Knockout punk, country new wave, lifeguard folk

It’s a literary week for your friendly neighborhood Soundscraper.

P Moss, owner of dive bar/live music venue Double Down Saloon, is also an author. If you didn’t pick up 2010’s Blue Vegas, you might want to jump on board with his brand-new book of short fiction, Vegas Knockout (CityLife Books, $15). And unlike any other story collection you’ll read this year, Knockout inspired an album’s worth of punk songs by Portland, Ore.-based Attack Ships on Fire. The band will play Moss’ book launch, and freak-show darling Jenn O. Cide will host (8 to 11 p.m. Sept. 6 at Double Down, free).

Like the book that prompted it, Vegas Soul summons the flailing, revved-up despair of jacked-up, sun-ravaged souls falling victim to their own desires. “Hands Down, Chin Up” is, hands down, the best boxing instruction put to music—ever. The title track, with its pensive lyrics (What motivates a con man?/Is it a chance to get something for nothing?), is a top-notch anthem about life at the bottom of the Sin City barrel. Finally, there’s even an ode to Moss’ watering hole, “Double Down Saloon.” At the book launch only, Vegas Soul will be offered as a free download when you buy Moss’ tome. For more info visit and

You’ll need to double-back to Double Down Saloon at 10 p.m. Sept. 9 to line-dance (and do the safety dance) with a “cowboy new wave” act from Seattle called Brent Amaker & the Rodeo. The band just got off the summer festival circuit (Watershed, Capitol Hill Block Party) and has a new album that should be released soon. Meantime, Amaker and his rodeo musicians are known for covering Kraftwerk in the style of Johnny Cash, and for their all-around tendency to mash-up the disparate sonic realms of Devo and Charlie Daniels. I’ve seen and heard a lot of quirky, fun bands in my time, and this one is right up there. Also, you can’t beat a free show.

Finally, Em McManus is a young hotel pool lifeguard by day and a female Jack Johnson by night. She’s been playing coffee shops and bars as a solo strummer for years, but now she and her band The Em McManus Project—Will McManus (bass), Kirk Slater (guitar), Carlos Perez (drums)—landed a big break with a 9 p.m. Sept. 12 show at the Cosmopolitan’s Book & Stage. Her music is folk-based with a sultry, passionate vibe that’s almost bluesy at times; her voice is sensual and in it you can hear the sunshine, water and relaxation of her occupation; her band is dynamite. McManus is different from what I usually catch at Book & Stage. Fans of singer/songwriters such as Ben Harper will enjoy her music, no doubt. Looking forward to this. Again: free. Which means you’ll have plenty of money with which to buy books!

Suggested Next Read

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Short Reviews

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

By Tribune Media Services

(PG) ★★★☆☆ Co-writer/director Peter Hedges’ (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) latest is odd indeed. Jim (Joel Edgerton) and Cindy (Jennifer Garner) can’t conceive or adopt. Then, a miracle. One night, they write down their ideal child, put the paper in a box and bury it in the backyard. Then, a freak rainstorm brings forth from the earth ... a boy, summoned from their collective desires. Much of the film is nice enough, but it’s overfilled and a bit sappy.