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Friday, January 30

The M Machine, Zimmer
Signed to Skrillex’s OWSLA label, The M Machine is big-room EDM for the kids who dress in neon and festival-hop through the summer. While the San Francisco–based trio’s earlier work is exactly what you would expect from the new wave of dance artists — lots of peaks and few subtleties — their more recent output shows a lot of growth. “Just Like,” from last year’s EP of that name, is pop-and-lock funky, while “Don’t Speak” plays with moody, warehouse-friendly techno influences and “Over/Love” is a solid piece of synthpop. The M Machine is onto good things and now is the time to see them. Make sure you catch Zimmer as well. His chilled-out, house-inflected tracks and remixes are certainly good for the dance floor. Also playing: Manila Killa, Sam Hiller and Atherton. — Liz Ohanesian

Sean Watkins
Last year, the SoCal bluegrass trio Nickel Creek toured for the first time in seven years, but their singer-guitarist, Sean Watkins, managed to remain prolific with numerous other projects. He’s only just now getting around to fully promoting his third solo album, All I Do Is Lie, which came out in June, and he continues to perform with Fiction Family (a duo with Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman), Works Progress Administration (an all-star band with Glen Phillips and Luke Bulla) and The Watkins Family Hour (a celebrity-studded gathering at Largo, co-hosted by his sister Sara). On top of all that, Watkins has backed Lyle Lovett and Jackson Browne and recorded with Hank Williams Jr. and Dolly Parton. Watkins’ impressive agility on guitar sometimes overshadows the comforting warmth of his down-home vocals. — Falling James

The Steve Gadd Band
Steve Gadd has been one of popular music’s most sought-after drummers for decades, appearing on hundreds of recordings and performing live with the likes of Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Steely Dan and many other top acts. He’s joined here by a group of fellow all-stars who’ve all been backing James Taylor of late, including organist Larry Goldings, Walt Fowler on trumpet and flugelhorn, and the brilliant electric string duo of bassist Jimmy Johnson and guitarist Michael Landau. There may not be another weekend in Los Angeles this year with more genuine heavyweight musical talent on one stage, much less in a still-small-enough-to-be-intimate venue such as Catalina. Also Saturday, Jan. 31. — Tom Meek

Jukebox the Ghost play the El Rey on Saturday.; Credit: Photo by Eric Ryan AndersonSaturday, January 31

Jukebox the Ghost
It’s been a steady climb for Washington, D.C., trio Jukebox the Ghost, whose self-titled fourth album features deliciously hook-laden songs, their most expansive to date; it’s a synth-heavy departure from their last record, 2012’s more orchestrated Safe Travels. New tracks such as super-poppy single “Postcard” are a far cry from the band’s lo-fi, smart-alecky roots, though Ben Thornewill’s piano still underpins it all, as he and guitarist Tommy Siegel trade plaintive vocals. Elsewhere, Siegel lays down some tasty power-pop chords on “Sound of a Broken Heart” and helps Thornewill conjure up Freddie Mercury–esque stacked vocals on the lighters-up ballad “Undeniable You.” Their songwriting may have gotten more earnest, but expect just as much snarky banter between songs. — Daniel Kohn

Mac Sabbath, GayC/DC, No Small Children
When it comes to tribute bands, it doesn’t get much more twisted than this. GayC/DC twink out and wink at the hits of Australia’s ballsiest rockers, with a bulky guitarist in a schoolgirl uniform, boas and sequins for the rest of the band, and kooky covers such as “Dirty Dudes Done Dirt Cheap” and “Big Balls” (no title change required). Mac Sabbath won’t say exactly what inspires their Black Sabbath cover band and its “drivethru metal” (a certain fast-food chain might have found their shtick a bit unappetizing recently), but they’re managed by Mike Odd of Rosemary’s Billygoat fame, so you know their stage show will be more than a quarter-pound of fun. Awesome costumes aside — Grimace on bass and “Slayer” McCheese on guitar are especially impressive — they’re a pretty badass Sabbath tribute. With openers No Small Children. — Lina Lecaro

Sunday, February 1

Mike Hudson and The Pagans
If anybody wants to talk about the first wave of ’70s American punk, they’re gonna have to talk about The Pagans, a beast of a band from Cleveland, Ohio, with brilliant, nihilistic smashers including “What’s This Shit Called Love” (with immortal opener “I saw it in books/I read it on TV/It don’t mean nothing to me!”) and “Dead End America.” Last month, Pagans singer and co-founder Mike Hudson unexpectedly burst out of the beyond with a new album called Hollywood High (on Ruin Discos) and a new backing band. This time around, he’s playing up his Stones-y side with a sound that hits somewhere between The Heartbreakers and The Flamin Groovies’ Teenage Head. But his nasty spirit hasn’t changed a bit — as his song says, “Us and all our friends are so messed up." — Chris Ziegler

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