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Rock and pop have always been repositories for misfits, safe havens where the previously taunted and ignored become sovereigns of a better country. Some aspire to the highest echelon of fame, erasing as much of their past as YouTube will allow. (Lady Gaga is the best recent example.) Others are too inherently awkward, and instead are beloved for their very oddball-ness.
Jonathan Richman (Biltmore Cabaret, May 6) virtually invented the indie geek in the 1970s as frontman of the Modern Lovers. While the counterculture reasserted its right to get high and drop out, he sang about the dignity of remaining sober and the superiority of romance to sex. Despite being one of punk’s primary influences, he eventually abandoned electric instruments; for the past decade or so, the Boston native (now 58) has toured with only his acoustic guitar and drummer Tommy Larkins, who plays a lone snare—with brushes, of course.
Toronto’s Owen Pallett (Vogue Theatre, May 9) applies his tremulous choirboy voice and prodigious skills as a violinist and an arranger to epic, often inscrutable songs with titles like “Tryst with Mephistopheles.”
Christopher Owens, mastermind of the San Francisco band Girls (Venue, May 26 and 27), escaped a captive, fatherless childhood in the Children of God cult and now makes cheaply recorded but densely constructed neo-surf-pop that sounds like an aural antidote to every haunted memory that surely follows him. Viva square pegs!