Special events with unique, malleable local bands highlight the weekend. It was 20 years ago this month that bassist Mike Rivard conceived of a rotating collective he called Club d’elf—musicians impishly blurring the boundaries of jazz, groove, dub and Moroccan music in a way usually found only on New York’s downtown scene. Rivard’s crew celebrates that anniversary on Friday with two shows sporting high-profile alumni John Medeski and Duke Levine, plus several cameo guests. The same night at Once Ballroom, a band that forged local lore for three-plus decades, the Bentmen (pictured) return for their first full-blown show in 11 years—apart from a stripped-down 2014 set for WMBR’s Pipeline at 25! series. Expect darkly theatrical mayhem to match the tribal art-rock assault of an expanded lineup (full disclosure: I play percussion in the band), plus opener CMB with Casey Desmond (and sister Mary), opening for parents/Bentmen leaders Des and Kathy for the first time. Other Friday options include the LA folk-punk band Girlpool at the Paradise Rock Club and soulful song interpreter Bettye LaVette at the Center for the Arts in Natick.
The local troops are back at it Saturday at Once when Shaun Wolf Wortis and his Legendary Vudu Krewe grace Boston Stands Again: a Mardi Gras benefit for the ACLU with several guests slated to include Sarah Borges, Abbey Barrett and Carla Ryder. In a contrast from Phish’s four-night New Year’s stand at Madison Square Garden, Trey Anastasio brings a solo acoustic tour (if still including effect pedals) to Sanders Theatre the same night, likely to feature reworked Phish favorites as well as solo material. Veteran British rocker Ian Hunter (initially of Mott the Hoople fame with “All the Way from Memphis” and the David Bowie-penned “All the Young Dudes”) and his Rant Band play City Winery both Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday rounds out with the famed South African a cappella ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo (now led by the sons of retired founder Joseph Shabalala and coming off the group’s fifth Grammy Award win) in a World Music/CRASHARTS concert at Sanders Theatre. And Garrett Borns—the LA-based singer who goes by the stylized moniker BØRNS—brings his stylish, mysterious pop to House of Blues the same night (get there early to check out Mikky Ekko).