Punk Rock Bowling is back again, and the musical lineup looks superb. There’s plenty of classic testosterone-fueled punk on hand (Agnostic Front, The Damned, D.R.I.), sure. But there’s also more diverse, quirkier fare this time around. Case in point: new-wave pop radicals Devo, and a group comprising former members of hardcore icons Black Flag called, well, Flag. (They play the music of Black Flag, but shouldn’t be confused with the “official” Black Flag, see?) Sadly, unless you already bought tickets, you can’t see these groups. But here are two smaller, even more varied club shows to which you can still buy admission via the Punk Rock Bowling website.
Motor City-based female-fronted garage-soul cover band the Detroit Cobras (pictured above) sink their fangs into LVCS at 10:30 p.m. May 25. Powered by the uncompromising, cigarette-wrecked, whiskey-cracked voice of singer Rachel Nagy, the Cobras can be counted on to spit out a full set of songs by the best—Leadbelly, Bettye Lavette, Little Willie John—in a way that serves to underscore what makes these songs so great in the first place: true grit, real heart. Nagy and Co. haven’t released an album since 2007’s Tied and True. But they wield an infinite arsenal of tunes, so catching the Cobras live is vital. Also on the bill: Throw Rag, the Muffs and the Tinglerz.
Rockabilly-country queen Wanda Jackson recorded a series of devastating rockers (“Fujiyama Mama,” “Mean, Mean Man”) during the ’50s while touring with the likes of Elvis Presley. She will hijack your senses at 10:30 p.m. May 26 in Backstage Bar & Billiards. No less than White Striper Jack White re-introduced Jackson to a new generation of fans by producing her 2011 covers disc The Party Ain’t Over. Last year, Steve Earle’s son, Justin Townes Earle, produced Unfinished Business, another equally acclaimed covers collection. Jackson is 75, yet remains a dazzling performer. She’ll play her early works, too. Water Tower and Steve Soto share the bill.
Once PRB wraps up, there’s one more show I order you to attend: Menacing alt-country chamber-music ensemble Murder by Death (9 p.m. May 29 at Beauty Bar). This Indiana indie band incorporates haunting cello passages quite effectively into what critics have characterized as a Johnny Cash-meets-Nick Cave approach to songwriting. Murder by Death’s most recent CD is last year’s Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, a collection of stirring Southern Gothic rock that includes “Lost River.” Sung by deep baritone-blessed frontman Adam Turla, it’s told from a ghost’s perspective, a lover speaking across death’s chasm: Though my days are over/You know where I’ll be/Swim that lost river to me. It’s not all doom-and-gloom, though. “Straight at the Sun” is a soaring, straight-up rocker. Vegas’ best band, Deadhand, opens.