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Music Picks: Low End Theory Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival

Ed Sheeran: See Monday.
Ed Sheeran: See Monday.
PHOTO BY BEN WATTS

fri 6/13

Guided by Voices, Bobby Bare Jr.

THE FONDA THEATRE

Since reuniting in 2010, Guided by Voices have already released five albums, with a sixth, Cool Planet, reportedly on the way. That's a life's work for most groups, and that's not counting the Dayton, Ohio, alt-rock band's prolific output since the early 1980s. On top of all that, bandleader Robert Pollard often engages in various side projects under such names as Airport 5, Go Back Snowball and Circus Devils. No matter what he calls himself, Pollard always combines tuneful power-pop melodies with clever lyrics, whether he's reveling in being a big fish in a small pond ("Littlest League Possible") or finding salvation in factories ("Laundry & Lasers"). Bobby Bare Jr., the son of country great Bobby Bare, is a contemplative folk-Americana bard who's already the subject of a documentary, Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost). —Falling James

Pelican, Tombs

EL REY THEATRE

Illinois quartet Pelican slather their instrumental metal with layers of atmospherics. The group's powerful soundscapes inspire listeners to pump their fists in the air, even as no vocals beckon for such an action. Comparisons to now-defunct post-metal pioneers Isis have followed Pelican throughout their decade-plus career, but they are worthy of standing proud on their own. Brooklyn trio Tombs cut a more brutish figure. Whether you lean toward downtuned sludge or caustic black-metal mayhem, Tombs have you covered — with a little Goth rock and Swedish death 'n' roll thrown in for good measure — on new album Savage Gold. In an era when so many bands are having trouble truly mastering one sound, Tombs are chameleons who inspire inferiority complexes with their mastery of multiple metallic noises. —Jason Roche

sat 6/14

Low End Theory Festival

ECHOPLEX

Since its inception in 2006, the weekly Lincoln Heights–based Low End Theory party has been a mecca for fans and a launchpad for performers of experimental instrumental hip-hop (sometimes called "beat music"). Founded by Alpha Pup's Daddy Kev, Low End Theory was inspired by the weekly 2003 parking-lot gathering known as Sketchbook. Hosted by rotating resident DJs Gaslamp Killer, Nobody, D-Styles and Nocando, Low End Theory is held quarterly in Japan and at random throughout Europe and Northern California. Headlining this year's inaugural Low End Theory Festival are turntablism pioneers Invisibl Skratch Piklz, performing together for the first time in more than a decade; Odd Future's The Internet; Baths; Ras G; and legendary Detroit DJ and dot connector House Shoes, among others. Also Sunday, June 15. (See Bizarre Ride, page 58, for more information.) —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

Neon Trees

THE WILTERN

When a band heads to town for the first time in a few years on the heels of a new album, it's understandable that their appearance would be big news. But for Neon Trees, that alone isn't what's keeping the band in the headlines. Shortly before the April release of their third record, Pop Psychology, flamboyant frontman Tyler Glenn did something nearly unthinkable: He came out as a gay Mormon. The story dominated the news cycle, but in the end, what draws fans to the band is its infectious blend of new wave, dance rock and pop. It's this, more than anything else, that keeps the band not only on the lips of pop music fans but on the radio as well. —Daniel Kohn

Playboy Jazz Festival

HOLLYWOOD BOWL

Hugh Hefner's annual gathering at the Bowl often encompasses numerous other genres along with at least some of that jazz. But this year, the first day of the weekend festival is headlined by such pure-jazz performers as the honey-voiced, mellifluous Dianne Reeves, pianist Kenny Barron paired with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, the Arturo Sandoval Big Band, and an homage to George Duke with such luminaries as Al Jarreau, Stanley Clarke and Ndugu Chancler. Sunday expands much further and deeper, with Venezuelan combo Los Amigos Invisibles blurring the lines between funk and acid jazz, and the James Cotton Blues Band showcasing the sassy squalling of the legendary R&B saxophonist Big Jay McNeely. Sunday also gets back to jazz with Prism, a supergroup with Dave Holland, Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn and Eric Harland, and ace guitarist George Benson, whose nimble forays occasionally devolve into easy-listening mush. —Falling James

sun 6/15

The Notwist

THE FONDA THEATRE

It's a bit hard to put your finger on The Notwist, but who's complaining? The German pop-rock-electronic–everything else trio's new Close to the Glass (Sub Pop) near-scientifically mishmashes sophisticated audio processing and varied instrumentation to create a supremely toe-tappable set of "pop" tunes, which deserve to be unsullied by quibbles about how to categorize them. Though their songs apparently are the product of protracted, chin-scratching studio contrivance, The Notwist's chameleonic aspect feels organic; their clever inclusion of folk, classical, rap and electronic music is used as a means to color and shape their sound, which may include lengthy, machine-driven instrumentals but more often coalesces into kaleidoscopic alt-rock that's both ultra-peppy and loaded with psychological/emotional substance. —John Payne

 

Kendra Morris

THE MINT

For every pop tart, there are countless talents whose music isn't exposed to enough people. Kendra Morris has been kicked off three different singing-competition series, exponentially upping her credibility factor. The Florida-bred, New York–based singer-songwriter let loose her powerhouse voice on her debut full-length, Banshee (2012), creating painstakingly crafted songs illustrating her soul and jazz background with a modern approach. Her rich tones wrench the life out of "Today" and ooze syrupy over "How You Want It." For her own amusement, Morris released a weekly series of cover songs. From a saucy take on Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" to a hair-raising version of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," she's collected her covers on the album Mockingbird (2013). Whatever the song, Morris' voice is by turns heartbreaking and empowering but ultimately soulful. —Lily Moayeri

mon 6/16

Ed Sheeran, Demi Lovato, Colbie Caillat

HOLLYWOOD BOWL

Titled "My Big Night Out," tonight's bill features mainstream pop performers including English vocalist Ed Sheeran, whose occasional falsetto phrasing and acoustic folk strumming are pleasantly enjoyable if terminally lightweight, especially in comparison with his R&B influences. Malibu diva Colbie Caillat is even frothier, with a pretty voice but not much to say lyrically on poppy early songs such as "Bubbly" and the recent piano ballad "Try." There seems to be a genuine heart at the heart of Demi Lovato's music, especially because the former Disney Channel star has been unafraid to publicly confront her issues of self-abuse and depression. Such vulnerability has started to seep into her lyrics, although the production and arrangement of recent songs like "Skyscraper" add an unfortunate veneer of distancing artifice. —Falling James

tue 6/17

Crash Kings, A Million Billion Dying Suns

BOOTLEG HIFI

Everything old is new again — and loud again, too — on this double bill, thanks to two bands with their own overcranked take on the heavy hitters of '60s and '70s rock. Crash Kings are an L.A. band that replaced lead guitar with lead Clavinet — you know, the thing responsible for the particularly funky riff in Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" — and some truly exuberant stage presence, resulting in their own rabid version of Zeppelin-esque smashery. (Check "Hot Fire" for a persuasive example.) And A Million Billion Dying Suns — so named because how much heavier can you get? — are a ruthlessly psychedelic power trio, led by an effortless guitar shredder who's fluent in Hendrix. Besides an arsenal of crushing originals, they've got a showstopping cover of "Strawberry Letter 23" that sounds like Spacemen 3, Loop and Tame Impala all at once. —Chris Ziegler

wed 6/18

Sage Francis

TROUBADOUR

"You gave me language as a gift," Sage Francis announces on "Thank You," from his upcoming album, Copper Gone. "I turned it against you/I was stupid, I was young/I was hanging by my Judas tongue," he confesses, turning his youthful arrogance into a belated form of redemption as he gives credit to an unnamed mentor. The Rhode Island rapper, who also runs hip-hop label Strange Famous Records, has always had mixed feelings about society and fame, as reflected in his three ambivalently titled albums for Epitaph Records: A Healthy Distrust, Human the Death Dance and Li(f)e. But even the Sage one isn't beyond the need for guidance: "I was ignorant, passed out on the spacebar. ... I'm an idiot, self-deprecating author. ... You edited the words from the grave and beyond." —Falling James

thu 6/19

Dean Wareham

THE ROXY

Dean Wareham is no performance rookie. Considered one of the original voices of American indie rock, Wareham started his career in 1987 with his band Galaxie 500. Nowadays, Wareham is on his own, having released the EP Emancipated Hearts late last year and his self-titled debut in March, produced by My Morning Jacket's Jim James. Known for a full, expansive style, the guitar sophisticate creates dream-pop in its purest form, with delicate guitar and drum combinations, simple melodies and romantic vocals. Fans of Wareham's extensive album catalog will rejoice in hearing that he has not limited his touring four-piece, including wife Britta Phillips, to recent material but rather turns back the clock for a fragile take on tracks from Galaxie 500 and his other classic band, Luna. Local dreamers HOTT MT and Drug Cabin share the stage for an evening of timeless instrumentation. —Britt Witt

Billy Hart Quartet

BLUE WHALE

Drummer Billy Hart has worked with genuine jazz legends for decades, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Shirley Horn, Wes Montgomery and Stan Getz, among many others. Hart has assembled his own quartet for a nationwide early-summer tour, which concludes with two nights at Little Tokyo's Blue Whale. Hart is joined here by a group that includes bassist Ben Street, former Palos Verdes saxophonist Mark Turner and the highly regarded pianist Ethan Iverson, best known for his work as a member of the Bad Plus. The quartet has recorded two albums for the ECM label over the past three years as it continues to showcase a major, multigenerational exchange of musical ideas. Also Friday, June 20. —Tom Meek


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