Monoliths, ukuleles, drum fests

It’s a wonderfully strange week in live music this week, from eardrum-shattering guitars to lute-plucking soloists to a drum fest to end all drum fests.

L.A. sludge-metal trio Behold! The Monolith delivers a savage sonic beatdown to anyone foolish enough to wander into Cheyenne Saloon (3103 N. Rancho Drive) on March 31. Song titles “Battle for Balls Deep” and “Witch Hunt Supreme” should give you an indication about what you’re in for—aural damage of the best kind. The band’s still touring in support of 2009’s self-titled full-length, but they e-mailed to say they’re set to unleash a volley of new material in prep for another album, due at year’s end. Loud, aggressive, but by no means stupid, the Monolith is menacingly powerful.

There’s ukulele strumming and then there’s mind-stunning, fret-burning ukulele wizardry. Hawaii resident Jake Shimabukuro, 34, definitely falls in the latter category. His virtuosity on the small (we’re talking a mere two-octave range), four-stringed instrument is limitless, as are his YouTube views, which are in the millions. Once you’ve seen and heard him tear the shit out of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” for instance, you’re definitely going to want to see him perform live at 8 p.m. April 1, at the Henderson Events Plaza (200 S. Water St. in Henderson). Free admission!

I had a chance to chat with Shimabukuro via phone as he waited at LAX for a connecting flight to another show. He says he’s riding high on the release of his new album, Peace Love Ukulele, a compilation he hopes “will bring happiness to listeners all over the world.” This one has it all—original tunes “Go for Broke” (a tribute to Japanese-American World War II vets) and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

“I think that music is the greatest gift, and the ukulele is the friendliest way to present that gift,” he says, sounding like John Lennon. Shimabukuro first picked up the instrument at age 4, but he’s humble about his talent.

“The ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to play,” he insists. “It’s relaxing. Every strum is like a little yoga session.”

Stretch before heading over to the Nicholas J. Horn Theatre at the College of Southern Nevada’s Cheyenne campus (3200 E. Cheyenne Ave.) on April 3, from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., because that’s where and when the John Wackerman Drum Festival ( is taking place. For $50, you get to see, hear and learn the craft of drumming from the biggest names. Genesis and Frank Zappa drummer Chester Thompson will be there, as will be ex-Mars Volta skinsman Thomas Pridgen, along with local stars such as Christopher “Kit” Chatham (Viva Elvis). I can’t recall a drum-related event of this quality in Vegas in the last 10 years. If you’re serious about beating skins, seriously consider it.

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