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SEVEN IN SEVEN: Essential music for the second week of 2017

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STORY WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER 
For Digital First Media

Welcome to “Seven in Seven,” where each Friday we take a look at shows coming to the region over the next week. Whether your musical tastes are rock and roll, jazz, heavy metal, singer-songwriter or indie, there’ll always be something to check out in the coming days.
Here are seven of the best for the week beginning Jan. 8:
Alejandro Escovedo – Jan. 8 at World Café Live Downstairs
The rise of Alejandro Escovedo has been gradual, a steady incline rather than a quick ascendance, but it has deepened his music, made it more raw and flavored with experience, deepening his insight and his ability to find that insight in performance. His tireless touring, and determination to place one album after another, has taken him through many musical scenes, remaining the same persona within each, that of an artist who doesn’t settle for the easy way out. His latest album, Burn Something Beautiful, came out last summer, and features the contributions of former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, who’s now a member of Escovedo’s band.
Derrick Hodge – Jan. 8 at the Johnny Brenda’s
After years as an essential band member in groups led by artists including trumpeter Terence Blanchard, keyboardist Robert Glasper, rapper Common, and R&B singers Jill Scott and Maxwell, Philadelphian Derrick Hodge stepped out on his own in 2013. He released the jazz-inflected Live Today, his debut album which introduced a strikingly original voice of his own, and followed it up this past August with The Second. Both albums received positive reviews across the board, ensuring that Hodge won’t be going back to sideman anytime soon.
Run the Jewels – Jan. 11 at the Electric Factory
Four years ago, rapper El-P produced Killer Mike’s critically acclaimed album R.A.P. Music. Later that year, Killer Mike appeared on the track “Tougher Colder Killer” from El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure. It wasn’t too surprising then when the next thing they did was officially form the duo Run the Jewels, with a self-titled album out in 2013. Christmas Eve saw the duo give fans a surprise holiday treat with the dropping of Run the Jewels 3, leaving many to scramble and revise their best of lists for 2016.
Fireside Collective – Jan. 12 at World Café Live Upstairs
Asheville, North Carolina based newgrass band Fireside Collective is a group of folk music enthusiasts who blend elements of traditional bluegrass and American roots music with modern acoustic arrangements. Known for their energetic live show, the group presents finely crafted original music, drawing in listeners with songs centered on the time-tested subjects of change, relationships, and being on the road. The music transitions smoothly between danceable bluegrass numbers and passionate folk ballads, with mandolin, fiddle, Dobro, and acoustic guitar layered into the acoustic ensemble’s foundation.
Cracker – Jan. 13 at World Café Downstairs
David Lowery formed Camper Van Beethoven in the mid-80s, and their song “Take the Skinheads Bowling” became an instant college radio staple. When the group disbanded on tour in Sweden, following their second major label release, Lowery formed Cracker with his longtime friend Johnny Hickman. The band’s emergent sound had less in common with Camper’s exotic excursions and was more in harmony with the Kinks and Southern roots music. They released their self-titled debut in 1992, and found success with “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now).” Buoyed by the song, the alt-rockers became a minor commercial sensation — complete with then-significant MTV exposure which continued with the platinum-selling Kerosene Hat, containing the enormous hit single “Low.”
Square Peg Round Hole – Jan. 13 at Johnny Brenda’s
Formed in 2011 while its members were studying music at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, in Bloomington, Indiana, Square Peg Round Hole now calls Philadelphia home. Back in March, the instrumental trio released the ultimate headphone record in Juniper, which is luxurious with the energy of unison drums, or the serenity of bowed vibraphone, and the fascinating timbres of found objects like scrap metals. It’s a bold artist statement from a fearless creative force, at once expansive and intimate.
Johnny Showcase – Jan. 14 at World Café Live Downstairs
To put it simply, Johnny Showcase is an electrifying experience. The local ten-piece absurdist soul outfit is an innovative, joyful tour-de-force that blissfully toes the line between performance art and a psychedelic soul revival. Carrying the torch of funk-rock pioneers like Funkadelic and Frank Zappa, they have gained a massive following and propelled the character of Johnny to something that of a funky Philly folk hero legend, a sweaty, charismatic showman from Rhode Island who is equal parts Andy Kaufman and Prince.

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