Ben E. King, Taylor Swift, The Lovely Few

Plus: King of Prussia; The Dubber; Caleb Caudle & Haley Dreis; Wil Maring & Robert Bowlin
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Wednesday 20

King of Prussia — Like its closest sonic antecedents The Shins and spiritual godfathers Simon and Garfunkel, Athens’ King of Prussia leans heavily on delicate instrumentation — acoustic guitars, banjos, glockenspiel — and glossed-out, ethereal vocals that never gnash or give way to aggression. With the band’s latest release Transmissions from the Grand Strand, guitarist and singer Brandon Hanick has crafted an album that leaves little room in its 11 tightly constructed set pieces for overt emotion, and so achieves an atmosphere both placid and pleasant. Sea Wolf Mutiny headlines. M. Spawn

New Brookland Tavern: 7:30 p.m., $5 ($8 under 21); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com.

Thursday 21

Bridging the Disconnect — Not sure what the disconnect in this event’s title is, but the artists involved are certainly a diverse lot. The Dubber is a D.C.-born, Columbia-based singer-songwriter with roots in reggae, hard rock and socially conscious hip-hop; he’ll be previewing his upcoming album Cleaning Up the Dirty South, which includes the single “Under the Milky Way.” Simeon Twitty is a University of South Carolina student who recently had his “(Living With) This Misery” selected by the USC School of Music to be recorded for the Shure Scholastic 9 recording competition. In addition to the music, Graffiti-inspired artist Cedric Umoja will be live painting. K. Oliver

Red Door Tavern: 8 p.m., free; 708-6066, facebook.com/reddoor803.

Friday 22

Rachael Sage — Built atop a foundation of piano and strings, Rachael Sage’s music has the sort of breathless, impassioned quality that made female singer-songwriters of the late ’90s Lilith Fair era such commercial and critical juggernauts. Her weapon of choice is the ballad, but there is a subtle sense of play here, and her repertoire wanders at times into near-vaudevillian pop. Her voice is confident and has a somewhat rare glint of authenticity to it — in her more upbeat, feistier moments, you can actually hear her smile as she sings. M. Spawn

Conundrum Music Hall: 8 p.m., $10; 250-1295, conundrum.us.

Saturday 23

Caleb Caudle & Haley Dreis — When Columbia fans heard that Haley Dreis was heading off to Nashville to make her fame and fortune in Music City, few could have fathomed that she would be where she is now — touring the Southeast with North Carolina alt-country stalwart Caleb Caudle as part of a road-warrior touring strategy to showcase the new couple’s dual threats. While Dreis isn’t about to give up her pop smarts and hook-driven songcraft, she also plays fiddle with Caudle, a songwriter whose forlorn voice and contemplative ruminations on love, life and region mix Jay Farrar weightiness with early Ryan Adams-style appeal. K. Petersen

The Red Door: 9 p.m., free; facebook.com/reddoor803.

Ben E. King — It’s somewhat unfair that Ben E. King’s legacy gets reduced to one song. The impressive soul singer and songwriter was part of the sensational second line-up for The Drifters, lending his comfortably rough croon to such luminary singles as “There Goes My Baby” and “This Magic Moment” before leaving the group in 1960. He then began a successful solo career that has been marked by many passionate and seductive standouts, but he will forever be known as the singer and co-writer of “Stand By Me,” a song that perfectly sums up the sincerity and gravitas that has made that era of soul so iconic. J. Lawrence

Newberry Opera House: 8 p.m., $45; 803-276-6264, newberryoperahouse.com.

The Lovely Few — The Lovely Few are one of Columbia’s most modern-sounding bands. Taking inspiration from outer space, the outfit’s Meteor Series — which currently comprises two releases, 2012’s The Perseids and The Orionids — is smoothed over by beautifully buzzing synthesizers and effect-enriched vocal harmonies, but the music is complicated by skittering rhythms courtesy of transfixing drums, created by both man and machine. The trio’s style uniquely draws from the darkened utility of industrial music while indulging in melodic uplift more common in electro-pop. The results are crisp and creative, a sound that’s among the more exciting in the Palmetto State. J. Lawrence

Tapp’s Arts Center: 8 p.m., $5; tappsartscenter.com.

Wil Maring & Robert Bowlin — While modern conversations about bluegrass rarely revolve around songwriting, there are still some amazing original songs being written in the tradition-minded genre. A case in point is Wil Maring, an Iris DeMint/Alison Krauss hybrid who plays and writes some of the most comfortable yet astute contemporary folk music you are likely to hear. Alongside longtime guitarist and fiddler Robert Bowlin, Maring has fashioned classic sound to fit her original tunes, and in doing so performs with the kind of authenticity and back porch warmth that bigger-name acts can’t even hope to match. Call or email for reservations. K. Petersen

Cayce’s Women Club: 8 p.m., $20; 309-0214, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Taylor Swift — I sympathize with Taylor Swift. Twenty-three years old, Swift’s lyrics — she writes her own, a remarkably rare quantity in today’s pop music machine — are gawky but sincere, the behind-blue-eyes musings of a girl who’s had her heart broken too many times and who tries to be everything to everyone and who cares a little too much about what the cool kids think of here and who still, as a burgeoning adult, isn’t quite sure where she fits in. It’s that last quality that’s perhaps most reflected in Red, Swift’s monster 2012 record, which jumps through styles like an early-20s girl trying on outfits at the mall. She eschews country music more and more as she blossoms from ingénue to pop star (see: the bouncy stutter-pop of “We Are Never Getting Back Together”; the lite-dance “22”; the bombastic arena-rock of “State of Grace”), but it’s in the quieter moments, like the melancholy “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” that we’re reminded that underneath this pop monolith is a girl who might just be a little too fragile for her own good. And it humanizes her. With flame-haired British folk-hop youngster Ed Sheeran, who proves just how far Swift’s strayed from her textile-mill town roots. P. Wall

Colonial Life Arena: 7 p.m., $31.50-$86.60; 1-855-456-2849, lmctix.com.

Sunday 24

Deathstill — Though its recording credits include only a handful of rehearsal-space demos, local metal quintet Deathstill nevertheless makes a strong impression. Nimble thrash gallops give way easily and seamlessly to solos that evoke Motörhead’s roadhouse blues-metal and the moody melodicism of Swedish death metal. Double-time bursts suggest Slayer’s proto-death rampage and a vocal style borrowed from crust punk casts raw, throaty barks against a varied patchwork of metallic inspirations. Old-school death metal and revivalist thrash both have seen recent surges in popularity, but Deathstill sidesteps trendiness for a bitter mash of thrash intensity and death metal belligerence. With Before the Eyewall, Pig Mountain and Abacus. B. Reed

New Brookland Tavern: 7:30 p.m., $5 ($8 under 21); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com.

Monday 25

Family of the Year — Indie-pop outfit Family of the Year plays a particularly sunny brand of Beach Boys-inspired pop befitting of its California home, despite the fact that brother bandleaders Joseph and Sebastian Keefe are Welsh, an ethnic group not known for its sunniness. Rooted in classic pop songwriting, the band’s Loma Vista, released last year, reaches for the same retro-modernist pop shared by Mumford and Sons and Fleet Foxes — acoustic-based alt-pop built on handsome melodies and enough songwriting twists to avoid rote genre exercise. P. Wall

New Brookland Tavern: 7 p.m., $10 ($8 advance); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com.

Tuesday 26

Ultraviolet Hippopotamus — It’s as if jam bands signed some sort of Grover Norquist pledge never to let any genre stabilize within their comprovisational sprawl. “The group deftly journeys between funk, jazz, livetronica, space rock, reggae, bluegrass and progressive rock within a single show and, sometimes, within a single song,” could be a line snatched from any jam-band bio, and indeed it comes from Ultraviolet Hippopotamus’. But where most jammers’ self-praised eclecticism leads to soupy wah-stomping and redundant choogling, Ultraviolet Hippo have the technical chops and oddball streak to pull it off. As much as the band might suggest Phish or Umphrey’s McGee, it shares a stylistic irreverence with The Dead Milkmen and Frank Zappa, and a twist of prog like Les Claypool. B. Reed

New Brookland Tavern: 8 p.m., $5 ($7 under 21); 791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com.

Let us know what you think: Email music@free-times.com.

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