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Monday, June 24
Can millions of Justin Bieber fans be wrong? Yes! But the point is, those panting hordes exist; they're not going away (not just yet, anyway), and neither is The, uh, Man himself: Justin Bieber! Listen, there have always been and will always be pop stars, no matter how much you want to piss and moan about it, and J.B., aka The Bieb, is in fact a classic, that partly manufactured/part genuinely talented kid who, by a lot of hard work and a wee bit of luck, now finds himself squatting right on top of the whole gosh darn world. On the plus side, there are far worse role models: Dude's not much of a sexist (his songs seem adequately free of references to beeyotches 'n' ho's), plus he's got some pretty suave dance moves, he can hit the high notes, and his new stage extravaganza gets you your money's worth with colossal dumpings of very, very special effects. The little girls (and boys) understand, totally. --John Payne
Influenced by the likes of Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Tupac, Australian-born femcee Iggy Azalea began honing her craft soon after relocating to Miami and Atlanta. In a 2012 interview with The Pop Manifesto, the Island Def Jam rap sensation explained: "I lived in the South for five years. ... The people who taught me to rap are all from the South, and so was the music I had listened to as a teen." At 22 years old, the 5-foot-10 glamazon is the CEO of hair-export company Far East Tresses and is currently under contract with Wilhelmina Models. Her highly anticipated debut, The New Classic, features appearances by Rihanna and is executive produced by longtime mentor T.I.
--Jacqueline Michael Whatley
Tuesday, June 25
FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH
As a collaborative project featuring members of Le Butcherettes and The Mars Volta, El Paso quartet Bosnian Rainbows often exceeds the limitations of those earlier groups. Rising from the ashes of latter-day punks At the Drive-In, the more commercially hard-rocking Mars Volta dazzled fans with tangled, prog-inspired guitar noodling, but the songs weren't memorably structured, and live performances often degenerated into random wankfests and endless jams that were probably more fun to play than to actually listen to. Guadalajara's Butcherettes were far more interesting, with riot grrl-inspired singer Teri Gender Bender emerging as a fearlessly provocative presence, but the duo format often left them sounding thin onstage. With Bosnian Rainbows, you get the best of both worlds, as Gender Bender adds much-needed vocal melodicism and anti-sexist lyrics to match Omar Rodríguez-López's frequent flights on guitar. There's still a tendency to preach rather than show, and these neo-Bosnians are at their best when they stick to dreamy songs like "Turtle Neck," which have actual hooks mixed in with artfully spacey post-punk tangents. --Falling James
EL REY THEATRE
With all due apologies to Mozart, Henry Mancini and The Chantays, has there ever been a cooler piece of instrumental music than "Green Onions" by Booker T. & the M.G.'s? The slinky, strutting track rides a simple blues pattern, but Steve Cropper's curt smacks of guitar and Booker T. Jones' propulsive, glowing Hammond B-3 organ elevated the 1962 track into something eternal. Booker T. has hardly looked back since. He's written or co-written classic songs ("Born Under a Bad Sign," "I Love You More Than Words Can Say"), produced classic albums (Willie Nelson's Stardust) and played with some pretty classic people (Otis Redding, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Bill Withers, Neil Young, Elton John). The stellar interplay continues on Booker T.'s latest album, Sound the Alarm, where Mr. Jones feints and jabs with the likes of Anthony Hamilton, Estelle and Gary Clark Jr. The title track follows a funky bass and a sparkling guitar riff that sounds straight outta Mali, as Booker T. stacks his Stax Records return with soulful layers of vocals from guest star Mayer Hawthorne and his own festive blasts of gospel organ. --Falling James
Wednesday, June 26
Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters
L.A. may not be the mystic beauty it once was to a 20-year-old Robert Plant, but that hasn't stopped the icon from returning to the City of Angels with his newest band, The Sensational Space Shifters. Comprised of members from his previous project, The Strange Sensation, Plant is particularly enthusiastic about the new act, telling L.A. Weekly earlier this month, "I'm able to get the 'R.P.' voice back out there again." After working in Nashville and collaborating with Allison Krauss and Band of Joy, Plant swings back to his original fancy for raw American blues with the Space Shifters. Drawing from classic blues and world music, the group incorporates everything from low-pitched bass quarter notes to fiddles, banjos and swirling reverb. On the forefront, Plant's classic falsetto is simultaneously poignant, grating and soothing. Three decades after his original group broke up, Plant hasn't lost the ability to encompass listeners with a 360-degree hug of sound, which will make you feel like you're being shoved against the stage no matter where your seat happens to be in the Shrine. --Britt Witt
THE FONDA THEATRE
The gospel-informed veteran singer Mavis Staples, one of America's greatest soul survivors, never fails to flabbergast. With her singular style, that slinky, sanctified, oft-minor-keyed brand of funk dignity (first proposed and codified by brilliant forebear Pops Staples in the mid-20th century), Mavis' mixture of flawless technique, experiential verve and illimitable talent can take any song and favor it with an arresting and unforgettable vocal performance. That gift has been coming in quite handy of late, as her newly released Just One Vine album -- Staples' second collaboration with producer-accompanist and certifiably overrated ofay Jeff Tweedy -- re-emphasizes. Despite Tweedy's signature lack of voltage, Staples, of course, prevails -- and rest assured that anytime she hits the bandstand, a positively electrifying earful awaits. --Jonny Whiteside
See also: Swing Low, Sweet Mavis
One of Cornell Campbell's biggest reggae songs in the '70s was "The Gorgon," which makes perfect sense -- Campbell's a mythic figure all his own, too. He cut his share of songs at Coxsone Dodd's famed Studio One, working on some recordings before he was even 12 years old, but it was with Jamaican producer Bunny Lee that he'd put down some of his most enduring work (including, of course, the full-length The Gorgon). Campbell later would explain that his remarkably agile falsetto was completely natural, and that's certainly how he sang on tracks like "I Shall Not Remove," where his voice seems as effortless as a bird in flight. Here he'll be fronting a band led by Fully Fullwood, legendary Jamaican session bassist and a perfect match for Campbell's own classics. --Chris Ziegler
Thursday, June 27
AM and Shawn Lee
Shawn Lee is less a musician than a machine -- the kind of polymath who could be a whole band and maybe even a whole label by himself. (And if you want to count the number of funky, poppy, hip-hoppy albums he's released with Costa Mesa's noted Ubiquity Records, you'll see that's no exaggeration.) A few years back, however, Lee hooked up with L.A.'s AM, a kindred spirit if there ever was one. Their latest, La Musique Numerique, is a retro-future riff on the semi-anonymous Euro soundtrack disco of the '70s and '80s, and if people are saying it's the next best thing to Daft Punk, that's because AM and Shawn Lee probably got the same ultra-rare 12-inches those guys do. Definitely an album destined to soundtrack a lot of summer nights. --Chris Ziegler
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