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Music Picks: Chino XL, Marissa Nadler, As Blood Runs Black

Marissa Nadler: See Saturday.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BIGHASSLE.COMMarissa Nadler: See Saturday.

fri 12/21

Zola Jesus

PAPPY & HARRIET'S PIONEERTOWN PALACE

Much like Declan MacManus declaring to the world that he's the new Elvis, or a young Minnesota folkie born Robert Zimmerman taking on the name of Dylan Thomas, calling yourself Zola Jesus sets you up for seriously high expectations. But Nika Danilova isn't trying to be shocking or profane. If anything, the Phoenix-born singer's invocation of sacred names echoes the purposeful intensity and serious manner of her electronic-pop incantation-lamentations. Her reverb-laden, arty-dreamy-witchy vocals have often been compared to Kate Bush and Elizabeth Fraser, but on her latest album, Conatus, she also approaches the desolate, aching soul of Sinéad O'Connor. "I'm the only one that sticks around when they call your name out of the crowd," Ms. Jesus wails in the canyon spaces of a lonely piano against a sea of shimmering synths, on the solemnly romantic (and strangely titled) "Lick the Palm of the Burning Handshake." —Falling James

Miki Howard

Catalina Bar & Grill

One of R&B's unsung heroines, Miki Howard returns to her jazz roots for this highly anticipated performance. Spawn of gospel artists, the Chicago-born Howard honed her craft as a youth in Los Angeles under the influence of the music of jazz legends like Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington. After working as a backup singer in the early '80s, she scored a deal with Atlantic Records in 1985. Her chops, comfortably coalescing gospel and jazz genres, yielded the memorable No. 1 hits "Ain't Nobody Like You" and "Ain't Nothin' in the World." Drug addiction disrupted her promising career in the mid-'90s, but in 2008, a resilient Howard released her ninth studio effort, The Private Collection. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

"Christmas 101" with Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Van Dyke Parks, Emmylou Harris, Carrie Fisher

UCLA ROYCE HALL

Rufus and Martha Wainwright's late mother, Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle, created the annual "Christmas 101" holiday event, which features carols from around the world performed in French and English by the Wainwrights, their glittering friends and a stageful of grandchildren, nieces and nephews. This year's shows include guests Van Dyke Parks, Emmylou Harris and actress Carrie Fisher. Bighearted, deep-pocketed types can shell out a bit more for their tickets ($101, to be exact) and gain entry to the postshow reception with food, drink and fun with the evening's stars; 100 percent of these gala tickets will benefit the Kate McGarrigle Foundation, which McGarrigle formed to raise funds for sarcoma research before her death from the disease in January 2010. —John Payne

As Blood Runs Black

WHISKY A GO GO

Though they celebrate a decade as a band next year, these Angeleno deathcore stalwarts sound as youthful and on-point as ever, in spite of (or perhaps thanks to) a ludicrous number of personnel changes. Now a relatively stable quintet built around founding drummer Hector "Lech" De Santiago (no one has quit or been booted in a couple of years), As Blood Runs Black have the chance to create a distinct sonic niche within a suffocatingly congested genre. Last year's sophomore full-length, Instinct, augers well, with detailed, dexterous and disciplined song structures and instrumental performances propelled out of the studio and into the streets by Sonik Garcia's bruising bellow and mocking, possessed screech. Ten years in, this band might just be getting started. —Paul Rogers

sat 12/22

Hirax

KEY CLUB

There's a certain romance to cult bands like local crossover thrashers Hirax: Their neighbors probably have no clue what they do, yet they can command rabid crowds from Poland to Peru. This Cypress crew shared the stage with the likes of Metallica and Slayer back in the mid-'80s, but as those bands broke big, Hirax broke up. Since reuniting the band in 2000, imposing frontman and sole original member Katon W. De Pena (who's been dubbed "the black Rob Halford") has remained true to his vision of gritty, battering metal with worldly-wise lyrics and air raid–siren vocals. Despite seemingly perpetual lineup changes, De Pena and Co. have never left the world of pointy guitars, bullet belts and studded wristbands. There's savage comfort in their resolute, fist-in-the-air continuity. —Paul Rogers

Marissa Nadler, Guy Blakeslee

BOOTLEG THEATER

Boston folk-pop chanteuse Marissa Nadler spins entrancing webs of sound with little more than a soft acoustic backing, some subtle sound effects and her fragile, ethereal voice. "You said you need a wrecking ball to break the cement 'round the heart/A company of mad machines would take the walls, crumble them apart," she murmurs on her sixth album, The Sister. Nadler's airy-eerie vocals glide coolly over the patient ticking of her acoustic guitar, slowly melting said concrete and filling the hollow space with a spectral glow that evokes the starkly intimate delivery of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. "Your Heart Is a Twisted Vine" is similarly mesmerizing, with Nadler's romantic entreaties wrapped engagingly in a cocoon of cottony guitars. There's something curiously timeless and innocently childlike about the way her sweetly pure singing unlocks the door to such boundless pastoral reveries. Meanwhile, the Entrance Band's Guy Blakeslee waves his freak flag high in his folk-rock guise. —Falling James

Joe Strummer Tribute

THREE CLUBS

If Mick Jones sometimes acted like the unapproachable rock-star guitar hero in The Clash — who can forget the night he memorably screamed at his own roadie, the irrepressible but harried Ray Gange, "Get off the fucking stage!" in the film Rude Boy? — lead singer Joe Strummer came off as the band's down-to-earth and friendly good cop. Strummer's bleary, Beat-inspired soul and ragged town-crier vocals had much to do with the enduring relevance of "The Only Band That Matters," and Clash fans are still in a state of shock over his premature death from a heart attack in 2002. At tonight's Trash City benefit for Strummerville (a charity run by his family), you can at least get a contact high and sense of Joe's spirit from Zander Schloss, who palled around and starred with Strummer in the gloriously misbegotten Alex Cox film Straight to Hell. Schloss has played in later lineups of The Circle Jerks and The Weirdos, but for the past few years he's dug down deeper in a rootsy-punky-trashy duo with Throw Rag's Sean Wheeler. Mike Watt's old band The Minutemen was heavily inspired by The Clash's blue-collar spirit, with the South Bay trio condensing Strummer-like bits of poetry into a punk-funk blur. Tonight's tribute also includes sets from Lenny Lashley and S.F.'s aptly named La Plebe, plus Bauhaus' Kevin Haskins playing DJ. —Falling James

sun 12/23

Jesse Palter

PERCH

Detroit-born Jesse Palter is leading a musical double life. Much of the time she teams with keyboardist Sam Barsh in the duo Palter Ego. (PerezHilton.com recently featured their video remix of Adele's "Skyfall.") On Sundays, however, Palter can be found offering jazz standards for brunch at Perch, downtown L.A.'s 15th-floor restaurant and bar, which likely offers the best view of any music venue in Greater Los Angeles: Palter's quartet is tucked neatly into a patio corner backed by Pershing Square's seasonal ice rink 150 feet below, and framed by much of the rest of downtown. Palter's rotating quartet includes some of the area's best young players. If you're after a musical Sunday afternoon with an added wow factor, Perch is the place. —Tom Meek

tue 12/25

Cody Bryant

VIVA CANTINA

Believe it or not, a few clubs actually are open on Christmas. At Liquid Kitty in West Los Angeles, DJ Charlie X is spinning a no-cover mix of punk rock and various hits from that lost decade, the 1980s. Across town, at Viva Cantina in Burbank, the estimable Cody Bryant goes one better, performing a live set, which is also free. Whether backed by his full band, the Cody Bryant Experience, or strumming solo, the multi-instrumentalist can play a little bit of everything by just about everybody. Beyond dishing out his own "true-life originals ... and burning warp-speed steroidal bluegrass," Bryant is also a masterful interpreter of country and honky-tonk favorites. This would be a good deal any night of the year, but it's even better on an evening when most of the city is in holiday hibernation. —Falling James

wed 12/26

Speak!, Dr. Greenthumb

LOW END THEORY

Rapper Speak! is not only the guy who helped Kreayshawn write "Gucci Gucci." He's also a blunt-object-wielding smack-talker — "the Jew sent from hell," as he put it on his Inside Out Boy mixtape — with the kind of ferocious, tell-it-like-it-is perspective on the music industry you'd be tempted to call healthy, but for the riffs on drugs and fucking idiots up. Then again, that may well be the healthiest response to an entity that built a megabusiness with his concept for "Gucci Gucci," only to leave him behind, as he told our own Rebecca Haithcoat, "eating Spam for dinner." On his newest track "Hilfigers," he raps about how he's "still unsigned, pissed off and moody." ("Guess it runs in my bloodline," he explains.) But maybe there's no alternative: "What the fuck is normal? Just another word for passé." Tell it, Speak! —Chris Ziegler

Josh Nelson

BLUE WHALE

Those wanting to get out of the house after too much family and fruitcake should cheer up by heading over to Blue Whale to see the finale of pianist Josh Nelson's monthlong residency. The night features two trios so white-hot that listening to them should burn off any excessive holiday caloric intake. Along with Nelson, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Kevin Kanner were the fast-and-furious rhythm section for years at the popular but bygone Monday session at the Mint. The complementary tandem of bassist Dave Robaire and drummer Dan Schnelle have been Nelson's go-to guys recently. Anchoring both bands is the pianist himself, who must be sprinkling pixie dust on the keys to work such magic on the instrument. —Gary Fukushima

Chino XL

WHISKY A GO GO

A most unique employer of simile, metaphor and pun, Chino XL rose to hip-hop primacy at the tender age of 16 with his critically acclaimed 1996 debut, Here to Save You All. His lyrical brilliance, owing at least in part to his status as a verified member of Mensa, has been consistently demonstrated on all subsequent releases. The muscle-clad veteran emcee also has enjoyed consistent work as an actor, appearing on Reno 911 and CSI: Miami, among others. After a four-year recording hiatus, Chino released the 35-track piece RICANstruction: The Black Rosary in September. The introspective effort (released on Immortal Technique's Viper Records) tackles heavy topics, including physical abuse, his daughter's battle with cancer and his own suicide attempt. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

thu 12/27

Riot Grrrl Xmas Carnival

THE SMELL

It's four years in a row and counting for the annual Riot Grrrl Xmas Carnival at downtown's DIY show space the Smell, where local-ish bands sign on to raise money for the Downtown Women's Center. It's both a good cause and a fearlessly curated collection of bands: This year's lineup stretches from San Diego band Mermaid's no-waved noise-punk to The Anus Kings' starked-out folkisms, which are part of an album finished last year with help from Fidlar's Elvis Kuehn. (Also an album closing with a memorably solemn cover of Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl.") In between are the no-BS rockers Spare Parts for Broken Hearts, with members who served with distinction in corridor-cities stalwarts like Relish and The Randies, and brand-new band Smelveteen. All ages, of course, so there are mathematically zero reasons not to go out and support. —Chris Ziegler

Tijuana Panthers

HENRY FONDA THEATRE

Tijuana Panthers occupy a crucial niche in the local musical ecosystem: They're a little too pop to be a punk band but definitely too punk to be a pop band. That puts them in the same milieu as The Crowd and The Simpletones and the other bands that populated landmark compilation records like Beach Blvd. back in the day. And we need bands like that. In fact, without somebody out there to knock out teenage harmonies over 4/4 beats and perfectly reverbed guitar, California might be at risk of losing statehood, as per legislation dating back to the Brian Wilson era. They've got a new album due soonish, but their sound is as timeless as it is welcome — the amplified-just-enough soundtrack to growing up in the suburbs and on the surface streets. —Chris Ziegler

Diva

THE SATELLITE

What never-made cult movie did Diva fall out of? Probably one starring Annette Peacock and David Bowie just before he got huge, produced by Roger Corman and directed by Kenneth Anger, with Iggy Pop mooching around the craft-services table. This is cinematic music, yes, but from a film that's dissolving at the edges, or pop from ultra-chic import albums that David Lynch would loved, had they ever existed. Want this to be a little more concrete? That's not the Diva deal. "Dreamlike" is a term that gets used a little too casually, but this is the thing itself, asleep but walking nonetheless. Diva has shared stages with fellow astral explorers Sun Araw and Matthewdavid, but her recent Moon Moods reflects something else — that strange moment between psychedelia and punk, when music came from a slightly different world. —Chris Ziegler