The Five Must-See Shows in OC This Week

Imagine Dragons--See Tuesday
Imagine Dragons--See Tuesday

Monday, March 18
The Vespertines
The Constellation Room

Long Beach's Vespertines do prickly prog-psych in a way that teaches you to expect the unexpected--and to expect the introspective, the contemplative and the explosive, too. (Plus, expect a trumpet--sure, it might startle you when it blooms out of the silence on a song like "Prime Meridian," but that's why its singer Vanessa Acosta's secret weapon.) With a complex and carefully detailed full-length recorded at Long Beach's storied Compound studio, the Vespertines now decamp to OC's Observatory for a month-long free residency. It should suit them well--this is a band who seem like they'd love a space to try something new every time they step on stage. (Chris Ziegler )

Tuesday, March 19

Imagine Dragons

House of Blues Anaheim

The two singles most of us know from Imagine Dragons are "It's Time," a bouncy, brightly-tuned song and "Radioactive," a gritty alternative rock track. But the rest of the Las Vegas-based band's catalog flows from poppy dance to soulful, darkly honest songs about the battles of depression. It's their genre-bending talents that have critics swooning and music charts dominated--"It's Time" held a spot on the 2012 Alternative Top 10 charts longer than any other song last year. This week, they stop by the House of Blues for an electrifying show before embarking on a slew of summer festival performances (at time of press, we counted a dozen). This night, they play with Australian indie band Atlas Genius (of the ultra-catchy "Trojans" single) and LA's Nico Vega, fronted by the raw silk-voiced Aja Volkman. (Erin DeWitt)

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Wednesday, March 20
The Specials
Fox Pomona

Though original rude boy, toaster, vocalist and percussionist Neville Staple departed from The Specials in January due to health issues, Terry Hall, Roddy Radiation, Horace Panter and the boys continue to carry on their groundbreaking combination of ska and punk into the band's 36th year of existence. This week, they make an all-too-rare appearance in California at the Fox Theater before heading out to homeland England for a May tour. So, if it's been awhile since you broke out your two-tone, well, anything, come to the Fox to revisit the glory days of ska--or at least to hear "A Message to You Rudy" live. (Erin DeWitt)  

Thursday, March 21
Jerry Garcia Band
The Coach House

Jam music pioneer and Hammond B-3 organ master Melvin Seals comes around to the Coach House this week to bring South County some good ol' Garcia magic. Seals played with the Jerry Garcia band for 18 years (he holds the second-longest tenure, next to bassist John Kahn), and in that time became close friends with Garcia, helping create that hard-to-define, genre-skipping jam band sound. And now, as band leader since Garcia's death, Seals travels with his new musical group playing everything from guitar to mandolin and slide and lap steel--but always keeping the sound and spirit of Jerry Garcia alive and forever young. (Erin DeWitt)

Friday, March 22
Gordon Lightfoot
City National Grove of Anaheim

Legendary singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot has a discography dating back to 1966, the year he exploded on the sixties folk-rock scene with Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival. Before that, he was already an accomplished musician and songwriter in his native Canada, making appearances at clubs and television shows. Since then, he's been credited with helping to shape the folk rock and country sound of the late '60s and '70s with intricate acoustic melodies and delicate vocals, carefully integrated like embroidery on a tapestry. Some of his most famous hits- "Sundown," "Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald," and "Early Mornin' Rain"- display his talent for songwriting and storytelling, but his most haunting track has to be "If You Could Read My Mind," a song epitomizing his failing marriage. Lightfoot reprises his body of songs for a one-night engagement at the Grove of Anaheim. (Aimee Murillo)

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