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Music Picks: Charli XCX, Polica, Esperanza Spalding and More 

Thursday, Aug 16 2012
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fri 8/17

Zola Jesus, Active Child, Ariel Pink

MOCA

click to flip through (2) PHOTO BY MICHAEL WILSON - Dr. John: See Saturday.
  • PHOTO BY MICHAEL WILSON
  • Dr. John: See Saturday.
 
 

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Notwithstanding the recent controversies about the proper place of what could politely be called accessible art at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art, the museum's PLAY MOCA music festival series hammers on, featuring three performances of, yes, challenging music. The much-buzzed Active Child is actually L.A. homeboy Pat Grossi, whose 2011 debut, You Are All I See, painted searing soundscapes by using Esperanto-ish vocals and vintage-synth tidal waves, a strangely comforting howl into the wind. You might call Nika Danilova, aka Zola Jesus, the new Siouxsie, an echoed-out dramatist with a touch of the performance artist. Her eclectic recent collabs have paired her with the likes of Skrillex, Orbital, Foetus and David Lynch. Most thrillingly, Ariel Pink DJs tonight, no doubt drawing from his just-out Haunted Graffiti album, Mature Themes, a polished yet perverse mélange of idiosyncratically Los Angeles pop culture madness. —John Payne

Charli XCX

TROUBADOUR

This young London lass arrives in L.A. fresh from opening a string of Midwestern arena shows for Coldplay, which has to rank among the least appropriate bookings ever: On You're the One, a four-track EP released in June by the local indie IAMSOUND, Charli XCX layers her yelpy-but-sensual vocals over grinding, cloistered electro-goth beats produced by Ariel Rechtshaid (who also co-wrote Usher's thrillingly gloomy "Climax" with Diplo). Meanwhile, remixes from Blood Orange and Balam Acab only strengthen the impression that Charli's never experienced a breath of fresh air in her life. (The title track reminds us of t.A.T.u., the great Russian duo responsible for 2002's "All the Things She Said.") She'll no doubt feel more at home surrounded by her fellow hipsters tonight. —Mikael Wood

The Be Good Tanyas

BOOTLEG THEATER

Having met at tree-planting camps in British Columbia in the 1990s, the members of The Be Good Tanyas — Frazey Ford, Trish Klein and Samantha Parton — strum an appropriately rustic brand of folk. Sylvan songs like "Scattered Leaves" and an intimate version of the bluesy standard "In My Time of Dying," from their new career retrospective, A Collection, blend Parton's clucking banjo and Ford's and Klein's acoustic guitars with sweetly homespun harmonies. The Vancouver trio neatly avoids the hokey clichés that hold back so many modern Americana bands attempting to evoke a pastoral Neverland. Instead, the Tanyas seem newly re-energized, with Ford exploring her soulful side on the recent solo album Obadiah, and Klein keeping up her chops in the folk-jazz side project Po' Girl. —Falling James

sat 8/18

Dr. John

CLUB NOKIA

At a time in his life when he could be coasting on past glories, Mac Rebennack — aka Dr. John — is anything but an old fogey living in the past. The New Orleans native seemed to take Hurricane Katrina personally, forming a dim view of the federal government's less-than-benign neglect in the wake of the disaster on his caustic and scathing 2008 album, The City That Care Forgot. The good doctor rediscovered his voodoo roots on the excellent 2010 follow-up, Tribal, and he's still ornery on his latest CD, Locked Down, where he calls for a funky new rebellion ("Revolution") and decries the rise of drugs like crack and the modern loss of innocence ("Ice Age"). "My nuclear vision is everybody's bizness," Dr. John declares on "The King of Izzness," which is something akin to his personal Sermon on the Mount. —Falling James

Sunset Strip Music Festival

SUNSET STRIP

After a detour last year into beery self-satisfaction with Mötley Crüe, the Sunset Strip Music Festival returns this summer to the tradition of self-loathing headliners it began in 2010 with Smashing Pumpkins. Tonight Marilyn Manson will close out the outdoor main-stage festivities with a set sure to draw heavily from Born Villain, the lacerating shock-rock full-length he released in May. Manson shares the bill with a handful of cheerier types, including Orange County mall-punk vets The Offspring (whose critically reviled "Cruising California" is a secret guilty pleasure) and Zakk Wylde's hardy heavy-metal crew Black Label Society. On the slightly smaller dance-oriented stage: semi-celebrity DJ Steve Aoki, bass-mad hit makers Far East Movement and hip-hop lifers De La Soul. Oh, how sweet would an impromptu Black East Movement jam be? —Mikael Wood

sun 8/19

The Alley Cats

LIQUID KITTY

Of all the late-'70s L.A. punk bands, The Alley Cats remain one of the most underrated — and the most mysterious. Just about every group from the era has reunited in some form or another, but no one's heard even a peep from The Alley Cats since they renamed themselves The Zarkons and broke up in the late '80s. While it seldom gets as much attention these days as X and The Germs, the Lomita trio was one of the earliest and fiercest local punk bands, distinguished by singer-guitarist Randy Stodola's Beat-ific lyrics and snarling guitar riffs. After a lost weekend that stretched more than two decades, Stodola has finally emerged from the haze with a new lineup, although sadly without his former bassist-wife, Dianne Chai, who used to contrast his feral howl with her own bittersweet purr. —Falling James

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