The Five Best Concerts in L.A. This Weekend
D'Angelo -- See Sunday
Friday, September 7
Fresh & Onlys
San Francisco's Fresh & Onlys have always been a formidable little band, but sometimes it seems they get a little squished between local-to-them indie giants like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. However, let us tell you -- this new album Long Slow Dance has got a heart bigger than anybody else. Echo and the Bunnymen and Cure comparisons aren't wrong, but songs like the title track or "Executioner's Song" hit that same Southern Hemisphere sense of sorrow as Australia's Go-Betweens or The Triffids, the once and forever kings of music that makes you feel worse and better at the same time. These are able, artful songs -- you could even call them poetry, but they make too much damn sense. Some people write hits, but the Fresh & Onlys write hurts. --Chris Ziegler
Saturday, September 8
It seems like every week, this Echo Park club is at the center of some sprawling festival or another. Two weeks ago, the Echoplex hosted the Echo Park Rising festival, and this afternoon the club presents Echoes West. The two festivals couldn't be more stylistically different. Whereas Echo Park Rising focused mainly on indie-pop bands, Echoes West is a louder, heavier affair featuring hard-rock groups like Washington, D.C.'s Dead Meadow, whose rambling and, yes, sprawling opuses move from hazy trippiness into full-on stoner-rock euphoria. Local quintet Spindrift blends spaghetti Western guitars and windswept desert soundscapes with dreamily haunting vocals, while former Spacemen 3 cat Sterling Roswell transforms '60s psychedelia into something more modern -- both noisier and stranger. There's even a flashback from the current lineup of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, although their 1967 hit, "Incense & Peppermints," was closer to bubblegum pop than genuine psychedelia. --Falling James
L.A. native Azar Lawrence was a jazz phenom, joining the band of John Coltrane percussionist Elvin Jones before age 20. Drummer Alphonse Mouzon (Weather Report/Larry Coryell) heard Lawrence and suggested Coltrane's longtime pianist McCoy Tyner add him to their group, where Lawrence then helped record some of Tyner's best work during the 1970s. Lawrence then moved on to a brief stint with Miles Davis before joining more lucrative soul/funk bands, which in turn led to personal issues taking him away from the music scene for the better part of two decades. Lawrence re-emerged in 2004 in L.A., and again began showing why many people consider him the finest interpreter of Coltrane anywhere. His Saturday gig at the Mint, dedicated to Coltrane, reunites him with Mouzon, joined by veterans Henry Franklin on bass and Bill Henderson on piano. --Tom Meek
On his new album, Epicloud, Canadian metal mastermind Devin Townsend screams during the chorus of "Liberation": "The time has come to forget all the bullshit and rock!" Townsend has mastered every corner of the metal spectrum throughout his 20-year career. A four-album suite released between the summers of 2009 and 2011 showcased a delicate mastery of industrial thrash metal, melodic prog-rock and even acoustic new age. In the live setting, though, Townsend lives up to the mission statement he shouts in "Liberation" and just fucking rocks. While very much a musician who takes his craft seriously, there is never a sense that he takes himself too seriously. His engaging presence, bolstered by wickedly humorous stage banter, stokes a mosh pit fueled by smiles instead of anger. --Jason Roche
Sunday, September 9
Mary J. Blige & D'Angelo
The Liberation Tour, as it's known, pairs a sure-thing R&B superstar with a historically iffy legend-in-the-making: You'll come to the Gibson tonight to check out D'Angelo, who recently returned to performing following a nearly decadelong break; you'll stay for Mary J. Blige, whose excellence onstage tends to paper over the songwriting problems on an album like last year's My Life II ... The Journey Continues (Act 1). Reports from the road indicate that the two singers haven't been joining forces during their shows, which seems like a missed opportunity if also probably a wise move: Though they both explore the deepest, darkest realms of romance, Blige and D'Angelo hail from different sides of Planet Soul; it's hard to imagine one breathing the other's oxygen. With Melanie Fiona. --Mikael Wood
For details about these shows and more live music happening in the city this week, check out our Concert Calendar.
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