Los Angeles is a hotbed of live music, and L.A. Weekly is here to help you navigate this embarrassment of riches. From a rap show with some of the biggest names of the early 2000s to the Punk Rock BBQ, L.A. punk icon Alice Bag and Sam Smith, here are the 12 best shows in L.A. this week!
The Rap Show
Sometimes you just have to look at a bill, stand back and applaud. There's also the wonderful simplicity of naming this event The Rap Show — really nothing to argue with there. But the array of talent involved is stunning, the curators booking some of the top names from the early 2000s scene. Atlanta's T.I., who hit big in 2003 with his sophomore album, Trap Musik, is a worthy headliner, although Bay Area great E-40 could just as easily top the bill. Fabolous saw five albums break into the Top 10 between 2001 and 2009, with Loso's Way peaking in the No. 1 spot, so his set will be a crowd-pleaser too. And we didn't even talk about Scarface and Twista yet, never mind openers Suga Free and Spice 1. Unbelievable. —Brett Callwood
"We been conditioned though we are not the criminals," Bambu declares on "Info Trip," from his 2016 album, Prey for the Devil. Throughout the record, the Watts native uses references to prey to flip stereotypes about people living in the inner city. In Bambu's worldview, rappers, gang members and other defiant people of color usually are treated as prey by the police and political establishment. "But the predator is sticking all my homies in the cage," he observes before insisting, "This is not the last breath of a martyr." The Filipino-American performer grew up amid violence but, unlike less authentic rappers, he seldom glorifies it. Tonight, Bambu previews new material from Exorcising a Demon, Article 1: A Few Left, an upcoming project with his longtime producer and collaborator, DJ Phatrick. —Falling James
Swingin Utters, Kevin Seconds
NorCal punks the Swingin' Utters have been around since 1987, although, to be fair, they took a good long break between 2003 and 2010. That hiatus clearly did them good; the 2011 full-lengther Here, Under Protest, their seventh in total, was a clear statement of intent. Everything since then has followed suit, and the end of August sees the release of the band's 10th album, kinda ironically titled Peace and Love. The lead-off single, "Human Potential," is a banger. "The fashion police is a fascist regime," sings Johnny "Peebucks" Bonnel with typical fire and fury, spit and savagery. At Alex's Bar, the pit will be insane, as it will for erstwhile 7 Seconds frontman Kevin Seconds. That's quite a double bill, and The Fiends also play. —Brett Callwood
A charismatic showman, noted prankster and prolific purveyor of relaxed, aqueous dream pop, Mac DeMarco is one of the premier acts in indie rock today. After an auspicious six-year relationship that produced two near-classic albums (2012's 2 and 2014's Salad Days), DeMarco announced this month that he is leaving Captured Tracks — he has been the Brooklyn imprint's marquee name — to found his own label, which he has ingenuously dubbed Mac's Record Label. The musician also has plans for his first solo tour after this current run of shows, which feature his full band. DeMarco will be coming off a three-night stand at the Teragram to play tonight at the Palladium. —Matt Miner
At Coachella in April, elder statesman David Byrne performed two triumphant sets in front of a largely youthful crowd, reveling in a potent combo of Talking Heads nostalgia and his still entirely relevant solo career. American Utopia, Byrne's 11th solo studio album, dropped in March and new tunes such as "I Dance Like This" and "Everybody's Coming to My House" went down nearly as well as "Once in a Lifetime." Since then, Byrne has continued to tour, using the same stage setup and performance art routines, which many fans believe is Byrne's best all-round show since the acclaimed Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. One of music's true one-offs and genuinely unique voices, any chance to see Byrne live should be grabbed with two hands. Ibeyi also plays. —Brett Callwood
THE GETTY CENTER
Combo Chimbita are based in New York, but their music draws from an entire universe of styles. While there are elements of cumbia, Caribbean rhythms and reggae on their 2017 album, Abya Yala, the group don't strictly adhere to the formal limitations of world music. Such tracks as "No Regreso" infuse traditional impulses with wildly psychedelic and electronic flourishes. Much of the band's music centers on charismatic vocalist Carolina Oliveros, whose fiery exhortations are pumped up by bassist Prince of Queens, inventive drummer Dilemastronauta and guitarist Niño Lento. "Pachanga" is a whirlwind of Prince of Queen's febrile synth patterns, while "Cachimba" is an artier fusion of circular grooves and Lento's spidery streaks of guitar. "Congo" is buttressed by Dilemastronauta's percussive interplay against a spacy dub backdrop. —Falling James
Punk Rock BBQ
The Punk Rock BBQ was based for many years at the West L.A. bar Liquid Kitty, but it has more recently been held at Santa Monica blues club Harvelle's. As always, though, the afternoon shows are free and generally feature veterans from the early punk-rock scene. Today's lineup includes such South Bay luminaries as Lawndale, who take their surf-music instrumentals into unpredictable sonic spaces, and Mike Watt & the Secondmen, a hard-hitting bass-drums-organ trio with Pete Mazich and Jerry Trebotic. The show is highlighted by a relatively rare set from The Last, the Hermosa Beach band whose late-'70s collisions of power pop and punk influenced such seemingly unrelated acolytes as The Descendents, The Bangles and The Gun Club. The Last's poignantly bewitching early single "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" is often covered onstage by Watt. Plus, Pedal Strike and Herbert. —Falling James
WHISKY A GO-GO
This Yes set at the Whisky offers a rare chance to see the British prog-rock titans in an extremely intimate setting. There might be a bit of chaos on the Strip that night; tickets are available only on the day of the performance, so a few proggy fans may be imitating Walmart shoppers on Black Friday. For those who do manage to get in, it will surely be a special night. This current lineup features frontman Jon Anderson, guitarist Trevor Rabin and one-of-a-kind keyboardist Rick Wakeman. No Steve White, Alan White or Geoff Downes, who are off in another version of Yes. That's always a bit awkward, but what can you do? Anderson says that whatever he does is Yes, and when he has Rabin and Wakeman in tow, few fans will argue. —Brett Callwood
Zane Carney has just picked up this new monthly residency at the Troubadour, and he's earned it. While working with John Mayer, his band Carney, and on the Broadway production Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, he has developed into an accomplished and exciting guitarist and performer. The list of people he's worked with is as long as it is impressive: Stevie Wonder, Bono and The Edge, Keith Urban and Don Was, to name just a few. He's also opened for U2, Fergie and The Black Crowes. The guy has already crammed so much into his career, and one has to believe that there's much more to come. His debut EP, Confluence, and instrumental album Amalgam are available now, and expect to hear tracks from both of those at this iconic venue as the months roll on. R Finn and Sophia Pfister also play. —Brett Callwood
Los Angeles can always use a new dance-pop goddess, and Fiona Grey was born to inherit the role. The Chicago native looks like a star, adding a visual flair to her live performances with her elegant ballgowns, elaborately lavish makeup and dramatically assured stage presence. In many ways, Grey is like a glittery silver disco ball come to life, radiating and spinning reflected light like diamonds all around the dance floor. On "Dirty Dream," a new single from her upcoming EP, Cult Classic, Grey confides, "I had a dirty dream ... about our fucked-up love affair," but she doesn't wallow in self-pity for long before she's swept away by the track's infectious disco groove and euphoric chorus. Grey previously revealed glimpses of her pop potential as a teenage diva on Striped Heart and Belladonna, as well as a more recent and languorously intoxicating interpretation of Blondie's "Heart of Glass." —Falling James
Sam Smith, Beth Ditto
Almost a year after the release of his commercially and critically acclaimed second album, The Thrill of it All, Sam Smith brings his arena show to Los Angeles' Staples Center. A chart-topping, multiple award winner (Grammys, Billboards, Brits and Academy), Smith has found his niche in heartbreak, his androgynous, soulful voice handily lending itself to the left-lover playlist. Not unlike Smith's debut album, In the Lonely Hour, The Thrill of it All is a succession of ballads, which sometimes feel as if they are just one long, drawn-out lament pushed along by many sweeping orchestral flourishes. Smith's support artist, one-time Gossip frontperson Beth Ditto, is more than his vocal match. Ditto's brash and ballsy belt-outs, which sparkle with pop reflections off a disco ball, are a great foil for Smith's sad-sack croons. Also Wednesday, Aug. 29. —Lily Moayeri
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Unlike many of her peers in the late-'70s L.A. punk scene, Alice Bag continues to reinvent herself in numerous guises and musical incarnations, including Stay at Home Bomb, Cholita!, Las Tres, Castration Squad and Phag (a folk duo with Phranc), among others. While the former Alicia Armendariz still spits out early Bags classics such as "Survive" and "Babylonian Gorgon" with her current band, she's more likely to sink her teeth into the more timely and relevant songs from her 2016 self-titled album and 2018's Blueprint. And while she recounted her fascinating adventures in two different outspoken and revelatory memoirs, Violence Girl and Pipe Bomb for the Soul, Ms. Bag tends to use her past experiences only as a starting point to emphasize her current battles against racism and sexism. —Falling James