Lucinda Williams Alt-country-folk crooner Lucinda Williams got her first taste of rebellion around the same time much of the rest of the country did, in 1969. She got booted from school after refusing to give the Pledge of Allegiance, spurred on by her discovery of musical mavericks such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. And so began her journey to becoming a songwriter. She tripped around New Orleans and Austin, Texas, for a while before finally making her way out to New York, where a demo tape fell into the hands of the Smithsonian’s Folkways label, which released her first album, Ramblin’ on My Mind, a collection of old blues, country and Cajun tunes. And so began her ascent into cultdom. She would remain there for much of her career, recording a string of genre-hopping albums throughout the 1980s and ’90s and even putting a record out on British indie punk label Rough Trade. Gradually, she chipped her way into the mainstream, scoring a major label deal, winning a Grammy and earning a widened fan base. She likes to take a while between albums, which way account for her difficulty in escaping cult status, but for roots rock aficionados, she is always worth waiting for. Williams begins the first of a three night stand at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles on Sept. 5, performing her 2003 album World Without Tears in its entirety. El Rey Theater, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 936-6400
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John Doe His name may be John Doe, but fans of punk rock, Americana and, really, amazing music in general all know who he is. Before embarking on his solo career, Doe — born John Nommensen Duchac (no wonder he uses an alias) — was singer-bassist of perhaps the greatest band to ever come out of Los Angeles, X. Harmonizing with his then-wife Exene Cervenka, Doe, over the course of four near-flawless albums and three less-than-flawless others, created a canon of songs memorializing the seedy underbelly of his adopted home (he is originally from Illinois) better than practically any street-walking native before him. After the band split up, Doe struck out on his own, exploring more directly the rootsy rock’n’roll that was always key component of X’s sound. Since 1990, he has quietly racked up an impressive solo discography, as well as an acting résumé that includes appearances in Boogie Nights and Salvador and a recurring role on the show Roswell. And he still plays with the reunited X from time to time. But on Aug. 25 on Safari Sam’s in Hollywood, it’s all John Doe, alone and intimate, celebrating the release of his new record, A Year in the Wilderness.
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Sunset Junction For more than a quarter century now, the Sunset Junction Street Fair has been one of the biggest and best community events of the year. Every August since 1981, several blocks of Sunset Boulevard running through the uber-hip Silver Lake neighborhood are closed off and filled up with carnival rides, food booths and, best of all, three stages of music. This year’s lineup is, as usual, a highly eclectic one. Headlining the Main (or Bates) Stage on Saturday is multitalented songwriter Ben Harper, with indie mini-malists Blonde Redhead (pictured), neo-shoegazers Autolux and Hoover Stage headliner Morris Day & the Time as only a portion of the undercard. Sunday is headlined by dark dance-rockers She Wants Revenge and legendary British pop-punks the Buzzcocks, with New New Wavers Hot Hot Heat, rocksteady revivalists the Aggrolites and jet-setting DJ Cheb-i-Sabbah delivering the other highlight sets. In short, this is the worthiest Worth the Drive of the season, and it happens Aug. 18-19.
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The Magic Numbers Romeo and Michele Stodart were born to Portuguese mother and a Scottish father and lived on the island of Trinidad before fleeing an Islamic coup attempt in 1990 and moving to New York and then London. It is, perhaps, that connect-the-dots residential history that gives the Magic Numbers — the band in which Romeo sings and plays guitar and Michele plays bass — their unique pop sound. Meeting up with neighbors the Sean and Angela Gannon, another Irish brother and sister duo living in England, the band formed in 2002, playing an odd mix of Flaming Lips-esque neo-psychedelia and ’60s style girl-boy harmonies. They quickly won the attention of such English music scene luminaries as the Chemical Brothers and Travis. Their profile expanded globally with the release of their eponymous debut in 2005, which was nominated for the revered Mercury Music Prize, and when the band earned the reputation of being the first to walk off the set of Top of the Pops. In 2007, following the release of their sophomore effort Those the Brokes, the Numbers realized a dream by playing the Glastonbury Festival. And now, you can realize a dream by seeing the Magic Numbers at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles on Aug. 14.
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Gravy Train!!!! You gotta be pretty ballsy to put four exclamation points at the end of your band name, but Gravy Train!!!! certainly doesn’t lack balls — even though half the group is female. With stage names like Chunx, Hunx, Junx and Funx, a candy-colored iconography and explicit lyrics about sexual liberation for females as well as homosexual men, the band earns its ostentatious punctuation. Forming in Oakland in 2001, the Train left the station carrying a cargo of old school rap rhymes, flamboyant new wave and queercore attitude and endeared itself to other progressive alt-rock boundary-pushers such as Le Tigre. With their choreographed live shows, it’d be easy to pass these guys off as ironic hipsters, and while that may be true, hey, it’s a whole lot of funkin’ fun — just look at those exclamation points! Gravy Train!!!! pulls into the Echo in Los Angeles on Aug. 3.