Independence Day is just around the corner, so what better time to get out the sparklers and show off your celebratory side? This week in L.A. features a festival of masks and a family-friendly techno celebration — and that's not an oxymoron, believe it or not.
For those inclined to celebrate a more niche market, there are also opportunities to raise your glass to rock-and-roll and watch passionate people draw their hearts out. It all leads up to a Fourth of July block party — truly the heart of American celebration.
5. The Kiss of Death
To say that Detroit proto-punk trio Death merely anticipated New York's late-'70s African-American punks Pure Hell and D.C. hardcore band Bad Brains would be a pitiable understatement. Around 1974, Death inadvertently codified what became known as punk rock — and then broke the mold. The premiere of the hotly anticipated documentary A Band Called Death reveals one of the most astonishing stories in rock & roll. What began as a casual, sibling-based R&B band was transmogrified, after the kids attended an Alice Cooper show, into the brilliant, brutal Death — and while the three performers were dead set on pursuing professional careers, they were just too extreme to win wide acceptance. The color of their skin, the ferocious intensity of their music and even their name guaranteed a one-way ticket to obscurity. The film alone is a must-see, but the surviving members of Death also will do a Q&A and perform, live, for the first time ever in Los Angeles. This is a mind-blower all around: Like, how often will you get a chance to see “Death, live in person”?!?! The band plays again Saturday; the doc screens nightly through Wed., July 3 (times vary). Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave.; Fri., June 28, 8 p.m.; $25, $100-$150 VIP couch seating. (323) 655-2510, cinefamily.org. — Jonny Whiteside
4. We Draw the Monster Mash
Among the many permutations of the nonprofit arts center fundraiser, one of the most dynamic and engaging — entertaining as a spectacle in its own right — has to be the annual Monster Drawing Rally. About a dozen independent curators chose the 100 artists who will be at Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts all day Saturday, with their paper, pens, pencils and paintboxes in hand, ready to draw like mad for your viewing pleasure. With artists Scoli Acosta, Tanya Brodsky, Jemima Wyman, Jennifer Celio, Calvin Phelps, Mark Steven Greenfield, Dani Tull, Flora Kao, Alice Könitz, Liz Young and April Street among them, a small admission fee is like a ticket to some very messy street theater. The magic of watching creativity unfold in real time is reason enough to cruise through. Even better is that every drawing is instantly on sale for a mere $75 — no auction sheets, no bidding wars, no waiting around for the 5:55 p.m. bell to ring. Instant gratification, here we come! Armory Center for the Arts, 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; Sat., June 29, noon-6 p.m.; $10. (626) 792-5101, armoryarts.org. — Shana Nys Dambrot
3. Life à la Lagos
Sometimes the exploration of a new culture is exactly what you need to feel far away from good ol' L.A. Immerse yourself in Nigeria during the third annual Day of the Ancestors: Festival of Masks, hosted by L.A. Commons. The event models itself after an annual rite that takes place in Nigeria, offering visitors a mask-making workshop before a big processional. The daylong celebration originally stemmed from the Leimert Park Drum Circle, created in honor of Fela Kuti. This year, Nigerian all-female group Adunni & Nefretiti will showcase their unique blend of traditional song, folklore and chant. Leimert Art Walk takes place the same day and shares the three-year anniversary. You can catch live performances, check out unique vendors and participate in an open-mic sesh at 7:30 inside Jinga Jinga, the lounge where the iconic jazz spot Fifth Street Dick's Jazz Coffeehouse once stood. Consider this your chance to get away from the everyday culture of the city — and take advantage of free parking in the lot on Degnan and 43rd. Leimert Park, 4343 Leimert Blvd.; Sun., June 30, noon-8 p.m.; free. facebook.com/LACommons. — Eva Recinos
2. It's Electric
While “family-friendly” and “techno” may seem like water and oil, allow your mind to be blown by just how well the two can combine. L.A.-based arts and culture promoter Green Galactic will be celebrating its 20th year in the biz with a free, family-friendly techno concert at California Plaza. The Green Galactic 20th-Anniversary Celebration, a collaboration with Grand Performances, includes three hours of performances by techno gurus Plaid, Pole and John Tejada. If you're in Los Angeles for your five minutes of fame, take note: Tejada plans to use footage from this concert for a music video for his new track, “Anaphora.” This isn't rave music — the soothing sounds of the three electronic musicians are palatable even if you're not into glowsticks and butterfly wings. So pack a picnic basket and round up Gram, Gramps, little Timmy and the whole gang to delight in some techno tunes. Alcohol is permitted, so don't forget to bring a bottle and a corkscrew. California Plaza, 350 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Sun., June 30, 7-10 p.m.; free. facebook.com/events/185705058248108. — Anya Cohen
1. There Will Be Fireworks
Picnics and food trucks? Check. All-day music and festivities? Check. Fireworks? Check check check! It's a block party, people, so come on out. Bring the kids and show your fellow Angelenos just how much we can love one another when we're not behind the wheel. This Fourth of July party will be a day-to-night celebration with splashing, dancing and light-up wonders that you don't want to miss. City poets from Get Lit will host a poetry slam and bands Ethio Cali and Jungle Fire will keep you bouncing to their fiery beats. There's even swag: Take the Metro down to Grand Park and present your pass at the information booth, and you will receive a free pair of Grand Park sunglasses! They'll come in handy when pyrotechnic stars are lighting up the night sky. (Just remember to call them “night shades” once the sun has gone down.) Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Thurs., July 4, all day; music starts at 3 p.m.; free. (213) 972-8080, grandparkla.org. — Rena Kosnett