Brand Brett Dennen a more granola-fied, tree-hugging version of Jack Johnson if you want—dude even performs barefoot sometimes; things just don't get more hippie-retro than that—but the thing is, this NorCal acoustic singer/songwriter has penned some great songs, tunes that demand you listen beyond any hoary sonic stereotyping and just groove. Take his 2006 album, So Much More, and that disc's "Ain't No Reason," a paean to the harsh realities of a cruel, cold world, positively agnostic in its exhortation to surrender one's life to fate rather than blame some unseen supernatural force. But Dennen's no brooding killjoy—"Darlin' Do Not Fear" is a sweet uplifter, a plea for self-education nestled within a bad-times-never-last prayer. Then there's that voice—like spun honey, a pure and innocent warble befitting the babyfaced Dennen, who looks like he's about 12. Dennen's the perfect summer afternoon daydream crooner, but his songs work just as lovely on a cold winter's eve.
Brett Dennen opens for the John Butler Trio at the Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2700; www.grove-of-anaheim.com. Thurs., 8 p.m. $20.
The Oohlas can thank the founder of their record label, Stolen Transmission, for a good chunk of their newfound quasi-fame. The label's headed by Sarah Lewitinn, better known as Ultragrrrl, former assistant editor of the now-might-as-well-be-defunct and totally laughable SPIN magazine. Lewitinn frequently trumpets the band about her highly trafficked, highly popular blog.
Just like their name sounds, the Oohlas ooze a fun pop sensibility, reminiscent of some of the greatest hits of the '90s—think Letters to Cleo, Belly, a slightly less angsty Veruca Salt.
The Oohlas are an LA-based band, consisting of Olivia "Ollie" Stone (vocals/guitar), Mark Eklund (bass/vocals), his brother Greg Eklund (vocals/guitar—formerly of Everclear), and a random grab bag of drummers. The trio heads south for Orange County to play with local fellow buzzband Aushua—catch 'em both before the secret gets out. (But when it does get out, you'll get bragging rights anyway for knowing waaaay back when.)
The Oohlas play at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com. Thurs., 9 p.m. $8. 21+.