Music Picks: Low End Theory Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival 

Friday, Jun 13 2014
Ed Sheeran: See Monday.


Ed Sheeran: See Monday.

fri 6/13

Guided by Voices, Bobby Bare Jr.


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Since reuniting in 2010, Guided by Voices have already released five albums, with a sixth, Cool Planet, reportedly on the way. That's a life's work for most groups, and that's not counting the Dayton, Ohio, alt-rock band's prolific output since the early 1980s. On top of all that, bandleader Robert Pollard often engages in various side projects under such names as Airport 5, Go Back Snowball and Circus Devils. No matter what he calls himself, Pollard always combines tuneful power-pop melodies with clever lyrics, whether he's reveling in being a big fish in a small pond ("Littlest League Possible") or finding salvation in factories ("Laundry & Lasers"). Bobby Bare Jr., the son of country great Bobby Bare, is a contemplative folk-Americana bard who's already the subject of a documentary, Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost). —Falling James

Pelican, Tombs


Illinois quartet Pelican slather their instrumental metal with layers of atmospherics. The group's powerful soundscapes inspire listeners to pump their fists in the air, even as no vocals beckon for such an action. Comparisons to now-defunct post-metal pioneers Isis have followed Pelican throughout their decade-plus career, but they are worthy of standing proud on their own. Brooklyn trio Tombs cut a more brutish figure. Whether you lean toward downtuned sludge or caustic black-metal mayhem, Tombs have you covered — with a little Goth rock and Swedish death 'n' roll thrown in for good measure — on new album Savage Gold. In an era when so many bands are having trouble truly mastering one sound, Tombs are chameleons who inspire inferiority complexes with their mastery of multiple metallic noises. —Jason Roche

sat 6/14

Low End Theory Festival


Since its inception in 2006, the weekly Lincoln Heights–based Low End Theory party has been a mecca for fans and a launchpad for performers of experimental instrumental hip-hop (sometimes called "beat music"). Founded by Alpha Pup's Daddy Kev, Low End Theory was inspired by the weekly 2003 parking-lot gathering known as Sketchbook. Hosted by rotating resident DJs Gaslamp Killer, Nobody, D-Styles and Nocando, Low End Theory is held quarterly in Japan and at random throughout Europe and Northern California. Headlining this year's inaugural Low End Theory Festival are turntablism pioneers Invisibl Skratch Piklz, performing together for the first time in more than a decade; Odd Future's The Internet; Baths; Ras G; and legendary Detroit DJ and dot connector House Shoes, among others. Also Sunday, June 15. (See Bizarre Ride, page 58, for more information.) —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

Neon Trees


When a band heads to town for the first time in a few years on the heels of a new album, it's understandable that their appearance would be big news. But for Neon Trees, that alone isn't what's keeping the band in the headlines. Shortly before the April release of their third record, Pop Psychology, flamboyant frontman Tyler Glenn did something nearly unthinkable: He came out as a gay Mormon. The story dominated the news cycle, but in the end, what draws fans to the band is its infectious blend of new wave, dance rock and pop. It's this, more than anything else, that keeps the band not only on the lips of pop music fans but on the radio as well. —Daniel Kohn

Playboy Jazz Festival


Hugh Hefner's annual gathering at the Bowl often encompasses numerous other genres along with at least some of that jazz. But this year, the first day of the weekend festival is headlined by such pure-jazz performers as the honey-voiced, mellifluous Dianne Reeves, pianist Kenny Barron paired with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, the Arturo Sandoval Big Band, and an homage to George Duke with such luminaries as Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke and Ndugu Chancler. Sunday expands much further and deeper, with Venezuelan combo Los Amigos Invisibles blurring the lines between funk and acid jazz, and the James Cotton Blues Band showcasing the sassy squalling of the legendary R&B saxophonist Big Jay McNeely. Sunday also gets back to jazz with Prism, a supergroup with Dave Holland, Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn and Eric Harland, and ace guitarist George Benson, whose nimble forays occasionally devolve into easy-listening mush. —Falling James

sun 6/15

The Notwist


It's a bit hard to put your finger on The Notwist, but who's complaining? The German pop-rock-electronic–everything else trio's new Close to the Glass (Sub Pop) near-scientifically mishmashes sophisticated audio processing and varied instrumentation to create a supremely toe-tappable set of "pop" tunes, which deserve to be unsullied by quibbles about how to categorize them. Though their songs apparently are the product of protracted, chin-scratching studio contrivance, The Notwist's chameleonic aspect feels organic; their clever inclusion of folk, classical, rap and electronic music is used as a means to color and shape their sound, which may include lengthy, machine-driven instrumentals but more often coalesces into kaleidoscopic alt-rock that's both ultra-peppy and loaded with psychological/emotional substance. —John Payne

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