A field guide to this weekend's Make Music Pasadena
The L.A. area has been glutted with cheap or free neighborhood music festivals in recent years, but this weekend's Make Music Pasadena has to be one of the most successful. Last year's installment drew around 20,000 people to various indoor and outdoor venues all over that city, and this year's is only expected to be even bigger with a lineup of buzzy indie rock, electronica and some notable imports. We'll have a few reviews after the dust is settled on Monday, but in the meantime, here's a quick guide to a few of Saturday's essential sets.
Grimes - 5 p.m., Pasadena District Eclectic Stage
Early L.A. sets by this Canadian beatmaker/manic-pixie-dream-girl were completely sold out for weeks, but some mediocre reviews (those shows consisted of just her wrangling a bank of samplers and keys) tempered the deafening hype. She had a busy SXSW and her album for 4AD, "Visions," remains a creepy, perky and wholly original effort -- maybe this high-profile headline show will prove skeptics wrong after all.
Pageants - 6 p.m., Old Town Pub Stage
Avi Zahner-Isenberg got most of the attention in his indie-shredder outfit Avi Buffalo, but that band's former keyboardist Rebecca Colkeman turned out to be a star in her own right. Her new project Pageants sounds like Best Coast if Bethany Cosentino's cat were to go missing -- i.e., deliciously glum and distant.
Y La Bamba - 3 p.m., Pasadena District Eclectic Stage
L.A. needs a Portland-based, close-harmonizing folk outfit like it needs a lane closure on the 110 South around 5 p.m. on a Wednesday. But it should welcome Luz Elena Mendoza's outlet for dreamy, eccentric and gently Mexican-influenced songwriting and her devastating soprano.
Dam-Funk - 8 p.m. at Levitt Pavilion
Seriously, when is some Givenchy-gilded A-list rapper going to enlist this guy to produce for him? Dam's licentious synth-funk evokes everything awesome about the Gap Band, but it's all sun-damaged and tape-slammed to the point of psychedelia.
Caught A Ghost - 6:30 p.m., Pasadena Playhouse
The latest entry in L.A.'s white-guy soul sweepstakes is one of the least orthodox and perhaps the most interesting in the crowd: Singer Jesse Nolan's got a fine croon and a GQ-worthy jawbone, but the band set itself apart at its May Satellite residency with noirish stagecraft and a nice spicing of electronics.
SoKo - 2 p.m., Playhouse District Eclectic Stage
The French expat's got a salty sailor's tongue and Cat Power's propensity for wild mood swings at shows. We've seen her charm a room with ramshackle love songs, and a year later watched her send 200 kids off into a dark night of the soul with a volley of ballads about drugs and suicide. Either way, she's got charisma no stage can contain.
Photo: Canadian singer and composer Claire Boucher, known as Grimes, performs on stage at Primavera Sound Festival at Forum Park, in Barcelona, on May 31, 2012. Credit: Marta Perez / European Pressphoto Agency
- August Brown