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Lola KirkeEXPAND
Lola Kirke
Wyndham Boylan-Garnett

12 Best Music Shows in L.A. This Week

Los Angeles is a hotbed of live music, and L.A. Weekly is here to help navigate this embarrassment of riches. From "Mex-mas" with the culture-crossing El Vez to an R&B-inflected Christmas with John Legend, the Sunset Jam at the Viper Room and Victorville punks Face to Face, here are the 12 best music shows in L.A. this week!

fri 12/21

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Michael Landau

THE BAKED POTATO

The interesting thing about all the enthusiasm for Weezer's cover of Toto's "Africa" is that it harks back to a time — the '70s through the '90s — when the guts of practically every pop hit were interpreted by studio musicians blessed with a gift for harmony, dynamics and technique. One of the leading stalwarts in this particular pop paradise was guitarist Michael Landau. He's there on Chicago's "Hard Habit to Break," "Foolish Heart" by Steve Perry and "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips. He's here tonight to deliver his constitutionally unique and inventive version of fusion jazz and rock with his Liquid Quartet (with David Frazee on other vocals and guitar, bassist Jimmy Johnson and drummer Alan Hertz), with a level of finesse and precision unequaled in our lifetime. Also Saturday, Dec. 22. —David Cotner

Ravens Moreland

MAUI SUGAR MILL SALOON

At age 16, bassist Bruce Moreland was a founding member of Wall of Voodoo; over the years he's been a key part of several other early L.A. punk bands including The Weirdos, The Skulls and Nervous Gender. Among other things, he co-wrote "The Sky Is a Poisonous Garden," from Concrete Blonde's 1990 album, Bloodletting. As Ravens Moreland, the singer-guitarist is accompanied by drummer Linda LeSabre (Death Ride 69, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult), bassist Tara Belle, singer-keyboardist Shelina Louise and bassist Michel Berandi. The band crank out an intriguingly dark brand of music that pulses with traces of punk, post-punk and glitter rock on such songs as "Specters of Broadway Avenue," in which Moreland looks back on the various wreckages of his life with an urgent low croon.With Atomik Kangaroo and Hear Kitty Kitty. —Falling James

Jon Brion

LARGO AT THE CORONET

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion has been at the center of numerous notable projects and collaborations with a disparate assortment of musicians, including his work as a producer and co-producer on recordings by Best Coast, Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, Robyn Hitchcock, Of Montreal, Eleni Mandell, Janelle Monáe, Sean Lennon and Kayne West. Brion also has composed the score for numerous soundtracks, such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia and Christopher Robin, and he briefly appeared in Boogie Nights. For years, Brion has headlined a monthly Friday-night gig at Largo, performing solo by looping his parts on various instruments. His freeform, wide-open soirees also have included guest appearances by such longtime allies as singer-fiddler Sara Watkins and vocalists Gillian Welch and Rickie Lee Jones. —Falling James

Lola Kirke

PAPPY & HARRIET's PIONEERTOWN PALACE

Lola Kirke might be best known as an actor on such series as Mozart in the Jungle and films like Gone Girl, but she also has a separate career as a vocalist. As the daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, she has an impressive musical heritage, but her own music is another world away from her father's hard-stomping classic rock. On her 2018 album, Heart Head West, her voice trails languidly across a series of country-tinged idylls. "What if it was all just a song?," she wonders on "Monster," the record's dreamy opening track. "Waves break when they want to/Guess I should take a cue from some." Kirke kicks up her heels on the rollicking "Supposed to" and "Turn Away Your Heart," but the rest of the time her voice swims languidly through such gentle spells as "Simon Says." —Falling James

sat 12/22

El Vez

ALEX'S BAR

It's the Saturday before Christmas, work is (probably) winding down, and you want to kick this festive season off in style. What better, then, than a Mexican Elvis Presley impersonator? Seriously — El Vez has been doing this for 25 years, and he wants to wish us all a Merry Mex-mas (his words). Expect tunes from his beloved El Vez Calling and Graciasland albums, among many others. Yeah, it's all a bit kitschy, a bit gimmicky, but open your mind a little and scratch the surface a spot, and you'll see that the guy puts on a killer show. We can all be guilty of taking ourselves a little too seriously from time to time, and a Christmas El Vez show is the perfect remedy. The Creepy Creeps, Cutty Flam and The Exbats also play. —Brett Callwood

Cults

THE ECHO

Madeline Follin sang a few tracks on punk band Youth Gone Mad's 2000 album, Touching Cloth, and her brother Richie was the leader of beloved Anaheim garage-rockers The Willowz and currently fronts New York City trio Guards. But Madeline Follin's own music with guitarist Brian Oblivion as Cults is much more pop-minded. On the duo's latest record, Offering, Follin's voice sails through a gauzy landscape of sugary synth-pop melodies. "I heard you found a good religion, that final piece that you've been missing," she coos in a hazy daze. "I laid awake and had a vision." That vision encompasses glossy tunes such as the title track and the candied piano pop of "With My Eyes Closed." Also Sunday, Dec. 23. —Falling James

sun 12/23

John Legend

MICROSOFT THEATER

Beloved, authentic R&B singer John Legend has just released his sixth studio album and first Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas, so we can be fairly confident that he'll be leaning heavily on that record at this show, especially as it's part of what is dubbed the Legendary Christmas Tour. Fair play — it's a very R&B Christmas. There's no "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Frosty the Snowman" here — rather, we get Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means to Me," a heartfelt "Silver Bells" and, hey look, "Christmas Time Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Legend has one of the richest soul voices in the game right now, and in truth, he's one of the few artists from whom a Christmas album is actually quite welcome. —Brett Callwood

mon 12/24

The Sunset Jam

THE VIPER ROOM

There's not a lot happening on Christmas Eve but, if you need live music on the very night that Santa takes to the skies, you can do a lot worse than the weekly Sunset Jam at the Viper Room. Guitarist Erik Himmel created the jam, one of a few on the Sunset Strip, in 2016 to showcase local musicians who might need a break, and also big names that are touring through. Previous performers have included members of Imagine Dragons, Lifehouse, Kings X, Edgar Winter's band, Crazytown, Puddle of Mudd, Aerosmith, Foreigner, Filter, Smashmouth, Montrose, Air Supply and, check it out, people who have been on The Voice. You never quite know who's going to show up from one week to the next, but that's part of the fun. So get your wrapping done early and treat yourself. Or spend time with the family. Your call. —Brett Callwood

tue 12/25

Randy Emata

THE FEDERAL BAR, NORTH HOLLYWOOD

Let's be absolutely honest here — there's not a lot of choice when it comes to live music on Christmas Day, which is to be expected. Producer, pianist and North Hollywood resident Emata performs at the Federal Bar every Tuesday, however, and he's not about to let the Yuletide period halt his gig. According to the Federal, he'll be playing "the smoother, groovier side of jazz/R&B/pop along with Michael Reason/drums and William Matthew Taylor/bass. Come curl up inside a warm blanket of music and cuddle with your favorite libations at the NoHo Federal." This is a free gig, so anyone who is sick of the standard Christmas fare and wants to get out of the house rather than watching A Christmas Story another damn time should check out Emata. —Brett Callwood

wed 12/26

Face to Face

MARTY'S ON NEWPORT

Victorville punks Face to Face play three shows at this Tustin venue on the three nights immediately following Christmas, at the tail end of the same year that they released the Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) album. Since the band split in 2005 and subsequently re-formed three years later, they have been in fine form; the albums Laugh Now, Laugh Later (2011), Three Chords and a Half Truth (2013) and Protection (2016) certainly stand up alongside fan favorites such as Big Choice (1995), Face to Face (1996) and Ignorance Is Bliss (1999). Face to Face don't always get the same credit and kudos as other veteran SoCal punk bands, but they really should. Few others have the same gift for caustic melody and honest inflection. Also Thursday and Friday, Dec. 27-28. —Brett Callwood

Vex Ruffin
Vex Ruffin
Courtesy the artist

Vex Ruffin

ZEBULON

Vex Ruffin is an unusual performer. He has long been a member of the local independent hip-hop label Stones Throw Records — he is reportedly the only artist on that label who was signed on the basis of an unsolicited demo — but his music twists and turns in ways that go beyond even the open-ended expansiveness of adventurous hip-hop. "The universe is calling me," Ruffin intones in a robotic voice on his 2017 full-length release, Conveyor. The album ranges from indie-rock interludes such as "3 AM," which evokes the trippy side of Beck, and the whispery junkyard echoes of "The World" to the throbbing sound collage "Head Hurts" and the slinky bass groove "The Balance," a collaboration with onetime Blondie rapper Fab 5 Freddy. —Falling James

thu 12/27

1TakeJay

CATCH ONE

"Wait hold up, we finna turn this bitch up!" — 1TakeJay's energy is unmatched. Hailing from Compton, the 23-year-old is here to bring his own pizzazz to the rap game. What started as a hobby has turned into a passion, unleashing bangers for both the underground and mainstream alike. This summer, 1TakeJay unleashed "Hello," which has now accumulated more than 1 million streams on SoundCloud alone. A proud member of the OneTakeBoyz, Jay also released his project Wait Hol Up, giving fans an exciting preview of what's to come. Now, he takes his efforts to the stage at Catch One in his hometown of Los Angeles. —Shirley Ju

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