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The last time I saw Calvin Johnson play, in a university coffee shop in the mid-2000s, he was more or less in Jonathan Richman mode: wry, romantic, awesomely weird. At one point during the song “When Hearts Turn Blue,” the deep-voiced, imposingly built, ever-deadpan Johnson paused in order to twist a leg up and execute what struck me at the time as a cupid pose. Later, during another band’s set, he began harmonizing, without warning, from the merch booth. All of which is to say that Johnson—who in the ’80s founded an iconic indie-pop band, Beat Happening, and an iconic indie-pop label, K Records—isn’t getting any less eccentric as he nears 50. “Now that the one-zeroes have hit, Calvin is busy preparing a new album for the new decade,” says his bio on the K Records site. Johnson’s gone from kiddie punk to blue-eyed funk to reflective folk over the course of his career, which has also seen him collaborate with indie luminaries like Doug Martsch and Tobi Vail and foster a scene that begat Mirah, The Microphones, and more. But whatever he’s doing in 2012, I bet it’ll be deadpan.
The Believer’s Love Songs for Lamp Roadshow, with Calvin Johnson, Priests, Laura Leif & A.P.B., and Katie & The Lichen begins at 7 p.m. at Meeps, 2104 18th St. NW. $7. believermag.com/roadshow.