Music Picks: The Descendents, Stones Throw 15th Anniversary Show,, Princess Pangolin, Brian Setzer
Project Blowed 17th-Anniversary Tour
HOUSE OF BLUES
The local hip-hop collective Project Blowed celebrates 17 years of high-flying, freestyling rap with a loaded lineup of some of its most dangerous wordsmiths. Freestyle Fellowship — a virtual supergroup featuring Aceyalone, Self Jupiter, Myka 9 and P.E.A.C.E. — doesn't even need musical backing, sending out a nonstop avalanche of pure, improvised a cappella raps, with the words coming fast and rhythmically, the consonants bouncing off and striking each other like sparks. Flash Bang Grenada slams together the rapid-fire puzzle-box rhymes of Busdriver and Nocando into a frenetically brainy flow. Abstract Rude, another veteran of Project Blowed's wildly influential Good Life workshop, has a more seductively soulful groove, while the Visionaries' 2Mex expands his "Naive Melody" with a hazy dreaminess. Underground diva Medusa balances all that testosterone with her own confrontationally slinky declarations. —Falling James
Drake, J. Cole, Big Sean
There's a pecking order found within this gathering of hip-hop's heavily hyped young MCs. To best solve the formula, simply calculate each rhyme-slinger's ability to carve out his own following, distinct from his respective mentor. Drake, having just released his brilliant hip-hop noir Take Care, is clearly the top dog; he's on the cusp of entering hip-hop's upper echelon, where boss man Lil Wayne resides. Roc Nation's J. Cole, whose nomination for this year's Best New Artist Grammy Award was a surprise, knocked out a stellar debut this fall but still finds himself riding the coattails of main man Jay-Z despite Hov's rare acknowledgment of dude's skills. Lagging behind is Detroit's Big Sean, who landed a pop hit with the Chris Brown–featuring "My Last" but has yet to distance himself from muse Kanye West. —Dan Hyman
Talking music backstage at Club Nokia last month, Anthony Hamilton told me he slots Robin Thicke alongside Sade and Erykah Badu as folks who can be depended upon to deliver each time they release an album. He's right: Thicke's brand-new Love After War is the blue-eyed soul singer's fifth solid effort in a row — which doesn't mean it lacks for risk-taking. Indeed, "An Angel on Each Arm" and "I'm an Animal" rank among Thicke's rawest numbers yet, while the lush "Tears on My Tuxedo" contains some lyrics only a truly committed lover man could get away with. Onstage, Thicke has been giving himself over to his inner showboat of late, a tendency sure to be on display at tonight's gig, the final date of a brief U.S. tour. —Mikael Wood
Rachel Haden might be most often remembered for harmonizing with her sister Petra Haden in the beloved '90s alt-pop group That Dog, but, like Zelig, the local singer-bassist also has been at the center of a wide assortment of not-always-expected musical collaborations. She has sat behind the drums for Beck, dueted with Rivers Cuomo in Weezer and starred in Weezer spinoff The Rentals. The multi-instrumentalist also has toured with Todd Rundgren, played keyboards for Jimmy Eat World, traded jokes onstage with Neil Hamburger and gone country with her sisters Petra and Tanya in the Haden Triplets. When she's not making everyone else around her sound better, Haden occasionally deigns to headline her own shows, delivering her contemplative art-pop originals and inspired John Denver covers in a sweetly beguiling voice. —Falling James
A German hardcore band with "SS" in its name can conjure distasteful images, but in fact the elaborately Mohawked lads of SS Kaliert — though overtly antifascist and antiracist — are a rather apolitical lot. Sung in both German and English, their brawl-provoking blasts detail hypocrisy ("Talking") and disdain for authority ("A.C.A.B.") but appear chiefly concerned with the perennial punk themes of rejecting peer pressure and cherishing individuality ("Society's Victim," "You Make Me Insane"). On newbie SubZero, SSK deliver a better-performed and -produced take on the second-generation 1980s Brit punk of Discharge and Broken Bones: fast, frenetic and at times barging elbows with full-on street metal. Not tuneful yet never boring, SS Kaliert is a bruisingly authentic Kardashians-era reminder of why punk rock was so potent (and necessary) the first time around. —Paul Rogers
Larry Goldings Trio With Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart
Many a musician would love to have the career that Larry Goldings has had. As a young prodigy, he impressed Keith Jarrett, who granted him lessons, and now he's one of the most in-demand sidemen in the jazz world. He's recorded for pop artists such as Christina Aguilera, John Mayer, De La Soul, India.Arie and Norah Jones, not to mention having been chosen by the great James Taylor to accompany him as his "one-man band" for the past three years. Not only does Goldings play everything to perfection, he does so with a warm intensity of emotion and unmatched imagination. Goldings' own trio has been around for 23 years and 15 albums and is the best organ trio on the planet, with Peter Bernstein and Bill Stewart establishing the gold standard on guitar and drums, respectively. Also Sat. —Gary Fukushima
SOCIAL DISTORTION at Santa Monica Civic Center; RAY MANZAREK at Viper Room; X at the Music Box; BELLE BRIGADE at Satellite; OH LAND at El Rey Theatre; TEEBS at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts.
Stevie Wonder's House Full of Toys
The R&B legend is going big — and temporarily Canadian — for this year's edition of his annual holiday benefit concert, promising performances by two of today's biggest pop stars. But Drake (who solicited Wonder's services for his new Take Care) and Justin Bieber (who until recently could easily have been billed as Little Justin Bieber) won't be Wonder's only guests tonight. You'll also see Michael McDonald and Faith Evans, both in possession of more inspiration these days than they're generally credited with having; last year's Something About Faith is the rare album to talk compellingly about "security, serenity, stability," as one song puts it. Look forward, too, to Wonder himself, who never fails to muster a house full of enthusiasm, good cause or no. Steve Harvey hosts. —Mikael Wood
Eternally pushing boundaries, Tori Amos has embraced her classical background with her latest album, Night of Hunters, a compelling, classical song cycle based on composers such as Chopin, Bach and Brahms (whom Amos has described as "the Jimi Hendrix of their time"). Touring with a string quartet to augment her piano-centric show, Amos brings the challenging tunes to life, and she likely will put a new spin on fan favorites like "Hey Jupiter" and "Silent All These Years." If all this sounds a bit tame, let's not forget with whom we're dealing. The uber-talented songstress can handily command an audience with a perfectly executed lyrical attack and a flip of her fiery mane. Also Sun. —Laura Ferreiro
Brian Setzer Christmas Rocks! Extravaganza
There's no denying that Brian Setzer's holiday-themed shows are kitschy, but that's exactly the point. It's tough to argue that shiny suits, Santa hats, big brass and scantily clad backup singers aren't just what the doctor ordered to ring in the Christmas cheer. The immaculately coiffed Long Island boy, who rose to fame in the 1980s with his rockabilly outfit Stray Cats, has since made a name for himself fronting big bands and showcasing his considerable guitar chops. Now veterans of the holiday show circuit, Setzer and his orchestra have sold more than a million Christmas albums, putting their unique, jazzy spin on classics like "Jingle Bell Rock" and "White Christmas." Might as well spike the eggnog and guiltlessly enjoy this old-fashioned Christmas review. —Laura Ferreiro
Weingart, Phillips, Jones & Miller
THE BAKED POTATO
Ohio-born keyboardist Steve Weingart has been a regular in the touring band of guitarist Steve Lukather (Toto) for the past five years. Weingart's wife, Renee Jones, is a fine bassist, and a year ago she joined Lukather's band, giving the pair a chance to tour worldwide together. Simon Phillips is regarded as one of the world's great drummers — he currently holds the Toto chair, after past stints with Jeff Beck and The Who. Weingart and Phillips have toured together with their own band in Japan, adding uber-guitarist Mike Miller (ex–Chick Corea) to create some of the most interesting jazz fusion of the past decade. The four team tonight for the release of Weingart's and Jones' Dialogue. The evening should provide great music, as well as a chance to see Phillips up close and personal in an intimate club, rather than a giant arena. —Tom Meek
WALTER SMITH III QUINTET at the Blue Whale; ZIGGY MARLEY at Club Nokia; BATHS at El Rey Theatre; DAVID ARCHULETA at City National Grove of Anaheim; HER SPACE HOLIDAY at the Satellite.
The Descendents, The Dickies
SANTA MONICA CIVIC AUDITORIUM
In the late '70s and early '80s, as the original Hollywood punks gave way to the faster and louder suburban bands, The Descendents came up with their own variation on the genre. The Hermosa Beach wise guys married the new hardcore tempos with stubbornly poppy melodies and teen-centric lyrics about fast food ("Weinerschnitzel"), stupid grown-ups ("My Dad Sucks," "Parents"), middle-class aspirations ("Suburban Home"), escaping school/society/heartbreak ("Catalina") and even the occasional tragedy ("Jean Is Dead"). The Descendents' combination of angry punk guitars with giddily sarcastic slacker vocals directly inspired Blink-182, Green Day and a horde of sound-alike emo bands, albeit in a delayed, cross-generational chain reaction. But singer Milo Aukerman and founding drummer Bill Stevenson are finally back at it, without the late, underrated songwriter-guitarist Frank Navetta. The Dickies actually established the pop-punk template even earlier, but they continue to mix thrash and pop in a ruthless and distinctly inimitable, celebrity-savaging, Sammy Maudlin manner. —Falling James
A number of younger jazz drummers will tell you they got into jazz through the acclaimed jazz-funk trio Medeski, Martin and Wood. The Martin in that jazz firm, Billy (or, "illy B") has gone on to do many unique projects, such as his solo breakbeat albums, starting with Drop the Needle in 2001 and continuing on with the illy B Eats series. Also of note is his recent work with electronic crazy music person Ikue Mori on Iooi and his recent hip-hop project Intro 101. It's hard to downsize from a trio but here, Martin does just that, teaming with awesome Bay Area organist Wil Blades to make some duo magic. Be wary of the MMW fans, and bring a machete to hack through the dreadlocks. —Gary Fukushima
BEACH FOSSILS at Echo; VEX RUFFIN at Bootleg; GERALD WILSON ORCHESTRA at Catalina; WE CAME AS ROMANS at City National Grove of Anaheim.
Neverever, The Tyde, Dunes
Glasgow-to-L.A. emigres Neverever are couple Jihae and Wallace Meek, who've come to Hollywood to further zero in on the classic garage-y pop sound that made 2010's radiant Angelic Swells such a crunchy, glammy joy. Built as mini- symphonies, songs like "Young and Dumb" and "Teardrop Tattoo" are chock-full of gloriously thumping sock-hop pop, Ronettes riffarama, Slade-like sludge and huge dollops of glossy Blondie new wavery — sometimes all at the same time. It's a review and reanimation of the best the pop planet had on offer these past five decades. Veteran surfy-rock psychotica all-stars The Tyde dart into the fray; L.A. trio Dunes offer timeless teen angst in their wispy shrieky Siouxsie/Cocteau Twins trauma-rock tribulations. —John Payne
MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY at Satellite; KLEZMATICS at Walt Disney Concert Hall; JOHN DAVERSA SMALL BAND at Seven Grand.
Princess Pangolin, Erin Brazill
"Come home and bury your dreams next to mine," Princess Pangolin says invitingly on "Heatwave" under a clucking of acoustic strings before a wave of violins swells dramatically behind her. The local art-folkie also known as Julie Carpenter unveils charming, delicate baroque pop melodies with candy-cane viola adornments, which are deepened by adventurous, evocative lyrics. "Give me back my instincts," she coos serenely, folding her voice like a pair of wings under the sheets of violin that come fluttering down on "Chromatophore." There's something oddly affecting and out-of-time about the restrained way she blends stringed instruments with her cascading singing. San Francisco chanteuse Erin Brazill has a more traditional swing-pop sound, but it's infused with a languidly compelling romanticism. —Falling James
JOHN PIZZARELLI AND JESSICA MOLASKY at Walt Disney Concert Hall; RACHEL GOODRICH at Bootleg Bar; KATTISE BUCKINGHAM ODDSEMBLE at Blue Whale.
House of Blues
Common spends so much time existing in worlds outside music, it's easy to forget the definitive voice the man born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. brought to socially conscious hip-hop in the mid to late '90s. Perhaps it's because he was temporarily known as Obama's radical-thinking rapper buddy, or that he's forever trying his hand at something new. In the past two months alone, he's toured the country behind his first memoir, One Day It'll All Make Sense, while simultaneously witnessing AMC's Hell on Wheels (on which he stars as the recently freed slave Elam in Reconstructionist-era America) debut with impressive ratings. But thankfully, here he returns to his roots for a smallish hip-hop gig in support of his new LP, The Dreamer/The Believer, which drops a day earlier. —Dan Hyman
Guns N' Roses
Until a cease-and-desist letter arrives, let's just call this version of Guns N' Roses The Axl Rose Band, which currently includes guitarists DJ Ashba, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Richard Fortus; bassist Tommy Stinson; drummer Frank Ferrer; keyboardist Dizzy Reed; and vocalist Chris Pitman. Rose and company's last L.A. concert was 2006's KROQ Inland Invasion, where we were doinked in the head with a kamikaze beer cup during the miniriot that erupted, thanks to Rose's notorious tardiness. Sure, you can knock the guy on his kn-kn-knees for taking 15 years to create 2008's Chinese Democracy, and an additional two years to tour, but give Rose credit for still being able to shred, and for having helped create '80s hard rock's greatest album. Looking at previous set lists, nearly all of Appetite for Destruction is included, in addition to Use Your Illusion I and II, a couple of covers (The Who, AC/DC, The Dead Boys) and the requisite mind-numbing guitar and piano solos. —Siran Babayan
WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; RASTAFARIANS at the Echoplex; TOM RANIER TRIO at Vitello's.
Stones Throw 15th-Anniversary Show With Madlib, Mayer Hawthorne, DâM-FunK, Peanut Butter Wolf
Over its righteous 15 years, L.A.'s Stones Throw label has distilled a diverse yet distinctive aesthetic, where great black American music — hip-hop, soul, R&B, jazz — gets diced fresh, fun and freaky. It accommodates pioneering and pointed raps, songs and avant mixes by the likes of Madvillain, the late J. Dilla, MF Doom, J. Rocc, Aloe Blacc and Georgia Anne Muldrow, and has even found commonality with the demented free expression of chronic "outsider" savant Gary Wilson. Founder Peanut Butter Wolf celebrates the liberated and ever-funky state of mind that is his label's legacy, which has emerged in a time of otherwise commercially calculated horse poo. Stones Throw continues to break new creative dirt, too, as this show's lineup will most definitely prove all night. —John Payne
Iceland's Anna Mjöll grew up in one of her country's leading musical families, eventually representing Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest. She then joined the band of Julio Iglesias, touring worldwide before setting out on her own career as a jazz singer and songwriter. Mjöll has quietly built a following around L.A. over the past two years, becoming one of the only vocalists to be a regular at the classy Vibrato supper club. Mjöll's striking beauty and often-breathtaking dresses combine with singing talent that has recently drawn praise from jazz luminaries including George Duke, Don Heckman and Dave Weckl. Add Mjöll's penchant for offbeat humor and a running dialogue with the audience, and you might find yourself wondering how long it'll be before she's headlining somewhere in Las Vegas — Tom Jones is already a frequent guest at her shows in town. —Tom Meek
THE FLING, YUKON BLONDE at Echo; JOON LEE at the Blue Whale; NERO at the Music Box.