Music News & Reviews

As Austin's famed indie festival ends, Buster's Bender begins

The Bender

March 21-27 at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Cover charges and starting times vary. (859) 368-8871.

In the week ahead, Buster's will borrow a bit from the mammoth Austin, Texas, music showcase known as South by Southwest.

The Austin festival brings together scores of indie and unsigned bands, along with a host of semi-established ones (but still with an indie appeal). It has become a ground zero of sorts for new artists to be heard, for breaking bands to gain a wider audience and for legions of music-industry types — including radio programmers and record-label reps — to scout for the next big thing.

SXSW concludes this weekend, which is when Buster's would-be spinoff, titled The Bender, begins. The Bender, thankfully, leaves the music-business quotient out of its equation. But it does offer, on seven consecutive nights, a sampling of national and regional acts that are generally new to Lexington. A few local favorites will be thrown into the mix.

The Bender kicks off Sunday with the Missouri folk-rock trio Straight White Lines and Indiana songwriter John Davey. Nashville psychedelic/world music stylists Absinthe Junk and Ohio rockers Red Sun Rising will follow. (9 p.m. $7.)

A weeklong pass to see all of the bands playing The Bender is $25. For a complete schedule, go to

Fareed jazz

Suggesting a weekend evening in Cincinnati at NCAA tournament time is likely to be met with an incredulous stare. But jazz fans should nonetheless take note of Friday night's performance at the city's famed Blue Wisp Jazz Club, 318 East Eighth Street, by Fareed Haque and the Flat Earth Ensemble. (9 p.m. $10, $15. (513) 241-9477.

Born to a Pakistani father and a Chilean mother, Haque is a guitarist wildly adept at adopting jazz, classical, rock and world music inspirations for his music. He has collaborated with Sting, Medeski Martin and Wood, Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Joe Henderson and other notables, and numerous symphony orchestras.

His Flat Earth Ensemble, which he introduced on a sublime 2008 album titled Flat Planet, is an exploration of bop-generated jazz and South Asian rhythms played on tabla and kanjira with an immensely playful attitude. Hence the name of Flat Planet's fusion-flavored leadoff tune: Big Bhangra. (Bhangra is a punjabi folk dance.)

Local Fareed fans shouldn't fret if they can't make the trip, though. The Web site for Haque's long-running jam band, Garaj Mahal, lists a June 4 performance at Natasha's Bistro and Bar.

Sarah sees 'Stars'

Making her way back to Lexington after a stay at SXSW is Sarah Borges, the Boston-area Americana rocker who is touring with her band, The Broken Singles, behind an exhilarating new recording called The Stars Are Out. The album is split evenly between world-class originals (including the Suzi Quattro-meets-Joan Jett pop nugget Do It for Free) and cover tunes by The Lemonheads, Smokey Robinson, The Magnetic Fields, NRBQ and neglected British songsmith Clive Gregson, via his expert Any Trouble rocker Yesterday's Love.

Borges and her band slipped into Lexington with little fanfare in January 2009 to play a weeknight, dead-of-winter concert at The Dame to all of 25 people. It was a blast of a show despite the slim turnout. Borges was an energetic and intuitively keen performer. She returns Wednesday to play the cozier (and, one hopes, more complimentary) confines of The Green Lantern, 497 West Third Street. (9 p.m. $5. (859) 252-9539.)