Fela! on Tour
Afrobeat fans unwilling to spend $95 on an orchestra seat for Fela! at the Ahmanson should scare up the $18 required to enter the Troubadour tonight, as cast members and the band from that Tony-winning musical (about the life and work of Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti) will perform some of the show's source material in its original small-room setting. Given that the Fela! players include folks from Brooklyn's Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, there's a chance they'll venture beyond the official score during this one-off club gig; Antibalas' most recent studio disc, 2007's Security, contains some killer grooves well worth reviving. Either way, expect an evening of nonstop movement. —Mikael Wood
Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble
Armenian-born pianist Vardan Ovsepian channels a modern-day Schubert, writing copious amounts of music during the day and hanging out in the clubs at night. Plus, he's a true musical savant and a friend to all good musicians. With four solo recordings for Fresh Sound New Talent and another with legendary drummer Peter Erskine, Ovsepian's talent is duly noted. His VOCE project unites musicians of varied backgrounds, including cello virtuoso Artyom Manukyan; Marcel Carmargo, a Brazilian guitarist who tours with Michael Buble; Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, a violist and string arranger for singers including John Legend and Erykah Badu; Adrian Terrazas, a reed player and member of the Mars Volta; and a choir of some of L.A.'s finest young vocalists. Ghosts of 18th-century German geniuses rejoice — chamber music has been reclaimed by the revelers. Also Sat. —Gary Fukushima
LIONS! TIGERS! BEARS! at Cobalt Café; GRAFITTI at the Baked Potato; PENGUIN PRISON at the Echo; RICK ROSS, BUSTA RHYMES at Nokia Theatre; ALBERT LEE at McCabe's.
The Middle Class
Santa Ana's Middle Class were so hip, they were playing hardcore punk two years before everyone else, literally inventing the genre with their influential 1978 single, “Out of Vogue.” By the time hardcore became the major means of expression for a generation of angry suburban jocks, the Middle Class had coolly moved on to darker and more adventurous post-punk and art-funk explorations, before disbanding far ahead of the curve, in 1982. Although brothers Jeff (vocals) and Mike Atta (guitar) also played with Alice Bag in the goth-punk Cambridge Apostles, and drummer Matt Simon later fronted Stones-style alt-rockers the Pontiac Brothers, the whole band didn't get back together until 2010, when it reunited at the Frontier Records anniversary at the Echoplex. Driven by bassist Mike Patton's spiny bass lines, the old Class-ic blasts still sound convulsive and urgently foreboding. —Falling James
With a career dating back to the dawn of rave, Laurent Garnier has played the hottest clubs and festivals on the planet. He's withstood every electronic music trend since the late 1980s. He's crafted some of the biggest club hits of the dance-music era, including '90s techno jam “Crispy Bacon” and the jazz-inflected number “The Man With the Red Face.” He also doesn't play L.A. nearly as often as we would like, which makes his return to Saturday night mega-party Avaland a can't-miss event. This time around, Garnier will hit Avaland's stage as part of L.B.S., a rousing three-piece outfit that merges deejaying with live performance. Joining Garnier are L.B.S. members Benjamin Rippert and Stephane Dri (aka ScanX). They are scheduled for a four-hour set at the club. Yes, they will need all that time: A live version of “Gnanmankoudji,” from Garnier's album Tales of a Kleptomaniac, popped up online edited down to 21 and a half minutes. Prepare to stay out late. —Liz Ohanesian
HOUSE OF BLUES
The West Coast drunk-punk veterans recently turned up at an impromptu acoustic gig in support of Occupy L.A., but this week they're back in regular business with a three-night stand at House of Blues. The shows come near the end of a monthlong tour referred to on NOFX's website as Brogasm 2012, thanks to the unusually large number of support acts they've recruited for the trek. Warm-up duties fall tonight to fellow old-timers Lagwagon and local cow-punk crew Old Man Markley, the latter of whom are scheduled to play Tuesday and Wednesday nights as well. Wednesday you'll also get No Use for a Name, who sound more like Foo Fighters these days than they did when FF axman Chris Shiflett was actually in the band. —Mikael Wood
AUTOPSY at the Echoplex; THE GEARS at Ghettogloss; MIKE KENEALLY at the Baked Potato.
Slits Tribute Night
Even amid the wild profusion of charismatic punk and post-punk musicians in the late 1970s and early '80s, few groups were as striking and unusual as the Slits. The London coven was among the earliest punk bands, blossoming in 1976 amid the ruins of that crucial Britpunk nexus the Flowers of Romance, and then branching out into ever-freakier directions until its 1982 breakup. Just a few years ago, founding members Tessa Pollitt and singer Ari Up brought a revamped version of the Slits to this venue and dazzled with a set of new punk and dub-laced tunes from their provocative and ebulliently spacey comeback album, Trapped Animal. It seemed that even better things were in store, until Ari Up — a playfully subversive dreadlocked warrior and larger-than-life punk Pied Piper — died suddenly in 2010. At tonight's Part Time Punks show, members of the eerie fuzz-reverb tribe Vivian Girls, Rainbow Arabia, Tamaryn and Telepathe, Raw Geronimo and White Magic invoke her spirit. —Falling James
This longtime L.A. singer-songwriter has spent the past couple of years working as one-third of the Living Sisters, her cheeky country-folk trio with Inara George of the Bird & the Bee and Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond. Tonight, though, she takes the stage (at the exceedingly early hour of 8 p.m.) under her own name, presumably playing songs from the string of excellent solo discs she released prior to the Living Sisters gig. Her latest, 2009's Artificial Fire, balanced her inclination toward after-hours torch-song balladry with a number of jumpy roots-rock numbers. Headliner Aaron Embry appears in the wake of his own group stint, in his case as a keyboardist with Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. —Mikael Wood
ARKHAM RAZOR at Cobalt Café; TWO MAN GENTLEMAN BAND at the Satellite; ROSIE LEDET at St. Rocke.
If you're known to enjoy a tasty microbrew, carry a messenger bag and relish the looks cast your way when you're trying out a new pair of retro tube socks or a creative facial hairstyle, then you've probably found yourself comfortably at ease in L.A.'s home away from the crunchy Northwest, Echo Park. This week, two of that region's finest, Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (formerly of Sleater-Kinney), bring their TV sketch-comedy project, Portlandia, to the Echoplex stage, ground zero for L.A.'s hippie types. The series, which they've described as a “love letter” to Portland, is now in its second season on IFC, and rare is the Facebook newsfeed that hasn't featured at least one clip of Armisen's and Brownstein's over-the-top characters: the couple that can't stop watching Battlestar Galactica DVDs; the longhaired, feminist bookstore owners; the obsessive free-range, organic-only foodies. So put on your nicest flannel, grab a beer at Mohawk Bend and bike down the street to catch the live version of Portlandia. It features outtakes, stories and songs from the little Northwest city where the dream of the '90s is alive and well. Also Tues. —Erica E. Phillips
Clare Fischer Big Band
Grammy-winning composer-arranger Clare Fischer got his start in the 1950s as the pianist and arranger for legendary group the Hi-Lo's. He moved on as jazz arranger and pianist for musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Cal Tjader, Joe Pass, George Shearing, Bud Shank and Donald Byrd, and composer of symphonic works played by orchestras worldwide. Beginning in the 1980s, Fischer became one of the most sought-after arrangers in popular music; his résumé includes working with Prince, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion and Chaka Khan. With the release of 2011's Continuum Fischer, he surpassed the 50th-album mark and received yet another Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Arrangement. Fischer's big band now is directed by his son Brent and includes many local studio legends. —Tom Meek
JACQUES LESURE JAM at NOLA'S.
Early Winters, Nicole Eva Emery
There are at least three different sides to British songbird Carina Round. There's the beguiling singer-songwriter who appeared at this club a few weeks ago. Then there's the psychedelic, hard-rocking wraith who exchanged unholy harmonies with Maynard James Keenan when Puscifer passed through town last month. Now, in a contrastingly mainstream pop collaboration with Justin Rutledge, she reappears/reinvents herself in Early Winters. Fragile ballads like “Turn Around” and such sugary tunes as “Spanish Burn” exude considerable pop potential, although one misses the unpredictable twists and dark corners of Round's solo work. Nicole Eva Emery often performs with the baroque folkie Jesca Hoop (and has also sung backup vocals for Bob Dylan and Rickie Lee Jones), but her own music is heavier and more sprawling as her somber vocals unfurl in slow, mesmerizing waves of watery guitar. —Falling James
Steve Reich, Bang on a Can All-Stars, red fish blue fish
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
Many years ago, a young composer named Steve Reich from NYC had a few ideas about repetition. He made a tape of a preacher hollering “It's gonna rain,” made two loops of it and played them back slightly out of sync, creating a mesmeric, moiré pattern–like music. It was an idea he'd developed along with experimenters such as Terry Riley, a “minimalism” that became a hugely influential movement. Reich has worked in varied formats based on propulsive repetition of simple materials, none more supremely moving than his shimmering Music for 18 Musicians, scored for strings, clarinets, voices, pianos and mallet instruments. Tonight Reich and his longtime collaborators, the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the California percussion group red fish blue fish, celebrate his 75th birthday with a performance of 18 Musicians, along with Reich's new double rock quintet 2×5 and classics Clapping Music and Piano Phase/Video Phase. —John Payne
Joanna Malfatti Trio
The venerable California Institute of the Arts is a bastion of creativity, its musical alumni seeping into every branch of the Hollywood music industry. From film scoring to indie rock to jazz, they infuse an often predictable and banal industry with imagination and artistic honesty. Drummer Joanna Malfatti is the latest bright light to come from the program, maybe to follow the trajectories of other mercurial CalArts beatmakers like Kneebody's Nate Wood and Black Note's Willie Jones III. She has her own orbit, however, seamlessly interpolating freer forms of textural improvising with stone grooves that betray her intensive study of African music. Malfatti is joined by fellow CalArtians Cathlene Pineda, a sublime pianist who equally rocks Paul Bley or Paul Hindemith, and Emilio Terranova, a rising star on bass. —Gary Fukushima
JOHN PISANO, GILAD HEKSELMAN at Vitello's.
He's not quite a legend, but he oughta be, given his crucial role in shaping some of the most important music of the last three decades or so. Barry Adamson was the bass player whose memorable lines graced righteous art-punks Magazine back in the late '70s–early '80s, then went on to stints with Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, Iggy Pop, the Gun Club and David Lynch. Not just a supremely stylish instrumentalist, he's also the creator of a series of noirish solo albums that absolutely reek of atmosphere and a strangely troubling dynamism — Adamson is a mysterious person you always want to know more about. His 10th solo studio album is called I Will Set You Free, it's out in February, and he'll be premiering material from it in this rare L.A. appearance. —John Payne
Like your orchestra gigs dashed with a bit of hair-band raunch? Ever find yourself wishing Kirk Hammett would lay down the ax and instead ignite a mosh pit with a fell swoop of a violin bow? Well, oddly enough, you're in luck. German violinist David Garrett — a Juilliard grad who at 14 became the youngest soloist signed to prestigious classic label Deutsche Grammophon and joined the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra three years later — has put a classical spin on seminal rock classics. Guns N' Roses' “November Rain,” Metallica's “Master of Puppets” and many other surprising gems get the genre-melding treatment on his absurdly enchanting 2010 album, Rock Symphonies. And Garrett's live gigs are even more surreal: Expect to hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with staccato violin trills. It's just how Kurt imagined it, right? —Dan Hyman
DAVID VALDEZ GROUP, MIKE SCOTT TRIO, PLAYS MONK at Blue Whale; AUGUSTANA, GRAFFITI 6 at El Rey Theatre.
Call Us Forgotten
At first glance, this Portland quintet is just another synchronized-bouncing-and-flailing metalcore mob. But its metal is in the details: supercompact, compressed riffs; kick drums chattering like anti-aircraft artillery; seamless, Swiss-movement shifts between moods and grooves. If all this sounds a little clinical, fear not. Vocalist Josh Oliveri has sufficient venom and variety to put a human face (or indeed, many faces) on his band's almost mechanical instrumentation. And just when you think you've got CUF's number, the guitars billow great plumes of epic ambition, which transcend the work of mere hands and heads. Much has been made of CUF's demographic-targeted Internet self-marketing campaign but, mercifully, what they're selling is more passion than product. —Paul Rogers
BAMBU, ROCKY RIVERA at the Echoplex; OWEN at the Troubadour; RAYA YARBROUGH at Vitello's; CHRIS MINK DOKY & THE NOMADS at Catalina.