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Music Picks: Neil Innes, Korean Music Festival 8, Avi Buffalo, Lupe Fiasco, Coheed and Cambria

Let's do the "butt-dance" again: K-pop's Kara

FRIDAY/APRIL/30

L.A. VAMPIRES, YEKOO, DIVA, INCA ORE, PSYCHIC REALITY AT SYNCHRONICITY SPACE
It's something of a secret that Amanda Brown Pocahaunted singer and co-owner of Not Not Fun Records is a huge fan of L.A. beat champion Madlib. Her reputation thus far has been built on buzzing drone and lo-fi pop, and though rhythm figures heavily in Brown's work, the trip from her band's experimental rock to 'Lib's gritty hip-hop has been a long one indeed. Until, that is, the recent arrival of Brown's L.A. Vampires. This new project from the Eagle Rock denizen sports a lineup still shrouded in mystery we've heard everything from "solo project" to "local lady supergroup/choir" but its influences are far less enigmatic. Listen to the freshly leaked MP3 "What Is Woman?" and you'll hear bubbling beats, glitchy bits, crusty atmospherics and even sampled jazz flute. Brown's trademark haunting, hypnotic vocals are present as always, making for a wholly unique, completely unforeseen spin on the sounds coming from L.A.'s burgeoning beat scene. Bump up the bass, and this show could just as easily be taking place at Low End Theory. (Chris Martins)

NEIL INNES AT McCABE'S
The British songwriter Neil Innes is an international man of mystery with many fascinating musical disguises. In the semifictional late-'70s Beatles satire The Rutles, he portrayed the "smart" Rutle, Ron Nasty, opposite the cute one, Dirk McQuickly (who's perhaps better known as Monty Python's Eric Idle). Songs by the self-proclaimed Prefab Four, such as "Joe Public," "Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik" and the gorgeously shimmering "Let's Be Natural," were often — dare I say it? — more memorable than the Beatles classics they were based on. Innes is sometimes referred to as "the Seventh Python" because of his work with the comedy troupe, which included writing skits and composing absurdly brilliant tunes like "How Sweet to Be an Idiot" and the rudely wicked Bob Dylan parody "Protest Song" (which always begins with the mock-pompous introduction "I've suffered for my music. Now it's your turn"). As leader of the madcap jazz-rock combo the Bonzo Dog Band, Innes penned the whimsical 1968 single "I'm the Urban Spaceman" (produced by the original Dirk McQuickly, Paul McCartney) and co-wrote the song "Death Cab for Cutie," which was featured in the Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour and inspired the name of a certain indie-rock band from Bellingham. As Neil Innes, the singer-guitarist has composed numerous eclectic pop songs, which have been compiled in the excellent Recollections series and 2005's Works in Progress. The cleverly assembled career-spanning 2008 documentary The Seventh Python makes a strong case for Innes' genius, not just as a jokester but as a seriously underrated songwriter of great worth. (Falling James)

TOO $HORT AT THE KEY CLUB
At 43 a year older than Thom Yorke, for reference's sake Oakland rapper Too $hort might be expected to adopt a less morally reprehensible lyrical stance than the one that informed his 1987 breakthrough, Born to Mack. Surely this 5-foot-five-inch on-record pimp has exhausted the litany of metaphors that can refer to the act of slapping a bee-yatch? Not so. Standout track "Shittin' On 'Em," from 2007's Get Off the Stage, delivered this, um, gem: "I'm mean/I hit 'em with the closed fist." So while the act of monetarily supporting rap's original misogynist comes with its own set of ethical quandaries, know that $hort Dog is, indeed, a master of his craft. Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Eminem, E-40 and 50 Cent have all wet their whistles at that font. And though the lyrics haven't changed much in 20-odd years, Too $hort has adapted stylistically, experiencing a mild resurgence when the Bay Area's influential hyphy movement emerged in the mid-aughts. Also, J-Mo, Mone Wood Entertainment, Greedy Entertainment, GMan. (Chris Martins)

Also playing Friday: JOHN MAYALL at Brixton South Bay; REBECCA PIDGEON at Genghis Cohen; NITE JEWEL, SUGAR & GOLD & LUXXURY at the Echo; A DAY TO REMEMBER at the Wiltern; GROWING, BIPOLAR BEAR at Spaceland; THE SPILL CANVAS, AM TAXI at the Roxy; CAPITOL STEPS at California Institute of Technology; EVOLOVE at the Viper Room; ACES & EIGHTS at Whiskey A Go-Go; BROTHER SAL at Hotel Cafe; MURDER CITY DEVILS at Henry Fonda Theater; THE STONE COYOTES, ANDREW DEADMAN, BLAME SALLY at the Mint; THE ANTLERS, PHANTOGRAM at the Troubadour.

 

SATURDAY/MAY /1

NO AGE, GROWING, ERIC COPELAND AT EAGLE ROCK CENTER FOR THE ARTS
Anticipating the genres of No Jack Swing and the No Wave of British heavy metal, No Age hones an alchemy borne out of incredibly loud drums and ecstatically loud guitar. Not that these are necessarily bad things if you have a headache, you reach for aspirin or a pressure point. So too is it with the sonic emollient of No Age, which unveils its latest work mooted for an album scheduled later this year. It'll be the follow-up to last year's "Losing Feeling" 12-inch on Sub Pop and by "losing feeling," they mean your boggled cochlea, not emotional malaise. Growing, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Olympia band, celebrates a new album on Vice as well as a three-day stint at the 10th anniversary of All Tomorrow's Parties this December. To say that they're all over the map insults geography in general and that's rather the point with Growing. The band's like a morning hard-on in reverse with all the ear-ringing blood and conflicted emotions that that implies. Eric Copeland of Black Dice fills out the night, and by the end you'll be transmogrified from a 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound bench-360 triathlete into a bell-deafened hunchback in the best of all possible ways. (David Cotner)

BABY DEE AT McCABE'S
In a past life she was a circus performer and tree-cutter from Cleveland, but now Baby Dee is a star, a charismatic harp player, pianist, vaudevillian songwriter and utterly beguiling singer. Strutting the stage with great campy humor, she makes music that sounds like something from another time and place, and if her reference points are a bit arcane ("Palestrina, Victoria and Morales. The Glogaur Liederbuch. And the Bach organ preludes. Harry Ruby" ), they're also strangely familiar. A series of poems set to her own stately piano and chamber-ensemble accompaniment, Dee's new A Book of Songs for Anne Marie (Drag City) finds her delivering the song cycles and lieder of Schubert and Schumann with a touching purity and acutely tuned, bittersweet humor. She'll be accompanied this night by a small orchestra. "Find a sweetie and make mad love," she says. "Smoke lots of cigarettes and stop wearing underpants." (John Payne)

AVI BUFFALO AT THE TROUBADOUR
Avi Buffalo is the brainstorm of Long Beach's Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, who not so long ago was just another skateboarding kid with loose plans to form a band and, well, play some kind of music. A real determined sort of guy, he honed his mad guitar skills for 12 hours a day, and got pretty damn good, aided by a fairly intensive study of the old blues masters and rule-breaking cues from his hero, avant ax man Nels Cline. The upshot is, young Avi (he's, like, 18 years old) got himself that band, culled from his Milliken High School mates, who've possibly all graduated by now. Beyond such bio, however, lies a phenomenon that'll always be shrouded in mystery, like how a seemingly normal kid from the 'burbs becomes a virtual wellspring of near-perfectly crafted pop tunes. As evidenced by the band's recent eponymous debut on Sub Pop, this particular kid's superbly melodic and deftly harmonized songs, and his teen combo's bewilderingly expert execution of them, are aback-taking in their sweet sophistication. (John Payne)

KOREAN MUSIC FESTIVAL 8 AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
The South Korean pop industry is a strange beast. By embracing all of the showbiz elements we pretend to ignore about Western music, K-Pop outwardly seems like a shameless distillation of all that is evil and cartoonish about entertainment. Before stars are born, they're "trainees" under one corporation or another. Before that, they're usually child actors or mall models. If one such investment isn't making it big, he or she is repackaged in a new boy band or girl group. And the ultimate goal is threefold: Score advertising deals, perform on wacky variety hours and/or host one's own reality show on MTV Korea. So maybe it is evil, but it's downright fascinating, and you'll be hard-pressed to find more hive-mind bang for your pop-music buck than this festival, which features 12 artists who hail from that world. At the top of the bill are the ladies of Kara, who blew minds back in 2009 with their regionally famous "butt dance," and the young men of Beast, whose second MTV series kicks off in the fall. (Chris Martins)

Also playing Saturday: SPRING FESTIVAL OF WORLD MUSIC AND JAZZ at the Hammer Museum; CIRCLE JERKS at Fox Theater Pomona; PORTUGAL THE MAN at Space 15 Twenty; AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE TO DELLA REESE at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre; DEVIN THE DUDE at the Roxy; ANAT COHEN at Catalina Bar & Grill; THE PONIES, DISAPPEARS at Spaceland; NEEDTOBREATHE at El Rey; THE JOYCE KWON QUARTET at Cafe Metropol; MR. MISTER MIYAGI at Alex's Bar; THE VIBROMETERS, ANDREW BELLE, MASS FICTION at the Mint; THE 3 HEADS at Molly Malone's; THE NARWHAL PARTY, BASTIDAS at American Legion Post 206; PROSTITUTE MARYS, THE TRANSERS, FORK TAILED DEVILS at Que Sera; THE SLACKERS at the Glass House; CRAZY LEW at Viper Room; LUMINARIES at Dakota Music Lounge.

 

SUNDAY/MAY/2

LUPE FIASCO, B.O.B. AT HOUSE OF BLUES
After releasing two buzz-building LPs in rapid succession in 2006 and 2007, Lupe Fiasco has taken his time completing his third, which according to a banner ad on his MySpace is titled Lasers and is "coming soon." But that isn't to say the Chicago rapper hasn't been busy: Late last year he issued a typically paranoid Internet mixtape called Enemy of the State: A Love Storythat included rerubs of tunes by Radiohead and Lil Wayne, and in January he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro under the aegis of a humanitarian effort spearheaded by the arty electro-soul singer Kenna. Lupe's current trek is dubbed the Steppin' Lasers tour, so a preview of the new disc here seems like a safe bet. Definitely show up early for Atlanta-based B.o.B., whose winningly sappy "Nothin' on You" was at press time the No. 1 song in the country. Also Mon. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Sunday: LA SANTA CECILIA at Placita de Dolores; THE TEXAS TORNADOS, THEE RHYTHM KINGS, BIG MANNY, THE 44's at Nick's Taste of Texas; SOLID GOLD at Spaceland; TITLE TRACKS, VOXHAUL BROADCAST at the Echo; FLOBOTS, CHAMPAGNE CHAMPAGNE at the Key Club; CHRIS CORNELL at the Roxy; SCARS ON BROADWAY at the Troubadour; MAGNETO at Gibson Amphitheatre; AARON ROCHE & THE CHOIR AT YOUR DOOR at the Hotel Cafe; WINTER SOUNDS at Viper Room; JULIETA VENEGAS at Ventura Theatre; LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA at the Alex Theatre; SCOTT STAPP at Coldwater Canyon Park.

 

MONDAY/MAY/3

SWEETHEAD AT SPACELAND
Sweethead are kind of an all-star band that features Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, Plexi drummer Norm Block and bassist Eddie Nappi (the Mark Lanegan Band). Yet the member with the most potential star power might be the previously unknown singer Serrina Sims. The modelesque blonde front woman stalks the stage fearlessly as if she's been doing this her whole life, bumping and grinding and falling to her knees while Van Leeuwen buries her in a hail of jagged hard-rock riffs. Sweethead just released a self-titled full-length CD, which nicely fulfills the promise of their tantalizing 2008 debut EP, The Great Disruptors. Songs like "P.I.G." and "City of Dirt" are hard and heavy with a trace of stardust glitter, and they reveal a more restless intelligence than most of the rock careerists currently clotting the Sunset Strip. The quartet rip it up at a punk tempo on "Sinkhole International," and they trip out on weirdly melodic soundscapes like "The Other Side" and "Amazing Vanishing Conquest." Even stranger is the dreamy groove of "Traumatized and Dumb," where Sims swims languidly in the dark whirlpool of Van Leeuwen's swirling guitar. Taking a chance on Sweethead shouldn't cost you anything more than time, as the group begins a free weekly residency tonight. (Falling James)

Also playing Monday: LUPE FIASCO, B.o.B. at the House of Blues; LISA PAPINEAU at the Echo; THE HOLD STEADY at the Grammy Museum; BOBBY WERNER at the Mint; THE STANLEY BLACKS at Molly Malone's; BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE at the Henry Fonda; CONCERTO KOLN at Park Plaza Hotel.

 

TUESDAY/MAY/4

GREG LASWELL AT THE TROUBADOUR
This local singer-songwriter is a favorite of Hollywood music supervisors, who've licensed his atmospheric folk-rock tunes to underscore moments of emotional revelation on Grey's Anatomy, True Blood, The Hills and 90210. But don't let Laswell's success as a scene-setter convince you that his stuff isn't worthy of your full attention. On his brand-new Take a Bow — which includes guest spots from fellow prime-time regulars Ingrid Michaelson and Cary Brothers — Laswell tricks out his precisely crafted melodies with all kinds of ear-candy detail; songs like "In Front of Me" and the title track are recommended to anyone who wishes Elliott Smith had lived to take advantage of recent leaps in digital-recording technology. At the Troubadour Laswell will appear with his backing band and concentrate on new material. Ask nicely, though, and he may do his dreamy version of "This Woman's Work." (Mikael Wood)

COHEED AND CAMBRIA, TORCHE AT FOX THEATER POMONA
Look, I won't front: If I hadn't been told about it, it's unlikely I'd have known that Year of the Black Rainbow, the latest from Coheed and Cambria, serves as a prequel to the complicated sci-fi tale laid out across the New York emo-prog outfit's four previous full-lengths. (And now that I do know, I can't say I really care.) So consider it a testament to Coheed's flair for fist-pumping bubble-grunge jams that Rainbow still kind of rules. At Coachella earlier this month they kicked out their song "Welcome Home" with help from the USC marching band, and though a repeat performance seems improbable tonight, you should expect something nearly as triumphant. Sludge-metal openers Torche, from Miami, sound like Foo Fighters covering Sleep (or maybe vice versa); their upcoming split 10-inch with Japan's Boris is exceedingly awesome. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Tuesday: THE KACEY CUBERO BAND at the Mint; DANIEL FRANCIS DOYLE, I.E., RARE GROOVES at the Smell; HUCK, JUSTINE BENNETT at the Hotel Cafe; THE MOOG at the Viper Room; REBELUTION, ZION I, TRIBAL SEEDS at House of Blues; JOE SIB, CHRIS SHIFLETT at Largo at the Coronet; LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC NEW MUSIC GROUP at Disney Hall.

 

WEDNESDAY/MAY/5

SHEILA E & THE ESCOVEDO FAMILY AT THE CONGA ROOM
Talk about a gene pool. It's difficult to think of the Escovedo family as a single unit, since the get-around clan is so pervasively talented and well-connected that their musical reach verges on the monopolistic. After all, their collective roster of achievement has made an impact on virtually every type of North American music salsa, Latin jazz, pop, soul, rock & roll, even punk. And none of this is exactly half-baked: Percussion patriarch Pete, who got his start (with hermano Coke Escovedo) in San Francisco jazz clubs circa 1960, distinguished himself as a spearhead who fused salsa and Latin jazz, moved on to a long stint with Santana (at their mid-'70s peak) and subsequently enhanced the shows and records of innumerable luminaries (Barry White, Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, Al Jarreau, etc.). Daughter Sheila E, of course, is the renowned timbales temptress who collaborated with Prince on his breakout album, Purple Rain, and later hit the road as his musical director, also managing to jolt a few hits of her own onto the pop chart ("The Glamorous Life," "A Love Bizarre"). History aside, serious alchemy occurs when you get 'em all together, and this Conga de Mayo special is certain to provide mesmerizing wall-to-wall rhythmic explorations, each meticulously taken to undreamt-of expressive and arousing heights. (Jonny Whiteside)

"PARTY FOR BETTY" WITH JACQUELINE BOBAK, STUART FOX, ULRICH KRIEGER, JOHN SCHNEIDER'S PARTCH ENSEMBLE, MARK TRAYLE AT REDCAT
The heroic late philanthropist, photographer and writer Betty Freeman was the major advocate for contemporary classical music in the second half of the 20th century. Her support through more than 450 grants and commissions for new, untested music by the likes of Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Harry Partch and Steve Reich, among many other giants, made it possible for innovative, challenging new music to not only come into being but to flourish and ultimately revolutionize the world of music at large. In her will, Freeman requested that no funeral be held, but that a party be thrown in her memory, thus tonight, a heavy-hitting crew of new-music stalwarts including Jacqueline Bobak, Stuart Fox, Ulrich Krieger, Mark Trayle and John Schneider's awesome ensemble Partch perform a repertoire featuring historic works (many commissioned by Freeman) by Cage, Harrison, Partch, Reich, James Tenney and others. (See Go LA.) (John Payne)

Also playing Wednesday: "A REVOLUTIONARY CINCO DE MAYO HIP-HOP EVENT" at Daydream Republic; THE HOLD STEADY at El Rey; DOSH at the Echo; FANTASTICAS BASTIDAS, JUAN THE MANNEQUIN, TRON, HELLO MY NAME IS RED at the Smell; PACHA MASSIVE at Spaceland; SONS OF THE LAWLESS at Dakota Music Lounge; TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB, FUNERAL PARTY at the Troubadour; WIZ KHALIFA at the Glass House; REBELUTION, ZION I, TRIBAL SEEDS at House of Blues.

 

THURSDAY/MAY/6

THE HEAD CAT AT THE KEY CLUB
In the lurid pantheon of hard-rock demonology, few can lay claim to the degree of supremacy that venerable Motörhead frontman Lemmy long ago achieved. His sheer mad-dog authenticity, hyperaggressive bass thumping and broad, throaty vocal attack carry an appeal that's as difficult to adequately describe as it is to resist. And, while Lemmy is the last guy one would expect to find lurking in the rockabilly ghetto, that's precisely where he'll be tonight, throwing down the drastic dusties as leader of the Head Cat. Working with former Stray Cats trapsman Slim Jim Phantom and the unbelievably proficient guitar titan Danny B Harvey, Lemmy will let fly with numbers from Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Carl Perkins and beyond. Put over with all of his characteristic volcanic momentum and a tangible sense of deep-rooted affection for the material, the Head Cat delves into rock & roll's infancy with boundless passion and a peculiar perspective that reveals much about both the music itself and Lemmy's own self-perception. Considering his part in rock & roll's ongoing artistic life, that's a hell of a sociocultural sweep, one to which he'll doubtless do severe, steely justice. (Jonny Whiteside)

CARLOS VARELA AT THE ECHOPLEX
He's been called Havana's Bob Dylan, and with good reason. Carlos Varela, 47, has a long-running reputation for speaking the truth through song. Often accompanied by nothing more than his guitar, Varela hails from the Nueva Trova tradition, a folk movement that has its roots in the Cuban Revolution. Socialism, racism, colonialism and sexism were standard subjects for the movement's original troubadours, and Varela, who got his start in the '80s, has carried that torch into the new millennium, so much so, that the Bush administration denied him a visa to play here in 2004. Obama's plans to patch things up with Cuba may be moving at a snail's pace, but at least he's got the music part right (Kool and the Gang played the island in December). And of course, with music comes the message. When Varela arrived late last year, his first stop was Washington, where he met with a handful of legislators and hosted a jam session in the House Budget Committee meeting room. (Chris Martins)

Also playing Thursday: PAQUITA LA DEL BARRIO at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino; T.S.O.L. at Air Conditioned Lounge; CANNIBAL CORPSE at House of Blues; GREEN RIVER ORDINANCE at El Rey; SPINDRIFT, NURSES, MAGIC MIRROR at the Echo; SPIRIT VINE, HOCUS POCUS at Spaceland; SIMON CURTIS at the Roxy; FISHBONE at Brixton South Bay; THESE HANDSOME DEVILS at El Cid; KEN WILL MORTON at Harvelle's; THE GIMME 5'S at Liquid Kitty; THE STANTON MOORE TRIO & ANDERS OSBORNE at the Mint; LADY SINATRA, BARCELONA, THE GLORY STOMPERS at the Viper Room; RY CUMING at the Hotel Cafe; WIZ KHALIFA at El Rey.

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