October 2023 was for the classic rockers and the tribute acts, the legendary strummers with big names, and enthusiastic locals masquerading as internationally famous musicians. But Halloween is over, and the costumes are back in the closets. For November — the humble period nestled between the parades and the tinsel — we turn to artists you might not necessarily know about, but who are worthy of your attention.
Desert Sharks, Loose Wing, and Commons 2 at Pet Shop (Nov. 9)
Fans of garage rock may remember Desert Sharks from their April visit to the bar on the corner of Jersey and Newark. The Brooklyn band came to our side of the Hudson to celebrate the release of The Tower, a six song EP that made their love of ‘60s girl-group melody, bad-attitude NYC punk, and zonked Master of Reality-era Sabbath evident. Since then, they’ve been touring, but they’ll be back to take another thwack at Jersey City this month. They’ll be joined by Commons 2, a local band that has just put out a record of their own. Art Studio is an eclectic, promising four-song EP on which the band matches meditative, twinkly, and occasionally delicate guitar patterns to a rhythm section unafraid of swagger and stomp. “Shallow,” an intense, bruised new track, makes my mix of the best original songs I’ve heard from Jersey City bands in 2023. Loose Wing, a smart, sharp guitar-rock outfit from Seattle, finishes the bill. Just like that April show, this one is brought to you by the musical curators at Look At My Records!, whose ever-deepening relationship with Jersey City music has been one of the best stories of the year. (Pet Shop, 193 Newark Ave., 8 p.m.; free; visit www.petshopjc.com and www.lookatmyrecords.com).
Rubblebucket @ White Eagle Hall (Nov. 15)
One of the primary shortcomings of living in the 21st century: we’re never going to get to see Talking Heads live. Instead, we’ve got to content ourselves with bands that carry on their legacy of offbeat pop, rubbery leftfield funk, experimental weirdness, and shameless stage maximalism. Rubblebucket won’t make anybody forget about Stop Making Sense, but if it’s a big, sharp, eclectic, kinetic rock show you’re after, they’ve got the goods. A Rubblebucket show means costumes and color, eruptions of brass and copious percussion, thunderous, swinging bottom end, antics and audience rapport, and a simmering amalgam of new wave, reggae, jazz, and soul. Frontwoman Kalmia Traver and multi-instrumentalist Alex Toth are ingratiating performers, and they proceed with the fearlessness and commendable recklessness of mad scientists. They’re touring behind the ecologically themed and polymorphously perverse Earth Worship, which means you’re almost guaranteed to get somebody onstage dressed up as a sexy flower. Sure, Peter Gabriel did it in 1972. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a hoot to see. (White Eagle Hall, 337 Newark Ave., doors at 7 p.m.; $25; visit www.whiteeaglehalljc.com.)
Anthony Tamburro Band @ Fox & Crow (Nov. 18)
Anthony Tamburro’s entertaining roots rock songs are full of peculiar, arresting detail and storytelling color. He’s stuffed his verses with the sort of narrative detail that draws listeners into his tales and makes his characters feel three-dimensional. If you’re from New Jersey yourself, it’s almost certain that you’ve met the sort of big-hearted roughnecks he sings about — at bars and on streetcorners, or riding on the highways under gin-and-tonic moons. And though he’s probably going to hate me for it, I’ll come out and say it anyway: when he gets strumming and growling, he’s more than a little reminiscent of Jon Bon Jovi in his steel-horse-rider mode. On Alaska, an album that he released some time ago but that still sounds fresh, his toughness imperfectly conceals his emotional generosity, which is exactly how he designed it. He’s got a way with a rousing chorus, and an urban cowboy’s impertinence, and this month, he’ll appear at the local venue that fits this style of music best. (Live in the Parlor @ Fox & Crow, 594 Palisade Ave., 8 p.m.; $10; visit www.foxandcrowjc.com.)
Fishbone and Crazy & The Brains @ White Eagle Hall (Nov. 18)
By now, you surely know what you’re getting from Fishbone — a gut-busting fusion of ska, punk, and molten funk-metal, leavened by the group’s sense of humor and a zaniness uncommon in any corner of the entertainment industry. They’ve been at it since 1979, and they show no sign of slowing down. But longtime followers of Jersey City independent music might be just as intrigued by the band on the undercard. It wasn’t so long ago that Crazy & the Brains emerged as a must-see attraction in some of the more obscure corners of Hudson County, regularly blowing the doors off venues both legal and quasi-legit. They played fast, filthy, speedy punk rock and anti-folk, and somehow made room in their noisy mixes for a xylophone. What could have been gimmicky was rendered essential to the project by the sheer grade-school audacity of the writing and the flexibility and freewheeling feel of the arrangements. Above all, theirs was music you could dance to, and dance their fans always did. Recent singles have been more streamlined (and maybe even a bit more sane) but they’ve retained their prime directive to get the floor moving. They’re a natural choice to join the headliners for a party at ground zero. (White Eagle Hall, 337 Newark Ave., doors at 7 p.m.; $30; visit www.whiteeaglehalljc.com.)
Rubio Acordeon and Aris Jackson @ The Factory (Nov. 25)
When it’s done right — and sometimes even when it isn’t — there’s no music that comes at the listeners harder than merengue. It’s fast, excitable, groovy, and manically propulsive, and often decorated, ostentatiously, with flamboyant melodies, gang vocals, a landslide of percussion, brass, and honking woodwinds. Merengue tipico, or merengue in its purest form, can achieve breakneck velocity and hip-swiveling intensity with little more than vocals, accordion, the güira scraper, and the double-headed drum called the tambora. Aris Jackson dub himself the Tipico King, and he makes good on that boast with speedy dancefloor burners, island-hot rhythms from acoustic instruments, and some enthusiastic moves of his own for the crowd to emulate. The dexterous Rubio Acordeon, too, is another walking counterargument against those who insist that programmed synths and drum machines are necessary to get the club hopping. His version of dance music is showy, fierce, tuneful, and powered by human hands alone. Let’s hope he brings the accordion that stretches out to reveal a Dominican flag. (The Factory, 451 Communipaw Ave., visit www.instagram.com/thefactorynj.)
Audra Mariel and Anthony Fuscaldo @ Corgi Spirits (Nov. 30)
Audra Mariel’s recordings as Martin Howth are anything but traditional. The Atlantic Highlands jazz singer is a mechanically enhanced one-woman band: she uses a loop pedal to create drones and beds of choral harmony for her adventurous lead vocals to inhabit. But she can sing the standards, too, as she demonstrates on Journal Square, a duo project recorded with jazz guitarist Anthony Fuscaldo. The pair cut fourteen alternately brassy and sultry tracks, including versions of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “The Very Thought of You,” “One Note Samba,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” and a wonderfully straightforward version of Benny Goodman’s “Jersey Bounce,” an undersung number from the war years that enthusiastically namechecks Journal Square. It ought to be better known around these parts. The Garden State-proud Mariel-Fuscaldo version ought to help. (Corgi Spirits Jersey City Distillery, 1 Distillery Drive, 8 p.m.; visit www.corgispirits.com.)