The 10 Best Concerts in New York This Weekend, 4/18/14


Friday, 4/18:

We Are Scientists + Paws
Bowery Ballroom
9:00 p.m., $20

The California-formed, New York-based band We Are Scientists may be the most indie-rock outfit of all of indie rock. Between their catchy lyrics, upbeat melodies, underlying fuzzy sound, and nerdy literary references, the band has been primed for success ever since their second album and major label debut, With Love and Squalor, came out in the early millennium, a prime era for the genre. Like contemporaries Arctic Monkeys and Hot Hot Heat, We Are Scientists belong to a time when rock focused almost entirely on making you dance without necessarily being “dance” music. In March, they released TV en Français, a continuation of their efforts to hold down the nerdy dance-rock fort. — By Brittany Spanos

Saturday, 4/19:

Lila Downs
Town Hall
8:00 p.m., $45-$55

A flamboyant performer who illustrates her music with synchronized art, film, and photography, Oaxaca-born singer-songwriter Lila Downs specializes in dramatic transformations. Marvel as she becomes a deeply emotive mariachi, realist folkie, or shamanic priestess in rapid succession. Downs’s equally malleable voice modulates just as suddenly from pop pep to tear-jerking operatics. Downs collaborated with Argentine singer Soledad and flamenco singer Niña Pastori on their forthcoming Raiz (Roots), which contains “La Cumbia de Mole,” an appetizing ode to Oaxaca’s tastiest feature, among deeper themes. She performs here with her longtime band, La Misteriosa, which deftly navigates ranchera, banda, corridos, and other Mexican styles. Raised in Mexico, California, and Minnesota, Downs is a child of the Americas who also happens to sing the best version of “La Cucaracha” ever. — By Richard Gehr

B.B. King
Lehman Center for the Performing Arts
8:00 p.m., $55-$100

“I’ve had some weird troubles along my 88 years,” B.B. King told an audience two weeks ago in St. Louis. He had some more that night when he got heckled for telling too many hard-earned stories and doing a sing-along version of “You Are My Sunshine.” Would they heckle their grandpa? When he comes to New York, he better get the respect he deserves because King’s a living legend. Anyone who gets to sing “You Are My Sunshine” with B.B. King and doesn’t appreciate it will get theirs when they’re permanently banned from Robert Johnson shows in hell. — By Aidan Levy

Joe’s Pub
11:30 p.m., $25

Somali-Canadian emcee K’Naan has fashioned quite a name for himself on the World Hip-Hop circuit with his brand of life-affirming music that takes from Mos Def and Nas as much as it does from Bob Marley, at his most uplifting, and Wyclef, at his most carnivalesque. Throw in the hippie politics of a Michael Franti and a production style that somehow sounds like a fusion of both pre- and post-“Where is the Love?” Black Eyed Peas, and you’ve got the ideal soundtrack for every international sporting event for the next 16 years. Anthems like “Wavin’ Flag” must come easy to K’Naan–and how could you begrudge him this given the difficult childhood he survived in war-torn Somalia? This trauma is ever-present in his music, grounding the occasional cases of Bono-esque grandstanding in the harsh realities of post-colonialism and global capitalism. — By Winston Groman

The Glasslands Gallery
11:30 p.m., $15-$20

In 2011 Omar-S released his third album, titled It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It. What a surprise – the Detroit-bred, globally recognized founder of FXHE Records actually makes good on that self-aggrandizement, with a wonky and easily-identifiable mixture of heavy techno and jacking house in his productions. His DJing also retains a crackling physicality across genres, building off minimal yet powerful loops to create a strange and inimitable mass of movement. — By Aaron Gonsher

Betty Who
Bowery Ballroom
9:00 p.m., $15

A recent profile of Australian synthpopper Betty Who named her among a number of artists who define pop success in 2014; finding the border between indie and pop then winding streamers around it like it’s a maypole, running their careers less like megaconglomerates and more like scrappy start-ups. The pitch: give the people what they didn’t know they wanted: a takeoff of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” titled “Somebody Loves You” with third-listen-surprise wordplay and a big, big heart, then an EP (Slow Dancing) that’s even more spangly. When advertisers do it, it’s cynical and sad; when Betty Who does it, it’s effervescent joy. She and fellow up-and-comers Zak Waters and Cardiknox will play a trio of dates around the city as she returns to her current home of NYC during her Slow Dancing Tour. — By Katherine St. Asaph

Sunday, 4/20:

Tri-Centric Music Festival
Friday through Sunday, 8:00 p.m. daily, various prices

Has any musician ever been so comfortably inside and cosmically outside accepted jazz parameters as Anthony Braxton? Rarely played vintage compositions, new works by younger composers, and the April 17 premiere of his latest opera, Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables), comprise the former chess hustler and MacArthur Fellow’s Tri-Centric Music Festival, a 10-day, two-venue celebration of Braxton’s uncompromising, if sometimes frustratingly hermetic, sensibility. It kicks off at high noon today, at Eyebeam, with André Vida’s “Moving Scores (Solo Interpretations),” a six-hour series of visually interactive solos. Later, at Roulette, Braxton conducts and plays saxophone in “Composition No. 46” (1975) for chamber ensemble. Then check out tomorrow night’s “Moogie and Stetson” for 12 flutes, two tubas, and percussion. — By Richard Gehr

Jim Caruso & Billy Stritch
Bemelmans Bar
9:00 p.m., $15-$20

Two of the town’s most sophisticated goofballs sing, play and generally throw a party not exactly like the one the pair of them toss at Birdland on Monday nights but just as much fun. They’ve got something of that old Bob Hope-Bing Crosby chemistry going for them, which ain’t bad. Since they pal around with everybody in the show biz, you never know who’s going to join them for a tune or two. Hey, Liza, is that you over there in the corner? Could be, because you see, folks, this is New York, New York. — By David Finkle

Indigo Girls
Tarrytown Music Hall
8:00 p.m., $48-$75

Popular during the singer/songwriter resurgence in the late ’80s, the Indigo Girls have remained active through several major label stints and are currently releasing albums on their own imprint IG Recordings. Their latest release was 2011’s Beauty Queen Sister. For childhood friends Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, a deal with Epic Records in 1989 led to their immediate critical and commercial success, and built an avid fanbase for their folk-pop sound over the next two decades. Expect hooky harmonies, intimate, personal lyrics and plenty of banter that stems from the thirty-year friendship that Ray and Saliers share. — By Caitlin White

‘Playing for Jim Hall’
Blue Note
Friday through Sunday, 8:00 p.m. & 10:30 p.m. daily, $20-$35

The master passed in December and his colleagues are still reeling from the loss. A swarm of them step in to populate these three nights with a series of genuflections that salute their hero’s impact. Guitarists Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, Nels Cline, John Abercrombie, and Russell Malone will catch a lot of love by dint of instrument alone. But don’t forget the drummers who helped bring glide to Hall’s profound whisper. Joey Baron, Bill Stewart, and Lewis Nash are all not-so-secret weapons when it comes to his oeuvre. And keep an eye on pivot bassist Scott Coley, an essential Hall partner. The big question: anyone planning a romp through “Blue Dove”? — By Jim Macnie

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