The set lists may change from venue to venue during the seven-gig California tour of San Francisco-based roots rocker Chuck Prophet and Brooklyn-bred musical street poet Garland Jeffreys. But the distinction between performance and party will still blur each night.
In a combustible club the size of Harlow’s, where this communion of All Things Rock and Roll takes place on Thursday, April 21, that’s exactly how it should be.
Prophet and the Mission Express, the band that includes his wife, Stephanie Finch, on keyboards and vocals, first hooked up with singer-songwriter Jeffreys in 2013 at the Bell House in Brooklyn.
“We’ve been known to play a Garland song from time to time” said guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Prophet. “He showed up, and we worked up a song or two for the encore. We had such a good time that we said let’s do a tour together. Finally, the time was right. We said, ‘Hey, let’s do that thing with Garland. Let’s do it in California. Let’s go to places we don’t go, like Sacramento, and just do it.’ ”
“It’s gonna be half Chuck Prophet and half Garland Jeffreys songs,” said Prophet. “We’re playing one set. Melding our two things together. We’re gonna mix ’em up. We go all over the place (each artist’s discography includes more than 12 albums) but probably with emphasis on our last few records.”
The 72-year-old African American and Puerto Rican-American Jeffreys broke into the East Village club scene in the 1960s. His latest albums are “The King of In Between” (2011) and “Truth Serum” (2013). “King” includes a John Lee Hooker homage and “Colorblind Love,” a return to the race relations that permeated his 1991 album “Don’t Call Me Buckwheat.” “Serum” is bluesy, soulful and lyrically resonant, with nods to reggae, balladry and shimmery pop.
“One thing people get a kick out of is that Garland was Lou Reed’s college roommate,” said Prophet. “And Garland wrote the song ‘Wild in the Streets,’ which we and the Circle Jerks covered. It’s kind of become a skate-punk classic.
“He has a huge catalog. He made a bunch of records for Atlantic in the ’70s. Sometimes Dr. John is backing him. Sometimes he recorded with Graham Parker’s Rumour, other times with the E Street Band. He’s the poet laureate of Sheepshead Bay.”
Garland is also known for covering by “96 Tears” by ? (Question Mark) and the Mysterians. And he’s worked with such legends as Sonny Rollins, the Brecker Brothers and John Cale.
The 52-year-old Prophet surfaced in mid-1980s Los Angeles in the band Green on Red. “We embraced psychedelic music,” said Prophet. “We were rediscovering Credence Clearwater, the Velvet Underground, Buffalo Springfield.” When the band imploded, he headed to San Francisco.
“I drove into the city and saw the Dead Kennedys at the Mabuhay Gardens. I thought, ‘I got to figure out how to do this.’ I went to San Francisco State and took recording classes. Most days I spent a couple of hours trying to find parking, just got frustrated, and went to the movies or something.”
Then Prophet and friends turned the back room at The Albion bar in the Mission District into an incubator for his first solo album and the future Mission Express.
Prophet’s latest releases are the single “Alex Nieto,” which addresses the fatal 2014 police shooting of the young security guard, and albums “Temple Beautiful” (2012) and “Night Surfer” (2014).
“Temple” is an ode to San Francisco colored with Telecaster twang and jangle. Prophet referred to “Surfer” as “almost kind of a borderline dystopian science fiction” with strings, horns, Prophet’s raffish sense of humor and titles such as “If I Was a Baby.” He also has worked with the likes of Warren Zevon, Cake and Alejandro Escovedo.
“It’s rock ’n’ roll,” said Prophet of his body of music, “part of the canon of American rock ’n’ roll, which includes all kinds of things, folk music, country music, and British invasion. If you like rock ’n’ roll, it’ll get you there.”
Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express With Garland Jeffreys
When: 8 p.m Thursday, April 21
Where: Harlow’s, 2708 J St., Sacramento
Cost: $18 and $20