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

Dr. John: See Saturday.
Dr. John: See Saturday.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL WILSON

fri 8/17

Zola Jesus, Active Child, Ariel Pink

MOCA

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

 

Sara Gazarek

VITELLO'S

Possibly Seattle's best jazz singer since Diane Schuur, the Puget Sound native fled the rain and moved down to L.A. for college at USC (where she now teaches), becoming fast friends with what is now the core of the new straight-ahead jazz Risorgimento in this town, led by sublime pianist Josh Nelson. Gazarek puts a comely, clear and confident voice on the movement, along with a hint of sass. Her latest album, Blossom & Bee, featuring her longtime working band, was produced by pianist-organist Larry Goldings, the accompanist for James Taylor, who has assuredly solidified his legacy as among the best ever. Goldings will join Gazarek and her band for this two-night album-release show. —Gary Fukushima

Placido Domingo and Gustavo Dudamel

HOLLYWOOD BOWL

It's odd to think that this will be their first concert pairing, but yes: Tonight, Placido Domingo, the world's greatest tenor (let's not argue, OK?), joins conductor Gustavo Dudamel for an evening of what we hope will be the beginning of a beautiful musical partnership. We imagine each man having an affinity for the other's depth of feeling and mastery of his chosen repertoire. While we're told the night will feature a selection of Latin songs and operatic arias, the program will be announced from the stage. This concert is for a good cause: the L.A. Phil Musicians Pension Fund. But it's also for another good cause, which is to provide you with a night of pleasure under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl. 'Nuff said. —John Payne

mon 8/20

Pathology

COBALT CAFÉ

Formed by former The Locust and Cattle Decapitation drummer Dave Astor, these San Diegans spew sickeningly coagulated death metal, sandwiching churning, almost Wagnerian guitars between nail-gun kick drums and Jonathan Huber's bowel-flushing, wounded-bison gurgle. Bouncing back from a spectacular 2010 tour-van wreck (albeit sans original vocalist Matti Way), Pathology's near-death experience only seems to have brought them, well, nearer to death. Last year's Awaken to the Suffering was just as vehemently gore-drenched as their three prior albums, and teasers from follow-up The Time of Great Purification, due next month, suggest the suede-headed Huber will once again inject a fresh sense of decay into this already utterly putrid act. —Paul Rogers

tue 8/21

Poliça

ECHOPLEX

Along with Lianne La Havas and The Tallest Man on Earth, this Minneapolis outfit belongs to the expanding constellation of acts that benefited from the imprimatur of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon: After his Best New Artist win at the Grammys earlier this year, dude told Rolling Stone Poliça are the best band he's ever heard. That praise might have something to do with the fact that Vernon's pal Ryan Olson (with whom he's collaborated in Gayngs) oversaw Give Up the Ghost, Poliça's 2012 debut. But you can hear a bit of what Vernon does in smeared psych-soul cuts like the horn-enriched "Dark Star" and "Lay Your Cards Out," which kind of sounds like Sade's "By Your Side" as reimagined by, well, Bon Iver. With Chicago's dreamy Supreme Cuts. —Mikael Wood

wed 8/22

Liz Pappademas

WITZEND

When Liz Pappademas moved to L.A. a few years ago after a stint in Austin in the band Hurts to Purr, the San Francisco native reinvented herself as a singer-songwriter in the Fiona Apple mold, hammering her piano decisively and crafting pop tunes with unusually knotty and poetic lyrics on her solo album, 11 Songs. A few years later, the restless performer reinvented herself yet again, rounding up a full band called The Level to back her up on the ambitious 2010 song cycle Television City. Set against the backdrop of a fictional 1970s game show, she charts the course of two lovers whose intertwined heartbreak and loss mirror the action of the TV program. Most rock operas tend to be clumsy and pretentious, but Pappademas artfully brings her characters to life with real wit and inventiveness. —Falling James

Anita Baker, Esperanza Spalding

HOLLYWOOD BOWL

Soul-jazz veteran Anita Baker has a new studio album due out Oct. 23, her first non-holiday release since 2004's My Everything. It's preceded by a typically smooth lead single, "Lately," in which the 54-year-old makes a convincing case for the persistence of quiet-storm R&B. Baker may or may not play it for the sympathetic audience gathered to hear her headline the Hollywood Bowl tonight, but you can be sure she'll do old-school hits like "Sweet Love" and "Caught Up in the Rapture." Soul-jazz newcomer Esperanza Spalding opens the show with material from Radio Music Society, this year's funky follow-up to her breakthrough Chamber Music Society, with which she robbed poor little Justin Bieber of his rightful Best New Artist Grammy in 2011. —Mikael Wood

 

thu 8/23

Satan's Cheerleaders

THE REDWOOD

Like a dreadful virus bursting out of remission, this long-overdue return from Long Beach garage scum Satan's Cheerleaders is guaranteed to induce chills, fever and mass hysteria. Not to be confused with inferior, same-named units out of Austin and Australia, this gaggle of malefactors first crawled onto local bandstands in the mid-'80s and distinguished themselves as some of the most outrageously delinquent rock & rollers this side of the South Bay Surfers. These are really weird weirdos (who else would cover Red Krayola?), and founder Jeff Satan — now transformed into Jane Satan — deftly exploits a filthy, screamy, visionary cultural wherewithal. Exemplified by such grimy classics as "Black Dahlia" and "Genocide Utopia," the latter an epochal 45 rpm hairball with Vampira handling vocals, Satan's Cheerleaders ably represent the most glorious lows to which rock & roll can — and should — stoop. —Jonny Whiteside

La Santa Cecilia

SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER

Named after the patron saint of music, and born 'n' bred right here in L.A., La Santa Cecilia is a blessedly unclichéd mixed bag of Mexican and South American rhythms like cumbia, bossa nova, bolero and tango, along with tasty Afro-Cuban percussion and jazzy rock. Which all sounds nice, of course, but what elevates the music is the way they put it together. Fronted by singer Marisol Hernandez, aka La Marisoul, who couples a seriously thrilling, satisfyingly husky alto with sensual sass and rock attitude, the Grammy-nominated band lays out the beats and pours the melodies with a smartly spare sensibility. The noirish twang comes courtesy of guitarist Gloria Estrada — and when Hernandez rips on boleros like the sultry "El Valor," you will bawl like a baby. This event is free, but there are no reservations; the limited seating is first-come, first-served. —John Payne

Dr. John: See Saturday.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL WILSON

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