Surreal times

Pajama party: Underneath a dim spotlight in the corner of Blue Lamp, a man wearing a unicorn mask bobbed his head along with his stick horse. Occasionally, they exchanged glances. Meanwhile, a handful of people wearing plaid pajama pants shyly danced along to the rap stylings of Hobo Johnson onstage.

These were the surreal surroundings of Cosmic Cantina, an evening (with PJs encouraged) organized by the indie-electro self-proclaimed “unicorn princess,” SpaceWalker. Two dozen people drank in the lounge on a sleepy Thursday night—it was like an Edward Hopper scene bedazzled with the random humor of the internet age.

Despite the slim school-night audience, Hobo Johnson and his band delivered a performance worthy of a bigger stage. Lead man Frank Lopes’ self-deprecating rap lyrics and casual vocal fry compelled listeners to stop and think more than dance. “Good luck to my future wives and their future lives without me—you guys will do great. I’m sure that I’ve prepared you for every guy you’ll date and every guy you’ll marry and … every guy you’ll hate!” In a genre known for its machismo and self-hyping, it was refreshing—even charming—to hear the rapper trash talk himself.

Despite Lopes’ unconfident airs, his band performed with skilled musicianship. A shirtless electric guitarist wearing a thick, gold spiral chain played a mean slide guitar that explored the upper registers with ease. “Jimi Hendrix!” shouted an audience member wearing an old baseball cap. (Earlier, the same man had requested a classic rock song by helpfully singing “Bam, bam, bam, bam …” Lopes said, good-naturedly, “You’re at the wrong show right now.”) Meanwhile, SpaceWalker kept spirits high by dancing through the crowd with her blinking, rainbow hair extensions and Guitar Hero pajama pants.

When So Much Light took the stage, the atmosphere became like a funky church congregation. Videos showing the inside of a cathedral played out on a projector behind local one-man-band Damien Verrett, who recently signed with ANTI- Records. His crystalline falsetto rang out over the booming 808 machine and the tsk-tsk of upper synth beats.

“This is only the second time I’ve played this song in front of humans,” he said in the middle of his set. Then, Verrett performed a song stripped bare of his usual loop pedal and synths. Instead, it was only his fluttering vibrato and soulful guitar playing—a sweet lullaby to a PJ-clad audience. The unicorn man continued head-bobbing, and it felt like part of the collective dream.

—Rebecca Huval

Throwback Thursday: For the brave 40-or-so in attendance at Cafe Colonial last Thursday, it was clear that Hatchet Job stole the show. Featuring members of sadly defunct acts Pounded Clown, Los Huevos, Filibuster, Scenes From The Struggle and more, this was one for the Sacramento band history books. Also on the bill was Government Flu from Poland along with Sacramento’s Cross Class and Bad Outlets.

Led by Ed Hunter (guitar and vocals), Hatchet Job ripped through a raucous, upbeat set that recalled early Clash, British reggae and oi! punk rock. And while the frontman struggled to coerce concertgoers to move closer to the stage, there was no shortage of approval and head nods.

Some of the group’s quirkiest numbers included “Fryolator Man,” “Kidney Stone” and the oddly-yet-appropriately titled “Disremember,” which proved the quartet was comfortable playing cut time and straightforward grooves.

Drummer C.B. laid down some awkward grooves and played traditional style—loose grip like the jazz greats—in one hand and straight on the other with great effect, while bassist Alan Fulstone provided the low-end rumble. Guitarist Bill Econome filled in the dead spots with cool, simplistic lead licks rather than applying speed and nonsensical notes. A snare drum broke mid-set, but that didn’t stop highlights such as “Torture Drone” and the shuffling rhythms of “Mack The Knife.”

Check out Cafe Colonial if you haven’t already. Shows are cheap and always all-ages, with ample space to play video games, a cool bar, great staff and beer prices that rival your supermarket.

—Eddie Jorgensen