Davina and the Vagabonds
Davina Sowers scats like Christina Aguilera and belts like Etta James, and she has the get-up-and-dance-with-me magnetism of Tina Turner. From behind her piano, in the company of her Vagabonds, the classically trained Sowers wields a stage presence that rivals any arena-ready diva. In her adopted home of Minneapolis, crowds pack blues and jazz rooms to hear the onetime street performer spin her vaudeville-tinged tales of love on the rocks. Fans of jazz, blues, rockabilly or just a rockin' good time should carve this night at Knuckleheads into their calendars.
Thursday, March 20, Knuckleheads Saloon (2715 Rochester, 816-483-1456)
Berlin's Fenster calls its music "deconstructed pop," which is a typical European way of describing electro-pop music. Still, we'll let them have it. The songs on Fenster's latest full-length, The Pink Caves, are like feathers strung into a dreamcatcher: wistful, mysterious and a little creepy. The band takes inspiration from science fiction and cultish mysticism, and its music lets that weird energy out by employing various non-instruments (shovels, among other innocuous objects). The sound is like being dropped into a Dali painting, which makes for an interesting live show. Spirit Is the Spirit opens.
Thursday, March 20, Replay Lounge (946 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-749-7676)
Sneaky Creeps, Drop a Grand, the Big Iron
Some new, fun trouble is stirring at 37th Street and Broadway. Black & Gold Tavern has undergone a bit of rebranding. The upstairs space is now known as Vandals, with new lights, sound equipment and a stage. Vandals celebrates its grand opening with a handful of local bands that are all party connoisseurs. The Big Iron's beefy, strong-armed rock and roll will guide your hand toward another beer; Drop a Grand's irreverent weirdness will make shots seem like the best possible idea; and the dirty, coarse-ground punk rock of Sneaky Creeps will guarantee bad decisions worthy of an early morning Taco Bell run.
Saturday, March 22, Vandals at Black & Gold Tavern (3740 Broadway, 816-561-1099)
On its debut record, Manhattan, Skaters — from, you guessed it, Manhattan — doesn't really push the envelope. The group writes songs about what it knows: living in New York City, being young, partying, and making romantic connections that are less about emotional attachment and more about who looks good when you're wearing beer goggles. Skaters uses electronic drumbeats, synths and distorted vocals, but a few vogue touches don't mean the band is trying to impress anyone. Manhattan is more like a Kerouac ode to living the slightly disheveled sweet life in the country's capital of instant gratification. If nothing else, you've got to admire a band that doesn't shove dirty laundry under the bed just because there's company.
Wednesday, March 26, Czar (1531 Grand, 816-421-0300)
It has been quite a whirlwind career for ZZ Ward. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter has been on the national scene only since 2012, when her debut album, Til the Casket Drops, confounded reviewers with its genre mash-up of blues, soul and hip-hop. At least, that's what critics keep pointing out. But Ward isn't so hard to read. All of her radio-ready, canned-but-catchy pop songs (and quirky fedoras) reveal a more polite version of Adele. It's not that she doesn't sound good — she's an excellent singer — but that she just doesn't sound all that different.
Wednesday, March 26, The Midland (1228 Main, 816-283-9921)