Hoots & Hellmouth at Alley Katz
It's difficult to define the amorphous creature that is roots rock. A common conception paints it as a return to the sonic birthplace of rock 'n' roll, back when the genre was just beginning to find its own voice. These days, however, it seems like every vaguely acoustic band will slap "roots rock" on its MySpace page in an attempt to fit in somewhere. Then there are those bands that fit the bill perfectly, however loosely that bill may be defined. When Hoots & Hellmouth plays at Alley Katz Friday, Sept. 21, it will be a night of roots rock. It may also call itself "indie" and "experimental," and while that's true, there's also an earthy quality to the music. Think Southern spiritualism and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Think church music, minus the church. Most of all, think about getting back to your roots. The show starts at 10 p.m. $10. Call 643-2816 or visit www.alleykatzrva.com. Colby Rogers
JJ Grey & Mofro bring the front porch to Toad's Place
If you were a fan of the "Black Snake Moan" soundtrack, it would be safe to say you'll find JJ Grey & Mofro similarly moanful. Their latest album, "Country Ghetto," is a treasure trove of funky Southern blues-rock. With deep, smoky vocals and slow, soulful guitar, Grey and his band invoke the spirits of Muddy Waters, Van Morrison and James Brown. Hailing from northern Florida, the band is fairly new to the national music scene. Its first album wasn't released until 2001, even though it's been playing since the early '90s. JJ and crew bring their self-proclaimed "front porch realism" to Toad's Place Monday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m. $15. Call (800) 514-3849 or visit www.toadsplacerva.com. Olivia Beatty
See The Seldom Scene at Swingin' on the Tracks
It's easy for bluegrass bands to get bogged down with standards. Concert-goers will only listen to "Cotton-Eyed Joe" so many times before they throw off their dancing clogs in disgust. The Seldom Scene, however, hasn't stopped growing since it first formed in 1971. It's been called one of the most influential bluegrass bands of the past 30 years, partly because of its ever-changing musical repertoire. Its members know all the old standbys, of course, but like to mix it up with banjo and mandolin renditions of classic rock and pop tunes. Think of the Seldom Scene as "urban bluegrass," and you won't be too far off the mark. The show on Thursday, Sept. 20, begins at 5:30 p.m. with Whiskey Rebellion at the Science Museum of Virginia. $12-$15. Call 864-1400 or visit www.swinginonthetracks.com. C.R.
Soulive at Toad's Place
As the first artists to release material on the newly re-launched legendary Stax label, Soulive have big shoes to fill. The addition of reggae/soul vocalist Toussaint to the funky and soulful sounds of Eric Krasno on guitar, Neal Evans on organ and Alan Evans on drums proves that this will be no problem for the quartet. The group's new release "No Place Like Soul" delivers the vintage soul that instant classics are made of, infused with the freshness of cutting edge sound. After playing Lollapalooza and opening for John Mayer this year, their next stop is Toad's Place on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 9 p.m. $17.50 - $20. Call 648-TOAD - Maree Morris