Music Picks: Demdike Stare, A Musical Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron, Natalie Merchant
Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, Worthy
In "The Whistler," one of Claude VonStroke's best-known tracks, the San Francisco–based DJ/producer juxtaposes a repeated grunt with a whistle that could only come from R2-D2. It's weird, raw, funky and sums up his sound nicely. VonStroke is originally from Detroit; his work draws heavily on that city's electronic-music legacy. He's a techno guy, whether or not he's actually playing that genre, making tracks that are gritty instead of glitzy. His is the sound of a party in a dilapidated warehouse, where no one is quite sure if they're living in the past or the future. VonStroke and his label, Dirtybird, are mainstays of the 21st-century electronic underground. But he's also one of the few below-the-radar DJs who can carry a headlining gig at a club the size of Avalon. For this one, he'll be playing with Justin Martin, who produced the first Dirtybird release, and fellow label mate Worthy. Expect Friday night's sets to be outside the norm for weekends in Hollywood, and prepare yourself for a good time. —Liz Ohanesian
Tomas Barfod, Shlohmo, Salva & Grenier
The crucial Friends of Friends label/mindset fulfills your dreams with electronic/dance/other meltdowns: L.A. boy Shlohmo's purveying a mixed-up, sample-based and song-oriented R&B nicely mishmashing lo-fi, hip-hop, trip-hop and dubstep, plus some crushing, odd sound design on his Bad Vibes full-length debut. Danish producer Tomas Barfod traverses house and techno that rarely skimp on persuasive melody and kinda bubbly ambience; his new full-length, Salton Sea, is out May 21. Frite Nite label big cheese Salva and Frisco DJ Grenier teamed up on FTNT014, jacking bassy, jungly-tribal/warehouse and ethereal whimsy on new singles "Wake the Dead"/"Forest Floor." Salva's also a fine, free-thinking remixer of Shlohmo, Barfod, Para One, the Glitch Mob, Beans, Rainbow Arabia and loads of others. —John Payne
Last fall the Fleetwood Mac frontman played UCLA's Royce Hall not long after the release of his latest solo album, Seeds We Sow. But where that gig featured a backing band, tonight he'll go it alone in a show billed as "An Intimate Evening With Lindsey Buckingham." Like the two late-'00s solo discs that preceded it, Seeds warrants the intimate-evening treatment. It's full of complicated, acoustic-guitar music with weird chord progressions and creepy-whisper vocals. (In the unlikely event that you haven't dug out Rumours in a while, re-listen to "Never Going Back Again" to find out where Fleet Foxes and Iron and Wine are coming from.) Expect to hear recent stuff at the Wiltern, along with stripped-down renditions of Fleetwood favorites. —Mikael Wood
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Alex Ebert, vocalist of power-pop crew Ima Robot, was suddenly reincarnated in 2009 as Edward Sharpe. The singer's alter ego, who doubled as the leader of a Laurel Canyon boho crew known as the Magnetic Zeros, made it hard to know what to make of him or his new band. But as is generally the case in music, a catchy song eliminates the necessity for backstory. There was "Home," the jangly, sing-along single from their debut album, Up From Below, which found itself on, of all places, an NFL commercial. Now Ebert and his 10-piece backing crew, which includes his ex-girlfriend Jade Castrinos, return later this month with their sophomore effort, Here (recently previewed in full at an intimate KCRW gig in Santa Monica). The saga continues. —Dan Hyman
NIPSEY HUSSLE at Club Nokia; METRO AREA at Los Globos; BRIAN AUGER'S OBLIVION EXPRESS at the Baked Potato; JACQUES VOYEMANT SEPTET at Edye Second Space; MOSES CAMPBELL, RANDOM PATTERNS at Home Room.
No artist has given more credence to the neoradical theory that no press is good press than Abel Tesfaye. The 22-year-old Drake-approved Canadian R&B singer who calls himself The Weeknd bum-rushed the Internet last year with a trio of mixtapes — beginning with House of Balloons and concluding with Echoes of Silence — before dropping a goose bump–inducing hook on his rap mentor's chilly cut "Crew Love." Still, all we had was the music. Tesfaye didn't conduct any interviews and even canceled what was to be his first U.S. show last September in NYC. He did recently make his stateside debut(s) over consecutive weeks at Coachella. But here's the reality: Tesfaye's Coachella chops were mediocre, at best. Still, it's the (relative) unknown that keeps this fire fueled. Also Sun. at the Fonda Theatre. —Dan Hyman
Los Lobos, Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo, Flaco Jiménez, X, Mariachi El Bronx
For this inaugural edition of the Los Lobos Cinco de Mayo Festival, the lupine band from East L.A. has pulled out all the stops, assembling a lineup of diverse and fascinating performers. Mariachi El Bronx is the mariachi-spiced spinoff of local punk band the Bronx, a seemingly lighthearted side project that has taken on a compelling life of its own. Meanwhile, the longtime bohemian punk poets X — who normally would headline a bill like this — play a supporting role with their black-&-blue anthems of existential desperation. Los Lobos perform tunes from their latest CD, Tin Can Trust (their first album of new songs in four years), augmented by such stellar guests as the Tejano accordionist Flaco Jiménez, powerhouse alt-country belter Neko Case and singer-guitarist Alejandro Escovedo (the Nuns, the True Believers), whose music alternates between ebullient pop-rock ballads and more shadowy, punk-infused dispatches. The lineup is stacked even further with sets by La Santa Cecilia, Ollin and the 44's with Kid Ramos outside on the plaza. —Falling James
HOUSE OF BLUES
Somewhere between Tool and death metal lurk these progressive, often polyrhythmic Swedes. For 25 years they've been weaving mind-bending, mathy webs of odd-signature riffs and dual-time beats around deceptively solid 4/4 cores. The result is music you can hypnotically bang your head to while leaving other parts of your body and brain to keep track of (or get lost in) its more elaborate, sometimes jazzy adventures. The deathly bellows of Finnish frontman Jens Kidman — which sounded comically extreme at the turn of the 1990s — seem almost crystalline next to today's crop of metalcore gurglers. One of the biggest cult bands on the planet, Meshuggah are the sound of intelligent men playing metal with little regard for commercial reward. —Paul Rogers
Even if you're going to the screening of Jean Rollin's Le Vampire Nue (see Monday) to hear the live soundtrack provided by cult (in all senses of the word) U.K. horror ambient warlocks Demdike Stare, you also wanna catch their rare live appearance tonight. In addition to DS, you get an even rarer live outing for the mysterious Vatican Shadow, known to many fans of Hospital Productions as one of the most elusive incarnations of Dominick Fernow (he of Prurient and Cold Cave). How rare, you ask? Well, Fernow is billing it as "the first ever Vatican Shadow performance," and there's a rumor that it might also be the last. Think about it: Twenty years from now, you'll be able to tell people you saw Vatican Shadow in the flesh and, for once, you won't be lying. —Rebecca Haithcoat
ECHO COUNTRY OUTPOST
If you can get past Cuddle Magic's cloying name — and no one would blame you if you can't — you might find some charming moments on the Philadelphia/Brooklyn outfit's new album, Info Nympho. Their press kit insists that their music is delivered with a "Steve Reich–inspired rhythmic complexity," if only because the use of cello and violin adds a semiclassical veneer to their relatively simple, lo-fi, indie-pop tunes. In truth, Cuddle Magic sound like a more accessible mutation of the old L.A. band W.A.C.O., with the candied, repetitive tones of vibraphone cycling in a mesmerizing way around Kristin Slipp's airy vocals on tracks like "Hoarders." When the horns enter the song in a sweetly sour haze, the combination of solemn cello, low-key drum slaps and Slipp's ethereal exhalations is positively enchanting. —Falling James
DEER TICK at El Rey Theatre; KROQ WEENIE ROAST at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre; RUINS, HATERS at the Smell; NIGHT BEATS at Satellite; SONY HOLLAND at Vitello's; ALLO DARLIN' at Echo.
A Musical Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron
Usually when they get around to putting together a tribute to a musician, it means that they're no longer relevant and their once-radical work has been safely digested by the mainstream. With the late Gil Scott-Heron, however, his spoken-word declamations continue to inspire. His best-known piece, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," has been co-opted, corrupted, lifted, mangled and misused for several decades — not to mention that it was a clarion call that single-handedly influenced much of what we call rap today — yet it still retains a startling power, with its iconic and searing clarity. In the decades since he released the track in 1971, the revolution still isn't being televised. See how many so-called minorities you can find on modern network TV shows, for instance. Tonight's KPFK event features appearances by Charlie Haden, John Densmore, Nailah Porter, Jackson Browne, Lili Haydn, John Trudell, Spain, Richard Montoya and Billy Childs. —Falling James
DOUG WEBB ALL-STARS at the Baked Potato.
We could call it a match made in heaven but the heaven part ... that's not exactly where Demdike Stare are coming from, is it? Still, after study and eventual suffocation beneath track after bottomlessly dark track — this is music by Keith Hudson and La Monte Young for films by Tarkovsky or Jodorowsky, after excavation from the same stretch of motorway where the reels for the original Wicker Man are buried — there is revealed no better adjective to attach to this duo than "cinematic." And there's no better deployment for the truly cinematic than Cinefamily. Here Demdike (at only their second live West Coast show ever) will soundtrack the necrodelic French film La Vampire Nue, and here in the middle of the night will the word ambience flower and bloom. —Chris Ziegler
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
VERIZON WIRELESS AMPHITHEATER
Drake is calling his current U.S. road trip the Club Paradise Tour, and if that handle seems a little grandiose, well, check out the guest list: J. Cole, Waka Flocka Flame, Meek Mill, 2 Chainz and French Montana are scheduled to appear with the Canadian emo-rap star, whose recent relocation to L.A. means there's a good chance some other folks might turn up as well. ("There's a new atmosphere," he said of the move in a recent conference call with reporters. "I'm getting to know new people.") You've no doubt formed an opinion on Drake by this point, one that his live show is only likely to reinforce. So we'll just take this moment to encourage your early arrival tonight: Waka are a good time not to be missed. —Mikael Wood
Chicha Libre, La Chamba
Comprising French, American, Venezuelan and Mexican musicians, Brooklyn postmod mongrels Chicha Libre merge Latin rhythms, surfy psychedelicisms and chicha, the late-'60s Peruvian electric cumbia style. OK, that sounds good, but then they mix all that up with choice Cuban son (a style that had already cannibalized Congolese rumba) and throw in cumbia slants on '70s pop standards and some stuff from Satie and Wagner. Let's just say their new album, Canibalismo!, jumbles all this disparate stuff without merely pastiching the parts, combining Mellotrons and vintage synths with African guitars, treated percussion and fuzztone like it's the most naturally freaky and funky thing in the world. Openers La Chamba represent Blender Rock L.A. with their own chicha variations. —John Payne
Off!, FIDLAR, Spider Fever
Back to the roots for Off! at the Whisky, where singer Keith Morris (and a dozen other randos) saw Iggy and the Stooges at a circa-1973 daylight matinee show just before they broke up. Now it's 2012, and the Stooges are back in the big rooms, and Morris' Off! are working on reclaiming a little bit of the old wild Westside with an all-punk-no-junk bill with L.A.'s FIDLAR and San Diego's (and Mario Rubalcaba's) Spider Fever. Every band here's got great records at home, and they learned a lot of great things from 'em, and so the spirit of the Raw Power Stooges will be reinforced with high-energy inspiration from worldbeaters like the Saints, the Kids, the Wipers, Radio Birdman, the Testors ... you know the drill, and if you don't, you'll find out what the drill feels like. —Chris Ziegler
This former prodigy could have been simply an amazing saxophonist. But she refuses to be limited to a single instrument or genre, and her focus has turned to composition. Her jazz pieces, postmodern or otherwise, embody emotional beauty and enlightened gravitas. She even has a jazz opera in the works, featuring the poems of Walter de la Mare. Now, she has decided to vocalize, and her electronic group, Nova, is a stunning departure from everything else. The girl can flat-out sing, with a voice pure and strong, eerily reminiscent of another former jazz protégé and electronica genius from Iceland. Her band features her old Berkeley High School classmate (and current sensational guitarist for Stanley Clarke) Charles Altura, possessor of endless chops and creativity. —Gary Fukushima
You might think you know Natalie Merchant, but you really don't. Whether you're a die-hard fan who's been hanging on every syllable uttered by the Jamestown, N.Y., singer since she was in 10,000 Maniacs in the early '80s or an unrepentant cynic who finds her unique vocal style to be mannered, you probably weren't ready for her strangest and most ambitious project yet, the 2010 album Leave Your Sleep. In making what was ostensibly a collection of children's music, she took the words and nursery rhymes of mostly dead, white, male British and American poets and infused the prose with an inventive and impressively varied set of musical shadings, which ranged from traditional Chinese folk instrumentation to jaunty reggae, bluesy dirges and grand, orchestral soundscapes. At tonight's acoustic set, Merchant will blend selections from Leave Your Sleep with her solo recordings, backed by bassist Jesse Murphy and guitarists Erik Della Penna and Gabriel Gordon. —Falling James
JONATHAN WILSON, ALLAH LAS at the Troubadour; NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC at Walt Disney Concert Hall; HAZEY JANE at the Baked Potato; OTMARO RUIZ at Vibrato.
CATALINA JAZZ CLUB
Saxophonist Kenny Garrett first came to major prominence as a member of Miles Davis' bands between 1986 and 1991, but his professional career had actually begun eight years earlier, at the age of 18, in the big band of Mercer Ellington. Since Miles' death, Garrett has gone on to become one of the most respected saxophonists in jazz, winning a 2009 Grammy as a member of the jazz superstar Five Peace Band, including Chick Corea and John McLaughlin. Garrett's music as a leader is inventive, challenging and never at rest. His trips to Los Angeles usually find him surrounded by a talented mix of players from both coasts, and tonight's show begins a four-night run. —Tom Meek
DRAGONFORCE at Troubadour; NICK WATERHOUSE at Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock.
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