Balkan Beat Box
L.A. should have no problem embracing Balkan Beat Box, whose polyglot posi-vibes approach to songcraft evokes hometown heroes Ozomatli. BBB was started by a pair of Israel-born New Yorkers, Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat, who similarly fuse their own musical traditions with contemporary strains of hip-hop and dub, thus shrugging off the damning "world music" yoke while simultaneously offering a living tribute to international harmony. Klezmer brass burps, African rhythms rattle, beats break and synthesizers squawk on the band's new album, Give, while rapper-singer Tomer Yosef keeps the energy high with lyrics designed to stoke partygoer and politico alike. Take "Enemy in Economy," for instance: A genuinely upbeat chant — "Welcome to the U.S.A./We hope you have a wonderful day" — is followed by a ripping treatise on ethnic profiling. Time for a new riot on the Sunset Strip? —Chris Martins
J.D. McPherson, Omar and the Stringpoppers
Perhaps a kindred spirit for L.A.'s unflagging rock & roll & R&B & rockabilly label Wild is J.D. McPherson, who blasted out of Oklahoma in 2010 with "North Side Gal" with an all-analog band and a bad-boy-heart-of-gold voice like Dion back when he'd tear open his shirt to show 'em the "Rosie" on his chest. He's in the sweet spot of '56, with plenty of smooth but a few scars, too. Wild's engineer Omar Romero — the miracle man in the back of the shack making beers and tube amps sound immortal — will rally his Stringpoppers for their own set of no-fuckin'-around rock & roll. Plenty of good things have been (and should be) said about Wild's Luis and Gizzelle, but those who sleep on Omar sleep unfulfilled and uneasily. —Chris Ziegler
BOW WOW at National City Grove of Anaheim; STEEL MAGNOLIA at Club Nokia; FREESTYLE EXPLOSION at Gibson Amphitheater; YOUTH OF TODAY, GORILLA BISCUITS at Glass House (Pomona); MAPS & ATLASES at Troubadour; THE MARROW at Origami Vinyl; GORDON GOODWIN BIG PHAT BAND at Vitello's; ERNIE WATTS at LACMA; HELIOS CREED at the Echoplex.
There are a lot of fine blues divas belting it out today, but there's no one quite like Lawrence Lebo. For one thing, the L.A. singer writes most of her own songs, which sound seamless next to the occasional classic covers she pulls out of her deep bag of tricks. For another thing, she's not a slavish revivalist satisfied to merely relive the past. "Lawrence's Working Girl Blues," from her excellent 2010 album, Don't Call Her Larry, Volume 3: American Roots, is a wise and cheeky answer to Three 6 Mafia's infamous "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," as Lebo, refreshingly, sings from the prostitute's point of view instead of the pimp's. She reveals her sentimental and romantic side in her charming recent single, "Happy Anniversary, Baby," a valentine to her bassist-husband, Denny Croy, that celebrates their quarter-century of marriage. Whether she's backed by a full band or croons with Croy in smaller settings, Lebo is a masterful song stylist, infusing her bluesy lamentations with a sassy sense of swing and a playfully jazzy sophistication. —Falling James
Van Halen, Kool & the Gang
After decades of fitful attempts, guitarist Eddie Van Halen has finally found a way to peacefully coexist with singer David Lee Roth long enough for both of them to fill a fleet of armored trucks with millions in cash, on the latest Van Halen reunion tour. Why now? Why not? "I don't feel tardy," as Roth irreverently put it on 1984's "Hot for Teacher." The reunion is ostensibly an excuse to flog A Different Kind of Truth, the quartet's new comeback CD, which only intermittently evokes the young-&-dumb anthems from Van Halen's late-'70s prime. Most fans will go for nostalgic reasons — to see Eddie erupt in one of his trademark flurries of pyrotechnic wankery while David Lee attempts to navigate Spinal Tap's "thin line between clever and stupid" on raging ditties like "Everybody Wants Some." But you better catch 'em while you can — the second half of this tour was suddenly amputated for vague reasons. Also at the Honda Center, Tues. —Falling James
Cameron Stallones and his band, Sun Araw, make the music of the ancient future: endless, bottomless, electronic and primal, with echo and noise chopping through the kind of waves of bass of which half-remembered legends tell. Recent collab with local controller M. Geddes Gengras and Jamaica's titanic Congos made for an EP of staggering purity — the kind of rejuvenating heat and light reported only by visionaries and close encounterers of the second kind — but the Araw discography unfolds its own complex universe somewhere between Lee "Scratch" Perry, Julian Cope and Jack Kirby. Stallones is an explorer generally but a spelunker specifically, the kind of musician who welcomes a chance to walk alone into the undiscovered dark. Some are born deep, some achieve deepness, and some beatifically welcome the deepness as it blooms around them. —Chris Ziegler
Alan Pasqua Trio
Pianist Alan Pasqua first came to prominence in the 1970s as a member of the late drummer Tony Williams' highly regarded New Lifetime band. Pasqua came to L.A. shortly thereafter and began touring with major rock and pop acts such as Bob Dylan and Santana, as well as doing studio and soundtrack work, including Adam Sandler's film The Waterboy. He also began teaching at USC, rising to become chairman of the Trojans' jazz studies program. More than a decade ago, he joined with superstar drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Dave Carpenter in a trio that in 2008 received a Grammy nomination for its album Standards. After Carpenter's untimely death that same year, the trio eventually re-formed with bassist Darek Oles, continuing to showcase the considerable composing and arranging skills of both Pasqua and Erskine. —Tom Meek
JACKSON BROWNE at the Orpheum; GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW, DUDLEY PERKINS at Key Club; COCOROSIE at Luckman Fine Arts Center; BRANDON FIELDS at the Baked Potato.
Convincingly lacing the visceral thrust of brutal guitars with electronica's escapist tones and booty-movin' beats has become one of rock's more elusive alchemies. Though more metal than trance (and despite their screamo-requisite wing-haired façade), San Diego's Casino Madrid might be close to a genre-bending "eureka!" moment in a post-hardcore scene just gasping for one. The 808-mated "Robots" wanders from rave-ready head trip into Lord of the Rings–y battle anthem. The multivoiced "4:42 Reminds Me of You" delivers an album's worth of gateway-to-hell gurgling, Auto-Tune–y "cleans" and belt-fed kick drums with a demonic spite matched only by its sheer restless craft. If Casino Madrid have arrived too late in a genre already doomed by mimicry, then metalcore saved some of its best for last. —Paul Rogers
Eagles of Death Metal
It's been many years since Van Halen pulled a hissy fit when introduced to Spinal Tap at an '80s awards show. (Apparently, the comedians' mildly wicked parody of heavy metal hit a little too close to home for several of the surprisingly thin-skinned members of Van Halen.) Nowadays, such a culture clash would be unimaginable, as many modern metal bands come fully equipped with a built-in sense of irony and sarcasm, obliterating the need for outside criticism and imitation. Chief among these groups are Eagles of Death Metal, who are, of course, a "joke" band with their zippy odes to tight pants, cherry cola and the mean ol' devil. Despite their name, EODM rarely sound like a death-metal combo, and breezy broadsides like "I Want You So Hard" are more punk rock in spirit than dogmatically metallic. Still, the jokes are only funny when the tunes are also so stubbornly catchy. —Falling James
DORIAN WOOD, NOAH & MEGAFAUNA at Hotel Café; DREDG at the Roxy; BALLERINA BLACK, PEELING GREY, FLAAMINGOS at the Echo; CAROL WELSMAN at Alvas Showroom.
Jonneine Zapata, Darin Bennett & the Requiem
Few performers are as intense as Jonneine Zapata. The local singer doesn't sing songs so much as she casts spells. Her music can't be contained in neat, three-minute pop songs. Instead, her sprawling, somber ballads need time to unwind, building momentum slowly as she croons with a powerfully engrossing, bluesy yearning. Holding her microphone like it's a gun, she's a captivating presence as she stalks the stage restlessly, gazing over the audience with a shell-shocked, thousand-yard stare. Every Monday in June, Zapata is billed here with Darin Bennett & the Requiem, who stir up soulfully stormy rambles like "Blow, Wind, Blow" and "Dead Where I Stand." Bennett's tunes are flecked with traces of Americana and the blues, and he howls in a craggy voice that sometimes evokes Tom Waits. —Falling James
JJAMZ at the Satellite; TOM SCOTT & THE CALIFORNIA EXPRESS at Vitello's.
The Tallest Man on Earth
Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson has toured North America with both Bon Iver and that band's S. Carey, and you can hear a bit of what might be their influence on There's No Leaving Now, Matsson's brand-new album as The Tallest Man on Earth. Streaked with keys and lap steel (if not quite the squishy, soft-rock stylings of last year's Bon Iver), it presents a slightly more expansive sound than the stripped-down, early-Dylan approach Matsson took on previous Tallest Man records. Tonight he plays a reserved-seating gig at the Wiltern, which we must admit is a much larger room than we'd expect to find Matsson in at this point. Did we miss where he hooked up with Flo Rida or something? —Mikael Wood
NITE JEWEL at the Echo; SHAWN COLVIN at El Rey Theatre; COLLECTIVE SOUL at House of Blues.
Though Jimmy Tamborello brushed up against the mainstream when he teamed up with Ben Gibbard as the Postal Service, he's kept his head down for the majority of his rich and prolific career. His work in the mid-'90s (while he was also KXLU's music director) established Dntel as a pioneering name in glitch and electronica and led to the 2001 full-length classic Life Is Full of Possibilities, which was gilded on its 10th anniversary via a remastered Sub Pop reissue. He has a new LP out now, Aimlessness, a lushly composed collection of songs that fuses Tamborello's lifelong love of Eno atmospherics with the dark pulse of deep house and the warm, experimental swirl of the Low End Theory tribe. Guesting on moody album highlight "Still" is this show's opener, Baths. Arrive early, as the Chatsworth-hailing beat-genius and songbird is expected to test out new material. —Chris Martins
Tabloid notoriety alone won't pay the rent (just ask the Octomom). So after her much-publicized plastic surgery and prison time (12 months for conspiracy and perjury), Lil' Kim is massively motivated to re-establish rap credibility. Having kept a surprisingly low musical profile since being released from the slammer six years ago, the ex–Junior M.A.F.I.A. member needs to remind us why she was famous in the first place — for being the baddest, bawdiest MC to ever stagger in stilettos. In contrast to the android ear candy of her recent "If You Love Me" Valentine's ditty, Kim's subsequent Young Jeezy collab, "Keys to the City," is a menacing, vengeful monument to self-aggrandizement. If her bitterness and bravado find voice in engaging rhymes and rhythms, this self-styled "Queen Bitch" may once again approach the throne. —Paul Rogers
JACKIE EVANCHO at the Orpheum; PHANTOM PLANET at Troubadour.
He's not the first guy to rap about food (that distinction most likely belongs to the Fat Boys, or maybe Weird Al), but the Queens-born Action Bronson is pretty much the only dude who can make snacking on schnitzel seem sexy, and baking banana bread sound like a euphemistic beat-down. The outsize Albanian-American rapper began cooking at his father's restaurant as a child and eventually enrolled in culinary school, but he ultimately chose to serve (metaphorically) opposing emcees instead of (literally) foodies. This is to our benefit, as the appetite for the man's Ghostface Killah–evoking raps appears boundless thus far. After a pair of LPs exposed the world to his lyrical heft last year, Action aims to make good on his nom de plume by dropping three collaborative albums in 2012, including one produced by L.A.'s own star beatsmith The Alchemist. —Chris Martins
The punk-rock band X are a frustrating contradiction these days. When they burst out of the Hollywood scene in the late 1970s, their "Unheard Music" and songs of "Sex & Dying in High Society" stood in starkly bloody and palpably pulpy contrast to the easy-listening mush of groups like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, who literally monopolized the airwaves back then. X were anything but nostalgic, and, although they still retain their classic, original lineup and continue to perform live with much of the desperate intensity and impassioned fervor of the early days, leaders John Doe and Exene Cervenka seem utterly uninterested in playing new songs. This is pretty ironic considering that each has separately released a flood of solo albums in the past few years, with Doe finding newfound relevance and more memorable melodies on recent CDs like Keeper, Country Club and 2007's A Year in the Wilderness than on his generally dozy earlier solo projects. —Falling James
Dogged by the record industry on more than one occasion, this L.A.-based neo-gangsta rapper (a native of Gary, Ind.) has kept his name in circulation lately via some unexpected collaborations. Last year, Gibbs showed up on a remix of "Bad Things" by New York indie-pop outfit Cults, and he's currently featured on ZZ Ward's "Criminal," which samples Gibbs's own 2010 cut "Oil Money." You might hear versions of those tunes tonight, though a safer bet is probably stuff from his Cold Day in Hell mixtape or from Shame, an upcoming collaborative EP (Gibbs' second) with Madlib that reportedly prefigures a full-length due out later this year. Maybe the producer will be one of Gibbs' promised special guests here? —Mikael Wood
The Resonars, Toys That Kill
Everybody loves calling the Resonars' Matt Rendon some kind of "best-kept secret" — he plays everything, he does everything, he records everything, he is everything — but in this case, what else can you do? For practically all recorded time, Tucson's Rendon has been one-manning the kind of fantastically detailed psych-pop of the Byrds, the Hollies, the Move and maybe the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, and it sounds like the best thing 100 moptops from 1966 ever could have hoped to do in their lives. Tireless support from Anaheim's Burger grants the world vital recent Resonars LPs, This Evil Drone and the reissued Bright and Dark, and this rare live show in Long Beach. Pedro's Toys That Kill do Thin Lizzy like they were actually the Buzzcocks, or maybe the other way around. Either option: guitars! —Chris Ziegler
Harry Partch's Bitter Music
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The composer, musical philosopher, hobo and inventor Harry Partch (1901-1974) was an anti-establishment autodidact whose chief contribution to the contemporary canon was his defiant smashing of the Western 12-tone musical scale. His own 43-tone scale shaped the framework for a multitude of pieces performed on wonderfully strange percussive and stringed contraptions graced with names like Cloud Chamber Bowls, Blow Boy, the Harmonic Canon, Boo, the Marimba Eroica and Spoils of War. Partch spent a few Depression-era years riding the rails, keeping a journal with pen-and-ink illustrations and photographs from his scrapbooks. Tonight's event marks the release of the first complete recording of Bitter Music, based on the journal, in a multimedia presentation that includes a recently unearthed 1969 interview with Partch and a performance of the long-lost 1942 version of Barstow. —John Payne
REBIRTH BRASS BAND at the Mint; ACE HOOD at Key Club; BOB MINTZER BIG BAND at Vitello's.