The Smith Center
This show is free, so obviously I would advise that you attend no matter who is performing. But Childish Gambino is performing, so that’s all the more reason to go. Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, is one of the biggest new artists out there. His album “Camp” was one of the most successful debuts of last year, selling more than 140,000 copies and combining indie-rock beats with honest – albeit often vulgar – lyrics. What’s especially interesting about Gambino’s lyrics is the near tearful sensitivity they exhibit and the way he incorporates this raw emotion into music. No other rapper could get away with the opening hook of an EP being, “I don’t wanna be alone,” but somehow he’s made sensitivity cool. With rumors surrounding the future of Glover’s day job on the NBC show “Community,” as his music career rises, I would say it’s safe to assume we will be hearing a lot more from his hip-hop alter ego in the near future. Until then, check out a free show and see one of the biggest up-and-comers out there.
Score: Lyrics find Gambino discussing “money, women and clothes, and cars,” as well as what it feels like to be raised by a single parent, heartbreak and his love for women. It’s going to be an awesome show. And did I mention it’s free?
Bore: Let’s just hope that Program Board doesn’t ask him to tone it down.
April 15 and 16
On weeknights, The Roots is the house band for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” – a great gig for one of the best hip-hop and R&B groups in the world. The Roots’ new album “undun,” released in December, tells the story of a young-man-turned-criminal, but not in a romanticized way. The album is a treatise on what it’s like to be young and impoverished in America, yet I would advise against viewing it as a case study of sorts. In typical Roots fashion, the lyrics are more about looking inside oneself, as opposed to judging others. This show should evoke similar feelings and is an opportunity to see one of the best groups of the past two decades doing its thing.
Score: One of, if not the most, influential instrumental bands in the evolution of modern hip-hop.
Bore: The show is pricey, and a really deep catalog means you probably won’t recognize a lot of tracks.
Trampled by Turtles
The 9:30 Club
Hailing from Duluth, Minn., Trampled by Turtles is a traditional folk band with a wide appeal. Pulling from influences such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, TBT was founded by guys who wanted to take a break from their rock music roots and get back to something much more organic. And that is definitely what they achieved. Songs like “Alone” build slowly from a ballad-type sound to a wall of acoustic sound. Their newest album “Stars and Satellites” drops April 10, but any eager fans can stream it online on Paste Magazine's web site. The intertwining of lively folk and bluegrass with ballads reminiscent of the early work of the Eagles or Crosby, Stills & Nash creates an interesting fan base and is sure to evoke a strong community feel in the audience.
Score: Beautiful folk tunes for souls both young and old.
Bore: Some tunes are a little too knee-slapping for my taste, but that’s a personal thing.