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Music Picks: Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge, and Anthrax 

Thursday, Mar 21 2013
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fri 3/22

Gary Smulyan

BLUE WHALE

click to enlarge PHOTO BY NATHAN PRESLEY - Heartless Bastards: See Tuesday.
  • PHOTO BY NATHAN PRESLEY
  • Heartless Bastards: See Tuesday.

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As both a mainstay in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and a seven-time Grammy winner, the only current baritone saxophonist better known than Gary Smulyan is cartoon character Lisa Simpson. Says Simpson of Smulyan, "I have tremendous respect for Gary, and I love his recordings, especially that Frankie Laine tribute album, High Noon. But I've been playing bari for millions of viewers for 23 years! I hope people stop discounting my talent just because I'm not a real person." (Maybe if she, like Smulyan, had played with everyone from Woody Herman to Dave Holland ...) Smulyan's only other upcoming SoCal appearance is in Palm Springs, where he will perform his well-reviewed nonet material with a nine-piece ensemble. At Blue Whale it's down to a trio, with the profoundly talented Darek Oles on bass and an eternally youthful Joe LaBarbera on drums. —Gary Fukushima

Lawrence Lebo

McCABE'S GUITAR SHOP

When you think of the tragic lives of old blues musicians who died alone, in obscurity and too young, it's enough to make you want to build a time machine, hurtle back through the decades and loan some of these legends a few bucks. We consider the shameful neglect of our heroes a quirky aberration of this nation's less-enlightened past, but the sad truth is that many brilliant modern musicians are suffering badly from the difficult economy — not to mention from our culture's increasingly paralytic nostalgia for the ancient past. Lawrence Lebo doesn't want your pity, but she could use your help with the considerable expenses required to replace her worn-down pacemaker. This glamorous diva still has plenty of heart on her recent collection The Best of Don't Call Her Larry: Blues Mix, kicking up her heels on such swinging original tunes as "(I'm Your) Christmas Present, Baby!" (where she purrs invitingly, "Tie me up with ribbons") and "Lawrence's Working Girl Blues" (a sassy answer to Three 6 Mafia's "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"). Lebo remains one of this country's greatest living blues singers — let's keep the emphasis on living. —Falling James

sat 3/23

Jesca Hoop

THE HOTEL CAFÉ

Jesca Hoop once belonged to us. The singer-guitarist was born in Santa Rosa, raised in Northern California, lived off the grid as a homesteader in the forests of Wyoming and Arizona, and worked for a spell as a nanny for Kathleen Brennan and her husband Tom Waits, who brought Hoop's unusual music to the attention of the rest of the planet. Her songs were so unusual, in fact — blending Kate Bush–style art-pop with weird guitar chords and ethereal vocals — that now Hoop belongs to the great wide world. A few years ago, she left California and moved to Manchester, England, and has since toured with Eels and collaborated with Bush's pal Peter Gabriel. Her music has evolved from the intricate, angular harmonies and sylvan baroque folk of her debut album, Kismet, to the more electric and colorfully poppy grooves percolating on last year's The House That Jack Built. —Falling James

Django Django

HENRY FONDA THEATRE

Even in this heady time of unbridled pop eclecticism, Django Django's recent eponymous debut album is an almost defiantly indie thing. The East London band, led by drummer/producer David Maclean, makes psychedelicized art-rock with pummeling dance grooves, kitschily laced with vintage synth bleeps and hyper guitar scratchy-scratch. To all this they add pastoral Beach Boys–style harmonies, segues into cowboy campfire crooning, a few industrial jackhammer beats and, well, you get the idea. In more restrictive times, such mad eclecticism has been hastily dismissed, yet Django Django neatly skirt irrelevance by anchoring their far-flung forays in hummable, toe-tappable tunesmithery and a healthy sense of humor. In another, parallel world, a better one, they'd be at the top of the charts. —John Payne

Enter Shikari

ROXY THEATRE

If you're eager for a bit of Brit youth culture but don't fancy the transatlantic haul, a few minutes with Enter Shikari's patchily brilliant third album, last year's A Flash Flood of Colour (or even just its standout track, "Arguing with Thermometers"), might suffice. The group layers strep-throated metalcore, throbbing dubstep, socially conscious post-hardcore and grimy drum and bass beneath both Streets-level ranting and rather boyish singing. As such, listening to Flash Flood is like wandering the hallways of a London rehearsal complex, where every act magically plays in the same key. Even with a stand-in drummer, the quartet slaughtered (in the good way) during its visit to the Roxy last April. The show found frontman Rou Reynolds covering not only every inch of the stage but also the majority of the venue. Go see it for yourself. —Paul Rogers

sun 3/24

Michael Nesmith

THE CANYON CLUB

To many fans, Michael Nesmith was the smart Beatle of the Monkees — a long, tall Texan who appeared considerably uninterested in teeny-bop fame but nonetheless wrote many of the group's best songs ("Mary Mary," "Listen to the Band," "You Just May Be the One"). Other folks remember him as the Liquid Paper scion who penned Linda Ronstadt's first hit ("Different Drum"), later executive-produced the films Repo Man and Elephant Parts, and essentially invented music videos and the prototype for MTV in the early 1980s. Despite all that, Nesmith's biggest invention might have been country rock, with solo hits like "Joanne" and such presciently jangling Monkees tracks as "Sunny Girlfriend" paving the way for the Eagles and Neil Young. Apart from a surprise appearance at Largo and last summer's unexpectedly sublime Headquarters-centric reunion with the Monkees, Nesmith hasn't toured much in the past 20 years. Expect a lot of material from his extensive solo career. —Falling James

mon 3/25

Corima, Upsalon Acrux

PEHRSPACE

There are, in fact, thriving musical styles that have blessedly little to do with the latest pop trends. Roughly intersecting prog-rock and art-jazz is a thing called Zeuhl Music, a very heavy, propulsive sonic form whose roaring rhythm sections and hypnotic, repetitive chants take inspiration from the idiosyncratic style of the legendary French band Magma. East L.A. Magma fanatics Corima have taken the Zeuhl sound to rad extremes with their recent album Quetzalcoatl, and live they are a raging hurricane. This show, which also features boundary-pushing rock/noise from Upsilon Acrux, starts at 9:30 p.m., costs just five bucks, and is all-ages, so bring the kiddies and let the band help raise 'em up right. —John Payne

tue 3/26

Heartless Bastards

THE TROUBADOUR

It's Erika Wennerstrom who brings the thunder with Heartless Bastards. Not only does she write all the Texas quartet's songs, but she also churns out waves of heavy guitar so thick, her band mates Jesse Ebaugh (bass), Dave Colvin (drums) and Mark Nathan (guitar) have to hit really hard to keep up with her. Wennerstrom's singing is boldly serene yet searing enough to cut through the haze of aptly titled past epics such as "The Mountain" and "Sway." Although the songs on Heartless Bastards' 2005 debut, Stairs & Elevators, were shorter and punchier, Wennerstrom reveals newfound melodicism and traces of country on 2012's Arrow. Don't worry, though. With tracks like "Simple Feeling," the album still holds plenty of the explosive Who-style bursts that make this band great. —Falling James

wed 3/27

Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble

BLUE WHALE

Armenian-born pianist Vardan Ovsepian is likely the musician closest to Joon Lee's Blue Whale club in Little Tokyo, appearing there so many times that some think of him as the house pianist. Ovsepian's Eurasian roots shine through his original music, evoking memories of styles first made popular by the German ECM label in the 1970s and '80s. Ovsepian's March series of Wednesday-night shows at the club ends tonight. This closing show plays double duty, as it is also a CD release event for Ovsepian's chamber ensemble, which features many of the top young jazz and new-music string performers in Los Angeles. The group includes violist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, cellist (and fellow Armenian) Artyom Manukyan and violinist Paul Cartwright, whose major talent manages to steal the spotlight in almost every show he plays. There's a lot to look forward to with this one. —Tom Meek

Anthrax

HOUSE OF BLUES HOLLYWOOD

Anthrax doesn't get quite as much respect as their brethren in thrash metal's Big Four (a group that also includes Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth). We think that's a damn shame. There is a stronger sense of fun and levity to Anthrax's brand of thrash than the soberly serious output from those contemporaries, but blistering thrashers such as "Caught in a Mosh" and "I Am the Law" still get us in the mood to storm into the pit and lay waste to motherfuckers left and right. On this current tour, the group is performing their 1987 masterpiece, Among the Living, in its entirety, and original vocalist Joey Belladonna is firmly back in the fold. Expect this show to be heavy on both first-decade Anthrax material and Belladonna's superb 2011 return, Worship Music. —Jason Roche

inc.

THE BOOTLEG

The debut album from inc. has been a long time coming. The neo-R&B band (formerly named Teen, Inc.) was started in 2010 by brothers Daniel and Andrew Aged. As kids, the Ageds idolized the session musicians on megahit albums, a practice as esoteric and awesome as idolizing particularly obscure cinematographers. (And dreams do come true: The Ageds ended up sessioning for everyone from Cee-Lo to Elton John!) Now, almost three years after they put out their first song, the finally forthcoming LP no world demonstrates exactly the all-consuming commitment to craft you'd expect from guys who study the fine print. It's vintage Prince–style R&B as high art, the slow jam as religious ritual, the kind of endlessly detailed record you'd get if Quincy Jones, rather than Brian Wilson, were making a teenage symphony to God. —Chris Ziegler

thu 3/28

John Reilly & Friends

LARGO

Take your shoes off and sit 'round the campfire with John C. Reilly and his pals for an evening, wherein the Renaissance man (ace actor, tap dancer, damn fine musician and about a hundred other things) hosts a casual night of folk-roots, yodel-blues, high jinks 'n' hilarity. Reilly recently essayed choice singles for Jack White's Third Man Records label from artists including Becky and John and John and Tom, and tonight's show features some of these players. Special guests include Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond, a melodic force of nature and joyfully ethereal soul, along with singer-guitarist Tom Brosseau. Songwriter Dan Bern (who wrote Reilly-as–Dewey Cox's songs in the film Walk Hard) will also jump into the fray. Seats are first-come, first-served, and assigned starting at 6 p.m. —John Payne

Ghostface Killah

and Adrian Younge

THE MAYAN

Ghostface Killah and L.A. producer Adrian Younge are about to release Twelve Reasons to Die, the coolest soundtrack to a movie that doesn't actually exist since Broadcast and the Focus Group put out Witch Cults of the Radio Age. Due April 16, Twelve Reasons is the score to a shockadelic Italian giallo film that would surely be a classic of this crime genre if someone had ever filmed it. Instead, it is Younge's exercise in what-if. Like, what if RZA had been hired by Mario Bava circa 1968 and then given the full resources of the Cinecitta studios? And what if Ghostface Killah burst out of the time machine to rap on songs about grinding up a human body into 12 vinyl records? (Obviously, it'd shatter history forever.) Peer into this ass-kicking alternate universe as Younge, Ghostface and some of L.A.'s best bring Twelve Reasons to Die to life at the Mayan. —Chris Ziegler

Billy Bragg

EL REY THEATRE

The music of Brit bard Billy Bragg is sozzled with nostalgia (he's perhaps best known stateside for his Woody Guthrie–inspired Mermaid Avenue collaborations with Wilco), but his often political, broadly lefty lyrics are soberly and vividly in the here and now. Like a lo-fi, less stylistically self-conscious Paul Weller, this folkie bloke is utterly English in his singing accent and subject matter (one of his signature tunes being 1983 single "A New England," later a U.K. hit for Kirsty MacColl.) A revered elder statesman of his genre, Bragg attracts an audience mostly "of a certain age" and hasn't been trendy in decades, but he's more of a treasure than ever for still speaking his mind in an era of voiceless singers. —Paul Rogers

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