Just south of Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast stands the Caspar Inn. Built in 1906 to serve the then-booming timber town of Caspar (“booming” meaning the population was about 800 as opposed to the current 500 or so), the inn boasts excellent food, a full bar and the convenience of only having to stumble upstairs once the music ends. Of course, once you’re upstairs, the party continues. Before you book your room, you’re encouraged to consider the following questions:

Will you be attending the concerts?
Do you like music and dancing until 2 a.m.?
After that, are you willing to hear the rustle of others who are winding down?

If you answer “yes” to all the above — and please note, “rustle” is an understatement — then you need to get yourself to the Caspar Inn for a kind of cool that isn’t easily found elsewhere, roadhouses boasting great food and live music being in short supply these days. 

When you really should’ve been here is last night. Because last night featured Professor Burns and the Lilac Field, Lila Nelson and the Job, and Late Stage Empire, three sets of players whose music both breaks hearts and puts them back together.

You know when you’re rushing somewhere in the evening and then come around a corner to unexpectedly catch the lingering sunset and your heart seizes then nearly bursts? That’s Professor Burns and the Lilac Field. Sean Burns and Courtney Browne reminded me how pretty, how delicate, music can be. 

Late Stage Empire (Maya Dorn and Eric Maskol) delivers the kind of harmonizing that could make even the most devout atheist feel closer to God. They also rocked far harder than their down-home clothes and unassuming demeanor suggested — and I would not have guessed they’d launch into a rock opera number, but once they did, the cosmic weirdness fit right in. Fun and strange and beautiful.

Former Humboldtian (and KHUM DJ) Lila Nelson has long been on my Very Favorites list. This mini-tour with her fine new band The Job — Jimi Mitchell (keys), Otto Huber (drums) and Brandon Essex (bass) — supports her latest album, The Fret & The Fray, a collection of typically exquisite songs — if such exquisiteness can said to be “typical.” What I mean is, we expect lovely singing and poetic lyrics from Lila, and once again, she not only delivers, but ups the ante. You think you know heartbreak? Are familiar with redemption? Understand the universe? Have heard enough singer-songwriters to last you the remainder of your years? NO, NO YOU HAVE NOT AND DO NOT. Good news is, you still have a chance to do so. Lila Nelson and the Job hit Arcata Theatre Lounge, Friday, Dec. 9.