The LA Setlist: May 21-26, 2024

The Best Los Angeles Concerts

Pearl Jam: Dark Matter
Pearl Jam: Dark Matter | Photo: Live Nation

There are so many concerts in Los Angeles during any given week that, even if you stay just a few days, you can take in more than one of your faves. Ska fans, for example, can enjoy the ultra-authentic Skatalites up-close at the Echoplex on May 22 and then a quite different, poppier take on the genre from Brit perennials Madness at the huge Kia Forum four nights later. Or if punk’s your thing, jet in for Northern Irish first-wave survivors Stiff Little Fingers that same week, then stick around for local up-and-comers Niis opening for Starcrawler the very next night. Read on for shows worth booking a flight or taking a road trip to LA the week of May 21-26.

Pearl Jam Dark Matter World Tour at Kia Forum
Pearl Jam Dark Matter World Tour | Photo: Kia Forum

Pearl Jam - Kia Forum (May 21-22)

While forever associated with the grunge genre that they helped propel out of Seattle in the early 1990s, Pearl Jam is in truth simply a fantastic band that would’ve thrived in any era of rock ‘n roll. Indeed, in some ways the quintet is a modern anomaly, not least in their activism that has included (unsuccessfully) taking on Ticketmaster over ticketing fees, which cost them a cancelled 1994 tour. Regardless of their undulating commercial fortunes, Pearl Jam has consistently released compelling records rendered instantly distinct by Eddie Vedder’s textured, anguished croon. But even by their lofty standards, the new album Dark Matter is an epic return to heyday form: urgent, restless and inspired, with all the musically muscular benefits of decades as a unit.

Ironically for a band with such conscience (PJ has promoted everything from abortion rights to Crohn’s disease awareness), ticketing for the Kia Forum concerts is through their old foes Ticketmaster.

Kraftwerk at Walt Disney Concert Hall May 2024
Kraftwerk at Walt Disney Concert Hall | Photo: LA Phil

Kraftwerk - WDCH (May 21-26 & 28-30)

Electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk began as envelope-pushing studio hermits who appeared on stage only sporadically, before releasing eight albums in their first 11 years. Today, the famously reclusive and eccentric quartet led by sole original member Ralf Hütter hasn’t released a studio album in over 20 years yet is playing this remarkable nine-night residency at the 2,265-capacity Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA. The occasion of this headline-grabbing run is the 50th anniversary of Kraftwerk’s hugely influential Autobahn album. While music writer Neil McCormick dubbing them “the most influential group in pop history” may have been partially button-pushing, it really is hard to imagine what modern pop would’ve sounded like without Kraftwerk. Their early embrace and development of synthesizers, drum machines, and related studio innovation not only overtly shaped subsequent synth-pop, hip-hop and techno genres, but has also more subtly seeped into almost all pop music since Autobahn ambushed the world.

Jade Bird
Jade Bird | Photo: Hollywood Forever

Jade Bird - The Masonic Lodge (May 22)

Nearly three years after her well-received sophomore album, Different Kinds of Light, Jade Bird returned in April with the much more introspective Burn the Hard Drive EP. An English singer-songwriter with an Americana sound, the now LA-based Bird made her name on the soaring vocals and anthemic hooks of her two full-lengths to date, which earned multiple award nominations and wins. So, at just 26 years old, bouncing back post-pandemic with this classic, contemplative break-up collection far removed from the loved-up glow of Different Kinds of Light is admirably honest. Created in unlikely collaboration with Grammy-winning electronic producer/songwriter Mura Masa, Burn the Hard Drive’s title track – written as a premonition of said break-up prior to its actuality – has a welcome bounce to its burbling melancholy, and throughout the EP Masa’s touch is mostly evident in tasty basslines rather than programmed beats or prominent synths. Tickets at Ticketweb.

Stiff Little Fingers at The Fonda Theatre
Stiff Little Fingers at The Fonda Theatre | Photo: Goldenvoice

Stiff Little Fingers - The Fonda Theatre (May 22)

Among Northern Ireland’s first punk bands in 1977, Stiff Little Fingers epitomized the angry yet relatively melodic and musically eloquent state of the genre prior to the belligerent dumbing down of the subsequent UK82 substrain. Their early material was inspired equally by The Clash and the grim ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland at the time. SLF’s arresting debut album, ‘79’s Inflammable Material, included lyrics by journalist Gordon Ogilvie on pogo-propelling singles “Suspect Device” and “Alternative Ulster,” both championed by hugely influential radio DJ John Peel; and on the grittily romantic, Undertones-y “Barbed Wire Love.” While SLF’s current trek is billed as their final full U.S. tour, with two founder members still aboard (though bassist Ali McMordie was long replaced by The Jam’s Bruce Foxton), the quartet’s spiky musicality remains far from defused. Arrive early for the inspired “tough folk” storytelling of SLF’s LA-based compatriot (and former Thin Lizzy frontman) Ricky Warwick. Tickets at AXS.

The Skatalites at the Echoplex
The Skatalites at the Echoplex | Photo: Live Nation

The Skatalites - Echoplex (May 22)

If you have any interest in early ska music, you’ve likely heard the Skatalites – whether you realize it or not. The ten Jamaican musicians who formed the band in 1964 had already individually played on a slew of hit records over the previous decade, but with few credits and little pay. This was the motivation to form their own band, which also performed on Prince Buster records and on Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Jamaican number one “Simmer Down.” The band’s original run was brief, but spawned their best-known (albeit cover) song, “Guns of Navarone.” Following sporadic reunions, by the mid 1980s enough Skatalites members had emigrated to the U.S. to make a stateside version viable, which has recorded and toured with various lineups ever since. Despite vocalist Doreen Shaffer being the sole surviving original Skatalite, they continue to draw crowds seeking authentic ska with a throughline to the genre’s roots. Tickets at Live Nation.

Photo: Starcrawler, Facebook

Starcrawler - Alex's Bar (May 23)

Perhaps the quintessential LA art school rock band, Starcrawler, who formed at the city’s Grand Arts High School in 2015, marry Runaways hooks and shaggy ‘70s thrift store chic to campy on-stage shock tactics and glam-adjacent androgynous swagger. But their crunchy, garagey riffs and vaudevillian vibes were toned down for 2022’s more overtly commercial third album, She Said, an apparently conscious effort to graduate from cramped van to tour bus, from opening slots and festival spots to headliner status. The music industry has always been drawn to young bands that recreate proven old sounds as Starcrawler has but, after nearly a decade together, the quintet is lately audibly (and smartly) transitioning towards songcraft and production that transcends niche and novelty. Openers Niis are a convulsively angry LA throwback punk phenomenon with sociopolitical lyrics spat by elegantly incendiary force of nature Mimi SanDoe, so don’t show up fashionably late for this one. Tickets at Dice.

Sadie Jean at the Teragram Ballroom
Sadie Jean | Teragram Ballroom

Sadie Jean - Teragram Ballroom (May 24)

Orange County-raised pop songstress Sadie Jean explores coming-of-age heartbreak and heartache with a distinctively plaintive, quivering voice. She first found a global voice with “WYD Now?’” which went viral on TikTok in 2021. While Jean’s almost universally forlorn material resonates most acutely with her college-age peers, anyone who’s ever experienced infatuation will likely recognize something in her lyrics. And what older folks tend to forget is that young people can harbor great nostalgia for being even younger, and especially for their relatively responsibility-free teens. This is the abiding theme of 21-year-old Jean’s musically eloquent Simple Like 17 EP, released last year. On repeat in bedrooms and dorm rooms nationwide, it’s the soul-bearing intimacy of this seven-song collection that has connected so fast and so far afield. On stage, Jean is a beaming beacon of visible, almost disbelieving appreciation for her creative dreams coming true while still so young.

Tickets to the all-ages show are on sale at Ticketmaster.

Mon Laferte Autopoiética Tour at Kia Forum
Mon Laferte Autopoiética Tour | Photo: Kia Forum

Mon Laferte - Kia Forum (May 25)

Although Mon Laferte had a hit album in her native Chile more than 20 years ago, it was not until she relocated to Mexico City, beat cancer, and was reborn in 2011 under her current stage name that international recognition beckoned. Her third album as Mon Laferte, 2015’s Mon Laferte Vol. 1, was a smash in Mexico and Chile, earning two Latin Grammy nominations. A versatile and adventurous singer possessed of a dramatic alto and melodramatic stage presence, she blends indie and roots rock, cumbia, ranchera, bolero, blues and electronica exactly as she sees fit at any given time; and even made an album with Mexican metal band Mystica Girls. Mon Laferte is so confident in her abilities that she and her band boldly recorded 2018 album Norma in live single takes under the guidance of Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López, and you can expect similarly vivacious virtuosity at the Kia Forum. Tickets at Ticketmaster.

Give My Remains to Broadway
Give My Remains to Broadway | Photo: Bandcamp

Give My Remains to Broadway - Catch One (May 25)

Formed just three years ago, Toronto darkwave/post-punk duo Give My Remains to Broadway swiftly swept to the fore of their city’s scene and established a cult presence far beyond. As roomies and best friends, vocalist Ben and producer Deegs have been super-prolific, their atmospheric but insistent creations topped with a slightly less melodramatic take on the Andrew Eldritch singing that infests the genre. Marrying actual and virtual instruments, programmed beats and very human, tormented utterances, GMRTB is somber stuff for sure, yet airy guitar arpeggios offer slim shafts of anemic optimism to challenge the gloom. Latest offering “Rend My Flesh” displays a step forward in production quality, with beats evoking an anxious pulse beneath minimal-modulation vocals sounding like a parting accusation. On stage, the incongruously ungoth-looking pair deliver simple, stark arrangements that, despite their consistently dour demeanor, manage to get audiences dancing and whooping in dark, IYKYK communion. Tickets to the 18+ show are on sale at See Tickets.

Lissie at The Venice West
Lissie | Photo: The Venice West

Lissie - The Venice West (May 25)

An American artist with a largely European fanbase, Lissie’s years in LA included hosting a popular weekly songwriter’s circle at the cozy Crane’s bar in Hollywood. Now inhabiting an Iowa farm, her sound defies easy categorization, but it’s certainly surprising that her 1970s-indebted, Americana-accented indie pop/rock has resonated most widely overseas since she first broke through with airplay on LA’s influential KCRW and opening slots on Lenny Kravitz’s 2008 U.S. tour. A couple of years later, her debut album Catching a Tiger earned a Gold certification in the UK, where her fourth full-length, Castles, made the Top 10 nearly a decade later. Lissie’s most recent album, 2022’s Carving Canyons, documents the emotional fallout from an early pandemic breakup with defiantly glorious, glowing melodies and a timbre echoing a less fragile/witchy Stevie Nicks; tremulous yet strong, oozing both regret and forward-facing resolve. Tickets at Ticketweb.

Madness: C’est La Vie In America Tour at YouTube Theater
Madness: C’est La Vie In America Tour | Photo: YouTube Theater

Madness - YouTube Theater (May 26)

While many of the prominent bands of the UK’s late 1970s / early ‘80s two-tone ska revival hailed from the English Midlands, their similarly skank-able peers Madness are London lads. And in contrast to the more audible rocksteady/reggae influences and gritty Thatcher-era sociopolitical lyrics of the Specials and Selecter, Madness gave Prince Buster’s pioneering ska blueprint a carnivalesque, cheeky-chappy twist with rollercoaster keys and playful sax. But it was their infectious pop sensibilities and ultra-relatable lyrics that made Madness early/mid-‘80s UK chart fixtures, with 16 Top 10 Brit hits including the charmingly nostalgic “Our House” (also their sole U.S. Top 10 appearance), Ian Dury-inspired “Baggy Trousers,” and the head-bobbin’ romp of “House of Fun.” Amazingly, Madness retain six of their original members and remain revered stateside in part thanks to regular namechecks by the likes of No Doubt and covers by everyone from The Prodigy to Transplants. Tickets at Ticketmaster.