Music Picks: Janet Jackson, John Escreet Quartet, DJ Quik, Charles Bradley
EL REY THEATRE
This arty R&B dude — a charter member of the Philly-based neo-soul crew that also included Musiq Soulchild, James Poyser and the Roots — closed a nearly decade-long gap between studio albums last year with Airtight's Revenge, for which he teamed with L.A.'s Plug Research. Now he's on a U.S. tour in support of both the disc and autism research; according to the singer's publicist, Autism Speaks will be on hand at El Rey to accept donations. Even minus the good cause, Bilal is worth checking out: Like his 2001 debut, 1st Born Second, Airtight's Revenge bogs down a bit with headphone-fodder slow jams. But in its best material he finds a way to connect Al Green–style seduction with TV on the Radio–style experimentation. He's a devoted head-and-heart guy. —Mikael Wood
Second chances rarely happen in real life, but tonight and Sunday, pop geeks get another opportunity to worship at the altar of That Dog, the recently reunited local alt-pop band. In their '90s heyday, the group seemed poised for massive success, and not just because its members had connections to the music industry: Lead singer Anna Waronker is the daughter of Warner Bros. record producer Lenny Waronker, bassist Rachel and violinist Petra Haden are the daughters of jazz bassist Charlie Haden. Those connections may have helped somewhat, but what makes the band stand out are their ebullient pop melodies, which are powered by a punky energy, and unusual arrangement twists, such as the way Petra's violin adds depth to Waronker's cheery vocals. Every dog will have its day, and maybe That Dog's day has finally arrived. —Falling James
One of the best pop auteurs in America is hidden right here in plain sight — seemingly a million miles from the Hollywood limelight, as he patiently assembles his brain-teasing, relentlessly catchy records and stubbornly toils away at no-cover shows at places like Taix. Former Ferdinand leader Greg Franco (who has collaborated with Kiwi legends David Kilgour and Chris Knox) may not be good at blowing his own horn or selling himself to the great unwashed, but he sure has a way with clever lyrics and putting mesmerizing alt-rock melodies beneath them on his new album, The Wow Signal, by his latest project, Rough Church. "Librarian Warlord" is a fanciful revenge-of-the-intellectual-nerds scenario, while "Beth Orton" is a heartfelt homage to a distant muse. Elements of pure pop exaltation and Minutemen-style post-punk experimentation collide intriguingly on tracks like "Error 404" and "Carpal Tunnel." —Falling James
John Williams has composed some of the most pervasive soundtracks of the past few decades, racking up more than 100 scores and a ridiculously fruitful collaboration with director Steven Spielberg. The native New Yorker's music has played such a prominent role in American popular culture that it's hard to imagine our lives without the majestic horns and sweeping strings of the Star Wars theme or the ominous Jaws motif he created with just two notes. Tonight, Bowl-goers will be in for a treat when the maestro conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in a medley of his greatest hits and more, including an appearance by troubadour James Taylor reading the narration for Williams' suite from the 1969 film The Reivers. It's sure to bring cinematic memories flooding back. Don't forget your lightsabers. Also Sat. —Laura Ferreiro
ATMOSPHERE at Greek Theatre; JOHN VANDERSLICE, PATRICK PARK at the Echo; JON BRION at Largo; CHICANO BATMAN at California Plaza (noon show); LIL WAYNE at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; DEVO at the Canyon Club; RUMSPRINGA, MAINLAND at Bootleg Theater; ALLAN HOLDSWORTH at the Baked Potato; JOE-LESS SHOE at Exhibit [A] Gallery (Long Beach).
Thankfully, our viral-breakout reference points have expanded beyond the Tay Zondays and Keenan Cahills of the world. East Oakland spitter/music video director Kreayshawn, following the rise of fellow Bay Area MC Lil B, and in the wake of Odd Future's sudden omnipresence, is the latest to use the Web as her personal PR army. The 21-year-old daughter of a punk rocker (her mother was a member of the Trashwomen) dropped her "Gucci Gucci" video in May — it's since racked up an incredible 11 million views — and while naysayers point at its bougie-brand name-dropping as a sign of a pop-princess, hook-heavy future, this "asexual" high school dropout, who told L.A. Weekly her SXSW show in March had only 10 attendees, is no diva. "I can't even wear heels," she said. "I have wide feet." —Dan Hyman
DJ Quik, Suga Free
Legendary Compton rapper-producer DJ Quik plays his first show in a decade with longtime collaborator Suga Free. Several years ago they had a falling-out over undisclosed matters, but earlier this year Quik announced that he and Free had begun work on a new record to be released this fall on Quik's Mad Science Recordings. Since debuting in the early 1990s, Quik has released four albums that have been certified either gold or platinum and produced acclaimed work with Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Janet Jackson, Rick James and Ludacris, among many others, becoming one of the West Coast rap scene's most revered figures. He produced pimp-turned-rapper Suga Free's debut, Street Gospel, the first of many projects for the pair, and this show is their only scheduled appearance. —Lainna Fader
A late-blooming soul man, the raspy-voiced 62-year-old released his heartbreaking and highly autobiographical debut in January through Dunham, a sublabel of Daptone Records — a label with a reputation as a cultural institution responsible for curating the neo-soul revival of recent years — operated by Menahan Street Band founder/guitarist Thomas Brenneck (also of the Budos Band). Bradley sang in a James Brown tribute act in hole-in-the-wall Brooklyn clubs until Daptone owner Gabriel Roth discovered him and forced him into the studio to record No Time for Dreaming, a culmination of Bradley's lifelong musicianship. Six decades of pent-up emotion pour into these tracks and his vocals echo the delivery of soul icon Otis Redding. One of the best Daptone releases to date. —Lainna Fader
Dntel is one of the many electro-pop projects spearheaded by Jimmy Tamborello, who's almost certainly best known to folks outside L.A.'s beat scene as half of the Postal Service. Two years before that duo's 2003 debut, Give Up, became a left-field commercial hit, Dntel's Life Is Full of Possibilities (with a foreshadowing Ben Gibbard cameo) lit a smaller-scale fire among Pitchfork-perusing indie types; in October Sub Pop plans to issue a two-disc 10th-anniversary edition of the album with all kinds of bonus material. At tonight's show — which concludes a North American trek with local digi-soul dreamers the One AM Radio and Geotic (aka Will Wiesenfeld of Baths) — you can expect to hear ditties from Life, as well as from Dntel's 2010 After Parties EPs. —Mikael Wood
BRIAN WILSON at the Canyon Club; TRIBUTE TO COCTEAU TWINS at the Smell; THE DODOS at the Autry; COSMIC HARP at Levitt Pavilion (MacArthur Park); R. STEVIE MOORE at the Satellite; AZALIA SNAIL, DAN WEST at Taix; GOLDEN STATE at Hotel Café; ALLAN HOLDSWORTH at the Baked Potato; ANNA MJOLL at Vibrato; THOM ROTELLA with THE JOHN HEARD TRIO at Charlie O's; JOHN ALTMAN with THE MARK STEVENS TRIO at Desert Rose.
Serge Gainsbourg Tribute
It's fitting that it will take a sizable galaxy of musical stars to pay homage to Serge Gainsbourg, given the late French singer's enormous influence on a wide variety of music styles, from pop chansons and jazz to reggae and electronica. Beck, who has often cited the composer/multi-instrumentalist/poet/actor as a major influence on his own eclectic oeuvre, leads the charge tonight, but he's joined by a delightfully diverse crew of musicians, including Zola Jesus, Beach House's Victoria Legrand, Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste, Faith No More's Mike Patton and Serge's son, Lulu Gainsbourg. But perhaps no performers will come as close to capturing the great man's whimsically daft and subversive spirit as Sean Lennon and his Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger partner, Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Muhl may play the straight woman to Lennon's absurd surrealist, but she's just as musically adept and quick with the smart and savvy one-liners. —Falling James
John Escreet Quartet
While SoCal is an area where great musical talent often meets with less than equal showrooms, music lover Matt Lincir has turned his family's longtime dance studio in downtown San Pedro into one of the area's best small performance spaces. Now equipped with a fully restored 1921 Steinway B and a more recent Hamburg Steinway C, Alvas Showroom has the area's two best club pianos in one space, along with staging, lighting and sound equipment most other local rooms only dream of. On Sunday hot young NYC pianist John Escreet gets a turn at Alvas, joined by Ben Wendel (Kneebody) on sax, Dave Robaire on bass and Steve Hass on drums. Escreet's percussive attacks at a recent Blue Whale SRO performance had that audience in musical rapture the entire night. —Tom Meek
PART TIME PUNKS WITH CRAFT SPELLS, SEAPONY, GRAVE BABIES at the Echo; UH HUH HER, HOLLY MIRANDA at Bootleg Bar.
Local pop group Stone Darling close their weekly residency tonight with another no-cover set. Whereas some all-girl groups rely on cutesiness to get by, these Darlings balance their sugary, melodic side with a contemplative moodiness that makes their pop songs so much more than ephemeral bonbons. The quartet prefers to reinvent songs like the country standard "Long Black Veil" and Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" as lo-fi laments rather than mimic the prevailing pop divas of our era. "All I Wanna Do" starts solemnly with a low-key jangle of guitars and drums as Paige Darling coos reverentially in hushed tones, sending out romantic smoke signals that ultimately feel more like a worshipful prayer than a mere pop song. —Falling James
ROSS SEA PARTY, LA FONT at Silverlake Lounge; GARFUNKEL & OATES at Largo; ACTIVE CHILD, MAN/MIRACLE, HOT AS SUN at the Echo; FRANK FAIRFIELD at Redwood.
Young Jeezy, Freddie Gibbs
HOUSE OF BLUES
Lots of side-eyed glances and hip-hop blog grousing followed this past spring's announcement that L.A. by way of Gary, Ind., rapper Freddie Gibbs had signed with Atlanta trap star Young Jeezy's label. Looks like the huffing and puffing that Gangsta Gibbs was signing his death sentence was just hot air. Jeezy seems to have been spurred into action by Gibbs, setting off on this tour and recently announcing a September release date for the long-awaited follow-up to 2008's The Recession. No wonder if he feels a little pressure — Gibbs is one of the strongest, most technically impressive rappers around, even as he seems continually and genuinely surprised he's able to make money from his lyrical skill instead of the streets. No gimmicks tonight, just a gangsta party. —Rebecca Haithcoat
Philip Glass and Powaqqatsi
Godfrey Reggio's trio of films documenting the clash of industry and the Earth were an ideal context for composer Philip Glass, the minimalist monarch who matched his trademark driving rhythms and grand-scale themes to the films' often portentous and reproachful messages. Koyaanisqatsi was performed to wild acclaim by Glass' electric group and the L.A. Phil at the Bowl in 2009; its sequel, Powaqqatsi, which zeroes in on the conflict between cultural traditions and global commerce, is a hectic, turbulent piece sparkled with moments of radiant splendor and real power. (The third film in the series is 2002's Naqoyqatsi.) Powaqqatsi will be projected on the Bowl's big screens while the Philip Glass Ensemble, the L.A. Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Children's Chorus do the honors. Longtime Glass Ensemble associate Michael Reisman conducts. —John Payne
THE ALLAH-LAS, TRC, BIG SEARCH at the Echo; TYCHO/SHIGETO at the Echoplex; WAYNE WHITE at Largo; MICHAEL WOLFF, MARK ISHAM at Vitello's.
Arrica Rose & the ...'s
Contemplating the hazy space between Billie Holiday and Mazzy Star, Arrica Rose's intuitive guitar and introverted yet iron-willed utterances create sounds both mellow and dramatic, cinematic but seldom classically epic. Dreamy and detached, the emotionally and vocally versatile Rose nonetheless sketches tiny, two-of-us dramas with that quiet, cruel clarity called honesty. Her band, the Dot Dot Dot's, bring sufficient swing and swagger to prevent a descent into coffee-shop soundtrack, while her new collection, Let Alone Sea, embeds mood-enhancing strings and skulking horns with refreshing restraint. More produced than ever yet still almost chewably organic, Arrica Rose's effortlessly sensual music places little filter between her fears and longings and our own. —Paul Rogers
BRAD DUTZ QUARTET, SLUMGUM at Blue Whale; LIBBIE SCHRADER at Hotel Café; MICHAEL WOLFF, MARK ISHAM at Vitello's; GEORGE BENSON & DMS (GEORGE DUKE, MARCUS MILLER, DAVID SANBORN) at the Hollywood Bowl.
Charlie Haden Quartet West
CATALINA BAR & GRILL
Bassist Charlie Haden's musical pedigree dates back six decades, including stints with Hampton Hawes, Art Pepper, Keith Jarrett, Carla Bley, Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman. Haden began his Quartet West in 1987, joined by Ernie Watts on sax and Alan Broadbent on piano (returning from his recent move to NYC). Drummer Rodney Green is a more recent addition, featured on the group's latest recording, Sophisticated Ladies. While Haden often can be found imparting considerable wisdom to bass students at CalArts, his local performances are less common. The Quartet West's four-day (Thurs.-Sun.) run at Catalina in Hollywood should serve as a poignant reminder of just why Haden is slated to receive the 2012 NEA Jazz Master Award. —Tom Meek
If you're like us, and frustratingly forgot to catch one of Tyler Perry's recent cinematic gems (Why Did I Get Married Too?, For Colored Girls ...), this will be your chance to get intimate with a member of the Jackson family not looking to cash in on Michael's untimely passing (La Toya on Celeb Apprentice was pretty incredible, though). It's still hard to look at Janet without a smirk since Nip Slip '04, but even at 45, Miss Jackson can still shake that famous rear end and belt out those '90s choruses with sultry sexuality. Now, on her largest world tour yet, Janet, supporting Number Ones, performs 35 chart-toppers, dedicating one tune to our fine city. (Let's just hope she doesn't choose "What Have You Done for Me Lately?") —Dan Hyman
DAWES at Santa Monica Pier.
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