May 19: The Evie Ladin Band plays what they call "kinetic folk." That's because Ladin grew up doing clogging and folk dance and band member and husband Keith Terry is one a master of body music, so the two are often at their best in live shows when you can watch them play, sing and dance. Ladin's new album, Jump the Fire, is a collection of newly written songs. She spent a week in a cabin in Cazadero writing with just a wood stove as company. “Creativity," she told me, "comes out of a certain amount of space and boredom." Details for her show at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage are here.
May 19-22: Robert Moses makes dances that mix a bit of ballet and a bit of street dance. His Kin dance company just won an Izzie Award, and the company is doing a new Moses piece for its 21st season called 21 Fully Realized Incomplete Thoughts. Moses says it's “about the evolution of ideas in a series of dramatic episodes of 'things I’ve always intended to get back to.'" Details for the Z Space shows are here.
May 15 & 17: Jason Isbell writes complex confessional songs that expose how much he needs something to hold onto, something other than the drugs and alchohol he kicked a few years ago. In"24 Frames," a song that just won the Grammy for Best American Roots, he sings, "You thought God was an architect, now you know. He’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow." His songs are great, and almost as good as the singer songwriter he's opening for May 15 at Mountain Winery. Details for that show here. John Prine. Prine is also at the Luther Burbank Center May 17. Details here.
Now through June 25: The play Red Velvet is about the African American actor Ira Aldridge, who became a star on the British stage in the 1820s and 30s. It was a big hit in London a few years ago, and it takes a great actor to fill these big shoes. San Francisco is lucky to have the East Bay's Carl Lumbly (Cagey and Lacey on TV, Between Riverside and Crazy at ACT) as Aldridge, and the gifted Margo Hall as director. Written by Lolita Chakrabati, herself an actress. Details here.
May 16 & 17: In his days as a James Brown imitator, Charles Bradley was known as Black Velvet. His voice has coarsened a bit over the years, he's had a hard life, but he's still got that smooth touch singing both hard funk and soul. He hooked up with Daptone Records a few years ago, and they've given him the career he always deserved. On his new album, Bradley does a version of the Black Sabbath Song, "Changes." But he doesn't need any gimmicks to be great. Details for his show at the Catalyst May 16 are here. And his May 17 show at the Fillmore in San Francisco, here.
And a quick shout-out: David Ives' translation of The Heir Apparent in rhyming couplets, at the Aurora in Berkeley — very silly, very funny… and love triumphs, through the 22nd.