Call it a variation on publish or perish. It’s not easy for musicians to head all the way out to San Francisco for live concerts in our pandemic era. But given the mounting frustrations among those who have brand new material to premiere, the matter has truly become perform or perish.
This goes double when you’re a young rocker on the cusp of breaking big, like Canadian troubadour Billy Raffoul, who should have been one of 2020’s most celebrated new stars. The lockdown curtailed his options. But better late than never. He finally arrives in The City Nov. 8, to introduce his Springsteen-savvy 2020 debut “International Hotel.” The guitarist has been in the spotlight since he was a little kid in Ontario, joining his father’s local band at gigs. “I was 9 years old the first time I went onstage, and I was shaking like a leaf — I could barely stand,” he says. “But every time I got onstage with him, it gave me a little more confidence.”
What lessons did dad teach him? That music is a job unlike any other: “This is something that you have to live and breathe, eat and sleep, if you wanna do it for a career.”
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Other auteurs, like folk-rock royalty Martha Wainwright, were happy to stay put. After divorcing her husband of 11 years in 2018, she sought peace and solitude for herself and her two young sons. So this sister of Rufus Wainwright and daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle anchored herself to her native Montreal by purchasing Ursa, her own cafe/venue. She also found time to exorcise all of her pain via “Love Will Be Reborn,” her cathartic new album, with brutal confessionals like “Getting Older” and “Hole in My Heart.” Wainwright, 45, always fancied herself a beatnik hipster, and she wants her club to have the same vibe. “So I’m always stirring the pot there, in every way possible, singing songs, but also behind the counter, stirring the soup pot, serving drinks, hosting shows,” she says. Her night off from Ursa will be her evening onstage in San Francisco, Nov. 12. It won’t be easy singing some of this dark new material, she admits. But she believes fans will leave happy.
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Some musicians seem like they’ve been away for an eternity, when actually they haven’t strayed far at all. Until her thoughtful new “I’ll Meet You Here” set, folk darling Dar Williams hadn’t released new music in six long years — an eternity in the hummingbird-fitting entertainment industry. But she was busily touring, she’s been pointing out in recent interviews, behind her 2017 book “What I Found In a Thousand Towns — A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America’s Communities, One Coffee Shop, Dog Park, and Open Mike Night at a Time.” She hit the road to promote it just like an album, with the added intention of spreading its uplifting stories and hands-on tips for everyday improvement like gospel. The project helped her redefine herself and gain a new insight into the songwriting side of her life, she’s claimed.
Where: Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets: $38 to $42
Alt-country axman Jesse Dayton finally got around to annotating his own pell-mell life story in his tell-all new book “Beaumonster,” with an accompanying album-length soundtrack including songs by influential stars he’s met and/or played with, like X (“Burning House of Love”), Social Distortion (“Story of My life”) and Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price and the late, always elusive Townes Van Zandt. This talented Texan’s tale boasts a cornucopia of legendary musicians: Doug Sahm, Flaco Jiménez, Johnny Cash, Duff McKagan, Glen Campbell, Malcolm McDowell and even Renaissance man Rob Zombie, with whom he shares a love of — and a talent for — directing grisly horror flicks. Dayton will be touting both offerings in two Bay Area appearances. The pandemic has not been easy for Dayton — he usually logs more than 150 concert dates a year. So here’s a chance to see and hear the guy in person. Twice if you feel so inclined.
Where: Ivy Room, 860 San Pablo Ave., Albany
When: 8 p.m.Nov. 15
Tickets: $18 – $20
Note: Dayton also appears at Hopmonk Tavern, 224 Vintage Way, Novato at 8 p.m. Nov. 16. Tickets are $15, visit hopmonk.com.