PETER ERSKINE: The best drummer. Courtesy photo

Library Girl landmark performance

After a lifetime of writing reviews as a music journalist, I finally got smart (accidentally) and decided to use all that experience, more than 3,000 live shows (and counting), across all genres, to alert readers to can’t-miss shows coming up. In LA, that’s a ton. Sometimes more than one a night. The advantages for me were great: not having to beg promoters for a ticket so I could do my job, being able to relax and enjoy the show instead of constantly evaluating and taking notes, and going home to bed instead of sweating over a keyboard till 4 a.m. More importantly, previews are more useful to music fans than writing about what they saw or what they missed.

But very occasionally a performance is so rare and wonderful that I have to make some note. Last Sunday’s Library Girl, the spoken word presentation every second Sunday of the month at the Ruskin Group Theatre at the airport, was one of those. Founder Susan Hayden (profiled last week), after 14 successful years, decided to shake things up, and I was pleased to learn she thought it was as exceptional as I did. Likely, the inspiration was that she was honoring her early mentor, Murray Mednick, founder of the Padua Hills Playwrights.

The readers were moved to center stage, read more than once, sometimes in pairs, all very short and impactful pieces, with Mednick at the end. It all worked beautifully. I always admire an artist who will take chances instead of repeating a successful formula. Those are our truly precious artists.

Great live show drought warning!

Always, from a week before Thanksgiving until at least a week after New Years, maybe two. Not a total desert, but slim pickings. So if you see something you’re kind of on the fence about, go! Or stop complaining for a couple of months, and play your dusty old vinyl.

Trust the art, not the artist

I know you may not be happy with Van Morrison for his recent anti-vax nonsense. But he has always had a very strong anti-authority bent, and this is not his first nonsense rodeo.

But he remains a unique and special artist, one of the few who continues after 60 years to come up with really good stuff, and surprises. I always let some music play on my laptop when I’m working, generally a random mix I approve of, and today a lot of Van was coming up (including his surprise performance of Into the Mystic at Agape, started in Santa Monica but now holding services in the gorgeous Saban Theater). A string from his Hollywood Bowl concert in 2008. He had a very large band, and he was as creative and inspired with arrangements, instrumentation and vocals as I’ve ever seen him. I finally decided I had to watch the video when he started Common One and it was just off the hook. I advise you to go find that concert, and you may be willing to forgive him his sins.

Highly recommended:

Peter Erskine Trio with Alan Pasqua, Darek Oles – Yes, I’ve seen Ginger Baker, Bonham, and Bruford actually performed on my cable TV show. I’m just gonna stick with my headline above. If you need some embellishment just go here and you can choose from the many, many times I’ve written about him. The dude lives in Santa Monica too. Fri, Sat, 8:30, 10:30, Sam First, LAX, $30.

Frida & Diega, LA Opera – Whoa! This snuck up on me. I didn’t expect another LA Opera production so soon after The Barber of Seville which closely followed Don Giovanni, both of them outstanding. I almost didn’t get this in the column! So I will have to tell you more about it next week. Go to the LA Opera website and read just a little about it, and then grab a good ticket ASAP. From what I know, this sounds exciting, a perfect new production for Los Angeles. Sat 7:30 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LA $39-274.

A View From The Bridge – Well, now the last three performances of this outstanding production are sold out. Fri, Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, SMO, sold out.

The Hot Club of Los Angeles – Looking for something different? But really good? And on a Monday? Every Monday? – “Hot Club’s brand of virtuoso, Django-style 1930s gypsy swing jazz is found nowhere else and even if it were, it couldn’t possibly be this good. These guys are masters, individually and collectively. You will find it hard to stop smiling all night.” Mon 9 p.m., Cinema Bar, Culver City, no cover.


Tonight! – DEVO – The Farewell Tour – Celebrating 50 Years – if you can remember when these guys popped up and blew minds musically and thematically, you may need wheelchair access. But roll on down to Inglewood because this is it, the end of an error, finally fully devolved, but with two Mothersbaughs and a Casale in the band, I’ll bet they can still whip it, whip it good. Thurs 8 p.m., YouTube Theater, Inglewood, $42-715.

Steve Hackett – Going out on a limb a little here, because I haven’t followed Hackett’s entire long career, since the ‘60s. But every time I tune in I have no idea what to expect, and I wind up impressed. He’s a master guitar player and experimenter, and accepted an invitation by Peter Gabriel to join a very early Genesis. In his six years there he transformed the group, joined in several later reunions, and went on to record 28 solo albums. This tour is titled, Genesis Revisited: Foxtrot at 50 & Hackett Highlights, so, there you go. He doesn’t tour that often, so you might want to catch this. Sat 8 p.m., Orpheum Theatre, LA, $45-65.

Toledo Diamond – Unique, riveting, first class act. There’s nothing like it, it is high performance art and great decadent fun. Degeneracy is rarely so well disciplined. Toledo may have his trademark ciggy, but it’s the band that really smokes! Sun 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $12.

Coming Attractions: Frida & Diego, La Opera, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 11/26, 30. 12/3, 6, 9; Toledo Diamond, Harvelle’s, 11/26, 12/3, 10, 17, 24; Hot Club Of Los Angeles, Cinema Bar, 11/27. 12/4, 11, 18, 25; Rick Holstrom Band with Steve Berlin, Mccabe’s, 11/26; Kodály, Dvořák, Disney Hall, 11/28; Tony Gilkyson, Cinema Bar, 12/1; Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Kia Forum, 12/4, 6; Mehta, Mahler, Seong-jin Cho, Disney Hall, 12/7, 8, 9, 10; Chris Isaak, Orpheum, 12/12; Mehta, Beethoven Symphonies, Disney Hall, 12/14, 15, 16, 17; Manhattan Transfer, Final Farewell Concert, Disney Hall, 12/15; Queens of The Stone Age, Kia Forum, 12/16; Rick Shea, Tony Gilkyson, Cinema Bar, 12/28

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 37 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.