This Week's Best Concerts: U2, Spoon, L7, Thundercat, Courtney Barnett

U2 get intimate (relatively speaking) with five shows at the Forum, starting this Tuesday
U2 get intimate (relatively speaking) with five shows at the Forum, starting this Tuesday
Photo by Olaf Heine

Be sure to check out our constantly updated concert calendar!

Tuesday, May 26

U2
THE FORUM
Lost in the hoopla of the much-maligned iTunes rollout of last year’s Songs of Innocence was the fact that U2 rebounded from 2009’s No Line on the Horizon with a solid effort that by no means channels their iconic material but doesn’t deserve the scorn that’s been heaped upon it, either. There’s no middle ground on the Dublin natives at this stage of their career, but people would be hard-pressed to find fault with their live show. It’s been nearly 5½ years since they brought their U2 360 tour to the Rose Bowl, and playing arenas (for the first time in a decade) is as intimate as it gets for a band this size. Also Wednesday, May 27; Saturday and Sunday, May 30 and 31; and Wednesday, June 3. — Daniel Kohn

Refused
THE ROXY
Refused’s 1998 masterpiece, The Shape of Punk to Come, showed that hardcore punk could be just as adventurous as it is angry. It was an esoteric record, sprawling with forays into electronica and jazz while remaining rooted in raw anger and powerful, hardcore punk. The Swedish group broke up shortly after, but The Shape of Punk to Come was hugely influential in the years that followed; the song “New Noise” became a go-to for film soundtrack supervisors looking to increase adrenaline in moviegoers. Back together and releasing new album Freedom next month, Refused are not indulging in a redux of their 1998 classic. From the funk guitar on new tracks such as “Françafrique” to the horn section backing “War on the Palaces,” Refused are still expanding the territory that can be explored within the hardcore genre. — Jason Roche

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Wednesday, May 27

Cathy Segal-Garcia
BLUE WHALE
Through her decades-long tenure in Los Angeles, Cathy Segal-Garcia has become one of this city’s most well-known jazz singers and educators. A deft improviser with an ear for creativity, she’s performed with an impressive A-list of jazz artists, including Peter Erskine, Tierney Sutton, Michele Weir and Kate McGarry. Her vocal workshops have been a regular stop for a who’s-who of jazz singers, including Barbara Morrison, Jay Clayton and Carmen Lundy. What’s best about Segal-Garcia, however, is her unwavering belief in the musical potential of just about everyone; she is a true anti-elitist who dedicates her artistry to the people. Her 13-year run as host of a popular L.A. jam session sums up her commitment to the struggling jazz musician in all of us. — Gary Fukushima

Thursday, May 28

L7
THE ECHO
Proprietary pride surges when the subject of L7 comes up, as singer-guitarist Donita Sparks is a former L.A. Weekly art department slogger who went on to form one of the biggest and best bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s. During their active phase, circa 1985 to 2001, the all-female quartet — Sparks, guitarist-singer Suzi Gardner, bassist Jennifer Finch and drummer Dee Plakas — were a massive influence on many of the riot grrrl and punkier alt-rock bands of the day, both for their confrontational grunge/metal innovations and for their formation of Rock for Choice, a series of women’s rights concerts supported by the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine. L7 are in the process of making a documentary about their band, due out later this year. — John Payne

Thundercat brings his prog-funk bass jams to Royce Hall on FridayEXPAND
Thundercat brings his prog-funk bass jams to Royce Hall on Friday
Courtesy of the artist

Friday, May 29

The Bangles
THE TROUBADOUR
Formed in a Brentwood garage in 1980, the band that stormed through that decade with a slew of hits (“Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Manic Monday”) has managed to remain a staple of rock and pop radio. Coming up in the Paisley Underground scene, the group’s brand of catchy pop-rock helped differentiate it from its contemporaries. This past November, Susanna Hoffs and sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson released Ladies and Gentlemen ... The Bangles!, a collection of demos, live tracks and B-sides from the band’s peak years — which for hardcore fans hopefully means an evening of songs such as The Bangles’ first single, “Getting Out of Hand,” their cover of Warren Zevon’s “Outside Chance” and assorted tracks from 1982 EP The Bangles, some of which hadn’t been played in more than 30 years. Also Saturday, May 30. — Daniel Kohn

Thundercat, Teebs
UCLA ROYCE HALL
Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, will fill that little shack of bricks on the UCLA campus with an expansive array of dazzling sounds and florid runs up and down his mighty bass. Bruner knows a thing or two about rhythm; it runs in his family. His dad, Ronald Bruner Sr., has manned the drums for The Temptations and Diana Ross, while his brother, Ronald Bruner Jr., is another drummer who’s backed Wayne Shorter and Stanley Clarke. Both brothers have been versatile enough to play with Suicidal Tendencies, and Stephen’s own music doesn’t stick to any prescribed formula or stylistic limitations. He has collaborated with Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu and Kamasi Washington, and he was a major part of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. His own music is distinguished by soulful, falsetto vocals layered over elaborate flurries of prog-funk chords and jazzy soloing. Producer Teebs of the DJ collective My Hollow Drum opens. — Falling James

Saturday, May 30

Spoon
THE WILTERN
"Let’s get the stars to align for lambs to slaughter,” Britt Daniel suggests on the title track of Spoon’s latest album, They Want My Soul. “Card sharks and street preachers want my soul.” But the singer-guitarist doesn’t seem too worried about outside influences, as his jaunty melody wends through the sunny mix of guitar and keyboard shadings by Alex Fischel and Eric Harvey. Daniel confesses to being weighed down by worry and insomnia on “Rent I Pay,” but soon his anxieties are blown away by choppy, fuzzy chords that drag him back up to his feet again. The Austin, Texas, band keeps on moving forward, seemingly undeterred by its increasing popularity or the expectations of fans. They even digress for an unexpected cover of “I Just Don’t Understand,” a timelessly grand melodrama that’s been covered by Ann-Margret and The Beatles. Also at the newly opened Teragram Ballroom, Sunday, May 31. — Falling James

Courtney Barnett, Chastity Belt
THE ROXY
Australia’s Courtney Barnett is a singer-songwriter with a short attention span, riffing on panic attacks and shopping for vegetables as if she’s tweeting midsong. She’s Sheryl Crow pondering the complex molecular structure of Swedish Fish, with a thick-as-Vegemite drawl that makes her the slacker philosopher we’ve been waiting for. She’s the main attraction of a two-night stay at the Sunset Strip’s least douchey venue, the Roxy, where she’ll be joined by Seattle’s Chastity Belt, an all-girl, surf-y post-punk outfit that’s about as nonchalant and sarcastic as a Simpsons story arc. With song titles such as “Cool Slut,” “Pussy Weed Beer” and “Giant (Vagina),” they’ve achieved Lena Dunham–like comedic mastery of how to be feminist without being preachy. Wear your Nirvana T-shirt and expect lots of jangling guitars and caustic lyricism. Also Sunday, May 31. — Art Tavana

See also: Is Courtney Barnett the Most Exciting New Songwriter in Rock?

King Tuff headlines Deserted at the Palms out in the Mojave on Saturday
King Tuff headlines Deserted at the Palms out in the Mojave on Saturday
Photo by Dan Monick

Deserted at the Palms
THE PALMS RESTAURANT & BAR
The second annual Deserted at the Palms promises another weekend of spine-tingling music against a vast desert backdrop. The success of last year, led by Thee Oh Sees, White Fence and Cate Le Bon, set the perfect tone for an annual escape from the city to the depths of the Mojave Desert — near Twentynine Palms, about three hours east of L.A. The desolate desert haunt that is the Palms serves as the most appropriate space for such a festival, with an out-of-tune piano and $2 beers. This year’s headliners include King Tuff, No Age and Black Bananas, plus a slew of local bands such as Bloody Death Skull and Kim & The Created, all of which makes the low ticket price well worth the drive. Plan to camp on-site under the stars and vibe with the dusty desert energy. — Britt Witt

Nicole Moudaber
EXCHANGE L.A.
In just under an hour, Nicole Moudaber’s In the Mood podcasts can make listeners feel as though they have been dancing past sunrise in one of Europe’s party capitals. Despite the brevity of her SoundCloud mixes, the U.K.-based DJ/producer is known for fantastically long sets filled with dark techno tones and big dance-floor grooves. Like Carl Cox, who was an early champion of the DJ, Moudaber plays music made for the nights you don’t want to end. Her Exchange gig is a can’t-miss in more ways than one: Moudaber will play from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., so even if you don’t finish your other Saturday night festivities until last call, you can still hit up this party with plenty of time to spare. — Liz Ohanesian

Sunday, May 31

Ufomammut
COMPLEX
This Italian group continues to refine its hypnotically psychedelic doom-metal on new record Ecate. The repetitive drone of Ufomammut’s sludge riffage is laced with spaced-out fuzz effects that evoke a hallucinogenic trip, with just enough twists and turns to keep you a little on edge. The balance of drone and fuzz is an impressive, albeit slow-paced, juggling act that the trio has mastered throughout its 15-year career. Each song builds slowly, lulling listeners into a trance, before it crescendos into a powerful crash of beefy riffs and frantic drumming that leaves even the most hardened stoner-doom fan completely drained. It’s really easy to get sucked into the trip Ufomammut are taking you on, but the rumble provided by bassist Urlo and guitarist Poia can make you feel a little sick if you are not used to riffs rippling through your entire body. — Jason Roche


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