Music Picks: Hard Summer, Sunset Strip Music Festival and Bob Dylan

Linkin Park: See Saturday.
Linkin Park: See Saturday.

fri 8/2



Kitten, local kids born in the '90s yet channeling the '80s, are an A&R exec's dream. The group is a collision of vibrant youth and timely nostalgia for a decade that seemingly has been in vogue for, well, a decade now. Above and amongst pulsing, New Order–ish synths, front gal Chloe Chaidez's detached, dreamy delivery recalls a slightly more intelligible Liz Fraser, albeit yelp-flecked like Siouxsie Sioux or Björk. Yet for all of Kitten's techie bleeps and bloops, the quintet's expression is rooted in the organic, as their frequent acoustic performances demonstrate, and onstage they are every bit the rock band, replete with insistent electric guitars and occasionally epic drumming. Personified by the effervescent Chaidez, Kitten's animated concerts wonderfully reimagine rather than faithfully re-create the group's more intimate, introverted recordings. —Paul Rogers

Blackalicious, Busdriver


Words will be flying fast and furiously tonight at this hip-hop summit featuring the Sacramento duo Blackalicious and local rapper Busdriver. Both acts are distinguished by brainy, rapid-fire tongue twisters that provoke the mind at the same time they get you moving. In Blackalicious, it's Chief Xcel who lays down the infectious array of beats over which the aptly named Gift of Gab layers his thoughtful insights, which veer more toward the personal than the political. Considering how brilliant they are together, it's a bit surprising that Blackalicious haven't released a full-length album since 2005's The Craft, although The Gift of Gab has been busy making excellent solo albums like The Next Logical Progression. Busdriver's busy raps are more wide-ranging, commenting on racism and inequality with a poetically searing and rabidly sarcastic vision on such madcap albums as Jhelli Beam and last year's provocatively pun-laden Beaus$Eros. —Falling James

sat 8/3

HARD Summer


"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger." HARD Summer is taking that sentiment to heart. On its sixth go-around, the electronic-music event stretches over Saturday and Sunday from noon to midnight. Spreading its formidable stable of talent across four stages, one has no choice but to attend both days to get the full experience. Among the artists you can catch only at HARD Summer are the multifaceted Ed Banger lot, who are bringing a posse, including Justice DJing, to celebrate their tastemaker label's 10-year anniversary. Day one has the slick machinations of the youthful Disclosure, Duke Dumont's feel-good house (previewed on HARD Summer Mixtape #2), Flying Lotus' glitchy experiment-hop and fan favorite 2 Chainz. Day two has Empire of the Sun presenting their Pixar-inspired, sci-fi/fantasy live set and the fearsome Rudimental offering up their zany, happy hits. —Lily Moayeri

Bob Dylan & His Band, Wilco, My Morning Jacket


The Americanarama Festival of Music rolls into the Southland tonight, led by a 72-year-old Pied Piper from Duluth, Minn., who should be settling down into an easy retirement but instead finds himself in the middle of a decade-long creative peak. This guy doesn't play much guitar these days, preferring to stand behind his keyboards like a pulpit preacher, and his voice is so filled with a lifetime of sediment and sentiment that it's now gruffer than Tom Waits'. He's unlikely to bother ingratiating himself to the audience with between-song pleasantries, and he tends to drawl so far behind the beat, some of his phrases don't show up until the next tune. But Bob Dylan, bluesier than ever, is still writing great songs of soulful wanderlust ("Duquesne Whistle") and plain old lust ("Thunder on the Mountain"). He challenges himself further by following the electric, elaborate guitar constructions of My Morning Jacket and, speaking of guitars, the spacey, Nels Cline–infused ramblings of Wilco. —Falling James

Linkin Park, Awolnation, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, et al.


Back for its sixth annual edition, Sunset Strip Music Festival is a three-day, multi-venue celebration of this storied stretch of rock & roll history, which lately centers around a Saturday street festival between San Vicente Boulevard and Doheny Drive. SSMF Street Fest headliners traditionally include artists who cut their performing teeth on the Sunset Strip (including Mötley Crüe in 2011 and Slash in 2010), so Agoura Hills' electro-speckled rock juggernaut Linkin Park, which debuted (as Xero) at the Whisky A Go Go in 1997, make apt poster-toppers this year. Members of fellow 2013 highlights Awolnation also did their time on Strip stages while performing in Under the Influence of Giants and Hometown Hero, while Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, though originally from San Fran, also played the Whisky back when. —Paul Rogers

sun 8/4

Engelbert Humperdinck


Engelbert Humperdinck, the steamy British belter whose intense 1967 version of "Please Release Me" stopped cold The Beatles' bid for a 12th consecutive U.K. No. 1, surfs in atop a tsunami of gloriously cheesy hits ("Quando Quando Quando," "After the Lovin' ") and some legitimately brilliant performances of old-school country weepers ("Am I That Easy to Forget?" "There Goes My Everything"). It's a patented combination that always makes for a boffo pop TKO. Humperdinck, born Arnold Dorsey, actually began his musical life as an aspiring rocker, but after his chum (and Tom Jones' manager) Gordon Mills hung the hijacked-from-an-19th-century-composer moniker on him and remade him as a balladeer, the formula proved to carry universal appeal. Humperdinck's pipes are still marvelously lustrous and, taken with his set list of certifiable classics and the fact that the Starlight Bowl is a BYOB-friendly venue, one would have to be nuts not to celebrate the occasion. —Jonny Whiteside


Chris Schlarb's Psychic Temple


Long Beach–based composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist (and truck driver) Chris Schlarb is a man of what you'd call diverse tastes. For his albums, he assembles the dream bands (of his wildest dreams) and comes up with new, non-genre-specific music by juxtaposing the players' disparate aesthetic worlds. This formula made for accessibly iconoclastic results on his 2010 album, Psychic Temple, where Schlarb's 29-member cast included Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, vocalist Julianna Barwick and pianist Mick Rossi of the Philip Glass Ensemble. Schlarb's quest for total meltdown music continues on his new LP, Psychic Temple II (Asthmatic Kitty), which brings together another eclectic cast from the progressive jazz, art-pop, rock and metal spheres. The crew this time includes Sufjan Stevens, Castanets' Ray Raposa, Devin Hoff of Xiu Xiu and Ikey Owens of The Mars Volta; dig their radically reconceptualized covers of Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out," Frank Zappa's "Sofa No. 2" and Brian Wilson's "'Til I Die." —John Payne

mon 8/5

Kiev, The Fling


Orange County's Kiev have been laying low for a moment, but bands deserve a rest once they've brought their music into the fourth dimension! Well, technically, it was the third dimension: At two shows in 2011, Kiev deployed such unprecedented and futuristic CGI 3-D projected visuals — demanding glasses and everything — that they blew minds and won awards all at the same time. (Surely Kanye will be asking them how to do this soon.) Now, they're re-emerging with a Bootleg residency to celebrate their new album. Their earlier songs are scrupulously detailed and proggy pop that is fearlessly chasing giants like Radiohead. It's deep and endlessly engaging stuff, even without the post–Tron-a-delic light show. They play tonight with Long Beach's able Fling, who have a new album of their own on deck and who deliver an extremely complementary indie-by-way-of-the-'70s–Beach Boys sound. —Chris Ziegler

The Janks, The Herbert Bail Orchestra


The Herbert Bail Orchestra's lead singer and guitarist Anthony Frattolillo credits his mentor, Juan, a janitor and apparent musical genius from Chile, for his ax-playing skills, and for instilling the need to put true life into his songs' expression. Juan taught the young Frattolillo that his music ought to tell stories that come straight from the heart, and that if he's gonna play it all, he's gotta be really feeling it. Evidenced by his band's recent album The Future's in the Past, Frattolillo learned his lessons well, as he and accordion player/trombonist Andrew Katz deliver their wryly humorous narrative soundscapes with fervid glee and, better yet, painterly detail, aided by an ensemble of violin, trumpet, trombone, banjo, keys, bass and drums. Also tonight: rustic-rock in CinemaScope, courtesy L.A.'s Janks. —John Payne

tue 8/6

Joe La Barbera Quintet


Joe La Barbera first came to prominence as the last drummer for pianist Bill Evans, whose trios remain the gold standard in the world of jazz. La Barbera went on to support leading artists including Tony Bennett and John Scofield, while also developing his own groups and teaching at CalArts. His quintet tonight includes veteran saxophonist Bob Sheppard and Grammy-winning pianist Bill Cunliffe. The CAP (Complete Actors Place) Theater in Sherman Oaks is hosting La Barbera as part of a new Tuesday-night jazz series under the direction of onetime Frank Zappa drummer Sinclair Lott. CAP features a large stage, theatrical lighting and a funky ambience seen in few jazz venues around L.A. Check it out. —Tom Meek

wed 8/7

Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell


While he's one of the funniest men in show business, Steve Martin's music is no joke; but then, the best comedians are deadly serious about their craft. Transcribing riffs from old Earl Scruggs recordings as a teen, Martin made the banjo a lifelong passion, a hobby that has finally morphed into a bona fide musical career. Celebrity notwithstanding, one has to be excellent to earn a Grammy in bluegrass music, a discipline noted for its exclusive perfectionism. Martin's new album, a collaboration with Edie Brickell, has reintroduced her beautifully slippery vocals into exquisite, modern bluegrass songs (imagine Bill Monroe singing "When you get to Asheville, send me an email"). Live, Brickell delivers with an elegance befitting her years of maturation from New Bohemian to eloquent songstress. Also on the bill: Madeleine Peyroux and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. —Gary Fukushima


thu 8/8

Hanni El Khatib


Remember when L.A.'s Hanni El Khatib was making cut-to-the-bone, rhythm 'n' rock 'n' roll songs with just a guitar, a drummer and a lot of songs exploring disaster and what comes after? Because now that man has transformed into this monster, possibly after being bitten by Stooges guitarist James Williamson in the dead of night, and the result is the full-band-going-berserk album Head in the Dirt. Recorded with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Head is an experiment in, "How much rippery can we pull off in a single song? That much? Can I use that guitar pedal with the skull and bones on it?" There's cute pop in here, of course — like "Penny" — but it's the smashers that make this work. Truly a record by a guy who's here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and who never really had the bubble gum in the first place. —Chris Ziegler

Bang Sugar Bang, The Dollyrots, Midway, The Randies


Once upon a time, in a city quite like this one, there was a bunch of cool pop, punk and indie bands who were sick of trying to get shows at expensive pay-to-play clubs, so they started their own little scene, named Kiss or Kill, after a lyric in the X song "We're Desperate." The dozen or so groups often played on the same bills, usually for $5 or less, and their noble efforts to counteract the prevailing mainstream mentality of rock careerism would seem merely quaint except that so many of these bands were disparately remarkable. Bang Sugar Bang idolized X and The Gun Club, yet their homages had a hard-rocking Runaways-style power, while The Dollyrots and The Randies evolved from Muffs-inspired pop-punks into memorable performers in their own right. Everybody was living happily ever after — until the blue meanies in what's left of the band Kiss got heavy and threatening, claiming that the term Kiss or Kill might cut into their market share. That was the end of this cheery DIY confab, or would have been, except that everything's been marvelously documented in a new film about the scene, In Heaven There Is No Beer. For one evening, at least, ongoing and reunited Kiss or Kill bands, including Midway, Get Set Go and Silver Needles, will rock & roll all night and party anyway. —Falling James

The Dollyrots: See Thursday.

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