Music Picks: Coachella, Merle Haggard, Spiritualized

La Roux: See Thursday.
La Roux: See Thursday.

fri 4/12

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival


Although it's unlikely that the Rolling Stones and their sprawling entourage will descend on this sunbaked music festival for a surprise set, as was rumored earlier this year, there are still many intriguing storylines scattered among the scores of performers making the trek to Indio over the next two weekends. Friday night is headlined by another band of stony Brits — The Stone Roses — who are reuniting for another stab at American success, alongside such veterans as London shoegazers Blur, NYC alt-pop mapmakers Yeah Yeah Yeahs, local all-star hip-hop collective Jurassic 5, wickedly brilliant power-pop savants Sparks and Nick Cave's Grinderman, interspersed with newer sounds from tranquil dream-spinners Beach House, synth-poppers Passion Pit and Trent Reznor's latest project, How to Destroy Angels. Saturday features a rare visitation from moodily bewitching Bat for Lashes, charismatic soul stylist Janelle Monáe and Icelandic soundscape shifters Sigur Rós, alongside unexpected flashbacks from The Descendents, Violent Femmes and fiery ska stirrers The Selecter and headliners like Phoenix, The xx and The Postal Service. Sunday culminates with another incarnation of Nick Cave (this time with the Bad Seeds), the remnants of the once-mighty Social Distortion, goth enchanters Dead Can Dance, Aussie psychedelic-pop mesmerizers Tame Impala and a summit with the original Wu-Tang Clan. Also Sat.-Sun., and Fri.-Sun., April 19-21. —Falling James

Tamir Hendelman Trio


Since moving to L.A. from his native Israel at age 12, all this pianist has done is win a national Yamaha keyboard competition and tour Japan as a teenager, join the famed Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, have an album (Destinations, 2010) reach No. 1 on the jazz charts and become the pianist for some up-and-coming singer named Barbra Streisand. Hendelman is a virtuoso performer and a clever arranger, able to take anything from a Ravel piano piece to an Israeli folk song and make it swing. The show is at the historic Ebell of Los Angeles, where Judy Garland was discovered, Glenn Gould gave his last performance and Amelia Earhart delivered her last speech before disappearing from the earth. Let's hope the last two fates do not befall Hendelman. —Gary Fukushima

sat 4/13

Norton Records Benefit


While NYC big-beat swamis Billy Miller and Miriam Linna's Sandy-soaked Norton Records warehouse has enjoyed a variety of fundraising events in the last few months, this flat-out astonishing lineup is the most potent testimony yet to the power of Norton's achievements and significance. The evening features venerable East L.A. titans Thee Midniters performing a set of their savage garage-rock classics; the first show in 15 years by Missouri mad men The Untamed Youth (memorably reuniting Deke Dickerson with Steve "King of Men" Mace); the demonic trash blues of Swiss one-man sensation Reverend Beat-Man; infamous "Lord of Garbage" Kim Fowley; the elusive, always electrifying Phantom Surfers; '60s Sunset Strip thrillers The Sloths; and the drastically bizarre South Bay Surfers. Scads of additional mayhem comes from the capable likes of Thee Cormans, the Shag Rats and many others. This noon to 9 p.m. rampage has more wild-ass rock & roll fun than any human may be able to survive. We're happy to try, though. —Jonny Whiteside



Groundislava is one of those guys who makes music like Tao Lin writes — minimal and atmospheric at the same time. You can focus on each little tiny part or just let yourself dissolve completely. Yes, his recent Katy Perry remix is a bit of a departure, but not as much as you'd think. All the best parts of Groundislava are still there, from the Hirokazu Tanaka–style 8-bit melodies to the ebb-and-flow waves of sound and noise and his trademark left-field beatwork. His collaborations with buddy Baths (the positively anesthetic "Suicide Mission") and fellow Wedidit collective member Shlohmo (the cheerfully disorienting "Bottle Service") prove he's just as formidable with less tween-arific musicians. In fact, they prove that no matter who Groundislava is working with, he's always gonna come through with something special of his own. —Chris Ziegler

sun 4/14

Merle Haggard


Merle Haggard is the only native Californian ever inducted into Nashville's most exclusive club, the Country Music Hall of Fame, but he sure as hell does not play Los Angeles anywhere near often enough. And that is a damn shame, because Haggard's brilliant original compositions and absolutely peerless vocals unfailingly combine to make some of the most mesmerizing music you'll hear in any genre. From doing hard time in San Quentin to becoming the only country artist ever featured on the cover of jazz bible Downbeat, the 76-year-old Haggard's combination of impassioned aesthetics and shadowy life experiences (not to mention the dizzyingly high level at which his superb band, the Strangers, always operate), make this an attendance-mandatory proposition. —Jonny Whiteside


Mudhoney, The Freeks


Nirvana and Pearl Jam get most of the credit these days, but it was really the mid-'80s Seattle band Green River that set the template for the heavy, sludgy, hard-rock sound that would later be called grunge. Green River singer Mark Arm and guitarist Steve Turner reconfigured themselves as Mudhoney in 1988, releasing fuzzed-out blasts like the contagiously feral anti-anthem "Touch Me, I'm Sick." While the tunes on Mudhoney's later albums were less memorable, as the early, punchier songwriting gave way to more rambling opuses, the quartet always plays with a fulsomely engaging raw power. Speaking of raw power, The Freeks are a hard-hitting group of stoner-rock all-stars, with Backbiter guitar hero Jonathan Hall ravaging the frets alongside members of Nebula, Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu. —Falling James

mon 4/15



In the past when performers have been booked to appear at Coachella, they've been contractually prevented from playing other shows in the SoCal area during that time. Now, with the desert music festival spread out over two weekends, bands have increasingly been popping up at small clubs in the region to kill time between their Coachella sets. Tonight, Spiritualized falls to Earth with an intimate set in Pioneertown, a faux-fronted former movie set turned into an actual tiny town. Leader Jason Pierce got his start shifting shapes and conjuring dreamy idylls with Spaceman 3, and his latest version of Spiritualized conjures similarly hazy spells, mixed in with a bit more pop melodicism. Fellow British Coachella performers Franz Ferdinand drop by this same club on Thurs., April 18. —Falling James

Ghost B.C.


Opus Eponymous, the 2011 debut album from Sweden's Ghost B.C., was a refreshing blast of '70s-inspired melodic metal that threw back to the days when Blue Öyster Cult reigned supreme. Songs like "Stand by Him" and "Ritual" were delightfully catchy odes to Satan. The band's image also added to its mystique. Vocalist Papa Emeritus casts spells over live crowds while dressed in war paint and an evil pope costume. The rest of the band, known simply as Nameless Ghouls, play their sweet, sinful sounds dressed in hooded robes that obscure their identities. Ghost B.C.'s new album, Infestissumam, continues to provide Satanic sing-alongs that stay in your head for days, but tracks like "Secular Haze" and "Year Zero" also take risks — with great rewards — by adding a creepy, Satanic circus vibe to their already well-honed songcraft. —Jason Roche

tue 4/16

The King Khan and BBQ Show


Can I get a hallelujah? Because after far too long — their last LP together was in 2009 — the twin world-class rock & rollers Mark Sultan (aka BBQ) and King Khan are finally back together and doing an extended U.S. tour as the band that made us love them. ("Did they hate each other?" they explain online. "Yes, they did. But like brothers!") During what we might call their "trial separation," both Khan and Sultan explored extremely rewarding solo careers, with King Khan using Vice's record label to internationally amplify his ferociously sweaty brand of overcranked rock & roll and Sultan releasing stand-out album after stand-out album on legendary L.A. garage-punk label In the Red. Now, however, after teaser shows in the Midwest late last year, the King Khan and BBQ show is hitting both coasts for a full-out, from-all-sides assault. Worth the wait? Ask me as you peel me off the floor. —Chris Ziegler



On their critically hailed "Two Hands One Mouth" tour, the, well, yes, legendary Sparks offer something so unusual, so artistically conceived and so wittily executed and fun that you'd be an utter fool to miss it. (We suspect you're aware of that.) Mustachioed ivory-tickler Ron Mael and his singing sibling, Russell, bring their vast catalog of sharply drawn, now-classic songs, which date all the way back to somewhere in the early '70s. These songs trailblazingly ranged across a pioneering panoply of prog/glam rock to electro-dance to rock-pop operetta, plus quite possibly more. The trick tonight is that the striving intricacies of the songs' original super-detailed arrangements will have to be conveyed with just, you know, two hands and one mouth. Also Wed., April 17. (They'll be playing Coachella, too.) —John Payne



Holy Fire, the third album from the Oxford, England–based outfit Foals, sees the art/dance, math/rock experimental dabbles of the group's previous works take form. Under the tutelage of accomplished progressive producers Alan Moulder (Bloc Party, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins) and Flood (New Order, U2, Depeche Mode), Foals' artsiness has found direction while their electronics have developed structure. This makes Holy Fire sound large and defined, which is exactly what Foals needed. From the gurgling pop of "Inhaler," the flirty Hot Chip–esque "Number" (where vocalist Yannis Philippakis cheerfully speaks about changing his phone number so as not to receive texts from his ex), and the exhilarating builder "Milk and Black Spiders," to the dark moodiness of "Late Night" and spiky guitars of the dense "Providence," the passion on Holy Fire is undeniable. —Lily Moayeri


wed 4/17

The xx


Though allegedly influenced by club music, any party-hearty echoes on The xx's 2012 sophomore album, Coexist, are almost literally that. Even when Jamie Smith's beats get bulbous (and the kick drum certainly is cranium-cracking in places), their humble place in the mix makes them but backdrops, as if seeping in from some neighboring apartment or distant dive, to the delicate and utterly intimate coed confessionals of Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim. With stringed instruments sparsely plucked and space deftly respected, the true stars of Coexist are this pair's exquisitely grained timbres and nuanced musings on learning and losing love. Building a monument to sonic restraint from the empowerment of its critically adored, 2009 eponymous debut, today's xx evokes daybreak pillow talk and finger-trailing farewells like few others. Also Sat., April 13, at Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club, Indio. —Paul Rogers

Public Enemy


Even if Public Enemy had never existed in the late 1980s and early '90s, when the New York rappers released their most famous albums, they'd still have to be considered one of the most important hip-hop (and rock) groups of all time. How is that possible? While critics and fans seem to think Chuck D and Flavor Flav dropped off the face of the Earth after releasing early classics like "911 Is a Joke" and "Fight the Power," they've actually recorded some of their best albums over the past decade or so. Last year Public Enemy were so prolific, they released two fiery, confrontational and consciousness-raising CDs, The Evil Empire of Everything and Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp. Chuck D gave George Bush a hard kick in the ass on 2002's Revolverlution, while 1999's apocalyptically soulful, millennial state-of-the-union address, There's a Poison Goin' On, was possibly Public Enemy's best album of all. Augmented now by the insanely talented, Hendrix-style guitar whiz Khari Wynn, Public Enemy rivals The Roots as rap's best truly live band. —Falling James

thu 4/18

La Roux


Amid the cold-ass, high-style world of electro-pop, there's something refreshingly real and warm about La Roux. When the English duo, singer Elly Jackson and co-writer/producer Ben Langmaid, debuted with their eponymous 2009 album, it was hailed for the supple, soulful athletics of Brixton homegirl Jackson's voice, as well as the thoughtfully stylish crafting of its synthetic musical settings. Yet fans seemed to connect above all with the songs themselves. La Roux's tracks are imaginatively designed things that touch lyrically on pop's familiar trove of heartbreak and hurt and rising above and conquering all, etc., but they do so with an unaffected intelligence that offers far more genuine depth than previously thought possible in the narrowly defined electro-pop genre. That La Roux is danceable to the 40th power is but icing on the cake. —John Payne

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