth noting. Their entire career has been devoted to celebrating and paying respect to the sounds and culture from which they came, all the while noting the dark side that exists in parts of the Deep South.
Having said all that: make no mistake, they are coming to town to rawk! Expect a three-guitar attack in the vein of Lynyrd Skynyrd (their self-described heroes, along with Neil Young). Also, expect to be both moved and sweaty by the time they are done. I had the pleasure to see their last Boise appearance in 2007, as well as a stop Patterson made on his 2014 solo acoustic tour, and I have been counting down the days since this one was announced. If you like rock-n-roll and trust in my musical taste at all, go get yourself a ticket. I will see you there – just don’t expect me to take my eyes or ears off of these guys once they get started. Also: John Hiatt’s daughter, Americana singer/songwriter Lilly, will open.
For those who are not familiar with DBT, best records to start with would be The Dirty South or American Band. Below is a playlist I put together that contains some of my all-time DBT favorites throughout their career. It is worth an hour of your time, you of short attention spans.
LP – February 16th – Knitting Factory
I am not even going to front and pretend that I go way back on this one. In fact, I didn’t even know who LP was until a friend turned me on to her a few months ago. Laura Pergolizzi is a pop singer from New York with amazing pipes and some sincere rock sensibilities. She is also an accomplished songwriter, having penned tracks for Rihanna, Cher, and Christina Aguilera (three of my faves – ha!). While this genre is not necessarily my style per se, I am a now officially a fan and look forward to this show. Her latest record, Lost on You, is full of songs that hit hard due to both her songwriting and vocal prowess. “Up Against Me” and “Other People” are highlights off of that album, which is possibly my favorite pop record of 2017. (Yes, as many of you know about me, pop is almost always a bad word).
Real Estate – February 20th – Neurolux
These boys are one of the kings of soft-rock guitar melodies. They definitely have a signature sound that they do not stray far from, but it certainly works for them. Probably best known for their relationship facing communication problems ballad “Talking Backwards”, they have been making music that worms its way into my brain for almost a decade now. It’s about time I finally see them, and I reckon you should consider heading to the best concert venue in town to see them also.
Bully – March 2nd – Neurolux
So, let’s start with a disclaimer here: I may have a crush on Alicia Bognanno, the lead singer and guitarist for alt-rock outfit Bully. Her voice is at once raw and beautiful, and when she lets it rip into a shriek or scream (which is on most songs), it is downright remarkable. Bully’s brand of music is classic Sub Pop punk/rock/pop with minimal arrangements, direct songwriting, and heaps of the aforementioned impassioned wailing. Their live show must be fun to see, and I intend to find out when they are here March 2nd.
Infamous Stringdusters – March 2nd – Knitting Factory
When these bluegrass/Americana masters played the Big Easy, as I still refer to it, in 2016 I was amazed at how incredible the musicianship was. Each of these men are absolutely astounding in their talent in playing fast and fun bluegrass tunes. If you are a fan of violins, fiddles, banjos, acoustic guitars and good times, this is one you should catch. If not for Bully competing a few blocks away at about half the price, I would be checking them out again.
Anderson East – March 13th – Olympic
Anderson East (born Michael Anderson) has a voice that sounds much older than he is (29, according to the Googles). His songwriting is top-notch, and he incorporates healthy doses of soul and southern R&B sound in the mix. His second record, entitled Encore, was released just this week and my early listens have me very excited about this show. Great venue? Check. Up and coming, talented artist? Check. Will I be there? Check.
Stone Temple Pilots – March 16th – Knitting Factory
Let’s get this out of the way: This is not your Dad’s STP. One of my favorite bands of the LA-grunge scene of the 90s (think the Seattle sound meets Guns and Roses), Scott Weiland and the DeLeo brothers released consistently solid music for a decade before fizzling out. In one of the greatest shows I have ever seen, Stone Temple Pilots (complete with a sober Weiland) co-headlined with Red Hot Chili Peppers in Nampa in 2000. Part of the reason for the band’s inevitable dissolution was Scott’s erratic behavior and related drug problems, which eventually claimed his life just a short time ago. Chester Bennington stepped in and led the group for a short time, before he met his maker as well.
Armed with new vocalist Jeff Gutt, STP are not only back on the road but have an album recorded that is due out this summer and have released a new single from that record, “Meadow”. While the notion of having one of my favorite bands from my adolescence fronted by a runner-up from some TV singing competition show is beyond cringe-worthy, I feel compelled to go. Any crooner worth his salt singing STP songs with Dean and Robert DeLeo is worth my time. Those boys have riffs and melodies for days, and the hits will keep on coming. If you decide to come check it out, I feel confident that you won’t leave feeling the “Big Empty”…
Treefort VII (March 21-25)
Treefort always feels like the start of not only spring, but of the concert season. Two rounds of artists have been released so far, with one more to come, and there are so many bands to research, but highlights that I recognize so far include:
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic – Like Charles Bradley last year, a perfect artist to headline one of the weekend main-stage sets.
Treepeople – Reunion show with Doug Martsch (now of Built to Spill) and Scott Schmaljohn (now of The Hand) sharing guitar and vocal duties – an absolute must-see for all northwest indie-rock fans.
Built to Spill – Indie-rock legends making yet another Treefort appearance. Be there!
Low Cut Connie – One of the most energetic and fun shows I saw in 2017, sure to be a hoot and a holler.
Thunderpussy – These four gals, making a repeat Treefort performance, bring the rawk.
Andrew WK – Although he has fallen into some obscurity of late, his first couple of records were genuinely fast and fun rock & roll. This will be a high energy, raucous set. Spoiler alert: Andrew will perform in his trademark bleached jeans and white T-shirt.
Everyone is Dirty – This crew from the Oakland area play some psychedelic grungy rock. Another Treefort repeater worth catching if you missed them last time.