This week’s column shines a light not on a kingdom or a dynasty or even a federation. It all happens at Empire. Two nights, two radically different shows, one Portland venue. So if you’re kicking around town this Memorial Day weekend and are looking for live music awesomeness, look no further than 575 Congress St.
THERE ARE MANY classic lines from “The Breakfast Club,” but one in particular comes to mind when thinking about a band that’s performing on Friday night. “Could you describe the ruckus?” uttered by Brian Johnson after John Bender crashed through the ceiling and Mr. Vernon charged into the room demanding answers. Thirty years later, the question has been answered, thanks to Ryan Flaherty and Erika Stahl. Because it just might have been a Muddy Ruckus.
Muddy Ruckus is a duo based in Portland, with Flaherty on guitar and Stahl on percussion and both of them on vocals. Their sound is one of folk, blues, gypsy swing and country with free-swinging punk spirit that elicits foot stomps, righteous head nods and even a hallelujah or two. “Ruby Red” sounds like it was written in a swampy saloon at least 50 years ago. Halfway through it veers without warning into frenetic waters where lightning strikes and redemption lurks beneath the surface. It’s truly one hell of a song. Go here to hear it: muddyruckus.bandcamp.com.
Muddy Ruckus is reason enough to hit Empire, but there are two other acts on the bill, both worthy of your attention. The Suitcase Junket is a one-man band like none other. Matt Lorenz, out of Amherst, Massachusetts, is a throat singer, slide guitarist and absolute force of nature with the instruments he’s assembled from an old, oversized suitcase, a hi-hat, a washboard and a gas-can-baby-shot foot-drum. Not to mention a cookpot-soup-can-tambourine foot-drum.
You have to hear it to believe it, so by all means, go to thesuitcasejunket.com and hang out for a while.
Rounding out the evening is Portland’s Tricky Britches. Besides having one of the best band names out there, their brand of roots, bluegrass and old-time music is highly addictive and undeniably contagious. Catch the fever at trickybritches.com. Hats off to Empire for putting these three acts together.
Muddy Ruckus with The Suitcase Junket and Tricky Britches, 9:30 p.m., Friday, Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland, $10, 21-plus. portlandempire.com
GREAT NEWS! You CAN go chasing waterfalls, at least for one night. It’s Crazy Sexy Cool: A TLC Tribute Show. Kenya Hall, Kristina Kentigian and Lady Essence will take us back to the ’90s. TLC’s “CrazySexyCool” hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and lived on the album charts for more than two years. Four singles charted: “Creep,” “Red Light Special,” “Diggin’ on You” and, of course, “Waterfalls.” Backing the trio will be members of Model Airplane, Rustic Overtones, Royal Hammer, Sealevel and Fogcutters. You’ll also hear ’90s dance tunes spun DJ Jay Caron. It’s not possible to not have blast at this show. But hey, no scrubs allowed! However, if you’re in the mood for a dance party like none other, you ain’t too proud to beg for it. Word.
Crazy Sexy Cool: A TLC Tribute Show, 9:30 p.m., Saturday. Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland, $10, 21 plus. portlandempire.com
The Portland Jazz Orchestra
8 p.m. Thursday, One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $5 in advance and for seniors and students, $9 at the door, onelongfellowsquare.com
Now in their 11th year, the Portland Jazz Orchestra, led by Dr. Chris Oberholtzer, has been playing originals written by its members and classic from the big band libraries of Count Basis, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. The PJO boasts 18 members, all professional musicians. Some of them have toured with the likes of Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow, Roberta Flack and other luminaries.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Saco River Theatre, 29 Salmon Falls Road, Buxton, $25, $22 seniors and students, sacorivertheatre.org
Jazz singer Jennifer Porter was recently nominated for an Independent Music Award for her “Easy Living” album. She’ll be performing live with pianist Sonny Barbaro, Jim Lyden on bass, drummer Les Harris, Jr, saxophonist Matt Langely, Trent Austin on trumpet and violinist Jason Anick among others. Porter’s been getting airplay on dozens of stations in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s a chance to hear and see for yourself why there is much ado about Porter.
The Body with Clean, Afraid and Mugwort
8:30 p.m. Friday, SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, $7 in advance, $10 at the door, 18-plus, space538.org
Chip King and Lee Buford are collectively known as The Body and if metal is your bag, this is a show you don’t want to miss. The Body’s brand of metal fuses in noise, avant-garde composition and experimental electronic music into their sound. Your ears will be bleeding yet begging for more as the duo pumps out a ton of sound.
SeepeopleS with Vapors of Morphine
8 p.m. Friday, Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $12 in advance, $15 day of show, 18-plus, portcitymusichall.com
Will Bradford is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist at the heart and soul of SeepeopleS. The music has a foundation of pop-rock with ethereal electronics, electric and acoustic guitar and samples that is spread over five albums. This show is a celebration of the brand new release, a double album called “Dead Soul Sessions” and also marks the band’s 15th anniversary. Opening act Vapors of Morphine honor the legacy of the 90s band Morphine by playing their songs along with West African, original and obscure rock and delta blues tunes.