This week, two sparkly dark singer-songwriters you should already know and love will return to SF on separate voyages: Zola Jesus (Thu/26 at Palace of Fine Arts) and Chelsea Wolfe (OK, technically she’s here next Monday). If only Grimes* were dropping by in these next seven to eight days, we’d have a triumvirate of goths-who-wow-now.
But beyond the Zola Jesus/Chelsea Wolfe lovefest, there’s also a totally free (with RSVP and soul-offering) Nick Waterhouse show, plus Islands, Double Duchess with Magic Mouth, Teenage Bottlerocket with the Queers, British teen folk-rocker Jake Bugg, and more!
*It appears Grimes is mostly popping up in Europe and Mexico this season, alas.
Here are your must-see shows:
After the fall of cult lo-fi indie project the Unicorns came the continuation of that sound in the band Islands, formed in the mid-aughts. Both were the creation of prolific, Twitter-friendly singer-guitarist Nick Thorburn. But that’s all ancient history by now. Islands just released fifth album Ski Mask on Manque Music, another step in Thorburn’s sonic evolution. In a recent interview, Thorburn described the record as “A little harder, a little deeper, a little faster and a little darker.” In a recent Tweet, Thorburn lamented, “The moms has perfected the art of ‘brunch drunk,’” and listed his favorite Baldwins in descending order.
Tue/24, 9pm, $18
777 Valencia, SF
The best bet for your Wednesday night is a nervy all-night dance party with “high energy indie electro-hop” duo Double Duchess (Krylon Superstar and davO), soulful Portland rockers Magic Mouth -- whose influences include THEESatisfaction, Gossip, and Erykah Badu -- and Seattle electro-poppers Glitterbang. Go bang!
Wed/25, 8pm, $8
3158 Mission, SF
Darkly operatic singer-songwriter Zola Jesus is always a compelling force live, but this should be an extra-special showing. Not only is the Russian-American musician performing at the Palace of Fine Arts, but she’s bringing legendary Australian composer J.G. Thirwell (aka Foetus) and a string quartet. It’s the live incarnation of her most recent album, Versions, which is a collection of her songs arranged for a quartet by Thirwell, a departure for Jesus, who usually works in the synths and keyboards realm. The intensity of the strings live matched to Jesus’ striking, goth Kate Bushian vocals will likely make for a night of passionate high highs and moody, tearful lows (fans were actually moved to tears at the New York appearance).
Thu/26, 8pm, $25
Palace of Fine Arts
3301 Lyon, SF
Rooky Ricardo’s-bred revivalist rock‘n’roller Nick Waterhouse is traveling back through the city from which he launched his solo musical career tonight. (The early rhythm & blues besotted singer-guitarist moved back down to Southern California a few years back.) And the bespectacled former SF-er will be joined on stage by currently local rockers Cool Ghouls. The whole thing is free as it’s one of those promotional events -- this time for Vans -- which means you must RSVP, and get there early to ensure entry. But hey, free show plus merch (stickers for our binders? One can hope!)
Fri/27, 8pm, free with RSVP at vans.com/RSVP
333 11th St, SF
Teenage Bottlerocket and the Queers
“Joey Ramone? Dead. Dee Dee Ramone? Definitely dead. Johnny Ramone? So dead. Pop-punk that takes more than a couple pages out of the Ramones’ catchy, three-chord song book? Not so dead. That being said, most of the guys from the Ramones are dead, but its musical style lives on in many bands today such as pop-punk mainstays Teenage Bottlerocket and the Queers. Co-headlining a show at Bottom of the Hill, both bands have a lengthy catalog of snotty pop-punk anthems and cheesy love songs that are undeniably catchy. Also on the bill are Midwest pop-punks the Copyrights, who released an album of rarities and b-sides called Shit's Fucked on It's Alive Records earlier this year.” -- Erin Dage
Sat/28, 9:30pm, $15
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF
“The year 2012 was a big one for Jake Bugg. At age 18, he could finally vote, enlist in the army, buy things over the telephone...and he had the No. 1 album in the UK. The Nottingham native has been writing songs on his acoustic guitar since age 12. Now, at the ripe old age of 19, Bugg is working on another album and is coming across the pond to share his thoughtful, catchy folk tunes with the colonies. Bugg has been called a new Bob Dylan, which may be a bit of a stretch (there can only be one) but the fact that the comparison has been made at all speaks volumes about his extraordinary talent. Plus, he's feuding with One Direction. Two thumbs up.” -- Haley Zaremba
Sun/29, 8pm, $15
1805 Geary, SF
There's always been this animalistic thread woven throughout Chelsea Wolfe's output, and Pain is Beauty is no exception. (Indeed, Wolfe described her newest LP as a "love-letter to nature.") The LA-via-Sacramento artist's powerful soprano hollers are matched to ethereal whispery echoes, maintaining a balance between lightness and darkness. Her previous release, 2012's Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, was, obviously, acoustic, but the sparse record is still deeply unsettling. With Pain is Beauty, the singer-songwriter returns to a darker, grittier sound. And yet, there's a more electronic twist on her early doomy experimental guitarwork (as with breakout 2011 record Apokalypsis), bursting with both synths and strings this time, without missing the black-hearted emotional core rooted in all living things.
Mon/30, 8pm, $15
Great American Music Hall
859 O'Farrell, SF