HARD Haunted Mansion
SHRINE EXPO CENTER
Doing their part to ensure that 2011 is remembered as the year the dance-music megafest broke, Gary Richards and his homies at HARD bring yet another star-studded bill to this year's bash. As usual, the assembled talent crosses all kinds of genre lines: Friday's lineup pairs party-starting headliners Fatboy Slim and Rusko with Canadian electro-house vet Tiga and SBTRKT, the moody English enigma who's collaborated with Drake; on Saturday Soulwax and Skrillex rule the roost, with supporting appearances by dubstep dons Skream & Benga and Major Lazer, the digital dance-hall act pairing Diplo and Switch. That's hardly a complete list, but if you're headed downtown this weekend, you're doing it for more than musical reasons, right? Also Sat. —Mikael Wood
This New York band may combine traditional rock instruments with Nintendo gear that dates back to the 1980s, but they won't sound anything like your collection of old-school video games. Instead, listening is like traveling through a mythical land where unicorns play badass guitars covered in Lisa Frank stickers. Inspired largely by Japanese pop music and surreal comedies like Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the four-piece crafts instrumental tracks where cheery, 8-bit electronic sounds collide with thunderous drums and a huge crunch of guitars. Their music is hyper, powerful and so much fun that you'll leave the show drenched in sweat. No wonder they provided the score for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game. —Liz Ohanesian
Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers
Performed by the Golden Quartet and Southwest Chamber Music under conductor Jeff von der Schmidt, Ten Freedom Summers is the world premiere of a work by new-jazz/creative music icon Wadada Leo Smith. The epic piece is based on the history of the U.S. civil rights movement from 1954 through 1964; given Smith's past involvement in the most advanced American avant-ethnomusicology, this ambitious project will be a decidedly non-lightweight affair of deeply felt emotions, facts, revelations and illuminations. The Golden Quartet features trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Smith, drummer Susie Ibarra, pianist Angelica Sanchez and bass man John Lindberg. The event is performed in three parts over three nights; also Sat.-Sun. —John Payne
Rock & roll doesn't get much more authentic than with this Portland, Ore., trio. Singer-guitarist Fred "Deep Soul" Cole has been howling at the moon since the early '60s, when he was fronting Vegas and Sunset Strip garage bands like the Lollipop Shoppe (who released the oft-covered nugget "You Must Be a Witch"). His raw, scarifying vocals drew the praise of fellow scenester Janis Joplin, but when the '60s ended, Cole took his family and his music far off the grid, homesteading in the Yukon in a tent in winter and releasing the bluesy hard rock of his mid-'70s group, Zipper, on his own label — long before the DIY movement. With his bassist-wife, Toody Cole, he started proto-punk band the Rats and the long-running underground combo Dead Moon, which recently morphed into the similarly feral Pierced Arrows. It's a long way to the top — and these rock & rollers don't really care if they ever make it. —Falling James
THE BAKED POTATO
French bassist Bunny Brunel counts a stint with Chick Corea among his many credits, which include jazz notables Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams. Brunel's band CAB received a Grammy nomination in 2002, showcasing some of the better composing in the jazz-fusion realm in the last decade. Australian Virgil Donati is widely seen as one of the world's most skilled drummers. Bakersfield's Dennis Hamm has quietly become one of the most capable young keyboardists anywhere. New to the band is Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek, whose dazzling technical ability should be well suited for Brunel's extended odysseys. —Tom Meek
IWRESTLEDABEARONCE at Glass House (Pomona); PABLO MILANES at the Wiltern; FELICE BROS. at the Satellite; KRS-ONE at Key Club; SIMPLE PLAN at Music Box; INGA SWEARINGEN at LACMA.
Amanda Palmer & Jason Webley
EL REY THEATRE
Palmer and Webley have worked together as the duo Evelyn Evelyn, in which they play a pair of conjoined sisters singing droll art-folk songs about life on the circus-sideshow scene. Tonight, though, the two musicians — each of whom holds down a multifarious solo career — are promising a so-called "Halloween Spectacular," which basically means there's no telling what's in store. Perhaps Palmer will do some of her Radiohead covers on ukulele? ("Creep" seems appropriate.) Or maybe Webley will sing his song "The Graveyard" while dressed as the Grim Reaper? Palmer fans should know that Monday night she's scheduled to kick off a brief West Coast tour with her husband, Neil Gaiman, at the Wilshire Ebell. That one could get zany, too. —Mikael Wood
LUCKMAN FINE ARTS COMPLEX
Led by guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, the nomadic band was formed in refugee camps in Libya and Algeria before returning to their homeland, where they fought as rebel soldiers against the government. Jerry-rigging their own instruments and recording studio, Tinariwen (which translates from the Tamashek language as "People of the Deserts") recorded on cheap cassettes, which were passed around in the region, eventually drawing the interest of French group Lo'Jo, which brought the band to wider attention. But it's Tinariwen's music that really matters — a swirling, mesmerizing blur of psychedelic guitars, bluesy laments and inspirational vocal chants that sounds like no one else today. Their latest album, Tassil, is a similarly haunting acoustic variation on the group's normally electric (and electrifying) style. —Falling James
It's an old story about the kinda touching reverence paleface kids have for black music, and how their attempts to copy it are so rarely authentic that a new kind of music gets born. (Take Led Zeppelin or the Stones aping the blues — please.) That in a nutshell is the Stepkids' story: Three wee Connecticut shavers with a probably encyclopedic affection for the Curtis Mayfield/blaxploitation variety, overlayed with heavy doses of the Temps' psychedelic period stuff, then it's all nite-timey "urban" kitsch-soul hypergalacticized with synths, whirring FX and, to their credit, some very fine rips of falsettoing Bee Gees. Their eponymous first record, just out on Stones Throw, comes off nicely uncampy owing to ace songwriting. —John Payne
KCRW's MASQUERADE BALL at Historic Park Plaza; COLLIE BUDDZ at the Roxy; MALE BONDING at the Satellite; TOM PETTY at CSU Northridge; PINK, LMFAO at Hollywood Palladium; VOLTO! at the Baked Potato.
Everyone Dies in Utah
With a limited pool of musicians to draw from, small-town bands sometimes bring together unlikely combinations of talents that create head-tilting takes on saturated genres. Hailing from little Temple, Texas, the boys of Everyone Dies in Utah graft a squelchy, synthy sheen onto their metalcore-mandated clean-versus–Cookie Monster singing, pseudo-orchestral guitar "djents" and kick-spattered beats. Disco-era vocoder vocals only emphasize the instrumental wrath of "1, 2, 3, 4, I Declare Dance War"; Gary Numan–worthy keys hover and swarm around the pensive/punishing adolescent outpouring that is "Bed, Bath & Beyoncé." EDIU are no revolution but do enough to make screamo as orgasmic as the first time all over again. —Paul Rogers
THE DAMNED at House of Blues; ARTO TUNCBOYACIAN at Blue Whale.
Glenn Danzig refers to his current U.S. tour as "Danzig Legacy," meaning he's performing songs he wrote while fronting the Misfits, Samhain and Danzig, three highly influential outfits that justify his use of such a loaded word. (The singer is on the road with guitarist Doyle, who along with his brother Jerry Only completed the classic Misfits lineup. Only currently records and tours under the band's name and indeed played House of Blues in West Hollywood earlier this month.) As big a fan of theater as he is of punk rock, Danzig can always be counted on to deliver a memorable show. But the fact that tonight's gig falls on Halloween seems like reason to expect something more. With fellow old-timers Corrosion of Conformity. —Mikael Wood
Shoestring Trio (formerly Robby Marshall Group)
Woodwind player Robby Marshall has accomplished a lot for being just 27, including playing at the Hollywood Bowl, touring with Michael Bublé, recording for film and TV and working on his own innovative band, RootSystem. Then he starts another group with bassist Michael Papillo and guitarist Antoine Salem, inspired by Django, Piazzolla, Gaga and other greats. Fresh off their tour of Switzerland, Spain and France (it takes balls to play Gypsy swing in the land of Jazz manouche), the Shoestring Trio is fun and cute. And on Halloween of all days. Talk about balls. —Gary Fukushima
THROWDOWN at Cobalt Café; ZOLA JESUS at Echoplex; SWAHILI BLONDE at Echo; MINUS THE BEAR at the Satellite.
In the weeks after the 2009 release of these Georgia thrashers' ambitious LP Crack the Skye, indie kids were name-dropping these four shank-you-in-the-esophagus metal dudes as the new "it" band. Weird? Yes. Surprising? Hardly. With a knack for experimentation — for instance, their dramatic 11-minute opus "The Czar" — Mastodon have taken thrash metal and slathered on elements of '70s prog that would make even Phil Collins smile. Their newest, The Hunter, is noticeably more straightforward: less of the concerto-length tunes and no Moby Dick references (see 2004's Leviathan). Instead, they churn out guts-on-the-pavement rock that will garner them even more fans but may also make their longtime fans squirm a wee bit. —Dan Hyman
UH HUH HER at House of Blues; HILARY HAHN at Walt Disney Concert Hall; DEER TICK at Echoplex; SHONEN KNIFE at Echo; MINUS THE BEAR at Troubadour; SKYLAR GREY at the Roxy.
Lydia Loveless, Olentangy John, Last American Buffalo
Loveless. Is there a more appropriate name for a country singer? This Ohio native's unruly tunes certainly live up to her name, as they're full of heartache, along with drinkin', cursin' and other fun vices. On her captivating debut, Indestructible Machine, she walks the jagged line between country and punk, swerving between old-school honky-tonk and revved-up rock & roll. Although she's barely legal drinking age, Loveless all too convincingly tosses off lines like, "The more I try to dry out, the more I get soaked" with her full-bodied, twangy voice. The disc's most attention-grabbing track, however, is "Steve Earle," where she hilariously imagines being stalked by the infamous Americana singer-songwriter. It's a long way from Taylor Swift's "Tim McGraw." In fact, the untamed 21-year-old stands out as an anti-Swift. —Michael Berick
Mr. Gnome's new album is aptly titled Madness in Miniature. The deceptively compact disc (also on vinyl) bursts with a wide range of sonic dynamics, as drummer Sam Meister bashes out propulsive rhythms with majestic force, before toning things down with a subtle throb of rolling tom-toms. At the center of all that sound and fury is singer-guitarist Nicole Barille, whose breathy entreaties can be quite lulling even as they raise chills up the spine. When her guitar segues into jagged melodies shaped like the serrated spine of looming mountains, her whispers turn to screams, and her riffs take on a tangled power evoking Black Sabbath. But Ozzy Osbourne never had the power to raise the dead like Barille can with her mystery-shrouded lyrics and wraithlike keening. —Falling James
Boasting a power lineup featuring Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, guitarist-singer Mary Timony of Helium and keyboardist Rebecca Cole from the Minders, Wild Flag recently released their debut self-titled album to much critical acclaim. The tight collection of power-pop tunes reads like a "How to Rock" manual with propulsive energy and incisive lyrics like "Sound is the blood between me and you." In addition to her white-hot guitar playing, Brownstein has become known for spoofing the Northwest indie-music scene in the IFC comedy series Portlandia, but there's nothing ironic about this Portland band. Instead they trade licks and choruses so effortlessly, it wouldn't be surprising if they inspired a whole new generation of riot grrrls. Also Thurs. —Laura Ferreiro
The first voice you hear on tUnE-YarDs' ambitious w h o k i l l is an old woman's: "Ladies and gentlemen, Merrill is ... performing at the ...," she says before being interrupted by a thumping drum-beat. Then Merrill Garbus kicks in with "My country, 'tis of thee." She flips these words we've heard thousands of times and turns them into weird virtuosic pop with colliding tribal polyrhythms and powerful and ferocious vocals that range from jazzy scatting to soulful crooning. It's leaps and bounds better than her debut album, and one of this year's finest. With legendary L.A. DJ Cut Chemist. —Lainna Fader
FILTER at Viper Room; OTEP at Key Club; ARCHITECTURE IN HELSINKI at El Rey Theatre; CHICKENFOOT at the Avalon; EMIL RICHARDS, JOE PORCARO QUARTET at Vitello's.
EL REY THEATRE
Stones Throw's master of heavy grooves channels the past with an arsenal of vintage synths and drum machines to glide into his funky future. On top of spinning deep cuts of boogie-funk at Carbon's all-vinyl Monday night Funkmosphere, he's sessioned for West Coast rap giants Westside Connection and MC Eiht, collaborated with L.A. synth-pop artist Nite Jewel, remixed Baron Zen and Animal Collective, and dropped an essential monster 5XLP, Toeachizown — inspired, in part, by a UFO sighting — a couple years back. Tonight he performs with his all-star live band Master Blazter, featuring keyboard man Computer Jay and drummer-producer J1. —Lainna Fader
Das Racist, Danny Brown
Trying to pin down a style of hip-hop that the three rapper/joker/social commentators in Das Racist inhabit is a bit like struggling to dissect America's fascination with the Kardashians; really, it just works on so many levels. For most, this trio's introduction arrived via their goofball "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" viral video, leaving many wondering whether dudes were serious ... or seriously genius. Turns out they're both. Their first official LP, Relax, is certainly more overproduced than the two mixtapes that followed "Pizza Hut" — they roped in producers Diplo, El-P and Vampire Weekend's Rostam, among others — but there's still the acerbic wit and syncopated flow that first caught your attention. "Yeah, I'm fuckin' great at rapping," Himanshu Suri proclaims in "Michael Jackson." Sorry for doubtin' ya, brotha. With Detroit rapper Danny Brown, who weaved some of the year's rawest, whacked-out, "What the fuck did he just say!?" lyrics on his latest mixtape, XXX. —Dan Hyman
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THE BAKED POTATO
Former Frank Zappa/Jeff Beck/Missing Persons drummer Terry Bozzio has become legendary not only for his exceptional playing but also for having one of the largest drum and percussion sets anywhere in popular music. While the Baked Potato won't hold Bozzio's biggest kit, he can be expected to bring dozens of drums, cymbals and other percussion to fill the club's diminutive stage, each one in precise tune. Guitarist Alex Machacek works at the outer limits of fusion, combining extreme virtuosity with an approach to structure and composition that's like no one else. New to the trio for these shows (through Friday) is Jimmy Johnson, whom some consider to be the finest electric bassist on the planet, bar none. Expect musical fireworks aplenty, and a very full house. —Tom Meek
AWOLNATION at the Music Box.