By CESAREO GARASA, Contributing columnist
At first glance, the sprawling borough of Brooklyn and the fair streets of Bakersfield don't seem to have a thing in common, but they do: singer Emily Nicholas.
The 20-something singer is one half -- multi-instrumentalist Cameron Orr is the other -- of Emily Danger, the group that will be performing a one-two punch tour this weekend: Saturday evening at Narducci's and Sunday at Imbibe.
Nicholas started off doing local community theater at Bakersfield High School and studied classical voice and musical theater while in college until she was accepted to the Manhattan School of Music for Opera.
"I'd always dreamed of living in New York," she said in a recent phone interview. "So going to graduate school (there) was the easiest and most logical way to put down roots and grow across the country."
After stops in Queens and Manhattan, she made Brooklyn her home three years ago. Once there she found herself at home with like-minded souls.
"Brooklyn is where all the artists and musicians live. It's slightly more affordable than Manhattan -- not much -- but (it) is much more tight-knit. I can walk into a bar down the street and know the bartender and his band and we can chat about upcoming shows and share connections. It's more low key and authentic than Manhattan."
The signer's career has been gaining traction with appearances around the country (most notably at the SXSW festival in Austin). The duo also have been spotlighted in press around the world.
Emily Danger's latest release, "Peace Arch," is a gorgeous piece of work, the most impressive instrument on it by far being Nicholas' voice. The title track alternates between the sonic regality of Radiohead and the angelic melancholy of Jeff Buckley. You can see the video and hear the release at emilydangerband.com.
But her two performances here (three if you count her two sets at Imbibe) will be as different from each other as they are from the EP. Instead of a full band, the setup will feature Orr's fluid violin and Nicholas' singing, fleshed out with some electronic accompaniment and a variety of instruments.
The Imbibe performance will involve a variety of material, including covers mixed with her originals -- more akin to a low-key intimate unplugged set -- whereas the Narducci's show will stick exclusively to her own material and be more of a traditional rock show.
When asked what Nicholas wants to do once she returns to her hometown, she replied, with enthusiasm: "I'm going to spend much-needed time with my family and eat all the Mexican food. All of it."
With a newly signed booking deal and some strong material, she is poised to take her brand of dark cabaret rock (think less Dresden Dolls, more Heart) to the masses and "to change the face of rock music today. (To be) a female lead singer who writes about real issues that can inspire change."
"On a more subdued level," the singer says, "I'd just like to spend my life singing and writing music for a reasonable income."
Until then, we welcome her back home, at least for a short time.
Audiences can expect "a big voice coming from a small person, some humor, and a gutsy performance," the singer promised.
Emily Danger, 9 p.m. Saturday; Narducci's Cafe, 622 E 21st St. 21 and over. $5.
Emily Nicholas, 4 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday; Imbibe Wine & Spirits Merchant, 4140 Truxtun Ave. 21 and over. $75 reserved seating (with complimentary wine), $15 general admission. 633-9463.
Hawthorne Heights 10 Year Anniversary of "Silence in Black & White," with A Formal Adversary, Grant My Wishes, Last Night's Stand, and Forgotten Empathy, 6 p.m. Monday, Jerry's Pizza 1817 Chester Ave; $12 pre-sale; all ages; 633 1000.
Ah, the golden age of 2004 ...
The music scene at Jerry's Pizza was on fire back then. With a bevy of strong local bands and the abundance of screamo/emo bands coming through town, the venue was a hotbed of musical activity. It seemed like every act had one singer and one "screamer," ushering in the new age of post-hard-core music and its flurries of double bass and guitar bombast. This was the age of Myspace; this was the age of Hawthorne Heights.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of their breakthrough album, "Silence in Black and White," H.H. has hit the road (after being on last year's Warped Tour supporting their last release, "Zero") and are intent on balancing the nostalgia such an event entails and their inherent desire to still matter.
Accustomed to playing bigger venues in other cities, the fact that they're coming back to the basement of Jerry's shows that, perhaps, they haven't forgotten where they came from.
Most of the kids who used to occupy those shows are now nestled in their 20s, the idealism of those years co-opted by the realities of existing in the working world. Most have probably not set foot in that cellar for years, but as soon as they start walking down those stairs, memories are sure to start flooding back to them.
77 Jefferson, True Press, and Dub Seeds; 8 p.m. today; Elements Venue at the Ice House, 3401 Chester Ave.; $12, all ages.
Ooooh yeah, Irie soldiers. 77 Jefferson are stopping by Bakersfield tonight to spread their reggae vibes at the Element Lounge in support of their latest release, "Let Me Know." The quintet will be supported by True Press out of Los Angeles and Bakersfield's own hardest-working-band-ever, Dub Seeds. The Elements Venue has been pretty quiet lately, and I hope that it becomes a viable place for live music again. It has a great vibe, great parking (seriously, this is a huge plus) and is not too far from downtown. In a week of some really, really heavy news, some good vibes might be exactly what we all need.
Joseph Springs Cancer Benefit, noon Sunday, Trout's, 805 Chester Ave.; 21 and over. Donations welcome at the door.
The people of Bakersfield are generous and always willing to give to a good cause. I've seen that first-hand at the various benefits I've played and even as a personal recipient to such generosity when I greatly needed it. If one of us falls, there are many around to help lift us back up. Kinda like a community mosh pit.
When Wendy McWilliams realized surgery to eradicate her son Joseph's cancer had failed and that the disease had spread, she set up a fundraiser to help the 28-year-old with his medical expenses while he is going through chemotherapy and other treatments.
"When my son was diagnosed with cancer, I searched for the help of a couple of local musicians and it grew from there," McWilliams says. "Musicians always come together when someone is in need of help."
The stage at Trout's on Sunday will be full of a diverse range of acts, including McWilliams' own Nightlife Band, blues rockers English Revolvers, AC/DC-meets-Rolling Stones musical nephews The Aviators and fun cover songs of Mystic Red and Blonde Faith. Others on the bill: Lions Named Leo, Breckenridge Road, Randy Emmett, Mugs Buzzler, Fruit Tramps, Jam on 5, Elevation 406 (their frontman Ben Lara is a world-class get-the-party-starter), Lil' Gritty Band, Vince Galindo (Bakersfield's country music secret weapon) Scotty Crabtree, Marc Madewell's Fireball Express and the John Hollins Band will also be performing. A 50/50 raffle will be held and food will be on site to purchase by Smokey Lane BBQ.
Andre Nickatina, Curtiss King and Eddie Brock (of Epixx), 8 p.m. Friday, B Ryder's 7401 White Lane. All ages. $21 advance, $23 day of show. 397-7304
Is Bakersfield becoming a go-to destination for underground rap shows? B Ryder's will be hosting another one on Friday.
Up until 1997, San Francisco's Andre Nickatina went under the stage name Dre Dog and was part of the underground Bay Area rap genre that combined dense, moody, dark synth beats with "smoking and pimping" thematic matter -- a gloomier northern cousin to the gangsta rap that overshadowed its popularity. After changing his name, Nickatina broadened his style with a more produced sound, finding a niche between the airy rap flow of 2Pac and the lyrical content of Too Short.
His latest 2013 self-titled release finds the rapper, named 2005's "Best Local Hip-Hop Legend" by SF Weekly, back on the road and back to the B Ryder's stage, where, according to venue owner Brian Ryder, he's had two near sellout shows in as many years.
The show itself is all ages, but be warned that the subject matter is not for everybody and if you're a parent and not sure of it, find him on Spotify.
-- Contributing columnist Cesareo Garasa is a Bakersfield musician who writes about music, pop culture and life. He brings you "The Lowdown" every other Thursday.