fri 11/30

Nas, Lauryn Hill


On his new album, Nas insists that Life Is Good, even though he's been slammed with a massive tax bill from Uncle Sam and is still coming to terms with a painful divorce from soul-pop diva Kelis. The Brooklyn-born rapper is being sarcastic; he's said in interviews that Life Is Good is the rap equivalent to Marvin Gaye's 1978 Here, My Dear, a bittersweet account of the soul icon's own failing marriage. “They say the coolest playas and foulest heartbreakers in the world/God gets us back/He makes us have precious little girls,” Nas declares, realizing that he hasn't been “the cleanest father figure” once he sees the effect his former thug lifestyle has had on his own daughter. The collision of early bravado with newfound emotional vulnerability elevates Nas' music to a much higher and more thoughtful level. Former Fugees rapper Lauryn Hill is facing her own serious tax problems this month, a mundane reality that contrasts with the spiritual and musical evolution she's undergone in recent years as she's moved away from the mainstream and gone searching for her own soul, literally and figuratively. —Falling James

Bela Fleck and The Marcus Roberts Trio


There are things that just don't seem like they would work together, yet they do. Bacon on your sundae? Vampires and Abraham Lincoln? How about jazz and bluegrass? Although both genres can be traced to the roots of American music, the differences between the two are black and white, literally. Banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck has teamed up with jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and his trio to attempt a hybrid fusion experiment. Roberts came to fame in the 1980s as the accompanist for an ascendant Wynton Marsalis, later becoming an expert stride-piano player. He and Fleck complement each other with impeccable rhythm and elegant explosiveness. The music is unique, unusual and fun. They could be a latter-day Paul McCartney/Stevie Wonder — minus the singing and the No. 1 hit, of course. Tonight's performance is the last in a four-day set at the Catalina. —Gary Fukushima

Fashawn & Strong Arm Steady


Fashawn did not aspire solely to emcee status. A writer since he was 12, the Fresno-born storyteller and high school newspaper contributor planned to pursue a career in print journalism. His destiny changed in 2006 when his mixtape Grizzly City caught the ears of seasoned rap veteran (and fellow Fresnoan) Planet Asia, who soon invited Fash to join him on tour. Boy Meets World, Fashawn's autobiographical, Exile-produced LP, received international acclaim in 2009, garnering comparisons to Nas' Illmatic. In September, Fashawn released This Generation, a collaborative effort with indie-rap favorite Murs. Tonight's show (part of the Moet-sponsored Champagne & Styrofoam Cups Tour) also features respected underground rap pioneers Strong Arm Steady. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley

The Zoo Foundation


Soulin', screamin' East L.A. combo the Zoo Foundation is one of the most fabulous recent additions to our oft-parched rock & roll scene. This youthful psych-soul garage-shock troupe consistently throws down a deep wall-to-wall carpet of plush, passionate back-alley testifying. It can be as head-spinning as an attack by rogue chimpanzees — if, that is, the group even shows up to the gig as announced. Yes, they can be flaky. but also as inspiringly frenzied and all-around fine as freshly brewed prison pruno. Billed with a gaggle of fellow musical malefactors including Erroneous Monk and The Dharma Bums, expect a stomping, bawdy romp of a good time. —Jonny Whiteside

sat 12/1



Former Frank Zappa/Missing Persons/Jeff Beck drummer Terry Bozzio has teamed with Austrian guitar whiz Alex Machacek off and on over the past decade. A year ago, the pair added bassist Jimmy Johnson to the mix, which resulted in some of L.A.'s best concerts of the year. The trio reprises those shows tonight at the Baked Potato in Studio City. Bozzio's drum kit is so large, the drums, cymbals, gongs and percussion available likely will outnumber the patrons, even in a sold-out club. Expect some of the most intense sounds anywhere this year as three genuine virtuosos team for an evening of electric chamber music for the 21st century. —Tom Meek

Falling in Reverse, Enter Shikari


Melodrama has overshadowed music on this post-hardcore package tour — perhaps a welcome distraction from headliners' Falling in Reverse's petty, poppy metalcore, but a shame for brilliant Brit rabble-rousers Enter Shikari. The scuttlebutt goes like this: Adamantly sober (and formerly incarcerated) Falling in Reverse frontman Ronnie Radke had opening band I See Stars removed from the bill in October after learning of their pretour pot bust. He later reinstated the electronicore sextet (allegedly after they forfeited their pay), only to boot them once again before their hometown show in Detroit earlier this month — and, allegedly, verbally abused and ejected their outspoken fans. Such drama! Come anyway for Enter Shikari's thoughtful and inspired dubstep-via-metalcore mélange. —Paul Rogers


Bad Brains


So punk legends Bad Brains are back with their first album in five years, with every band member you'd want to be in Bad Brains — the “classic” lineup, some say — along with that trademark nasty/slick rev-you-up production. First thing you probably want to know? Yes, Into the Future is as punishing on the punk songs (“Yes I,” the title track) as you'd hope, with seesaw hardcore rhythm and H.R.'s world-class turbine-whine vocals on top. (Plus, is that “intergalactic” lyric a nod to departed Beastie Boy and onetime Bad Brains producer MCA? “MCA Dub” has to be, right?) But their trademark genre-bending — freak metal on “Popcorn,” punk-dub on “Rub-a-Dub Love” — is just as energetic. Even if you don't like it, it'll still get some hooks into you. It's not a return to form: It's a revival! —Chris Ziegler

sun 12/2

Sara Watkins, Aoife O'Donovan


Sara Watkins has fiddled up some up lovely melodic flourishes in her old band, the Vista alt-bluegrass combo Nickel Creek, and has sawed up bewitching adornments in studio and onstage collaborations with such folks as The Decemberists, Grant-Lee Phillips and that famously stubbornly loyal dog owner, Fiona Apple. But Watkins really takes off with her latest solo album, Sun Midnight Sun, where her country-folk roots diverge appealingly into new pop and rock byways. She's utterly charming and disarming on straightforward romantic tunes like “You & Me,” and her heartache bends perfectly into the waterfall guitar hook that adorns “When It Pleases You.” Clear-voiced Boston singer-guitarist Aoife O'Donovan also steps away for a spell from her own bluegrass band, Crooked Still, to break down her sad-pretty acoustic tunes in a more intimate solo setting. —Falling James

mon 12/3

The Henry Clay People, So Many Wizards


The title of The Henry Clay People's rather reckless new album, Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives, pretty much says it all: These are restless times, pent-up angry times, explosively joyful times, too. But what's that peeking around the corner? Couldn't be middle age, could it? Yikes! The record's feverishly punky, finely crafted anthems express their rage in buzzsaw power chords, thumping piano and singer Joey's wailing young man's blues. Long Beach boys So Many Wizards' recent Warm Nothing is a dreamy but nicely gritty slice of pretty bedroom pop with a likable DIY spirit, perhaps rooted in founder Nima Kazerouni's childhood experiences at a U.S. detention facility in Iran. This show is free and also features Future Ghosts and The Steelwells. (The Henry Clay People appear at the Satellite Mondays throughout December.) —John Payne

tue 12/4

Lindi Ortega


Lindi Ortega is originally from Canada, but her country-pop songs are so innately American, it's no surprise that the singer-guitarist now is based in Tennessee. Even as she swoons lyrically over an inattentive lover during “The Day You Die,” her band kicks up a fast and feisty ramble that belies the morbid song title. She gets down and dirty and rocks out on the bluesy plaint “Murder of Crows,” with her searing vocals burning memorably through a dark pool of metallic slide guitar. On the title track of her new album, Cigarettes & Truckstops, she searches in the shadows for her love, her vibrant voice torching a late-night campfire to stave off loneliness: “Look out, California, I'm coming for my long-lost heart tonight.” —Falling James

The Starvations


Sometimes you gotta amend “never again” to “just once more,” especially when there's a good reason, and this completely unexpected reunion of L.A.'s Starvations didn't come easy. It's a benefit for writer Joseph Mattson, author of a much-acclaimed novel and book of short stories, as well as liner notes for Starvations' front man Gabe Hart's current band, Jail Weddings. As previously mentioned in these pages, Mattson is mired in a truly tragic legal battle with the man who killed his mother. So tonight you can join the good fight. It's led by L.A. greats who chased the same weird ghosts as Charlie Feathers and Nick Cave, who loved 1920s murder ballads as much as choice 1970s punk, and whose indestructible iconoclasm allowed them to survive, and then thrive, for an uneasy decade. This almost certainly will be your last chance to see this band — but The Starvations were always at their best when it came to last chances. —Chris Ziegler

wed 12/5

Guilty Simpson, House Shoes


Detroit comes to L.A. via rapper Guilty Simpson and DJ-producer House Shoes, both heavyweights in their hometowns and much loved locally, too. The transplanted-to-L.A. fixture House Shoes — the dude who had a connection with every great dude ever, up to and including Dilla — finally put out his first album, Let It Go, this summer, and it's full of intricate and idiosyncratic beats and precisely chosen guest spots. And of course Simpson was one of those guest spots, hooking up two tracks between his O.J. Simpson collaborations with the legendary Madlib and the just-out Dice Game with fellow Detroiter Apollo Brown. Between the two of them, this'll be hip-hop at its grittiest and most powerful. That's how they make it in Detroit. —Chris Ziegler


Shuggie Otis


The son of the great R&B bandleader Johnny Otis, singer/multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis was surrounded by a dazzling blend of influences when he was growing up a wunderkind guitarist. But Shuggie ultimately outdistanced even his dad by inventing his own soulfully groovy form of R&B in the '60s and '70s, creating a kind of psychedelic pop that proved an obvious inspiration many years later for Prince and Lenny Kravitz. A song like “Strawberry Letter 23,” from Otis' landmark 1971 album, Freedom Flight, still sounds fresh today, as the singer walks merrily through a blissful garden of bell-like chimes and flurries of intricately whirling, almost proglike guitar. The reclusive musician rarely performs, which makes tonight's gig a very special occasion. —Falling James

thu 12/6

Death Grips


Sacramento hip-hop-and-beyond group Death Grips make freaked-out music for (or from) a future by Burroughs or Philip K. Dick. It's about resisting control and contamination, finding the greatness in what other people consider garbage and staying one step ahead of everybody who's out to get you. Maybe that's what got them bounced from their major-label contract after barely six months — a ride that finished recently with Death Grips putting their brand-new NO LOVE DEEP WEB up for free download before it was even officially for sale. Not sure if that was a “fuck you” to the industry or more of a vigorous “fuck it” to the world, but seems kinda inevitable now: Major labels release records, but Death Grips release viruses. No wonder the deal blew apart. —Chris Ziegler

Polyphonic Spree Holiday Extravaganza


For years, The Polyphonic Spree have staged colorfully unconventional holiday spectacles back home in Dallas. Having just released their first Christmas album, Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays Volume One, the whimsical, be-robed collective is taking that show on the road. What to expect at this all-ages musical circus? Besides the Spree doing a set of blissed-out renditions of holiday standards (“White Christmas,” “Silver Bells”) and a later rock set, the kindie music act Gustafer Yellowgold will perform, as well as a potpourri of eclectic acts. Past shows in Dallas have included bell choirs, zoo animals and tap-dancing grandmothers. A Donny & Marie Christmas, this ain't. —Michael Berick

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