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Friday, May 8
MASONIC LODGE AT HOLLYWOOD FOREVER
Stephin Merritt is so fascinated by language that last year he wrote a book, 101 Two-Letter Words, in which he took all the grammatically permissible two-letter words from the Scrabble dictionary and wrote a short poem about each one. The Magnetic Fields leader also is breaking down his music to its smallest components on his current tour, performing acoustically on ukulele and backed only by cellist Sam Davol. In keeping with his love of wordplay, Merritt will perform 26 songs (one for each letter of the alphabet) in alphabetical order. What that means is that if you prefer the Magnetic Fields song “Andrew in Drag” to, say, “Zombie Boy,” make sure you arrive early in the set. The songwriter will mix Magnetic Fields favorites with songs from his other projects, including The 6ths and The Gothic Archies. Also Saturday, May 9. — Falling James
Sicko de Mayo with Haunted Garage, Rosemary's Billygoat, Radioactive Chicken Heads
Dukey Flyswatter is such a master of gore and sonic destruction that he seemingly only crawls out of his grave around Halloween, much like The Cramps used to do. Tonight, the Haunted Garage howler and B-movie actor turns the Cinco de Mayo holiday into a bloody spectacle. Not only will Haunted Garage reign supreme (and rain down blood) during such cheery hard-rock anthems as “976-KILL” and “Bitch Like You,” Flyswatter likely will engage in such amusing distractions as attaching mousetraps to his face while surrounded by a posse of beautiful, S&M-style dancers. The Battle of Puebla will be further celebrated by Mike Odd’s similarly theatrical horror-rockers, Rosemary’s Billygoat. Meanwhile, despite song titles such as “I Eat Kids,” The Radioactive Chicken Heads are relatively lighthearted, as they prance about like living cartoons in their colorful carrot and bird-head masks. — Falling James
Saturday, May 9
THE REGENT THEATER
The Sonics epitomize American rock & roll at its very best: hard, dirty, fast, all delivered with howling aggression and a biting sense of menace. Their records — “Strychnine,” “The Witch,” “Psycho” — were always recorded at levels that were just a hair away from overmodulated distortion, fostering an atmosphere of unparalleled danger, beauty and excitement. Formed in Seattle in 1960, and essentially inactive from ’69 to 2007, they are paradoxically among the most grossly underappreciated artists of their day, as well as one of the most vastly influential and important bands in rock history, revered by such disparate rockers as Lux Interior, Kurt Cobain and Bruce Springsteen. The fact that they’re still kicking at all is miraculous, a point underscored emphatically by their consistently frantic live shows and a completely bitchin’ brand new album — their first since 1967. — Jonny Whiteside
EL REY THEATRE
Known as the singer/violinist/banjo player for Grammy-winning outfit Carolina Chocolate Drops, classically trained Rhiannon Giddens is one of the fastest rising talents in Americana music. The Oberlin graduate caught music insiders’ attention as a solo performer in 2013 with a standout performance at a show inspired by the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. She also appeared with the likes of Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello, Jim James and Taylor Goldsmith as part of the lauded New Basement Tapes project. With all of her contributions to other projects, Giddens has started to garner attention for her own material; earlier this year, she released her solo debut, Tomorrow Is My Turn, produced by her Basement Tapes and Llewyn Davis collaborator T Bone Burnett. — Daniel Kohn
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars
VALLEY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars came together while they were staying in various refugee camps in Guinea after escaping the civil war in their own country, Sierra Leone. They had little more than a couple of battered guitars and a single microphone, but they somehow attracted the attention of American filmmakers Zach Niles and Banker White, whose documentary about the band’s difficult circumstances brought the musicians international recognition. The group’s debut album, Living Like a Refugee, was a fascinating document in its own right, combining Ruben Koroma’s unplugged songs recorded in the camps with electric tracks the band laid down after returning to their hometown of Freetown. With elements of reggae and the West African style baskeda, their music is uniquely intoxicating. — Falling James
Sunday, May 10
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The Title Trackers, Black Crystal Wolf Kids
This double bill of tongue-in-cheek rock pairs two of L.A.’s cleverest tribute bands for an evening of musical mimicry. As you might guess from their indie-rock keyword-optimized name, Black Crystal Wolf Kids specialize in anthems for serial Coachella attendees, turning out note-perfect renditions of songs in heavy rotation on Silver Lake jukeboxes: Modest Mouse’s “Float On,” Cold War Kids’ “Hang Me Up to Dry,” The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” — a repertoire of more than 100 hipster-approved tracks in total. The Title Trackers opt for an even more high-concept approach, performing “lost” (read: fabricated) title tracks from classic albums such as The Joshua Tree and Exile on Main St. that nimbly walk the line between parody and homage. The Trackers mostly stick to the tried-and-true sounds of classic rock, but who knows? Maybe BCWK will inspire them to bust out some more recent “lost” title tunes. — Andy Hermann