72 Hours: Catwalk, the Playboy Jazz Fest, La Sera and more
A weekly Pop & Hiss look at some of the weekend's top shows.
Catwalk @ the Smell. There hasn't been a shortage of scruffy garage-pop bands 'round these parts of late, but Oxnard act Catwalk has, in a limited output, shown enough style to earn a spot near the front of the litter. Credit, in part, the act's way with a ballad. "This Is Goodbye" isn't a kiss-off and it isn't steeped in regret, but as it gradually shimmies to a grand finale of boy-girl harmonies, its melancholic tones feel as if they're anticipating a future nostalgia.
Nick Hessler isn't a flamboyant singer, taking a tentatively-direct approach as if he's fronting the "Shake Some Action"-era Flamin' Groovies. Encouragingly, the band's 2011 singles have shown a grand leap forward when it comes to melodic confidence and pacing, as evidenced by the '60s rhythmic strut that opens "One By Words." It isn't long before an array of guitars gets caught in a tug-of-war, with moments of noise and restrained clarity at near constant odds. The Smell. 247 S. Main St., Los Angeles. Saturday. Admission is $5. -- Todd Martens
Jenny & Johnny, La Sera @ the Music Box. There aren't many singers who can make the recession sound as sweetly languid as Jenny Lewis. Her indie-pop project with beau Johnathan Rice doesn't pack as many left turns and vocal workouts as her solo efforts, but it's crisp, clean and loaded with more hooks than her work with Rilo Kiley. It can also be devilishly sharp. Take "Big Wave," an exuberant rush of call-and-response harmonies and brisk riffs. But pay attention or miss the wry observations in the lyrics, which address how a relationship can get all tangled up in financial realities. Arrive in time for La Sera, in which whimsical arrangements and heavily distorted guitars are mixed together to form a sort of calming elixer. The Music Box, 6126 Hollywood Blvd. Saturday. Tickets are $22.50, not including surcharges. -- TM
Playboy Jazz Festival @ the Hollywood Bowl. An eclectic rite of spring at the Hollywood Bowl, the 33rd Playboy Jazz Festival offers its signature mix of established and up-and-coming jazz talent paired with flourishes from the worlds of pop, world music and funk. Among the top picks for what should be a rollicking weekend include rising star on trumpet Ambrose Akinmusire, New Orleans' Terence Blanchard teamed with the Roots, a pair of ageless musical titans in Lee Konitz and Buddy Guy and much more. 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, 3 p.m. Saturday - Sunday. Tickets are $20-$150, not including surcharges. -- Chris Barton
Peter Gabriel @ the Santa Barbara Bowl. With his clean-shaven head and silver goatee, Gabriel now looks a bit more like a comic book super-villian than the man who gave the world the early MTV staples "Sledgehammer" and "Shock the Monkey" (to say nothing for fronting prog-rock visionaries Genesis). But rest assured that same taut catalog is there, along with last year's loving if somewhat dour covers collection "Scratch My Back," and all will be ripe for reinterpretation with Gabriel's signature dramatic flair. Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara. Saturday. Tickets are $52-$150, not including surcharges -- CB
Flash Bang Grenada @ the Bootleg Theater. Two of the most distinctive voices on the L.A. underground rap scene -- Busdriver and Nocando -- seem rejuvenated with their collaboration as Flash Bang Grenada. Or at least fired up. Single "Beat My Bitch" (don't worry, the PG-13 title is a reference to their rap skills) is five minutes of vocal barbs, a viciously prideful ol'-fashioned hip-hop throwdown. They're not rich, the two announce in the opening verse, but these vets still have ambitions that extend way beyond bitterly attacking their rivals. Nocando goes so far to promise his gay cousin that he'll buy him a "gorgeous Tranny" when he hits the jackpot. It's one of many exaggerations, but it suits the murky electronic backdrop from Nosaj Thing. This Friday gig is the pair's coming out party as Flash Bang Grenada. The Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd. Friday. Advance tickets are $10, not including surcharges. -- TM
Need more weekend ideas? We have those, including a preview of R. Kelly's show.
Photo: Jenny Lewis at Coachella. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times