Jimmy Cliff, Liars, Jesse Sykes
THE HOTEL CAFÉ
Acting like a country-rock icon is nothing new to Amy LaVere, who had a small role portraying Wanda Jackson in the 2005 film Walk the Line. But the Memphis singer–upright bassist is garnering increasing attention for her own music, which twines folk, pop and restless strains of Americana with a soulfully jazzy delivery. "I'm stomping out of here/I hope the dishes rattle down off your shelf," she declares with a spirited defiance on her 2011 full-length, Stranger Me, which was produced by Arcade Fire engineer Craig Silvey. The album artfully captures LaVere's bittersweet ambivalence in the wake of her breakup with Hold Steady drummer and onetime bandmate Paul Taylor, as well as her sadness following the death of her beloved former mentor-producer, Jim Dickinson (Big Star, The Replacements, Green on Red, Rolling Stones). —Falling James
Over the past decade or so, the confounding Liars have released several volumes of resolutely avant-garde thump/screech/howl whose chief curiosities are their nebulous standing within the numbingly literal-minded world of rock music. The L.A.-based trio now proffers WIXIW, a startlingly harmonious work whose tracks veer from the outwardly abstruse collages and concepts of previous records to electronic pop that's full of accessible beats and hummable melodies yet whose intent remains thrillingly woolly. There's a Liars-only symmetry to all these brooding mazes of sonic and lyrical ambiguity, imparting the sense that something's happening — though what that might be is anyone's guess. Rejoice. Far from the coldly calculated horse poo the above verbosity implies, as a live unit Liars' barrage of sound art garage-stomps like a champ. —John Payne
Japanther, The Coup
Simple as their two-man setup is, there are many layers to the hook-y Brooklyn noise-punk project known as Japanther. Despite their slowly growing profile, singer-bassist Matt Reilly and drummer–effects man Ian Vanek formed the band more than a decade ago as a college art experiment at the Pratt Institute. Their spare configuration — which incidentally finds them singing through neon pay-phone handsets — allows them a great deal of flexibility live, where they've performed in consort with synchronized swimmers and marionettes, on the Williamsburg Bridge and on the back of a moving truck. But they're also seasoned at thrashing basement parties, an environment the Smell duplicates with impressive accuracy. Plus, they recorded their last LP, Beets, Limes and Rice, in L.A., so they know the terrain. Oakland agit-prop rap grandaddies The Coup open, and don't be surprised if the two groups combine forces to subvert the man proper. —Chris Martins
Def Leppard, Poison
VERIZON WIRELESS AMPHITHEATER
These once outlandishly coiffed acts have far outlived their hair-metal heydays because, for all their masturbatory guitar solos and pyro-laden stage shows, both have always been, at heart, timeless pop bands. However riffy and bombastic the Lepps got with their impossibly successful Pyromania and Hysteria albums in the 1980s, songs like "Photograph" and "Animal" are essentially sing-along-ready ditties made massive by Mutt Lange's miles-deep production. Poison's poppiness is much closer to the surface on both their hastily recorded 1986 debut, Look What the Cat Dragged in, and their chart-topping 1988 power ballad, "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Though simplistic, Poison's early hits have proven strong enough to keep the band popular despite singer Brett Michaels' stunningly distasteful star turn in the recent Rock of Love reality TV series. —Paul Rogers
IT'S CASUAL at Alex's Bar; SCORPIONS, TESLA at Staples Center.
They've opened on tour for Grouplove and The Civil Wars, but now L.A.'s Milo Greene are slipping into a summer of headlining shows in support of their self-titled debut, which comes out July 17. (They'll jump back off the main stage for a stop at Lollapalooza in August.) As their affiliation with Chop Shop Records suggests, Milo Greene play a tenderly atmospheric brand of harmony-drenched folk-pop seemingly designed for emotional scenes on primetime television shows; Chop Shop founder Alexandra Patsavas (who oversees music supervision on Grey's Anatomy and the Twilight films) probably lost her shit when she heard the band's lovely, and exceedingly licensable, "Don't You Give Up on Me." With San Diego's blues-punky Little Hurricane and local indie-rock dudes Harriet. —Mikael Wood
Abigails, Tomorrow's Tulips, Sweet Sweet Things
This isn't quite an Orange County night, but this show at the Satellite is all comradely bands from the satellite cities — the stars from the bars like the Prospector and Avalon, where a Tuesday night can last forever. (In the nice way, not the kill-me way.) Newest act on this nicely curated rock & roll bill are The Abigails, led by ex-Growler Warren Thomas, the guy with the teardrop tattoo and the heart o' gold and the voice (and sense for misadventure) of Lee Hazlewood. New LP (co-released on Mono and Burger) sounds like it came out of a jail cell or the bottom of a well — what those in the biz like to call "atmosphere," usually before stubbing out a cigarette. These are songs for the small towns in Jim Thompson novels. Like the man drunk in the hotel room says, "It's always lightest just before the dark." —Chris Ziegler
EL REY THEATRE
Named after the adventurous jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, this New York–based soul singer follows his namesake's lead on his most recent studio album, last year's Bleuphoria. It's filled with luxurious, slow-jam grooves over which Patterson twists his nimble voice into all manner of unexpected, idiosyncratic shapes; we're particularly taken with the weird robot-R&B things he does with the silky-smooth melody of "I Only Have Eyes for You." Arrive early to the El Rey for an opening set by fellow left-field-soul veteran (and Sheila E. homegirl) Sy Smith, whose newish Fast and Curious contains a deliciously funked-up duet with Patterson, called "Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)." You'll understand the sentiment. —Mikael Wood
The name Ferenc Nemeth might be lucky, for it belongs to both an award-winning sculptor and a Hungarian national-team volleyball player. Ferenc Nemeth also is a superlative drummer who once studied at L.A.'s Thelonious Monk Institute. Now he tours and records with guys like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and his current bandmate, exceptional guitarist Lionel Loueke. Nemeth was here last with guitar wizard Gilad Hekselman; this time he leads a trio with Sam Barsh on piano and the unbelievable Hadrien Feraud on bass, featuring music from his upcoming release, Triumph. —Gary Fukushima
THE CULT at Hollywood Palladium; POWER 106's POWERHOUSE 2012 at Honda Center.
Quintron & Miss Pussycat
A man howls trash-rock imprecations while surrounded by strange contraptions of his own invention, including an organ-synthesizer hybrid, which is tricked out like the front end of a car with real headlights, and the Drum Buddy, a light-activated drum machine and sound-effects box. Nearby, a pretty blonde dances, shakes her maracas and chants enigmatic rejoinders to the mad scientist's urgent pleas. It's another night in America with Quintron and his wife, Miss Pussycat, who, for all their souped-up, overdriven "swamp tech" wizardry, prefer to conjure music that evokes the playfulness of good ol' man-made roots rock and primitive garage. There's nobody else quite like this demented Crescent City duo, pumping out freaky incantations and ominously humming and buzzing spacey sounds that build increasing momentum, even as the whole mess threatens to blow up at any moment. —Falling James
Kátia Moraes & Sambaguru
Latin bands are plentiful in L.A., but finding one that offers genuine Brazilian music is considerably harder. The best example in town is Sambaguru, led by the dynamic vocalist and performer Kátia Moraes, known for her seemingly boundless energy, which is on full display as soon as she hits the stage. Moraes put together her first local band, Brazil Nuts, back in 1994, and for her birthday this year decided to reunite the original group for this special performance. Pianist Bill Brendle, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Tony Shogren round out the quartet. While Vitello's in Studio City may not be Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, a Sunday evening with Sambaguru is certain to start the week on a danceable note. —Tom Meek
No word yet on when New Jack Swing progenitors New Edition will release a new album (it'd be their first in eight years), but they've been touring strong since reuniting in 2010 and reports from the road confirm that the original six are as, ahem, harmonious as ever. Part of that is due to the triumphant return of their once wayward son, Bobby Brown, a man who completed his excursion to hell and back when he released his powerful new solo LP, The Masterpiece, earlier this month. Lest we forget, the group got its start in the early '80s and eventually spawned a pair of competing realities: first, the horrid boy-band movement and, later, the early '90s melding of R&B and rap pioneered by its spinoff acts — Bell Biv DeVoe, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant and Mr. Prerogative, of course. Come out to witness a bit of history and, if we're lucky, a little future, too. —Chris Martins
SIX FEET UNDER at Whisky A Go Go; GLEN CAMPBELL at Hollywood Bowl; THE SLOTHS at Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill.
JJAMZ is what L.A. indie-rock darlings do when they grow up. Comprising Z Berg (The Like), Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet), Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley), James Valentine (Maroon 5) and Michael Runion (The Elected), their collective cred alone could have packed any Silver Lake venue with beardy boys and waify gals in the mid-aughts. These days, though, JJAMZ will need to deliver some tasty and at least reasonably trendy sounds to cash in (or top up) their stacks of scenester chips. And so they do: pleasantly melodic, electro-flecked indie rock made special by Berg's marvelously grained, achingly sultry utterances. Almost inevitably signed to local label Dangerbird (also home to Silversun Pickups), JJAMZ head out on something called, in all seriousness, the Nylon and Starbucks Frappuccino Summer Music Tour next month. —Paul Rogers
ESP, ADVENTURE TIME, PHAROAHS at the Echo.
The man behind the Suicide-meets-Chrome-meets-Hawkwind-meets-Screamers-meets-the-killer-last-scene-reveals-in-all-the-alien-episodes-of–The Twilight Zone (also known as "glue wave," but now you understand the guts of it!) band called Destruction Unit was once a man all alone in the Arizona desert with nothing but dirt and rocks and dirty rock records, and that's why this monster sounded so damn igneous when it came out. Destruction Unit never knew a soft day in their lives, and though main Unit man Ryan Wong spent plenty of worthwhile time in bands with Jay Reatard and other legendary Memphis punk wreckers, there's something particularly and personally punishing about Destruction Unit. Boston bill-sharers The Men are surprisingly compatible — a Twilight Zone-y shock reveal in itself! — but if you wanna get destroyed, go with a name you can trust. —Chris Ziegler
GINGGER SHANKAR at Largo; QUEEN EXTRAVAGANZA at Club Nokia; LISA MARIE PRESLEY at the Roxy.
Few songs have the enduring power of Jimmy Cliff's anthem "The Harder They Come," from the classic 1972 film of the same name. In fact, if the Jamaican singer and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had never recorded another album, he still would be eternally lionized for his contributions to the soundtrack, including the evocatively sublime pop idyll "Sitting in Limbo" and the oft-covered spiritual ballad "Many Rivers to Cross." Cliff's notorious role as an unschooled country boy who turns to a life of crime once he hits the big city of Kingston was iconic, but it belied the sunny disposition and positive power of Cliff's own long musical career, including his most recent set of soulful tunes, Sacred Fire. —Falling James
MARILLION at House of Blues.
LEVITT PAVILION (PASADENA)
You won't find a more haunting voice than Jesse Sykes'. The Seattle singer intones with a beautiful and sometimes icy delivery that aptly evokes the dark mystery of the Pacific Northwest. Many of her songs are set in the woods and draw upon images of nature, but there's nothing escapist or cutesy about her tree-tangled imagery or the way her pure, mournful vocals plumb the depths of a hidden lake in the forest. On Sykes' most recent album, 2011's Marble Son, she and guitarist Phil Wandscher move away from the folk introspection of such earlier releases as 2007's aptly titled Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul into a harder, more enigmatic brand of psychedelia, where her bewitching vocals and Wandscher's spare, luminescent guitar figures spark each other onward into fully intense and mesmerizing passages. On this current tour, the self-described "deadly duo" will perform in a more intimate, stripped-down format apart from regular backup band the Sweet Hereafter. —Falling James
El-P, Killer Mike, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire
The pair of names at the top of this bill is responsible for what may well prove to be the best two rap records of 2012. Brooklyn's sci-fi–obsessed, paranoiac rap king El-P averages only one album every five years and with good reason: Each is a genre-transcending masterpiece. May's Cancer 4 Cure is his best yet, a stunning mix of dark poetry and claustrophobic soundscapes beamed in from a highly dystopic future. Sample lyric: "Don't make me suffer this dimension straight/When we can bend face, let space pixilate." Dude similarly invents entire worlds for his fans to inhabit and, as it turns out, produced the stunning new full-length from OutKast affiliate Killer Mike. For that record, dubbed R.A.P. Music, El's beats skew harder and more traditional, while the Atlanta emcee unpacks God, slavery and pimpdom with astounding aplomb. —Chris Martins
Justin Townes Earle
EL REY THEATRE
Despite whatever negative sentiment you might have toward his self-labeling, Justin Townes Earle is the best Kentuckian "white trash" (his words, not ours) the music world's ever had. The son of folkie Steve Earle, the younger Earle is much bluesier in his brand of foot-stomping folk, but his storytelling is just as emotive. With the recent release of Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, Earle has tapped into his soulful side, departing from the post-heroin misery of previous works and heading into some truly relatable material. No matter what demons he's channeling, Earle's definitely a gritty troubadour who knows how to sound cold as ice and still make you melt at the same time. —KC Libman
DONALD FAGEN, BOZ SCAGGS at Gibson Amphitheatre; GLADYS KNIGHT at Greek Theatre; JOSHUA WHITE QUINTET at Blue Whale; JOSH GROBAN at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
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