The Five Best Concerts in L.A. This Weekend
Marissa Nadler -- See Saturday
Friday, December 21
"Christmas 101" with Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Van Dyke Parks, Emmylou Harris, Carrie Fisher
Rufus and Martha Wainwright's late mother, Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle, created the annual "Christmas 101" holiday event, which features carols from around the world performed in French and English by the Wainwrights, their glittering friends and a stageful of grandchildren, nieces and nephews. This year's shows include guests Van Dyke Parks, Emmylou Harris and actress Carrie Fisher. Big-hearted, deep-pocketed types can shell out a bit more for their tix ($101, to be exact) and gain entry to the post-show reception with food, drink and fun with the evening's stars; 100 percent of these gala tickets will benefit the Kate McGarrigle Foundation, which McGarrigle formed to raise funds for sarcoma research before her death from the disease in January 2010. --John Payne
As Blood Runs Black
Though they celebrate a decade as a band next year, these Angeleno deathcore stalwarts sound as youthful and on-point as ever, in spite of (or perhaps thanks to) a ludicrous number of personnel changes. Now a relatively stable quintet built around founding drummer Hector "Lech" De Santiago (no one has quit or been booted in a couple of years), As Blood Runs Black have the chance to create a distinct sonic niche within a suffocatingly congested genre. Last year's sophomore full-length, Instinct, augers well, with detailed, dexterous and disciplined song structures and instrumental performances propelled out of the studio and into the streets by Sonik Garcia's bruising bellow and mocking, possessed screech. Ten years in, this band might just be getting started. --Paul Rogers
Saturday, December 22
Marissa Nadler, Guy Blakeslee
Boston folk-pop chanteuse Marissa Nadler spins entrancing webs of sound with little more than a soft acoustic backing, some subtle sound effects and her fragile, ethereal voice. "You said you need a wrecking ball to break the cement 'round the heart/A company of mad machines would take the walls, crumble them apart," she murmurs on her sixth album, The Sister. Nadler's airy-eerie vocals glide coolly over the patient ticking of her acoustic guitar, slowly melting said concrete and filling the hollow space with a spectral glow that evokes the starkly intimate delivery of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. "Your Heart Is a Twisted Vine" is similarly mesmerizing, with Nadler's romantic entreaties wrapped engagingly in a cocoon of cottony guitars. There's something curiously timeless and innocently childlike about the way her sweetly pure singing unlocks the door to such boundless pastoral reveries. Meanwhile, the Entrance Band's Guy Blakeslee waves his freak flag high in his folk-rock guise. --Falling James
There's a certain romance to cult bands like local crossover thrashers Hirax: Their neighbors probably have no clue what they do, yet they can command rabid crowds from Poland to Peru. This Cypress crew shared the stage with the likes of Metallica and Slayer back in the mid-'80s, but as those bands broke big, Hirax broke up. Since reuniting the band in 2000, imposing frontman and sole original member Katon W. De Pena (who's been dubbed "the black Rob Halford") has remained true to his vision of gritty, battering metal with worldly-wise lyrics and air raid siren vocals. Despite seemingly perpetual lineup changes, De Pena and Co. have never left the world of pointy guitars, bullet belts and studded wristbands. There's savage comfort in their resolute, fist-in-the-air continuity. --Paul Rogers
Joe Strummer Tribute
If Mick Jones sometimes acted like the unapproachable rock-star guitar hero in The Clash -- who can forget the night he memorably screamed at his own roadie, the irrepressible but harried Ray Gange, "Get off the fucking stage!" in the film Rude Boy? -- lead singer Joe Strummer came off as the band's down-to-earth and friendly good cop. Strummer's bleary, Beat-inspired soul and ragged town-crier vocals had much to do with the enduring relevance of "The Only Band That Matters," and Clash fans are still in a state of shock over his premature death from a heart attack in 2002. At tonight's Trash City benefit for Strummerville (a charity run by his family), you can at least get a contact high and sense of Joe's spirit from Zander Schloss, who palled around and starred with Strummer in the gloriously misbegotten Alex Cox film Straight to Hell. Schloss has played in later lineups of The Circle Jerks and The Weirdos, but for the past few years he's dug down deeper in a rootsy-punky-trashy duo with Throw Rag's Sean Wheeler. Mike Watt's old band The Minutemen was heavily inspired by The Clash's blue-collar spirit, with the South Bay trio condensing Strummer-like bits of poetry into a punk-funk blur. Tonight's tribute also includes sets from Lenny Lashley and S.F.'s aptly named La Plebe, plus Bauhaus' Kevin Haskins playing DJ. --Falling James
For details about these shows and more live music happening in the city this week, check out our Concert Calendar.
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