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Music Picks: Shuggie Otis, The Rolling Stones, Juvenile

Shuggie Otis
Shuggie Otis
PHOTO COURTESY OF B+ FOR MOCHILLA.COM

fri 4/26

L.A. Philharmonic with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Lionel Bringuier

WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL

A superbly balanced purveyor of intellect, charisma and fiery playing chops, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet offers fresh insights in this program of French composers. Tonight, Thibaudet treks through the melodious Orientalisms of Saint-Saëns' Fifth Piano Concerto ("Egyptian"), a stirring spray of the composer's elegant luster jacked up with jet-speed scales and arpeggios. The theme of the horrors of war colors Ravel's La Valse, a dense piece whose waltz rhythms swirl in harmony around portentous melodies and textures. Lionel Bringuier, resident conductor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, brings his singular brand of youthful vigor and smarts. Thibaudet and Bringuier bring a variety of other French programs Sat.-Sun., April 27-28. —John Payne

Medeski Martin & Wood

ROYCE HALL

More than 20 years ago, keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin formed a trio that quickly became one of the most successful in contemporary jazz. A 1995 performance with Phish established them as a jam band, and subsequent collaborations with guitarist John Scofield got them recognition in more traditional jazz circles. The group's playing style sometimes is referred to as "avant-groove," featuring elements of funk, hip-hop and extended improvisations. Tonight's Royce Hall show will feature one set of acoustic music, followed by one electric. MMW are in the middle of an extensive West Coast tour, so expect the band to be in fine form. —Tom Meek

sat 4/27

Various Cruelties

ECHOPLEX

Various Cruelties' peak moments (thus far) revolve around money-spending holidays. Their weepy track "If It Wasn't for You" served as the soundtrack for a Zales commercial around Christmas. An acoustic version of the song will do the same this Mother's Day. The British outfit is the project of Liam O'Donnell, whose congested voice recalls the Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner and The Kooks' Luke Pritchard in equal parts. Produced by Tony Hoffer (Beck, Phoenix, M83), their self-titled, self-released debut is indie soul informed by '90s Brit-pop bands, '50s doo-wop and '60s Motown. Various Cruelties' strongest moments are during sing-alongs like the layered harmonies of "Great Unknown," the Coldplay blueprint number "Chemicals" and the heart-tugging "Dry Your Tears." The combo performs as part of the seventh annual BritWeek. —Lily Moayeri

Shuggie Otis

EL REY THEATRE

Torment and virtuosic ability invariably make for an intensely vexatious music career: Just ask 59-year-old Shuggie Otis, a star-crossed prodigy and master of hit-and-run multi-instrumental genius. The very potent post-Hendrix, proto-Prince rocker developed an alluring sound in his teens but, apparently more focused on a challenging inner life than outward artistic expression, chucked a very swift and promising rise to stardom. (Hell, he even turned down an early-'70s offer to join The Rolling Stones). Shuggie's seductive style, limned with radiant, soulful California funk, salted with a deep blue streak and elevated by a progressive, modern rock & roll sensibility, was always burdened by the shadowy presence of his father, the influential R&B patriarch Johnny Otis. (The elder Otis, to insiders, was a controversial figure of formidable notoriety.) MIA for decades, the fact that Shuggie's current, sustained public re-emergence comes in the wake of Johnny's 2012 death is provocative indeed, but either way, this brilliant cat is finally out of the bag. —Jonny Whiteside

Paul van Dyk

AVALON

Venerable German DJ/producer Paul van Dyk has called electronic dance music "a political and diplomatic tool" that could be used for the cultivation of world peace. At this point, with daily headlines being a truly sad state of affairs, the sinewy trance beats and slick bass waves that have served as the foundation for van Dyk's musical and cultural relevancy for the past two decades seem as reasonable a solution to the challenges of modern existence as any other. Tonight is a rare club gig for van Dyk, a brand-unto-himself mega-DJ whose name typically appears at the top of festival lineups worldwide and who plays for an estimated 3 million people a year. The gig should pull a mixed crowd of old-school electronic music scenesters and the new-school club kiddies usually populating this Avaland club night. If van Dyk's spirit of diplomacy serves only to bridge the EDM generation gap on the dance floor, well, that's a good start. —Katie Bain

sun 4/28

Derde Verde

THE BOOTLEG

L.A. three-piece Derde Verde are just about to release their new EP, Let Me Be a Light, and the first track, "Tower," is the stormer — it's all noise and melody and then noise as melody, like something off Guided By Voice's Isolation Drills. (Which, as you'll recall, was part of their not-quite-so-lo-fi era.) And while Derde Verde don't so slow down as much as they open up on the rest of this release, that same fractured pop sensibility persists all the way until EP closer "I Still Want Someone" ends with a crescendo of guitar-mangling feedback that doesn't so much fade as evaporate. The spirits of bands like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Spoon are all at work here, but not always in the way you'd expect. It's nice to see a group putting some independence back into indie rock. —Chris Ziegler

Carla Olson

MCCABE'S GUITAR SHOP

She's got a voice like a clarion call, plays guitar like a mother, and — besides writing her own memorable blues-rock anthems — is one of the few people who can cover classics by Dylan and The Stones and truly make them her own. So why isn't Carla Olson headlining her own basketball arenas by now? She should have made it big with late-'70s power-pop band The Textones, especially after moving in a more soulfully rootsy direction when bandmate Kathy Valentine ran off to join The Go-Go's. But Olson has been even more impressive in her consistently remarkable solo career and notably empathic collaborations with The Byrds' Gene Clark and Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. Many of her interests and influences intersect at the crossroads of her new album of duets and covers, Have Harmony, Will Travel, where Olson is country enough to exchange tears with Juice Newton while also punk enough to rip it up with The Dictators' Scott Kempner. —Falling James

mon 4/29

Merx

THE SMELL

If dub spelunker Keith Hudson had gotten hold of synth-punks like Suicide or The Screamers, or if Chrome and PiL had been melted together by cosmic rays into one shrieking hunk of post-punk man-machine, not only would music history be far more fascinating but there'd also be a quick and easy shorthand for the music of Merx. Since none of that happened, however, this L.A.-area band — made up of members, tremblers, movers and shakers from The Pope, Bi-Polar Bear, The Spits and more — must exist in a realm of mystery, making albums that sound like they were recorded at an abandoned Soviet numbers station and proving that paranoia is less a state of mind and more a state of being. Some bands write songs for radio hits, but Merx make music for last known transmissions. —Chris Ziegler

tue 4/30

Masaki Batoh's Brain Pulse Music

THE ECHOPLEX

"Human beings lie, but their brain waves never lie." So says Masaki Batoh, whose "Brain Pulse Music" is a live installation and performance featuring his custom-built Brain Pulse Music machine, which uses electronic and musical processes to "reconcile the spirit and the body." Batoh is the frontman of Tokyo prog/psych/art-rock band Ghost, and an acupuncturist by trade, and his research into the bio-electric functions of the human brain was partially inspired by the after-effects of Japan's recent earthquake/nuclear meltdown. You can try this aural therapy at home by checking out Batoh's recent Brain Pulse Music album, which features additional songs based on traditional Japanese folk music. (Proceeds from the sales of the album directly aid the disaster victims through Japan Red Cross.) Brain Pulse Music is a powerful and genuinely healing experience — and couldn't we all use a little healing right about now? I think so. —John Payne

Marnie Stern, Qui

THE SATELLITE

Each Marnie Stern song sounds like a hundred record stores at once, so densely are the tracks packed with ideas. On her fourth album, The Chronicles of Marnia, the New York guitarist refines her unique form of bubble-gum prog, contrasting insane, finger-tapping flurries and loopy and looped layers of guitars with sweetly contrary vocals. "You don't need a sledgehammer to walk in my shoes," she advises cryptically on "Nothing Is Easy," as halos of light spiral around her head like caffeinated fireflies. The prophetically titled "You Don't Turn Down" slams with aggressively intricate grunge riffs before downshifting into gauzy pop interludes of ethereal cooing. With its flickering guitar signals and breezy vocals, "Still Moving" is a pop song for smart people with short attention spans. Speaking of short attention spans, arty noise-rockers Qui should provide an exalted distraction from boredom via the manic gyrations and gesticulations of frontman David Yow (The Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid). —Falling James

Absu

THE VEX

Just when occult metal seemed safely confined to Scandinavia's snowy forests, mysterious Texas trio Absu bring this dark art disturbingly close to home. After two decades of cult-classic releases, a slew of band members and a mid-aughts hiatus, drummer-vocalist Proscriptor McGovern is leading his latest lineup on its first full North American tour behind the ongoing trilogy of albums (2009's Absu, 2011's Abzu and the imminent Apsu). Hell, the black-clad lads even began the trek with a hard-to-picture record-store meet-and-greet. Absu assault their conceptual, breathless 'n' restless, black-hearted death metal with somber fury, plague-swarm guitars and blur-speed beats made sinister by McGovern's eternally damned poltergeist yap. Current performances are divided into a career-spanning first act and a second section devoted to the phase-two section of Absu's 2001 watershed album, Tara. —Paul Rogers

Cheap Trick

EL REY THEATRE

If there's anything wrong with Cheap Trick, it's that you want even more from them. (But isn't that the case with all the greats?) Few bands of the classic-rock generation still sound this good, so perhaps you can't blame Rockford, Ill.'s finest if they're on another nostalgia kick. In this case, they're celebrating the 35th anniversary of their breakthrough concert at Budokan with a run through that classic Tokyo set list in the El Rey's relatively intimate art deco ballroom. Although it hasn't been quite the same in recent years without dourly exacting drummer Bun E. Carlos— who's now a non-touring member of the group — Robin Zander still sings like a melodious hurricane, bassist Tom Petersson still adds some gritty glamour, and main songwriter Rick Nielsen still spazzes out on guitar like an electrocuted teenager rather than a slick, antiseptic professional. Cheap Trick are far more than an oldies band, although you wouldn't necessarily know it from recent set lists, which are tilted toward the usual early hits instead of the brilliant newer songs on albums like Rockford and the aptly titled Special One. —Falling James

wed 5/1

DTCPU

LOW END THEORY

DTCPU uses ... computers? Synthesizers? Remote microphones half-stuck in the mud where the jungle melts into the beach? Because it must take a lot to make fuzzy-at-the-edges soundscapes that suggest Sun Ra, Vangelis and Terry Riley all flying in formation across the opening credits of Bladerunner. And if that isn't an image to bring these kind of blissed-out instrumentals to vivid life, then maybe we can throw the giant floating head from Zardoz in there, too. Really, these are field recordings from another world, or maybe just another time, colliding the chirps and cheeps of the forest primeval with the cheeps and chirps of the 8-bit synthesizer. Maybe he named recent release a Plane just so people would understand — it's time to get high in the sky. —Chris Ziegler

thurs 5/2

Juvenile

TRU HOLLYWOOD

A native of NOLa's infamous Magnolia Projects, rapper and bounce music forerunner Juvenile rose to international hip-hop acclaim in 1998 with his first major-distributed release, 400 Degreez. The infectious, Mannie Fresh–produced "Back That Azz Up" peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1999, making Juve and Cash Money affiliates The Hot Boys internationally celebrated rap icons. In 2008, Juve's life was permanently changed by the murder of his 4-year-old daughter and her mother in their home. In 2012, the resilient star released his 10th studio album, Rejuvenation. Also an actor, he starred alongside Christopher Walken in 2013 action crime drama The Power of Few. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

fri 5/3

The Rolling Stones

STAPLES CENTER

It's easy to make fun of The Rolling Stones — a karaoke-addled Mick Jagger even got in on the act last season on Saturday Night Live — but the not-always-convenient truth is that Jagger and Keith Richards continue to write great songs, including the punchy new stiff-upper-lipper "Doom & Gloom." They may not always know the difference between a generic piece of fluff like "Streets of Love" and sublimely groovy slabs of rock like the 2005 obscurity "Under the Radar" and the surreally poetic blues wallow "Back of My Hand," but at least they're still taking chances, which is more than you can say about most indie-rock bands struggling to fill their sophomore albums. As great as the Stones can still be, however, they've never been quite as eloquently lyrical after wunderkind lead guitarist Mick Taylor impetuously quit the band in 1974 in a haze of drugs and a reported huff over songwriting credits. For a certain kind of Stones fan, the news that prodigal son Taylor is finally returning to the fold is much bigger than The Beatles ever getting back together. With his distinctively florid and fluid style, Taylor eviscerated "Midnight Rambler" at the Stones' 50th-anniversary shows in Europe and back East late last year. Let's hope that Jagger and Richards let Taylor ramble on much more lavishly at the L.A. kickoff of what might be the World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band's final tour. —Falling James


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