From a Lil Pump and Lil Skies doubleheader to trailblazing punks The Damned, here are the 12 best music shows in Los Angeles this week!
THE MOROCCAN LOUNGE
“Dead radio if all we know is all we know,” Jennifer Charles warns solemnly against Oren Bloedow’s momentous guitar arpeggios, which toll like doom-laden bells, on “Karen 25,” from Elysian Fields’ latest album, Pink Air. The Brooklyn duo invent their own form of radio on the new record, which ranges from delicate pop (“Philistine Jackknife”) and candied balladry (“Start in Light”) to heavier passages driven by Bloedow’s barely restrained, darkly lurking guitar chords (“Tidal Wave,” “Storm Cellar”). The six-minute “Knights of the White Carnation” is a slow and sludgy ascent up a hard-rock mountain in which Bloedow’s grungy guitar is contrasted by Charles’ coolly serene vocal proclamations. “Lords and queens of the castle walls/Heirs of the great plantations/Hands that whipped black skin/Hold the keys of the private prisons,” she rails dourly. —Falling James
WHISKY A GO GO
When people talk about the Runaways — and, indeed, when the movie was made — the focus tends to be on Cherie Currie and Joan Jett, and that’s fair. But hell, guitarist Lita Ford has a story to tell. Not only did she have a very successful hair metal career in the ’80s thanks to singles such as “Kiss Me Deadly,” “Close My Eyes Forever” (with Ozzy Osbourne) and “Shot Of Poison,” but she pretty much disappeared for a decade following her ’95 album Black, having married Nitro frontman Jim Gillette. Nobody in that relationship is speaking about it fondly today, so it’s fortunate that Ford is out of it and able to put out excellent new material while performing killer shows. Much like those former Runaways bandmates, she remains a force of nature. —Brett Callwood
Steffen Berkhahn, aka Dixon, and Kristian Rädle and Frank Wiedemann of me founded the German dance music label Innervisions in 2005. Today, it is one of the biggest house and techno labels, known for its melodic, accessible productions. This Saturday, Innervisions will take over historic Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles for the imprint’s first-ever L.A. label showcase. Joining Dixon — one of the most popular DJs in the world — and Rädle performing as me, are new Innervisions recruits Eagles & Butterflies and Trikk. The event is produced by noted L.A. promoters Future Primitive, who will host another outdoor party with Jamie Jones and Loco Dice on June 1. —Matt Miner
Lara Downes, Hila Plitmann
On her latest album, Holes in the Sky, pianist Lara Downes surrounds herself with an impressive lineup of special guests who help her cover music from across a variety of genres by such disparate women composers as Janis Ian, Clara Schumann, Georgia Stitt, Eve Beglarian, Joni Mitchell and Paola Prestini. Folk legend Judy Collins anoints the piano reverie “Albatross” with her trademark vocal grace, and Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens imbues Downes’ spare, flickering piano accents with an intimate, jazzy warmth. Downes’ other collaborators include Leyla McCalla, Alicia Hall Moran, and soprano Hila Plitmann, who was an eerie presence at L.A. Phil’s 2017 presentation of Annie Gosfield’s War of the Worlds. At Comunity, Plitmann joins the pianist for a celebration of the new album — and of the spirit of women musicians — that includes performers from the Colburn School. —Falling James
When you say the word “punk” to people perhaps only vaguely familiar with the genre/scene, Exploited frontman Wattie Buchan is what many of them envisage. With his famous mohawk and Scottish sneer, he looks like everything that the likes of Rancid wanted to be. Meanwhile, the band have been putting out solid material since forming in ’79, part of the British “second wave.” The “Punks Not Dead” track from the 1981 album of the same name is their rallying call, their call to arms, and perhaps their best know song but while they have hardly been prolific, later material is worth the effort, including 1996’s Beat the Bastards and 2003’s Fuck the System. D.I. and Total Chaos also play. —Brett Callwood
THE FONDA THEATRE
When sibling trio Michael (guitarist), Peter (drummer) and Margo Timmins (vocalist) joined with bassist Alan Anton to form Cowboy Junkies in Toronto in 1985, they stood out from most groups of the era. In a time when hair metal and hardcore bands were blustering and raging, and pop acts were largely peppy and dance-oriented, the Canadian folk-country group deliberately slowed things down and lowered the volume to let their songs and covers breathe in tranquil, lulling spaces. Since then, many musicians have rediscovered the joys of such subtle, intimate sounds, but Cowboy Junkies remain unique in their approach. Their latest record, All That Reckoning, is a somber, serious set of songs that alternates between glacial balladry (“Wooden Stairs”) and harder, more bluesy tracks (“Missing Children”). —Falling James
Polartropica play shiny, shimmering synthpop that’s pumped up with the kind of ebullient beats that will make you feel like a sparkle of light swimming among the disco-ball reflections on the dance floor. Some of the local quartet’s songs are so full of joy that you will fully embrace the possibilities of life as singer Ihui Cherise Wu takes you to her fantasy island located halfway between the tropics and the North Pole. Other songs are steeped in so much sadness, heartbreak and longing that you will find yourself dancing and crying at the same time. Either way, Wu’s dreamy melodies will take you out of the dull real world and surround you in a spin of glitter, rainbows and silvery light. May residents Capyac put a similarly glamorous and flashy twist on disco, funk and hip-hop with their tight dance-music workouts. —Falling James
Fans of ’80s Manchester post-punk band The Smiths are a loyal bunch. Throughout the world, there are legions of devotees hanging on every (often ludicrous) word that Morrissey utters, while proudly proclaiming that Johnny Marr is up there with the best guitarists of all time. But even amid the global adoration, there’s always been a special relationship between Los Angeles and The Smiths. That’s something Marr holds dear, telling us recently, “Growing up in the U.K. in the ’70s, you can imagine what playing in California could mean to me. It was this remote fantasyland for me as a little kid.” We’re delighted, then, to welcome Marr back to this glorious fantasyland. Stick around for as long as you want, mate. —Brett Callwood
Lil Pump, Lil Skies
Lil Pump and Lil Skies on a headlining tour? ESSKEETIT! When Pump released “Gucci Gang,” the Florida rapper left the rap game in a frenzy. With over 912 million views on Youtube alone, the song went on to become an anthem for music-lovers all across the world. Consistently feeding his cult-like fanbase with bangers, the 18-year-old recently unleashed his album Harverd Dropout — a title which speaks for itself. Bringing Lil Skies on the road is the cherry on top. The Pennsylvania rapper is known for his melodic flows, and ability to capture listeners with every line, lyric and emotion. Fans can expect cuts from his debut mixtape Life Of A Dark Rose along with his most recent album Shelby, dedicated to his mother. —Shirley Ju
It’s rare that a band like The Damned would confine their uncontrollable punk chaos and occasionally majestic goth fantasies to a small club like Alex’s Bar, but here they come with two nights of performances re-creating their brilliant 1979 opus, Machine Gun Etiquette. That masterwork captured the best impulses of The Damned — rabid punk bursts of incendiary romance (“Love Song”), sacrilegious daring (“Anti-Pope”) and apocalyptic despair (“I Just Can’t Be Happy Today”) mixed with unexpected gracefully melodic interludes, such as “Smash It Up (Part One).” This tour also marks the return of early-’80s Damned bassist Paul Gray (who wasn’t on the recording of Machine Gun Etiquette). While it should be a guilty pleasure to hear the complete MGE live, one hopes that The Damned won’t turn into a permanent oldies act. Also Thursday, May 23. —Falling James
The music world is full of oddball characters — deviants, miscreants and all manner of wonderful freaks. But there’s nobody out there quite like Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman. The dark jester of post-punk always gives the impression that he’s half-crazed — wide-eyed and ever-ready to utter a bellowing laugh, and with wild fire dancing behind his eyes, you never quite know what to expect. But he’s also razor sharp. A keen supporter of sustainability, Coleman has invested in ecovillage builds in Chile and the South Pacific. Meanwhile, outside of Killing Joke, he’s composed numerous orchestral pieces. But the Joke is still a tremendous live band, and the 2015 album Pylon was a typical headfuck. Let’s hope for more soon. —Brett Callwood
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The Dead Boys
WHISKY A GO GO
With every passing gig, it becomes more and more clear that this current version of The Dead Boys, with original members Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz joined by Jason Kottwitz, Jake Hout, and Ricky Rat (the latter of awesome Detroit band the Trash Brats — check them out), is here to stay and for good reason. The proof will come when (or if) they eventually put out brand new material, but this Stiv-less band has fought against the odds and become a frankly terrifying live proposition. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Frontman Hout does a tremendous job of channeling Bators while adding a little bit of himself, and that’s the key. They’re paying respects while moving forward. The Roxy Suicide, Time Out, Robbers, The Raskins and Maximum Bob also play. —Brett Callwood