The goofball band with the Bread and Puppet Theater is a hip, hard-working, mighty motley mess of antique instruments, skilled riffing and ferocious polemical energy. They are a Dixieland crew, more than anything else, armed with progressive/pacifist politics.
But they are actually more than just a band, because their music is just part of the message, and the message is everything.
I hadn’t seen them in years when they played Wilco’s first Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA. So I was knocked out all over again by their staggering energy and creativity — a carefully modulated, angry/fun tornado of political outrage, puppetry, dance and music.
Now we can get knocked out once more: The B&PT brings its 50th anniversary celebration to the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 Sixth Ave., Troy) tonight at 7:30. They protest wars, they poke fun at presidents and other politicians, and they can make you laugh until you hurt while the music keeps you in rhythm.
They’re playing selected classics from their 50-year history: They formed when JFK was president and the Beatles hadn’t hit America yet! Admission is $10, students and low-income fans $5. Phone 272-2390 or visit www.mediasanctuary.org.
When trombonist Conrad Herwig was first announced for Friday at A Place for Jazz (First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.), his context wasn’t yet clear. Now it is, and it’s scary-good.
Dubbed the Conrad Herwig Latin Side All-Stars, his septet comprises masters of Latin jazz, including him. After studies at Goddard College and Queens College and numerous straight-ahead jazz gigs, Herwig joined Mario Bauza’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra and has focused on that style ever since.
His Latin Side All-Stars are saxophonist/flute player Craig Handy, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, pianist Bill O’Connell, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Robby Ameen and percussionist Little Johnny Rivero. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Phone 393-4011 or visit www.aplaceforjazz.org.
Wolf at The Egg
On Saturday, The Egg belongs to Peter Wolf, one of rock’s great frontmen and a master of way more than the J. Geils Band’s blues-based boogie.
While reunions of that ’80s-and-beyond big-star band made big noises, Wolf’s own smaller-scale shows have been hugely satisfying. He can still occupy all the air in a room, of any size, so it feels like everybody is breathing on his beat. But the music he makes with his own band has both greater variety and a deeper conviction than the collaborative J. Geils Band material.
Peter Wolf sings at The Egg on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $38.50.
Lena, and elsewhere
Grandpa Jones was corny as a Kansas farm on “Hee Haw,” but that was just the second act in the long career of an exceptional artist: a fourth of the Brown’s Ferry Four with the Delmore Brothers and Merle Travis, a skilled banjoist and a hit-making songwriter.
Leave it to old-time masters the Lost Radio Rounders and the Ramblin Jug Stompers to bring back Jones’ half-forgotten early music and honor his 100th birthday. On Saturday, they celebrate his music and career at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.
The first time I climbed the steep Caffe Lena stairs, when I was still in high school, I discovered a new world of music up there in the powerful person of Mississippi John Hurt, making the spookiest, sweetest blues. In many visits since, I’ve never been disappointed in that exceptional space.
Some new windows open on that world this weekend, off-site. Those events are tied to the release of a three-CD set of live performances and a book of photos and reminiscences: “Live at Caffe Lena: Music from America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013” and “Caffe Lena: America’s Coffeehouse,” respectively.
Brian McElhiney’s story on Sunday explained why, along with my own memories, I’m excited about celebrations of these achievements:
-- Noon today, George Ward and Al McKenney join author Jocelyn Arem for a talk at the Saratoga Springs Public Library (49 Henry St., 584-7860 www.sspl.org).
-- At 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Tang Museum (Skidmore, North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 580-8080 www.tang.skidmore.edu) an exhibit of photos from the Caffe closes an event honoring the book.
-- At 3 p.m. Sunday, a book signing at the Northshire Bookstore (424 Broadway, 682-4200 www.northshire.com), is followed by a dinner at One Caroline Street Bistro (1 Caroline St., 587-2026, onecaroline.com).
Jez Lowe and James Keelaghan team up at Old Songs (37 S. Main St., Voorheesville) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25, $5 children 12 and under. Phone 765-2815 or visit www.oldsongs.org.
Susan Werner sings at the Eighth Step at Proctors Fenimore Gallery (432 State St., Schenectady) on Sunday at 7 p.m. Her new “Hayseed” album and live show celebrate farmers. It’s a highly literate, often humorous, musically compelling, one-woman FarmAid. Tickets are $26 in advance, $28 at the door, $35 VIP (front and center). Phone 434-1703 or 346-6204 or visit www.eighthstep.org or www.proctors.org.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.