Birds & Batteries (July 5)

PA’s Lounge is kind of ghetto, and the opening band

sucked badly. But Birds & Batteries—damn! Combining synthesizers and cryptic lyrics with southern twang and pedal steel, Birds & Batteries brings indie cred (read: complexity and copious facial hair) to country rock. They play an awesome live show, and not a person in the room would have disagreed with me. I hope this San Francisco-based band makes it big.

Assassins (August 2)

 One of Stephen Sondheim’s less popular musicals,

it’s certainly unusual to see a production of Assassins during an election cycle. Company One’s production, staged in the intimate BCA Plaza Theatre, was excellent. The casting was first-rate (where did they find a perfect look-alike for Charles Guiteau?) and the singing was excellent. The technical aspects of the show were a little disappointing, as was the band, which sounded as if it were reading the score for the first time. But simply seeing this show is a lot of fun. By chance I heard Neil Patrick Harris (aka Doogie Howser) interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air the previous night—he spoke at length about the way Sondheim’s score reflects the emotions of the characters and his comments were actually pretty insightful.

Surprise Me Mr. Davis (August 7)

 I have to admit I’ve never been a big fan of The Slip,

but I was pleasantly surprised by this weird “electro-folk” combination of The Slip and singer-songwriter Nathan Moore. Jim Hobbs, an eclectic jazz-saxophone player, opened along with his hyper-focused avant-garde drummer. That show was interesting enough, but it was just too much when the two acts took the stage together later that night: as a rule of thumb, there should never be two drummers on stage at once. Nor should a jam band take on a saxophone player who doesn’t know when to stop. In spite of the informality, this show was a series of good long jams—a fun way to spend a rainy night.

Wilco and Andrew Bird (August 12)

 The bass player for Andrew Bird is a friend of the family. How

often do you get to see someone you know play a sold-out show at Tanglewood? Opening for Wilco? Not often! On top of that, Andrew Bird is a phenomenal act. And Wilco’s pretty decent too. I’m pretty damn excited about this show.

Jake Armerding (August 19)

 This Cantab Lounge show has most of the fixin’s of a rare

Barn Star appearance: Jake Armerding on fiddle, his father Taylor on mandolin, Zack Hickman on bass… I can only hope to be present when the old-school bluegrass freight train collides with some foot-stomping classic rock covers.