72 Hours: Florence + the Machine, Mavis Staples, Bear in Heaven lead weekend show lineup
Pop & Hiss looks at the weekend's top gigs.
Walter Meego @ the Echo. This onetime Chicago-based threesome is now a Los Angeles-residing five-piece, and the Echo gig should serve as a sort of coming out party for the act's deeper, more fleshed-out synth pop. Early peeks at the band's forthcoming album still present a club-ready sheen with choruses fit for a roller rink party, but the sci-fi soundscapes have a live-band anchor, allowing the colorful, cartoon-friendly sounds to take a more atmospheric approach. The Echo, 1822 W Sunset Blvd. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 day of show.
Gary Numan @ the El Rey. Prefer your synth-pop without a dash of Echo Park irony? Then head to the El Rey to see one of the architects of the genre. Tickets remain for this look back at his breakout 1979 album, "Pleasure Principal," in which keyboard-upon-keyboard created a "Tron"-like world of retro-futurism. The El Rey, 5515 Wilshire Blvd. Tickets are $33, not including surcharges.
Mavis Staples, Billy Bragg @ UCLA's Royce Hall. It's not every weekend one can see a living legend, so the opportunity to see Chicago's soul matriarch in this pristine academic setting shouldn't be taken lightly. In fact, the university campus is probably the perfect venue for Staples, an artist who has been exploring the possibility of social change through music for the better part of 60 years. Working with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, her recent "You Are Not Alone" looks for hope in this recessed economic climate. She'll be joined by beloved folk activist Bragg. Royce Hall, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles. Tickets are $38.50-$64.25, not including surcharges.
Florence + the Machine @ the Wiltern. When I caught Florence + the Machine at Coachella, my note-taking was interrupted by an exuberant fan who insisted the U.K. rock 'n' soul outfit would soon be a hit in the land of baseball and apple pie. With Florence + the Machine's 2009 album, "Lungs," having been promptly ignored in the U.S., such a fate didn't seem immediately likely, but after a show-stopping MTV Video Music Awards appearance, America has caught on to this scarlet-haired wailer, one of the few artists who proves it is possible to rock out with a harp. Locals Grouplove, which brings a flair for the theatrical to its pop, will open. Also Sunday and Monday. All shows are sold out. 3790 Wilshire Blvd. Tickets started at $29, not including surcharges. Craigslist prices are near $100.
Bear in Heaven @ the Troubadour. With the number of young'uns these days re-appropriating '80s synth-pop sounds, it's nice to see a band using electronics to look forward. Brooklyn's Bear in Heaven turns its computerized notes in moody -- sometimes foreboding -- rhythms. They're not the centerpiece, but the frame for buzzing walls of noise, vulturous cymbals and guitar riffs ready for a classic rock smokeout. It's pitch-perfect rock songs distorted into something more left of center. The Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets are $13 in advance, $15 at the door.
The Dodos @ the Detroit Bar. Fans of Vampire Weekend may want to explore this vastly underappreciated San Francisco band, who are just off the road with the New Pornographers. This is pop with a world music bent, but the Dodos don't ape a sound so much as sneak in some West African rhythms to an almost always upbeat traditional pop structure. The vibraphone-enhanced recent album "Time to Die" is the Dodos at their biggest, smoothing out their sound all while adding new textures. The Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa. Tickets are $12.
-- Todd Martens
Photo: Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine. Credit: Getty Images