The northern California quintet Hot Buttered Rum like to call themselves a rock band in bluegrass disguise. Armed with mandolins, banjo, upright bass, and fiddle, but no drums, HBR have the bluegrass aspect down. Some songs have a rock structure, and the boys often conjure up an approximation of rock energy, especially in the flesh and on their latest collection, Live in the Northeast. But there's also lots of improvisation, plenty of elements that originated in the Appalachians, and assorted weirdness, leaving HBR somewhere between jam band, new grass, and modified jug band. In fact, Northeast features a cool cover of the Grateful Dead's "Cumberland Blues," a spot of psychedelia on "Spider," a quirky country-rock ballad in "Queen Elizabeth," and a fierce reggae run on "Return Someday," sporting a raging electric-guitar-like solo by fiddler Aaron Redner. For good measure, HBR manage a palatable version of one of the most annoying songs of all time, Leo Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," which for once didn't make me feel like puking. With Sans Souci Quartet. 18+.
Thu., April 10, 8 p.m., 2008