For live music fans, August is a time of scarcity. September, on the other hand, is all about options. All month long, you’ll have your pick of interesting shows. I’ve put our star next to seven of them, but I could have discussed many others, too: veteran bachata singer Felix D’Oleo at The Factory on Saturday the 2nd, for instance, or Jersey City’s own CR and the Nones’s record release event on the Thursday the 7th at Pet Shop, or prolific, mesmerizing singer-songwriter and acoustic player Damien Jurado at White Eagle Hall on Wednesday the 13th, or Pinay pop singer Camille de la Cruz at NJCU on Saturday the 23rd, or Argentine blues rocker and electric guitarist Alejandro Meola at Fox & Crow on Thursday the 28th, or local favorites The Clydes at the eastern end of the pedestrian plaza on that same day.
Could you see both? Well… no, not realistically. You’re going to have to make a choice, and by the fourth Thursday of the month, you’ll be used to it. On the 14th, three outstanding, well-traveled club attractions will be in action in Jersey City. On Friday the 22nd, one of the most storied indie rock bands of the last twenty years goes up against the power-pop pride of Springfield, New Jersey. The next night, you could an excellent Latin music show in Bergen-Lafayette or attend the Hudson West Folk Festival at Nimbus. Can’t do it all. Much as you might like to.
The Natvral @ Pet Shop (September 14)
As the frontman and principal songwriter of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Kip Berman made winsome, shimmering indie pop indebted to the C86 and the Sarah Records catalog. Nobody asked for an American answer to Trembling Blue Stars, but for a while we had one, and it was a glorious thing for the twee among us (hand meekly raised). After the gorgeous Days of Abandon in 2014, Berman might have reasonably thought he’d ridden the twinkle as far as it would take him; he put out one more album under the Pains name, but longtime fans could tell he already had one foot in the chrysalis. He’s re-emerged in overalls with country soil under his fingernails. As The Natvral, Berman has swapped his Bernard Sumner-like lilt for a delicious Dylanesque sneer, traded his digital processing for a raw, amp-distorted sound, and gotten… well, natural. Summer of No Light, his second album under the Natvral name, is pure backwoods folk rock, wordy, smart, and rowdy in the right places. It’s an album that sounds like something you might’ve heard blaring from the Stone Pony in the 1980s, and it’s as letter-perfect a re-creation of a classic sound as the Pains were. If he ends up onstage with the Boss at Light of Day sometime soon, don’t be too shocked. For now, we’ve got him here, courtesy of the tireless Look at My Records crew. (Appearing with Désir Decir and Joy Cleaner at Pet Shop, 193 Newark Ave., 7 p.m.; free; visit www.petshopjc.com)
Das Damen @ Monty Hall (September 14)
If you spent the 1980s hanging around the smoky rock clubs of the Greater New Jersey area, it’s certain that you encountered Das Damen. Maybe a deejay played one of their heavy, filthy, catchy, subtly tuneful records; more likely, they were up onstage, hurling sonic boulders at their listeners. Much about the group was tongue-in-cheek, including the faux-German band name. But their sound and stance anticipated the tuneful brutality of grunge, the chaos of noise rock, and the sheer sludginess of stoner rock. Popular music was on the move, and Das Damen happened to get to their zonked-out destination before the mass audience did. Das Damen got lost in the 1990s, as forerunners and men out of time frequently do, and that seemed to be that. But three decades later, the quartet has reunited for a pair of shows — and we’ve got one of them. They’ll be rocking WFMU’s dedicated stage in support of the release of 1986: Keeps Me Wild, an extended, remastered, and renamed version of the group’s raucous debut EP. Everybody’s gonna be decades older; that can’t be helped. But if you’re looking to step into the closest thing to a time machine, here you go. (Monty Hall, 43 Montgomery St., 8 p.m.; $20; visit www.eventbrite.com/e/das-damen-tickets-691989758997)
Milton @ Fox & Crow (September 14)
Genial, literate, playful if not laugh-out-loud funny, deeply respectful of musical history, and a sure hand with a well-wrought tune: that’s Milton, one of the treasures of the regional singer-songwriter circuit. Because he stubbornly makes music for grownups, and because he draws on musical styles that are far out of fashion, he’s never quite gotten the acclaim he deserves. It’s hard to imagine anybody with ears resisting his voice, though. It’s raspy, expressive, full of personality, scratchy from diner coffee and too many stories told in vans — a character actor’s voice, navigating melodies that seem to have been around since the heyday of Stephen Stills, and maybe even Sinatra. Studio City, his most recent set, suggests he’s just hitting his stride: it’s a winner from front to back, full of songs that echo the lighter side of Van the Man, Dr. John, Leon Redbone, and draw, respectfully, from blues, New Orleans R&B, and pre-rock styles. He continues to refine his lyrical themes, too, singing with great warmth about the compulsions of the performer, the need to celebrate life’s simple moments, and, on “New York City,” his deep and commendable identification with the metropolis he calls home. Though it seems like he digs Jersey, too. This is the first show in a monthly residency that’ll run until the calendar flips to 2024. (Live in the Parlor at Fox & Crow, 594 Palisade Ave., 8 p.m.; $10; visit www.foxandcrowjc.com.)
The Hold Steady @ White Eagle Hall (September 22)
If you’re a fan of modern rock music, you’ve already got an entrenched opinion about The Hold Steady. I’ll go ahead and share mine. I have always admired songwriter Craig Finn for his commitment to intertextuality, recurring characters, and linear storytelling. (He can be awfully funny, too, when he wants to be.) On Separation Sunday, the band’s second album, I thought he was on to something very special, very reverent, and wonderfully peculiar: he seemed to see rock music, and thunderous ‘70s AOR in particular, as a kind of post-Catholic sacrament. Some subsequent albums felt like shadows of the first two, especially after colorful pianist Franz Nicolay parted amicably with the rest of the gang. Nicolay rejoined The Hold Steady in 2019, and not coincidentally, they’ve caught a second wind. As long as Finn is fronting this band — which is likely forever, since you could never have The Hold Steady without him and he’s not the sort of guy who’d stop rocking — they’ll always sound more than a little like Thin Lizzy fronted by Fred Schneider. The frontman’s sprechesang suits the material on The Price of Progress, the band’s strong ninth album. The storytelling is as weird and gripping as ever, including a song about a drunk fan tearing up the field at an NFL game, and another about a pair of tourists in the tropics who inadvertently (?) join a guerrilla force. Prepare for a massive night. (White Eagle Hall, 337 Newark Ave., 8 p.m.; $75; visit www.whiteeaglehalljc.com.)
The Vaughns @ Art House Productions (September 22)
You may have heard: Jersey City’s flagship performing arts organization has opened its new theater to the public. It’s a comfortable space with a new sound system and light kit suitable for generating drama. That makes it an ideal spot to catch up with New Jersey’s most underrated band. The Vaughns had been a reliable club attraction in Jersey for years before putting out debut full-length FOMO in 2019 — and on that album, they fulfilled the promise of their stage shows with a set of catchy, immediate, witty power pop songs (okay, they might call it pop-punk) with no filler whatsoever. All these stories were forcefully told by singer Anna Lies, who remains a likeable presence no matter how indignant she gets. The Springfield band followed up FOMO with a holding-pattern EP on Equal Vision, but they’re promising some surprises on sophomore album Egg Everything, which’ll be out at the end of the month. There’s no Jersey project I’m anticipating more than this one. This show was put together by Dancing Tony Susco, creator of Goatchella, Groove on Grove, the Ghost of Uncle Joe’s, and a thousand other fun things. It’s the second Dancing Tony production at Art House. Let’s hope this is a long and fruitful collaboration. Oh… and you might want to visit the Art House page to see what else might be happening there this month. Just saying. (Appearing with Cantations, Waltzer, and Tea Eater at Art House Productions, 345 Marin Blvd.; 6:30 doors, 7:30 show; $12 online, $17 at the door; visit www.arthouseproductions.org.)
Raulín Rodríguez @ The Factory (September 23)
Bachata contains its share of lovers. But there’s nothing ordinary about Raulín Rodríguez, who practically set the template for the heartbreaker bachatero in the 1990s. Rodríguez was one of the first to demonstrate that there was no dissonance between the raw folk guitar that has always been bachata’s signature sound and pure, unadulterated sweet talk meant to charm the pants off the listener. His performance on the classic “Medicina De Amor” is so lovelorn that he might just convince you that those tears he’s crying on the cover of the single are real. (Then again, more often than not, on the battlefield of love, Rodríguez’s characters carry the day.) Later in his long career, Rodríguez built bridges between bachata and other forms of traditional Dominican music, including merengue. No matter what he sings, he keeps it emo as heck. He’s touring in the United States this fall, and naturally, he’ll be bringing the act to the spot in Lafayette that’s emerged as a platform for Latin music of all kinds. (The Factory, 451 Communipaw Ave.; $70-$100; visit www.instagram.com/thefactorynj.)
Joshua Nelson @ Nimbus Arts Center (September 23)
Nelson calls himself “the KKK’s worst nightmare”: a black Jewish gospel singer whose soaring, spirit-elevating vocal performances feel saturated by the divine essence. He’s a Jersey guy, too. He’s been active in several Jewish and Christian congregations in Essex County, teaching Hebrew and music like there’s no distinction between the two. As humble as he is, his personal style is as radical as any in twenty-first century popular music. Nelson sets Hebrew devotional texts and hymns to musical arrangements inspired by Mahalia Jackson. It’s a powerful and persuasive interfaith effort; beyond that, it also sounds fantastic. Nelson’s audacious fusion has made him a man in demand. He’s worked with Aretha Franklin, Billy Preston, Dizzy Gillespie, the Klezmatics, and Bishop Hezekiah Walker, whose own ecstatic music is a good Christian match for Nelson’s fiery Kosher gospel. Hez, brilliant though he is, can’t sing or play the piano like Nelson can. Joshua Nelson is one of the main attractions at this year’s Hudson West Folk Festival, an annual celebration of traditional and trad-leaning musicians that has found a home at Nimbus. Among the others performing: the bluesman Grey Reverend, the Celtic folk sextet Chivalrous Crickets, and our own spectral-folk hero Sean Kiely. (Hudson West Folk Festival @ Nimbus Arts Center, 329 Warren St., noon-10 p.m.; $35; visit www.hudsonwestfest.org.)