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Friday, February 20
The Ninth Annual Dre Day
Kanye might have started a genre battle by pitting the “artistry” of hip-hop against that of rock, but for many, lines need not be drawn. For nine years, the talents of one hip-hop master producer and performer have been good-naturedly celebrated by some of L.A.’s coolest alternative acts. Yep, California knows how to party when it comes to Dr. Dre’s birthday (his 49th this year). Led by bodacious, Cal Worthington–inspired punks Pu$$y-Cow, the lineup also includes fresh noise freaks Lysolgang, pop sloppers Payoff and the garage-y goodness of Johnny Madcap & The Distractions, all expressing themselves Dre-style. In between, there will be fun at the “Chronic” photo booth, and DJs spinning N.W.A and the Doctor’s disciples — presumably on Beats by Dre headphones. — Lina Lecaro
He was a prodigy, learning piano at age 3, studying jazz at USC at age 16. He was the winner of the Montreux and Thelonious Monk jazz piano competitions as a teenager. However, instead of becoming embedded in the jazz scene in New York, Tigran Hamasyan has followed a different path, one that eventually took him back to his native Armenia, where he now lives and writes music about his beloved homeland. His sheer brilliance on the piano is matched by the beauty and integrity of his folk-inspired compositions. Like a modern-day Bartók, Hamasyan’s music is deeply rooted in his Eastern European heritage, yet it has a modernist’s intellect and a charismatic fire that can be traced only to its author. His debut on Nonesuch is called Mockroot, featuring drummer Arthur Hnatek and bassist Sam Minaie. — Gary Fukushima
Mr. Airplane Man
It’s been 10 years since Mr. Airplane Man brought their eerie blues incantations to this coast, but the Boston duo of singer-guitarist Margaret Garrett and drummer Tara McManus have reunited without much fanfare for this low-key tour. Their minimalist, slide guitar–smeared sound used to bring them comparisons to their old rivals, The White Stripes. But their feverish remake of The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy” places Mr. Airplane Man in a much darker and wilder tradition of underground blues-punk. That cover appears on the aptly titled new CD, The Lost Tapes, an unreleased album originally recorded in 2000. Tracks such as “Lonesome Road” and “Sun Going Down” stir up much of the same mortal dread as their chilling early cover of “Jesus on the Mainline,” as Garrett’s lost-little-girl vocals melt into the ether of her haunting slide contrails. Also at Cafe NELA, Saturday, Feb. 21 — Falling James
Saturday, February 21
Air + Style
There’s not a lot of snow in Pasadena during this year’s summerlike SoCal winter, but that isn’t stopping celebrated skateboarder/snowboarder Shaun White from bringing his two-day Air + Style festival to the United States for the first time. Many of the world’s top skiers, snowboarders and skateboarders will soar across a specially constructed, 16-story-high ramp, while a fairly diverse cross-section of musicians performs. Saturday features the Compton reveries of local rapper Kendrick Lamar, EDM-pumped Mad Decent figurehead Diplo, the seamlessly glittery electronica of Phantogram and the contrastingly rude garage-punk expulsions of Black Lips, along with White’s own synth-rock outfit, Bad Things. Sunday’s lineup encompasses the psychedelic spectacle of The Flaming Lips, electro-house wizard Steve Aoki and the slyly fuzzed-out melodies of Sleigh Bells, as well as Cults, Surfer Blood and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Also Sunday, Feb. 22. — Falling James
EL REY THEATRE
It might be tempting to dismiss Meghan Trainor as merely a sugary purveyor of lightweight dance-pop hits such as "Lips Are Movin'?" and her unapologetic ode to curvy women, "All About That Bass." But the Massachusetts singer is no dummy. She infuses her bubble-gum pop songs with savvy doo-wop harmonies and blue-eyed soul tradition. The precocious former Berklee College of Music student can play several instruments, and at 21 sings with a vocal sophistication that belies her age. The bouncy, retro-pop exultation of “Dear Future Husband” masks Trainor’s clever lyrical advice to potential suitors (“Don’t have a dirty mind/Just be a classy guy”). She offers more pointed suggestions on “Title”: “Baby, don’t call me your friend … You might never get a chance to see me naked in your bed.” Also Sunday, Feb. 22. — Falling James
Absolute Body Control
Formed at the dawn of the 1980s, Absolute Body Control’s first run lasted only a few years. The Belgian duo split without releasing a full-length studio album, although Dirk Ivens and Eric Van Wonterghem went on to collaborate on other projects. Flash forward to the 21st century, when renewed interest in dark, minimal synths triggered reissues of their cassette-only releases. The band returned to the stage and, eventually, released new music. This was a reunion done right, and their return to Los Angeles is a welcome one. Locals Pure Ground pick up on the sound that Absolute Body Control helped forge years ago with analog beats. Job Leatherette and Silent Servant will keep the synth groove going on the decks. — Liz Ohanesian
Sunday, February 22
HOUSE OF BLUES SUNSET STRIP
There exist few bands in any genre putting out relevant albums that stand against their efforts from decades prior. Napalm Death helped birth the chaotic grindcore genre with their 1987 debut, Scum. Their newest album, Apex Predator — Easy Meat, showcases an act with plenty of venom left to spew. Their brand of metallic mayhem has evolved into something a little more moshable, but their sense of organized musical chaos remains firmly intact. The group’s vitriolic lyrical approach takes the political and social ills of a decaying society to task on tracks such as “Bloodless Coup” and “Metaphorically Screw You.” Vocalist Barney Greenway’s paint-stripping barks sound even angrier now than in 1990, when he made his vocal debut as a 20-year-old British kid on Napalm Death’s third album, Harmony Corruption. — Jason Roche
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Rick Rosas Tribute Concert
RADISSON HOTEL WHITTIER
Long ago and far away in the Land of 1,000 Dances (aka East L.A.), a few dozen sharp-dressed teenagers took destiny into their hands. Some, like Thee Midniters and The Premiers, went from backyard jams and high school dances to hit records and shows at the Palladium and Hollywood Bowl. Others, such as the late Rick Rosas, earned respect for their individual prowess and served beside the biggest names in rock & roll. Rosas began with his junior high classmates Mark & the Escorts circa 1964, and went on to spend many years in Neil Young’s band as well as recording with Ron Wood, Jerry Lee Lewis and Joe Walsh. Today’s matinee memorial features a hyper-rare session with The Blendells (one of only East L.A. groups to score a national hit, with “La La La La La”), a return by Mark & the Escorts and the inevitable unnamed (and not be missed) special guests. — Jonny Whiteside