TAJ MAHAL: Topanga Contest Winner. Courtesy photo


Local blues legend RAY BAILEY sat in with SOUTHSIDE SLIM at his gig at Harvelle’s Friday night. Proprietor Damian said “he blew the doors off the place!”Sure wish I had been there. But that’s another reason I moved here for the music 40 years ago. These things don’t happen in Albuquerque or Duluth. And the only way you get in on it, is to get your behind out to all these glorious live music shows we are [privileged to be surrounded with. Real down home blues ain’t on your screen.

That one was unannounced but pretty well announced was the appearance of “The King of Downey” at McCabe’s the next night. It is always worthwhile to catch DAVE ALVIN, the songwriting Blaster, in any format from solo to band, but this was his very first performance  in 2-½ years, he told us. COVID lockdowns, plus a small matter of beating stage four cancer (now cancer free!) When public figures go public with something like this it is an inspiration to so many. Long Live the King!

He played with the Rick Holmstrom Band, which is three guys who are the better part of Mavis Staples’ band. Now that’s a credit. And who else on drums? Our own homie, STEVE MUGALIAN.


TOPANGA BANJO  FIDDLE CONTEST & FOLK FESTIVAL – It hasn’t been in Topanga for years and it’s a whole lot more than banjos and fiddles (though there are a passel of those) but through the greatest travails that usually befall this kind of homemade but huge festival that draws players and listeners from around the world, bouncing around to many locations, COVID, a terrible forest fire on the premises, the passing of vital organizers and the usual immense money problems, they are back, not called “Annual” because of that but it’s the 61st Annual as far as I’m concerned, and it remains one of the greatest music treasures in this state of so much music. Take the whole family, stay the day, eat picnic or from food trucks, wander from stage to barn to under the big shady trees for pro performers and near-pro jams. Bring your own instrument!  Sun 9 a.m., featured performances 12N, jamming all day. Paramount Ranch, Agoura Hills, $30-65, kids under 10 free.            

EM the MASTER  – She’s still amazing, she’s still here. Nothing good lasts forever, you know. Every Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $10.


TONIGHT! – LA PHIL with DUDAMEL performs STRAVINSKY’S “PETRUSHKA,” REVUELTAS – Yet more Stravinsky! Another ballet… for puppets? And Dudamel favorite Revueltas’ amazing soundscape of Latin American percussion. This probably won’t happen again, not in your lifetime. So – why would you miss it, especially for 20 bucks? Thurs, Fri 8 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, $20-242.

RICK SHEA, Petty/Chavez, Jeff Turmes in Songwriters Showcase  – I’m afraid I don’t know much about Jeff Turmes, except he plays a lot of instruments, writes a lot of songs, and probably most importantly was Mavis Staples’ bass player for quite a while. So,  that’s four members of Mavis’ band on the McCabe’s stage in one week – can’t we get those four to convince Mavis to do an historic show at McCabe’s, maybe the kind of political fundraisers she has always done for good causes?  I saw Petty/Chavez once, one of the few things good that came out of the ridiculous and costly Main Street Closure failed vanity project. As I approached their spot on the street I was immediately taken with their sound and had to stay for their whole set. Celia Chavez has the more arresting voice and personality but they blend well and, of course… the  words. You’ve got to listen for the poetry this night, the insight and wisdom, that’s what it’s all about (NOT the hokey pokey). 

I’ve been a fan of Rick Shea’s for decades, ever since I got quiet (and smart) enough to understand he is not the powerhouse singer or flashy player in the room (though I have seen him rock out) – simply, a master of both – a poet, with a deep, resonant, quietly expressive, seductive voice that puts you in mind of the qualities of the best, like Merle Haggard. Here’s the way McCabe’s called it: “An artist of subtlety and nuance, his songs reflect the folk, country, rock and Mexican influences he grew up with.” I’ll go see Rick Shea any time he lands within an hour of me, but here he is, in Santa Monica, lucky us. Sun 7 p.m., McCabe’s, Santa Monica, $20.    

TOLEDO DIAMOND — Every time the thought pops up, what shall I do with my weekend, you should remember you can blow the top off it by ending it in front of Toledo Diamond and his superb and absolutely unique show at McCabe’s. Every Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12. 

COMING ATTRACTIONS: LA OPERA performs VERDI’S “AIDA,” Music Center, 5/21, 29, 6/2, 4, 9, 12; LA PHIL, DUDAMEL, “BEETHOVEN’S NINTH,” Disney Hall, 5/26, 27, 28, 29; LAURENCE JUBER, McCabe’s, 5/28; DR. ANGELA DAVIS, Disney Hall, 6/5; EMMYLOU HARRIS, Disney Hall, 6/11.

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com