The LA Setlist: May 13-19, 2024

The Best Los Angeles Concerts

Belle & Sebastian
Photo: Belle & Sebastian, Facebook

Los Angeles enjoys fantastic weather year-round, but we’re getting to the season where outdoor concerts and festivals can be scheduled with almost guaranteed perfect conditions. So, consider making an LA trip for one (or both!) of Lizzy McAlpine’s shows at the idyllic Greek Theatre, or build a weekend around the Just Like Heaven indie rock fest at Pasadena’s verdant Brookside at the Rose Bowl. Plus, there are club and theater concerts worth flying in for nearly every night of the year. Here are some mid-May LA shows worth a few of your vacation days.

Belle & Sebastian
Photo: Belle & Sebastian, Facebook

Belle & Sebastian - DTLA (May 13-15)

Nearly 30 years into a quietly simmering career, Scottish indie cult darlings Belle & Sebastian show no signs of slowing down, releasing two albums almost back to back in 2022 and ’23. Influenced by throwback chamber pop and eighties college rock (Orange Juice, Felt et al), they make music for shut-ins and wallflowers, mulling the societal status quo of perceived popularity and status with charming curiosity and sly subversion. At a time when UK indie music was dominated by the laddish swagger of Oasis and Blur, the Glaswegian sextet/septet – which has remarkably retained five of the original lineup hurriedly assembled around mainman Stuart Murdoch in ‘96 – Belle and Sebastian were a refuge for listeners who felt alienated by Brit pop. Recalling the gentler sides of The Smiths, B&S are known for twee counters to mainstream sentiment, but this should never overshadow the sheer quality of their exquisite songwriting and delicate arrangements.

Three LA shows in Downtown LA this month: The Bellwether on May 13-14; and The United Theater on Broadway on May 15.

Idles: Love is the Fing Tour at the Hollywood Palladium
Idles: Love is the Fing Tour | Photo: Live Nation

Idles - Hollywood Palladium (May 13-14)

A genre-defying band that only loosely fits even the already pretty darn loose “post-hardcore” tag, Idles have earned consistent critical acclaim by consistently toying with critical labels and expectations. At once muscular and moody, angry and atmospheric, the quintet embellished the micro/macro rants of singer Joe Talbot with angular guitars, insistent motorik grooves, and massive, unpredictable dynamic shifts. Idles have achieved both quality and quantity, releasing their fifth album in seven years, Tangk, in February. Helmed by Radiohead producer Nigel Goodrich, Tangk is, according to Talbot, an “album of gratitude and power – all love.” Yet while this intriguing effort is less overtly angry than previous Idles albums, it remains visceral and often raw. Imaginative use of loops, distortion, and delay enhances Tangk’s bold, swooping shifts in velocity and heft, from twinkling keys and playful orchestral flurries to bouncing, bruising dance floor bass and serrated six-string interjections.

Tickets for the Love is the Fing Tour are on sale at Live Nation.

Waxahatchee | Photo: Live Nation

Waxahatchee - Hollywood Palladium (May 16)

While Katie Crutchfield’s work as Waxahatchee has always oozed melody and hooks, her sixth album Tigers Blood does so with more focus and precision than ever. Released in March, Tigers Blood appears to be the product of the much-traveled songsmith’s settling into Kansas City and a stable relationship. The album's nuanced (though still questioning) sense of contentment is a marked contrast with her 2020 breakthrough Saint Cloud, a more troubled record made while navigating newfound sobriety. What connects Waxahatchee’s two most recent full-lengths is producer Brad Cook (Bon Iver), the same Texas borderland studio (El Paso’s storied Sonic Ranch), and both records’ evolving, luminous Americana - albeit delivered by a different band this time. Perhaps most significant to this astonishingly unselfconscious follow-up to the critically beloved Saint Cloud is guitarist/vocalist MJ Lenderman (Wednesday), whose electric guitar throughout and frequent harmonizing are crucial to Tigers Blood’s embroidered treatments and sonic subplots.

Tickets to the all-ages show are on sale at Live Nation. Doors at 7pm, show at 8pm.

Mariee Siou at Corazón Performing Arts
Mariee Siou | Photo: Corazón Performing Arts

Mariee Siou - Corazón Performing Arts (May 16)

On last year’s Circle of Signs EP, Mariee Siou continued the path-less-traveled journey of a traditional singer-healer. The Nevada City singer-songwriter is driven by motivation far from unknown in the folk genre – the sorrowful yet reconciliatory yearning to address humanity’s imbalances for the greater good – but delivered with rare specificity and gentle urgency. Often collaborating with family and friends, Siou (a recent self-decolonizing of her “Sioux” birth name) connects through placid, acoustic instrumentation and her achingly tremulous, old-soul voice. Circle of Signs is a rewarding listen on multiple levels, from the cerebral stimulation of Siou’s addressing everything from the Black Lives Matter movement to recent California wildfires, to purely emotional escape into the EP’s tapestry arrangements and her diaphanous yet implacable voice. Mariee Siou should be treasured as the expression of something so much bigger and more ancient that the fashion chasing, self-serving ambition of so many who play today’s stages.

Tickets at Eventbrite, with options for pillow seating or chair.

Cedric Burnside at The Troubadour
Cedric Burnside | Photo: The Troubadour

Cedric Burnside - The Troubadour (May 16)

Grammy-winning Mississippi bluesman Cedric Burnside was a touring drummer in his grandfather R.L. Burnside’s band at age 13. He went on to be a revered sticksman for the likes of Richard Johnston and Widespread Panic. But Burnside has also always made his own records, sometimes as Burnside Exploration and more recently under his own name. He just followed up 2021’s Grammy-awarded I Be Trying, with the largely self-explanatory Hill Country Love. Recorded over just two days, it’s the ultra-organic sound of a regional subgenre done right by someone as immersed in its culture as probably anyone of his generation. Mississippi hill country blues isn’t for folks with short attention spans - its riffs and lyrics can be repetitive and chord changes few, so you need to be there for the feel, instrumental dexterity, and window into a way of life that few of us will ever experience first-hand.

Tickets on sale at the Troubadour website.

Ekkstacy | Photo: Live Nation

Ekkstacy - Belasco Theater (May 17)

The throughline of Ekkstacy’s restless jittering about between styles – indie rock, post-punk, synth pop, punk rap, trap and more – is a relentlessly angsty sadness. A product of the Soundcloud generation, the Canadian singer-songwriter has released eighteen singles since 2020 with titles like “Wish I Was Dead,” “It Only Gets Worse, I Promise,” and “F*ck Everything,” as well as an EP called “Negative.” Yet the counterintuitively (or perhaps ironically) self-named Ekkstacy – birth name Khyree Zienty – is resonating with a predominantly young audience, many of whom, especially during COVID-19 lockdown, had endless hours to seek out new sounds and wallow in maudlin nostalgia. Synthy 2021 single “I Walk This Earth All by Myself” racked up hundreds of millions of streams, ushering in his full-length, Misery, the following year. Released earlier this year, Ekkstacy’s eponymous follow-up is the soundtrack to a thousand-yard stare, its airy, detached vocals, arpeggiated/slashing guitars, and bleak programmed beats more existing than truly living.

Tickets to the all-ages show are on sale at Live Nation. Note that the Belasco is a standing room only venue.

Young Dubliners
Photo: Young Dubliners, Facebook

Young Dubliners - The Canyon (May 17)

Formed in Santa Monica in 1988, Young Dubliners have become Celtic rock fixtures famed locally for their door-bustin’ shows (and record-breaking bar receipts) at the old House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard. Their tireless touring has included stints with Jethro Tull and playing at the Salt Lake City Olympics, punctuated annually by being jetted around like rock stars for high-profile TV appearances every Saint Patrick’s Day. After many years with a stable Irish/American lineup, the now (not so) Young Dubliners were jolted over recent years by the departure of OG bassist Bren Holmes (now a solo artist) and guitarist Bob Boulding, leaving lead singer/guitarist Keith Roberts as sole original member. Nonetheless, their still distinctive, rabble-rousing mash of traditional Celtic influences and sonic nods to Irish rock bands like The Waterboys, Thin Lizzy and U2 continues to make them popular club-level headliners who’ve thrived since the Reagan era for good reason.

Tickets on sale at AXS. Two-drink minimum.

East Side Fux at Permanent Records Roadhouse
East Side Fux | Photo: Permanent Records Roadhouse

East Side Fux: Pom Poms - Permanent Records Roadhouse (May 17)

Pom Poms is an on-again/off-again surfy/garagey collab between ultra-prolific LA chanteuse Jessie Payo and Grammy-nominated local producer/multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler (Dolly Parton, Macy Gray etc.) It’s telling that alongside musical influences including The Monks, Sonics, Blondie, and Devo, they list filmmakers David Lynch and John Waters, because Pom Poms’ decidedly throwback 1960s-1990s sound is consistently narrative and cinematic. Mohler’s instrumental and production dexterity is made human by his equally deft songwriting and, especially, Payo’s innately sensual vibrato, which can make even the most innocuous collection of words sound like a life-changing utterance. Pom Poms’ 2017 debut album earned prominent TV placements and tours with The Psychedelic Furs and The Mowgli’s before the duo – who’re both involved in so many other projects that it’s a marvel that they get together at all – went on hiatus before returning with single “Stoned and Lonely” in 2021.

Tickets to East Side Fux at Permanent Records Roadhouse on sale at Dice.

Lizzy McAlpine
Lizzy McAlpine | Photo: Dice

Lizzy McAlpine - Greek Theatre, Los Angeles (May 18-19)

At age 24, Philadelphia singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine is already on a major label, just released her third album, and been booked for back-to-back headline slots at the Greek Theatre. While she gained early recognition via sign-of-the-times self-posted streaming and social media, McAlpine’s sound spans, and appeals to, multiple generations. Her third full-length, Older, is true to that title, its mature aura shifting McAlpine’s sound from bedroom to baroque, with the electronic elements of its breakthrough predecessor, Five Seconds Flat, making way for acoustic guitar- and piano-based chamber pop and indie folk. In contrast to her heavily produced previous albums, McAlpine made the bold decision to re-record almost half of Older live with an actual band, with predictably visceral results. The thread connecting her already comprehensive catalogue is an intimate authenticity that’s made McAlpine’s music sound like the audio journaling of breakups, grief, and a dizzying career arc of which she expresses refreshing ambivalence.

Tickets to The Older Tour are on sale at AXS.

Orianthi | Photo: Ticketweb

Orianthi - Whisky A Go Go (May 18)

Virtuoso Australian guitarist Orianthi has a multigenerational following thanks to her timeless melodic rock solo work, social media-friendly polished image, and a genre/era-straddling resume that includes Michael Jackson, Carrie Underwood, and Alice Cooper. Initially gaining attention as Underwood’s lead guitarist at the 2009 Grammy Awards, she was promptly hand-picked for Jackson’s band, rehearsed with him until his passing later that year, and played on his posthumously released “Monster” single. Orianthi dusted herself down sufficiently to have a worldwide hit with “According to You” within months and, while her solo career hasn’t lived up to that admirable bounce-back, she remains an in-demand session and touring player for the likes of Cooper, Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, and former beau Richie Sambora. Her most recent solo album, 2022’s Rock Candy, is super-singable riff rock that highlights Orianthi’s versatile vocals and will be right at home at the hair metal-synonymous Whisky A Go Go.

Tickets to the all-ages show are on sale at Ticketweb, with options for Balcony Table for 2 and VIP Meet & Greet.

Jimmy Gnecco at Hotel Café
Jimmy Gnecco | Photo: Hotel Café

Jimmy Gnecco - Hotel Café (May 18)

There’s a blurry line between New Jersey-born music prodigy Jimmy Gnecco and Ours, the rotating-lineup rock band he’s helmed for more than 30 years. This intimate Hotel Café performance is billed as a solo acoustic outing for Gnecco, who’s perhaps best known for his multi-octave vocal range and perpetual why-isn’t-this-guy-a-star-yet status. A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who has collaborated with Brian May and members of A-ha and Stone Temple Pilots, Gnecco has lately been including “Someone to Die For” from the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack in his solo sets. Other highlights are his exquisite “Light On The Grave” and plaintive “These Are My Hands,” as well as cuts from the Ours’ six-album catalogue, including “Here is the Light” and “Red Colored Stars.” Throughout, Gnecco’s understated, seated demeanor gives little warning of the diaphragm-defying, eyes-clenched falsetto and grainy, ultra-anguished middle range he’s capable of unleashing at will. Tickets on sale at the Hotel Café website.

Just Like Heaven 2024
Just Like Heaven 2024 | Photo: AXS

Just Like Heaven 2024 - Brookside Park (May 18)

Among the wave of genre/era-themed megafests of late, Pasadena’s Just Like Heaven has one of the more nuanced selection criteria. The general gist is blog-era indie rock/pop that’ll likely attract many 30-somethings to the leafy, Rose Bowl-adjacent Brookside. What’s remarkable about headliners The Postal Service is that this indie supergroup (comprising Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, producer Jimmy Tamborello, and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis) has only ever released a single album, and over 20 years ago at that. But the Platinum-selling Give It Up is still so revered that, despite doing three nights at the Hollywood Bowl for its 20th anniversary just last October, they can return so soon to once again perform the collection beginning to end. Ironically, Death Cab For Cutie – which will also perform a 2003 album, Transatlanticism, in its entirety – is billed below what was once seen as its offshoot, alongside French genre stalwarts Phoenix, The War on Drugs, and scene perennials including Warpaint, Tegan and Sara, and Metric.

Tickets are going fast and on sale at AXS.