Shuggie Otis -- See Saturday
Shuggie Otis -- See Saturday

The Best Concerts to See in L.A. This Weekend

Friday, April 26

Medeski Martin & Wood


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More than 20 years ago, keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin formed a trio that quickly became one of the most successful in contemporary jazz. A 1995 performance with Phish established them as a jam band, and subsequent collaborations with guitarist John Scofield got them recognition in more traditional jazz circles. The group's playing style sometimes is referred to as "avant-groove," featuring elements of funk, hip-hop and extended improvisations. Tonight's Royce Hall show will feature one set of acoustic music, followed by one electric. MMW is in the middle of an extensive West Coast tour, so expect the band to be in fine form. --Tom Meek

L.A. Philharmonic with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Lionel Bringuier


A superbly balanced purveyor of intellect, charisma and fiery playing chops, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet offers fresh insights in this program of French composers. Tonight, Thibaudet treks through the melodious Orientalisms of Saint-Saëns' Fifth Piano Concerto ("Egyptian"), a stirring spray of the composer's elegant luster jacked up with jet-speed scales and arpeggios. The theme of the horrors of war colors Ravel's La Valse, a dense piece whose waltz rhythms swirl in harmony around portentous melodies and textures. Lionel Bringuier, resident conductor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, brings his singular brand of youthful vigor and smarts. Thibaudet and Bringuier bring a variety of other French programs Sat.-Sun., April 27-28. --John Payne

Saturday, April 27

Various Cruelties


Various Cruelties' peak moments (thus far) revolve around money-spending holidays. Their weepy track "If It Wasn't for You" served as the soundtrack for a Zales commercial around Christmas. An acoustic version of the song will do the same this Mother's Day. The British outfit is the project of Liam O'Donnell, whose congested voice recalls the Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner and The Kooks' Luke Pritchard in equal parts. Produced by Tony Hoffer (Beck, Phoenix, M83), their self-titled, self-released debut is indie soul informed by '90s Brit-pop bands, '50s doo-wop and '60s Motown. Various Cruelties' strongest moments are during sing-alongs like the layered harmonies of "Great Unknown," the Coldplay blueprint number "Chemicals" and the heart-tugging "Dry Your Tears." The combo performs as part of the seventh annual BritWeek. --Lily Moayeri

Shuggie Otis


Torment and virtuosic ability invariably make for an intensely vexatious music career: Just ask 59-year-old Shuggie Otis, a star-crossed prodigy and master of hit-and-run multi-instrumental genius. The very potent post-Hendrix, proto-Prince rocker developed an alluring sound in his teens but, apparently more focused on a challenging inner life than outward artistic expression, chucked a very swift and promising rise to stardom. (Hell, he even turned down an early-'70s offer to join The Rolling Stones). Shuggie's seductive style, limned with radiant, soulful California funk, salted with a deep blue streak and elevated by a progressive, modern rock & roll sensibility, was always burdened by the shadowy presence of his father, the influential R&B patriarch Johnny Otis. (The elder Otis, to insiders, was a controversial figure of formidable notoriety.) MIA for decades, the fact that Shuggie's current, sustained public re-emergence comes in the wake of Johnny's 2012 death is provocative indeed, but either way, this brilliant cat is finally out of the bag. --Jonny Whiteside

Paul van Dyk


Venerable German DJ/producer Paul van Dyk has called electronic dance music "a political and diplomatic tool" that could be used for the cultivation of world peace. At this point, with daily headlines being a truly sad state of affairs, the sinewy trance beats and slick bass waves that have served as the foundation for van Dyk's musical and cultural relevancy for the past two decades seem as reasonable a solution to the challenges of modern existence as any other. Tonight is a rare club gig for van Dyk, a brand-unto-himself mega-DJ whose name typically appears at the top of festival lineups worldwide and who plays for an estimated three million people a year. The gig should pull a mixed crowd of old-school electronic music scenesters and the new-school club kiddies usually populating this Avaland club night. If van Dyk's spirit of diplomacy serves only to bridge the EDM generation gap on the dance floor, well, that's a good start. --Katie Bain

Sunday, April 28

Derde Verde


L.A. three-piece Derde Verde are just about to release their new EP, Let Me Be a Light, and the first track, "Tower," is the stormer -- it's all noise and melody and then noise as melody, like something off Guided By Voice's Isolation Drills. (Which, as you'll recall, was part of their not-quite-so-lo-fi era.) And while Derde Verde don't so slow down as much as they open up on the rest of this release, that same fractured pop sensibility persists all the way until EP closer "I Still Want Someone" ends with a crescendo of guitar-mangling feedback that doesn't so much fade as evaporate. The spirits of bands like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Spoon are all at work here, but not always in the way you'd expect. It's nice to see a group putting some independence back into indie rock. --Chris Ziegler

Carla Olson


She's got a voice like a clarion call, plays guitar like a mother, and -- besides writing her own memorable blues-rock anthems -- is one of the few people who can cover classics by Dylan and The Stones and truly make them her own. So why isn't Carla Olson headlining her own basketball arenas by now? She should have made it big with late-'70s power-pop band The Textones, especially after moving in a more soulfully rootsy direction when bandmate Kathy Valentine ran off to join The Go-Go's. But Olson has been even more impressive in her consistently remarkable solo career and notably empathic collaborations with The Byrds' Gene Clark and Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. Many of her interests and influences intersect at the crossroads of her new album of duets and covers, Have Harmony, Will Travel, where Olson is country enough to exchange tears with Juice Newton while also punk enough to rip it up with The Dictators' Scott Kempner. --Falling James

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