Go See Hear In L.A. July 23-29: The Handsome Family/Farewell Drifters Edition

It’s a big week of music, and a good deal of it is free!

Monday is an unusually congested night of recommendable music. Kelli Scarr, who has collaborated with Moby, lands at the Hotel Café. I was impressed with her 2010 album Piece, which she artfully filled with fragile, haunting music. Conveyor rolls into the Silverlake Lounge for a free show. The Brooklyn-based band creates hooky, quirky pop tunes that recalls the clever Vancouver bands (or Mint Records) that should be a blast live. Looking for something heavier? Alberta Cross will be rocking Amoeba with a free show with their updated classic rock sound. One-time Dwight Yoakam right-hand man/producer extraordinaire/roots music maven Peter Anderson returns to Burbank’s Moose Lodge for his weekly gig there.

Marchelle Bradanini fronts Pony Boy, which is part of Monday’s free School Night At Bardot lineup. Despite the S.E. Hinton reference, the Pony Boy sounds something like what David Lynch might dream up as a twangy rock band. On the few tunes I have heard, Bradanini sultry croons colorful tales drenched in whirls of Blue Velvet-y retro roots rock. I will hope to write more about her but check out this video link to get a taste.

Are these all too many options for a Monday? Luckily, you have some second chances with several of these acts. Alberta Cross has a full (although pay-ticket) show at the Troubadour on Tuesday with L.A. rockers Everest, who have a strong new disc, Ownerless. Anderson can be found regularly on Mondays at the Moose Lodge (where there is no cover) and Pony Boy returns to L.A. on the 31st opening for Mynabirds (that adds up to a great bill) and again Aug. 19 at Villains Tavern.

It should be an evening of eclectic, eerie, exotic music at Largo Tuesday night when Mia Doi Todd and Simone White share a bill. White’s new album is Silver Silver while Todd’s latest Cosmic Ocean Ship is my favorite one from her.

The Handsome Family

More eclectic, eerie music can be heard at the Hotel Café on Wednesday when the Handsome Family plays the first of two local appearances (they will also be at McCabe’s on the 28th). The husband-wife duo Brett and Rennie Sparks has been making dark, spare Americana music since the mid-Nineties (when the genre was called No Depression). While they have a rich catalog of their own indelible songs, their last album Scattered gathers up odds & ends like their takes on “Eleanor Rigby,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” and “Famous Blue Raincoat.” Cheerier music can be found at the always-reliable Sheryl Crow plays the Pacific Amphitheatre.

More fine free music shows can catch on Thursday. Down at the Santa Monica Pier, Jackie Greene will be laying down his bittersweet, bluesy rootsy tunes. Pasadena’s Levitt Pavilion hosts the Wake Up Madagascar tour, featuring top Malagasy musicians Razia Said, Jaojoby, Razia, Charles Kely and Saramba who have combined their talents to end illegal logging in the rainforests of Madagascar.

Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds

My top pick for Thursday, however, is Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds. I was blown away by their new album, Pound of Dirt, which is an explosive combination of rock, soul, funk and blues led by the dynamo singer Arleigh Kincheloe (aka Sister Sparrow). The band has a free (there’s that word again) show at Levitt Pasadena. Also at the Hotel Café Thursday is the New Wave rock of the Melismatics.

The Hotel Café boasts another strong lineup Friday night when Café regular Cary Brothers returns on a bill that also features two other impressive acts: Madi Diaz and Harper Blynn. You also can’t go wrong at McCabe’s Friday night where Nashville’s Farewell Drifters will fill the room with harmony-heavy acoustic music that wonderfully blends folk, bluegrass, country and pop. The Last Summer On Earth Tour, which features the somewhat odd “oldies” teaming of the Barenaked Ladies, Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd & The Monsters and Cracker, comes to the Gibson on Friday the 27th. Is this HORDE with more humor?

Saturday offers a range of musical styles. Nick Waterhouse brings his spirited take on classic soul and R&B to the Getty for its free Saturdays Off The 405 series. Lukas Nelson (as in “son of Willie”) comes to the Roxy with his band The Promise of the Real to turn out some rousing country rock. The Ettes may be from Nashville but they play femme fatale garage rock; they’ll be at the Satellite while the raw rock sound of Baltimore’s Wye Oak has a big headlining show at the Wiltern. The Legends of New Orleans, with an impressive lineup featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and the Rebirth Brass Band – will be shaking things up on Queen Mary Saturday day and night.

This week of particularly notable free shows wraps up with Brazilian songstress Luisa Maita performing at Pasadena’s Levitt Pavilion. I also must mention that Sunday’s Pacific Amphitheatre concert features two of my absolute favorite bands from the Sixties – Three Dog Night and The Guess Who. I don’t know what they will sound like today, but they did make some sublime pop in their heydays.

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About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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