SXLA: The shows that are happening in L.A., not Austin
So, you're not in Austin, Texas, this weekend, the de facto pumping heart of the music world. Don't let your jealousy (arg, the Beaches sound great.... why couldn't I have seen the Beaches?) eat you alive. Instead, look around. Dig on L.A. as it seemingly leap-frogs over spring right into summer. Listen to Alex Chilton and feel your chest ache a little. And get out and see a concert, because the music is flowing here too.
Xiu Xiu and tUnE-yArDs at the Echo: Xiu Xiu isn't keeping it casual with an album title like "Dear God, I Hate Myself," but that's why we respect Jamie Stewart, a depressive who clearly keeps it out in the open. The title track, though, isn't nearly as dark as you'd think: Shelves of synth noise and raggedy bleeps and blips collide gamely with Stewart's warbled singing. The tUnE-yArDs is Merrill Garbus' lo-fi trove of junky beats and submerged R&B funk.
Nite Jewel and High Places at the Echo: A fine double-teaming of local talent. Both of these bands take the alien landscapes of old FM radio -- the snatches of lost R&B, classical, golden-hued pop -- and assimilates them into their own individual frameworks. Nite Jewel is a little more washed out, and High Places keeps the layers a bit more clean and minimal on songs like "I Was Born," which features Mary Pearson's bassoon as well as her spooky, meditative vocals, from their new album, "High Places vs. Mankind."
Gilberto Gil at Royce Hall: This Tropicalia master makes music that bounces with joy, while retaining an easy elegance. With Portuguese lyrics that take on powder-keg topics -- race, religion, societal stratification in his native Brazil -- and a fusion of different strands of musical DNA, including salsa, bossa nova and rock, Gil scared the military dictatorship so bad in the late '60s/early '70s, he had to hightail it to Britain for a while. But alas, here he is now at Royce Hall, playing with Jacques Morelenbaum and Bem Gil.
John Digweed at Avalon: Boom-ch, boom-ch, boom-ch, boom-ch, boom-ch...those are the beats that will rattle in your ears for hours after a John Digweed set. This prodigious house DJ, who first sidled up to the tables at age 15, will likely pack the Avalon to the gills with his inimitably British concoction of moody atmosphere and rippling, tight rhythms.
Deakin of Animal Collective at Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock: Brought to you by FYF Fest and the Eagle Rock Music Fest, this has been the fast-selling ticket in town, so much so that a second, early show at 5 p.m. has been added. Deakin, a.k.a. Josh Dibb, will be performing solo work in his first L.A. outing. We're expecting tribal beats and lots of textured washes.
Mia Doi Todd, Mauricio Takara, Rebekah Raff Harp Ensemble at the Bootleg Theater: Here are some people who know what we're talking about. WWXW Festival is the Rocky Mountain alternative to SXSW, and they've set up a strong show with our own Mia Doi Todd, who plays a focused, raga-inspired brew of wise, early-morning folk on her latest, "Gea." Also, check out her colorful video directed by Michel Gondry. Sao Paulo's Takara is a multi-instrumentalist who's worked with the better part of Chicago's post-rock family, and Raff has performed as resident harpist for Kanye West, Britney Spears, OutKast, Ghostface Killah and Flying Lotus.
Photo of Gilberto Gil performing in Spain in 2008. Credit: Eduardo Abad / European Pressphoto Agency