Los Angeles is a hotbed of live music, and L.A. Weekly is here to help navigate this embarrassment of riches. From Afrobeat expert Seun Kuti to the mystical sounds of Ólafur Arnalds, a Suckerpunch reunion to the everlasting Le Butcherettes, here are the 12 best music shows in L.A. this week!
Like his older brother Femi Kuti, singer-saxophonist Seun Kuti inherited a lot from their legendary father, Fela Kuti. Both sons were schooled in the funky rhythmic intricacies of their dad's tight Afrobeat music, but they also developed their consciences to incorporate Fela's political activism and outspokenness in their own music. Seun also carries on the tradition of Fela's old band Egypt 80, which features many of the same musicians who toured with Fela — and who also had to struggle against the harassment and corrupt practices of Nigeria's military and police, which did everything they could to censor Fela's music. Seun Kuti shares with Bob Marley the ability to create madly intoxicating music that's simultaneously joyful and energetic, even as it's layered with inspirational messages of freedom. —Falling James
Concerts at the Orpheum usually are shot through and riddled with razzle-dazzle and stark naked theatricality, but if you're looking to take a break from that and just luxuriate in the simple pleasures of watching a man play three pianos at once, then Ólafur Arnalds is your man and this is your night. The Icelandic ambient composer has a new album on Mercury Kx titled re:member, composed by a new technological advance named Stratus, which involves two specially equipped pianos triggered by Arnalds' own piano playing. When he hits a note, they make two other notes, meaning that he can open up new fields of melody and harmony. With Stratus, he also has the breathtaking acoustics of the Orpheum as yet another instrument with which he'll transport you to yet another world — but gently, gently. —David Cotner
THE VIPER ROOM
Formed in 1994, Suckerpunch are arguably better known for the bands that the members came from or later joined than their own music; that's understandable but a bit of a shame. Tim Mosher (Broken Glass, Junkyard), Mike Dimkich (The Cult, Bad Religion, Steve Jones Band), Pat Muzingo (Junkyard, Decry, Speedbuggy) and Gary Ivin (Glimmer, London Quireboys) put out an awesome self-titled debut in '96 via MCA, and then split shortly afterward. And that was it — the guys went their separate ways, and made beautiful music elsewhere. But now, they're getting back together to revisit those past glories. It should be a special night — Suckerpunch retain a small but enthusiastic fan base, and the band are fired up and ready to go. Fur Dixon, The Gitas and Brainspoon also play. —Brett Callwood
WHISKY A GO GO
Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein might be the guitarist most closely associated with The Misfits, the brother of bassist Jerry Only and the guy involved in the recent reunion, but Bobby Steele was there first and played on some important punk rock records, not least EP Horror Business in 1979, the "Night of the Living Dead" single that same year, and EP Beware in 1980. Frankenstein replaced Steele in October '80, and The Undead were born. In many ways, The Undead picked up where The Misfits left off, blending that horror-themed rockabilly vibe with an early hardcore sound. They've never split, either, even if Steele is the only member who has been there from the start. Delphic Sibyl, The Mother Vines, Salems Ghost, Gil Sandoval and Genital Jamboree also play. —Brett Callwood
PICO UNION PROJECT
As leader of the four-piece Brooklyn band Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker caught the attention of listeners and critics alike with a pair of special albums, Masterpiece (2016) and Capacity (2017), on the venerable Omaha, Nebraska, indie label Saddle Creek Records. (Founded in 1993, Saddle Creek notably maintains a 50/50 profit-sharing split with its artists.) Last year, Lenker delivered a new solo album, abysskiss. The sparseness of the songs — ruminations on heartache and loss — belied the sophistication of Lenker's arrangements and her gift for unique melodies, and abysskiss found its way onto year-end lists from Pitchfork to NPR. —Matt Miner
THE LOVE SONG
"I found myself a new world/sailed around its ring/I wrought myself a country/and I crowned myself its king," Vera Sola declares on "The Colony," from her 2018 debut album, Shades. The singer's personal kingdom is a windswept landscape of austere drums and bass and subdued guitars through which Sola, who also plays with Elvis Perkins, wanders with her languid, solemn phrasing. "See, I came out of your body/I was attached to your spine/I was a piece of your rib cage," she purrs on "The Cage," but with its eerie keyboards and Sola's shell-shocked delivery, the song is not a starry-eyed romantic tribute as she continues, "I am a fraction of/I am subtracted from/I am you." With Shades, Sola builds on the promise of her 2017 EP, Last Caress, in which she subversively transformed Misfits covers into glassy, spectrally enchanting ballads. —Falling James
MARTY'S ON NEWPORT
Mexican garage-punk band Le Butcherettes were formed by the wonderfully wild though enigmatic Teri Gender Bender in 2007, and they've released four albums, with bi/MENTAL dropped on Feb. 1. Jello Biafra and Alice Bag pop up on the new record, which is typically thrilling; raw and lyrically intense, all framed by Gender Bender's Kate Bush–esque vocal coos. Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison produces, so the big punk names can be found everywhere, but this record is all about Le Butcherettes. The garnishes help but don't override. Rather, this is a band that has really hit its stride now, and each release feels like a gift. This Tustin gig with Stars at Night should be insane. —Brett Callwood
THE FONDA THEATRE
Nikki Lane's 2012 single, "Gone Gone Gone," is one of those rare modern country-pop songs that's suffused with an air of mystery and enchantment that does more than just mimic classic roots music. The febrile tune is a haunting idyll with the Nashville resident's heartfelt, dreamy vocals draped over rich, echoing shimmers of guitar. On Lane's latest album, Highway Queen, the singer stakes her claim as an important country artist in the now. "Sixty thousand miles of blacktop, countless broken hearts between," she confides on the autobiographical title track. "You can tie her down with a Marlboro Light, but the highway queen don't need no king." Elsewhere, Lane looks back at her South Carolina hometown ("700,000 Rednecks"), beams her heart to a distant lover ("Send the Sun") and suffers the slings and arrows of a small-town gossip ("Big Mouth"). She opens tonight for Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke. —Falling James
Gang of Four
Guitarist Andy Gill might be the only member remaining from the lineup that recorded the classic Entertainment! album for EMI in 1979, but Leeds, England, band Gang of Four are far from finished. This year's HAPPY NOW album, the second since singer John "Gaoler" Sterry took over from O.G. vocalist Jon King, sees them continuing to blend mechanical post-punk with quirky new wave, all with a contemporary pop edge. Purists might scoff, but band name aside, this is a band making wonderful new music that does nothing to disrespect the old stuff. Gill recently told us that the current state of the world has inspired some of the lyrics (how could it not?), and it shows. Also Monday, Feb. 4, at Marty's on Newport. —Brett Callwood
New York's The Toasters are one of the first "second-wave ska" bands, having formed in 1981. Known for their riotous live shows, the band also have nine awesome albums to their name. The most recent, One More Bullet, dropped in 2007, so we're about due for a new one. Hopefully they'll find something to inspire them. In the meantime, they have plenty of skank-ready material in their arsenal to pull out for a killer punk show like this one. There are few better venues in the area than Alex's Bar when a punk/hardcore band is really slamming. You can practically feel the floor bounce as you're flippered around like a pinball. This one should be great. The Scotch Bonnets, Bite Me Bambi and Los Nauticals also play. —Brett Callwood
Warpaint are such a uniquely compelling combination of influences and musicians that it takes a two-day festival to unwrap all the different permutations of the band and their extended community of simpatico musical allies. The enigmatic L.A. quartet bring the third edition of their Love You Down festival to the Echo and also downstairs in the adjoining Echoplex. Warpaint and gauzy electronic-pop explorers SWIMM headline both nights, with performances by such SoCal indie-rock luminaries as Gardens & Villa, Sego, Goldensuns and Jeffertitti's Nile, plus DJ sets from Devendra Banhart, The Kills' Jaime Hince and David Orlando, among others. Even more intriguing, Warpaint's members branch out into various projects, including singer-guitarist Emily Kokal collaborating with Deafmute, singer-guitarist Theresa Wayman reprising TT, drummer Stella Mozgawa and Boom Bip appearing as Beef, and bassist Jennylee taking the stage in her solo persona. Also Friday, Feb. 8. —Falling James
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THE FONDA THEATRE
"I hate it when dudes try to chase me, but I love it when you try to save me 'cause I'm just a lady," King Princess confesses on "1950," a forthright celebration of queer love on her 2018 EP, Make My Bed. Mikaela Straus, a 20-year-old native of Brooklyn, sings unabashedly mainstream, piano-driven pop tunes that are marked by her bold yet contemplative lyrics. "I rule with the velvet tongue," she says fittingly enough on "Holy," a yearning electro-pop reverie. "I'm dressed like a fucking queen, and you're begging 'please.'?" King Princess reveals added depth on her heartfelt new cover of "I Know" by Fiona Apple, who reflects her admiration back to the pop wunderkind by harmonizing and playing piano. —Falling James