Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson
While Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson are often classified as "outlaws," these revered artists are, in many ways, total opposites. Rhodes scholar Kristofferson graduated from the University of Oxford the same year that Haggard was released from his three-year stint at San Quentin, and each pursued entirely different paths to achieving country music stardom (Kristofferson working as a Nashville studio janitor, Haggard knocking his brains out in the blood buckets of Bakersfield). Both men, of course, excel at the fine art of songwriting, and this common bond brings them together for what promises to be a particularly chewy honky-tonk showdown. Yep, they're gonna trade off, mano a mano, and while Hag can sing circles around Kris, expect an intense musical experience. Arrive stoned, 'cause they both definitely will. —Jonny Whiteside
Insane Clown Posse
GROVE OF ANAHEIM
One can argue that Insane Clown Posse benefited less from their recent collaboration with Jack White than did White, who now can be said to possess a sense of humor. ICP, meanwhile, have scarcely beaten back the hipster condescension with which they've long been viewed. (Plus, the White-produced "Leck Mich Im Arsch" is pretty wack.) But of course if you're headed to Anaheim tonight to see your Faygo-guzzling heroes, you probably couldn't care less how well (or not) Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope made out in the deal; ICP seem to exist solely to serve the needs of their fans. Minus the fact that they sound nothing like Don Henley, they're basically a Bob Lefsetz email come to life. —Mikael Wood
Little Dragon's Machine Dreams coolly married spacey electronicized eclectica to classic R&B, soul and dancehall — a sound somehow appropriate for our dystopian times. The Gothenburg, Sweden, band's hefty album sales and ballooning fanbase were aided immeasurably when fan David Sitek of TV on the Radio invited the band to open shows on his 2009 U.S. dates (getting the track "Twice" played on Grey's Anatomy didn't hurt, either). Little Dragon's tireless roadwork included an appearance at Coachella with Gorillaz, and their third album, Ritual Union, is recently out. Sure, you can dance to their hypno-beat cut-n-pasted with singer Yukimi Nagano's soulfire croon and mildly eccentric stabs at nu-style dubstep. But dig deep into these dark, dense textures — now that's what we call a headspace. —John Payne
Though Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (O.M.D.) aren't the first name checked by today's crop of '80s revivalists, they nonetheless cranked out hits (especially in their native United Kingdom) that — considering that this is their second U.S. tour in seven months — apparently still resonate today. The surprise of their recent "classic lineup" reunion has been both the energy and enthusiasm of these fiftysomethings on stage and the youth of many of those watching them. Evidently O.M.D.'s 10-year hiatus was effective in reviving both their interest and ours in the wistful, Casio-toned pop of the likes of "Enola Gay" and "Electricity." Maybe those endless reruns of Pretty in Pink (which features Orchestral Manoeuvres' "If You Leave") have an upside after all. —Paul Rogers
CULTURE COLLIDE FESTIVAL (through Oct. 9); ELECTRIC SIX at Key Club; NICK LOWE at Largo; VIVA VOCE, PARSON REDHEADS at Satellite; CYMBALS EAT GUITARS at Echo; FAUSTIN LINYEKULA, FLAMME KAPAYA at REDCAT; INCUBUS at Hollywood Bowl; KEVIN MAHOGANY at Doubletree Culver Club.
DIM MAK STUDIOS
This Bay Area deep-house dude just released a solid new album, Outside the Skyline, with vocal appearances by Bebel Gilberto, Meshell Ndegeocello and Freddie McGregor, among others. It's exceedingly smooth stuff that staves off background-music utility with handsome vocal hooks and squishy synth textures — think Sade as remixed by an A-list chillwave act. Tonight Migs will celebrate the record's release with a live gig slated to include a performance by disco-soul diva Evelyn "Champagne" King, who gives Skyline's "Everybody" a welcome shot of big-city sass. —Mikael Wood
Charles Altura Trio
When it comes to "hot young guitarists" in L.A. jazz and fusion circles, the name heard most frequently is that of Charles Altura. The Stanford Anthropology grad made a significant name for himself over the last two years touring with the Stanley Clarke Band, with Clarke giving Altura major props for his contributions to their 2010 Contemporary Jazz Grammy Award–winning album. Tonight, Altura offers up his own mix of originals, reworked popular tunes with an alternative/indie-rock feel, and a few jazz standards. Altura will be backed by drummer Steve Hass, along with bassist Hamilton Price. Don't be surprised if Clarke keyboardist Ruslan Sirota drops by late to join in the fun. Go, and you'll see why some refer to Altura as "(John) Scofield on Speed." —Tom Meek
BLINK-182, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE at Hollywood Bowl; NICK LOWE at Largo; FAUSTIN LINYEKULA, FLAMME KAPAYA at REDCAT; MEGAFAUN at Satellite; KEITH URBAN at Staples Center; JOHN DAVERSA QUARTET at Vibrato.
Calgary's mild-mannered Chad VanGaalen, both a visual artist and a musician, has created four albums of humbly rocking beauty on the esteemed Sub Pop label. His latest, Diaper Island, is chock-full of dreamily but darkly wistful acoustic-electric strummery, sparely drawn charmers that lull and lilt even as they dart toward unknown pastures with odd bits of electronic stuff. Recorded this time in a fancier studio, Diaper Island rocks somewhat like the classic rock of the early '70s, with variety and an almost religious observation of the laws of aural dynamics. VanGaalen whisper-sings tales of life out of balance, and how to get back on track. Another thing: While the music contained within is consistently high-quality stuff, CVG's self-designed discs are stunningly beautiful objects to have and to hold. —John Payne
PEPPER at Club Nokia; JOSH NELSON at Vibrato; CHERYL BENTYNE & ELLIOT DEUTSCH BIG BAND at Catalina.
We'd like to talk to the Lupe fans. You know, the ones who gathered outside the rapper's record label last fall on an October afternoon to protest the long-delayed release of the Chi-town MC's third LP, LASERS. Was it worth your breath? The off-the-cuff righteousness of Lupe's raps was still present on the album, but all too often his awesome rhymes about 9/11 conspiracies took a backseat to electro-beats and radio-ready riffs conjured up by armies of producers; we won't even get into his reworking of "Float On." All things considered, however, the man born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco is still one of the wiser MCs waxing poetic these days — just listen to his take on the Middle East on "Words I Never Said." —Dan Hyman
WHISKY A GO GO
Like the condition from which it takes its name, death metal has seemingly universal impact and no respect for borders. Thus this most spiteful of subgenres crept from 1980s American underground buzz to global phenomenon a decade later, as evidenced by the emergence of Poland's Decapitated in '96. Returning after a tour-bus accident four years ago, which claimed the life of drummer Witold Kietyka (founding guitarist Wacaw "Vogg" Kietyka's younger brother) and left vocalist Adrian Kowanek comatose, the band sounds predictably bitter and bleak. Decapitated's ultra-disciplined instrumentation recalls some speed-induced Wagnerian hallucination of jackhammer drums and bomber-swarm guitars, while new frontman Rafa Piotrowski completes the militaristic mugging with pitiless, barked interjections. Sheer dedication and a tragic twist of fate have put Decapitated among this planet's most merciless and mesmerizing metal acts. —Paul Rogers
Four guys who play chords? A band that only plays four-chord tunes? Do they only play chords with intervals of a fourth? What an intriguing name. Aren't you intrigued now? You should be, because this band will keep you on the edge of your seat like a spy novel. Formed and co-led by former Angeleno and current New York trumpeter Brandon Sherman, with his still-local bandmates Andrew Conrad on woodwinds, Brandon Schmidt on bass and Colin Woodford on drums, this group of talented twentysomethings features some of the most compelling new jazz music in L.A., with enough structure to follow where they want to go yet free enough to not predict where they're headed. A true sonic page-turner, hopefully with more chapters to come. —Gary Fukushima
SWAHILI BLONDE at Echo; USC THORTON JAZZ ORCHESTRA at Vitello's; KIM RICHMOND ORCHESTRA at Typhoon.
EL REY THEATRE
So long to the days when a wicked white rapper was an anomaly. Caucasian cronies are now spittin' fire on the regular. But none so hot as Southern-fried rhyme-slinger Yelawolf. Never mind that the Flock of Seagulls–hairdo'ed homie was raised on heavy metal and cracks wise on Skynyrd — hip-hop's finest have taken notice. Following his breakout mixtape, Trunk Muzik: 0-60, Yela, whose full-length debut, Radioactive, hits streets next month, was quickly scooped up and signed to Eminem's Shady Records. If he's learned one thing from his new boss, it's to disregard people like us. "Fuck critics with a spiked dick," he instructs on the Lil Jon–assisted single "Hard White (In the Club)." Dude's also got his own label, Slumerican Records, whose first signee is ginger mop–topped flowmaster Rittz, who joins Yela' on his current tour. —Dan Hyman
How do you convince the average music fan that jazz isn't sipping Champagne and eating bruschetta while listening to warmed-over chestnuts of the Great American Songbook? Try putting danger and blood in the name of your band, and watch those trendy vampire moviegoing girls come out to hear some real jazz. And this is Real. Fucking. Jazz., with some of the more brilliant and adventurous improvisers from the famed New York Knitting Factory scene playing alongside legends like Dave Douglas and John Zorn. Featuring talented reedmen Chris Speed and Oscar Noriega, with bassist Trevor Dunn (of Mr. Bungle fame a lifetime ago). Drummer Jim Black is a must-see — he's been amazing for decades now, and he's not that old. Or is he just undead? —Gary Fukushima
BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE at Grove of Anaheim; JOE HENRY at Largo; EVANESCENCE at the Palladium; JOURNEY at Hollywood Bowl; SWITCHFOOT at the Wiltern.
The young Italian tenors of Il Volo, with voices that belong to bearded fat men who shut down all-you-can-eat-buffets and not teens with developing poufs, have quickly been thrust into American commercial consciousness. And it hasn't even been discreet. Discovered by Jimmy Iovine, it's no surprise the three suave, young gents with Bocelli-esque boomboxes for voices wailed out to the Neapolitan standard "O Sole Mio" on American Idol. But the series finale of Entourage, where Il Volo magically appeared to woo Mrs. Ari back into the arms of matrimony? Time will tell whether these traditional tunes strike a chord with a youth market hopped up on throbbing dance jams. But something tells us, either way, your grandma will be raving over dinner about those three wee lads with pipes like angels. —Dan Hyman
GROVE OF ANAHEIM
OK, we'll admit it: We'd advise you to go see Stevie Nicks even if she weren't on tour in support of an album as unexpectedly excellent as this year's In Your Dreams. Stevie's always worth watching, whether or not she's got new material to complement the vintage-vinyl likes of "Edge of Seventeen" and "Dreams"; she's the rare heritage act who's figured out how to fit her current self into our memories. That said, several cuts on In Your Dreams — "For What It's Worth," "Italian Summer" and especially "Annabel Lee" — do indeed survive their close onstage proximity to "Rhiannon." At the Wiltern in May, Nicks killed; expect nothing less tonight. With America's Got Talent winner Michael Grimm. —Mikael Wood
What began in 2004 as Dan Whitford's one-man electro-pop project expanded into a three-piece band by the time of Cut Copy's stellar 2008 sophomore record, In Ghost Colours. With Tim Goldsworthy of DFA co-producing, Cut Copy released their latest, Zonoscope, as a quartet last February, and they play tonight on the last leg of their eight-month-long world tour in support of the release. Opening with an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the old Cut Copy while simultaneously introducing you to the new-and-improved version, Zonoscope is tighter and more focused than any of Cut Copy's previous material, and features a tongue-in-cheek tip of the hat to fellow Aussies Men at Work in lead single "Take Me Over." —Lainna Fader
MAD PROFESSOR, TWILIGHT DUB CIRCUS at Echoplex; ROOTSYSTEM/QUARTETTO FANTASTICO at Blue Whale; THE CALIFORNIAN, ROSS SEA PARTY at Satellite.
Hard-core fans probably caught the band earlier this year, when the Foos played a string of last-minute club dates around L.A. during the run-up to Wasting Light. As great as some of those gigs were, though, seeing Foo Fighters in a sweatbox actually contradicts to some degree the whole point of Dave Grohl's post-Nirvana arena-rock outfit: These guys don't really run at full capacity until they're operating in a space with room for more than 10,000. If you've never seen Foo Fighters before, now's a good time to try 'em out: As classic-pop tuneful as it is heavy-metal tough, Wasting Light might be the band's best record yet. With Cage the Elephant and Mariachi El Bronx. Also Oct. 14. —Mikael Wood
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LUCKMAN FINE ARTS CENTER
Grammy-winning (she's had more than 20 nominations) neo-soul singer Indie.Arie's mission statement is "to spread love, healing and peace through the power of words and music." She's done so, too, balking at popular culture's desire to Barbie-ize females with such songs as "Video" and "I Am Not My Hair." In an attempt to fulfill her self-proclaimed desire to "do projects with people who are making music that is meaningful, with a lot of sonic diversity," 2009's Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics featured artists like the Queen of Turkish Pop, Sezen Aksu and R&B singer — and fellow soul revivalist — Musiq Soulchild. Tonight, she plays with Israeli singer Idan Raichel, with whom she also collaborated on her forthcoming album, Open Door, due this month. —Lainna Fader
RTX, DANAVA, THRONES at Satellite; GABRIEL KAHANE & CALDER QUARTET at Largo; DANIELA MERCURY at Greek Theatre; Manimal Showcase w/ PAPERCRANES, CAMERAS, THE CHILD at the Echo; FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE at Troubadour; DANIELA MERCURY at Greek Theatre; LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM at Royce Hall; DEAN BROWN at the Baked Potato.