Records music: Wayne the Train. Courtesy Bloodshot


THE SKATALITES — How can I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a band who had their heyday in Jamaica from ‘64-’65, reformed in ‘83, have run through 30 past band members, and now feature only one founding member and she’s the singer (Doreen Shaffer), in a nine-piece band known for its instrumental prowess? You have to look at the big picture. The Skatalites are living rocksteady-ska-reggae history, founded by some of the most iconic names in reggae history, and how many bands are touring steady since 1983? They have a heavy history and rep to maintain — I was there for their historic ‘83 reunion performance at Reggae Sunsplash festival in Kingston and the locals went nuts, well, everyone went nuts — and the odds are very good that they will deliver. They’ve backed EVERYone in all the famous Jamaican studios, from Bob Marley to Desmond Dekker, Toots and The Maytals to Bunny Wailer, Jimmy Cliff to Lee “Scratch” Perry. Trenchtown rock comes to Venice. Fri 9 p.m., Venice West, $23.

HORTON’S HOLIDAY HAYRIDE with WAYNE “THE TRAIN” HANCOCK. BIG SANDY & His Fly-Rite Boys, REV. HORTON HEAT — Such a fine line, sometimes, between RECOMMENDED and HIGHLY — I take it seriously — but any Southland show by Wayne (don’t mix him up with fellow Texan Butch) Hancock is well worth it. His music and singing sound like the personification and the very history of real country music. Let’s just say if ol’ Hank were still alive they might be touring together. That twang, the songs’ rhythms, simple, classic country arrangements, yodeling! and that mournful pedal steel, sometimes rockin’ out, all the real deal. He is rightfully called the King of Juke Joint Swing, and that doesn’t swing through LA all that often. Big Sandy is a helluva vocalist and a class act, putting sharp pressed pants and an elegant silver and turquoise bolo tie on rowdy rockabilly, and the Rev.? Well, he’s revered not just for his trio but for putting together hayrides like this. Fri, Sat 8 p.m., Alex’s Bar, Long Beach, $45.

LA OPERA presents ROSSINI’s “CINDERELLA” — You should keep in mind, faithful readers, that if I don’t give a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED right off to an LA Opera production, it’s most likely because I haven’t seen it yet. I can’t just go on all the rave reviews stacking up, I have to judge from personal experience. This one’s really interesting. A big production, often with 20 singers on stage, magnificent costumes (each yak hair wig takes 40 hours to style and dye), with perspective from otherwise minor characters, a bespectacled prince that ain’t the gorgeous fairy tale royal we’ve come to expect and his unctuous valet pulling all the strings, and demure Cindy in an elegant but less than knock-out ball gown. I love it! Put away your Disney, this is a deeper, better tale. But not his tale: legend on its creation abounds, but Gioachino Rossini lifted the book from another Italian “Cinderella” opera — he had to! The French story he wanted to use was, last minute, deemed too “naughty” by the papal censor. No copyright laws, so no foul. That left him three weeks to write an entirely new score, and he knocked it out of the piazza. Full of the great melodies and staccato vocal gymnastics he’s known for. And he was only 25, but already a rock star for his previous “Barber of Seville.” Only one performance left! Then you’ll have to wait until March for their next full production. Sun 2 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, DTLA, $18-282.

EM THE MASTER — I’ve been giving EM’s show a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for months now and still do. “The Master”? Too much hype on the marquee? Not if you can back it up, and EM does. She sings, dances, has dancers. She crawls across the floor like a reptile, gripping the mic and never missing a beat. She doesn’t play the piano, she attacks it. Uses her voice as an instrument in creative ways. Her energy is nonstop and seemingly limitless. Writes terrific songs perfect for her act, and she may remind you some of a more energetic Lady Gaga. With whom she co-authored a New York Times bestseller. Yeah, this gal has more talent than anyone has a right to. And she’s putting it on display, right here in your backyard, every Tuesday, for a pittance. Hmm, an artery-clogging burger, Coke and fries for 10 bucks, or something that will hit you and make you grin, and that you will remember. Every Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, DTSM, $10.


TONIGHT! – “HAMILTON” — is the story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway, “Hamilton” is the story of America then, as told by America now. Tonight – Thurs, Fri, Sat, Tues, Wed, next Thurs 8 p.m., Sun 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m., also Sat 2 p.m., Pantages Theater, Hollywood, $49-3000+, depending on date/time.

LIBRARY GIRL + Roar Shack presents “Speaking of Now” — Time flies when you’re having word fun. It’s been 12 years since SM word wizard Susan Hayden had the crazy notion to establish a monthly spoken word event at the Ruskin Group Theater at the airport, aiming for the highest level and enlisting the talents of her very talented group of writers. But… this is the last show. THE LAST SHOW OF THE YEAR. Happens every December, and maybe calling it that reminds us to not take good stuff for granted because it’s always been there. Usually the second Sunday of every month, but this month only, this Sun 7 p.m., Ruskin Group Theater, SM Airport, $15 includes dessert.

TOLEDO DIAMOND — Have you gone to catch his dynamic, diverse, unique show yet, every Sunday night at Harvelle’s, here in SM? I’ve been recommending him for… decades. Trust me. Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, DTSM, $12.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: PONCHO SANCHEZ and His Latin Jazz Band, Catalina Jazz Club, 12/10-12; THE YOUNG CUBLINERS, Venice West, 12/11; LA OPERA presents ROSSINI’s “CINDERELLA,” Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 12/12;JOHN MAYALL, WALTER TROUT, Saban Montclair, 12/12; TAKE 6 CHRISTMAS, Pepperdine, 12/15; X, BLASTERS, Henry Fonda, 12/16; LA SANTA CECILIA, Novo, 12/17; STEVIE WONDER’S 23rd HOUSE FULL OF TOYS BENEFIT CONCERT, Microsoft Theater, 12/18; SARAH SILVERMAN & Friends, Largo, 12/22; FISHBONE, Venice West, 12/31; MUSICARES honors JONI MITCHELL, LA Convention Center, 1/29.

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at