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Surf Rock, Banjos, Bach—12 Bands To See In Boston This Fall

The Deadly Gentlemen. (Courtesy photo)

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Fall is a time for change; a time for reflection; a time for making arbitrarily-numbered lists. (Unless you are writing for Buzzfeed, in which case that is all the time.) This particular list enumerates all the music you should see this fall—from surf rock to banjos, from various “fusions” to Bach. I overlooked acts that are wildly popular, because you probably already know when Beyoncé is coming to town (Dec. 20). Some incredible music undoubtedly got left out. Please right such horrible oversights in the comments section. (Note: Some of the videos include racy lyrics or imagery.)

FreshGrass: Sept. 20 -22 at MASS MoCA, North Adams. Bluegrass is a (very) loose term for this weekend festival. But it’s a great excuse to put some of the nation’s premier acoustic and roots-based acts together in one lineup. Highlights include neo-stringband The Infamous Stringdusters, old school bluegrassers The Del McCoury Band, banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny, acoustic pop-rockers Lake Street Dive, and Boston’s own “grasscore” outfit the Deadly Gentlemen (pictured above).

The Dodos: Sept. 27 at Paradise Rock Club, Boston. This San Francisco-based duo favor tricky time signatures and bombastic percussion, but they still manage to write dreamy, transcendent rock songs. They are currently touring in support of their new album, “Carrier.”

Le1f: Sept. 28 at Brighton Music Hall, Allston. Rapper/producer Le1f is on the cutting edge of both electronic music and hip-hop, subverting the ultra-masculine posturing of his genre with an unabashed celebration of gay identity delivered in a searing, slithering flow.

John Doyle: Oct. 3 at Club Passim, Cambridge. You’ve probably never heard of him, but Doyle is a giant in the world of Irish traditional music, and a pioneer of rhythm guitar. His solo shows are intimate and mesmerizing.

Those Darlins: Oct. 13 at Great Scott, Allston. It’s hard to know what to make of Those Darlins, whose punk swagger crossed with a country sensibility has the ability to both shock and amuse. Their new album, “Blur the Line,” out Oct. 1, will no doubt yield all kinds of confusing, pleasant feelings.

Janelle Monáe: Oct. 16 at House of Blues, Boston. Monáe can rock a tuxedo better than any man, and for me that’s practically enough reason to see her live. But if you need another, just listen to her sophomore effort, “The Electric Lady,” a weird and irresistible amalgam of funk, soul, jazz, and pop with guest appearances by Prince, Erykah Badu, Solange, Miguel and Esperanza Spalding.

Debo Band: Oct. 18 at Regattabar, Cambridge. Usually I hate anything  that iTunes classifies as “world” music but Debo Band is an exception. The 11-piece, Boston-based band has a saxophone AND an accordion AND a sousaphone, and they play Ethiopian pop-soul-funk fusion (another word I hate).

Chris Thile: Oct. 20 at Sanders Theater, Cambridge. Mandolinist Thile has been hailed as a genius since age 8, and over the course of his career has proven that whatever he touches, however strange, turns to gold. This time it’s three Bach solo violin pieces, which comprise “Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1.”

Los Straitjackets: Oct. 25 at The Sinclair, Cambridge. I’m still trying to figure out why the members of Los Straitjackets wear Mexican wrestling masks, but their music, a rambunctious take on instrumental surf rock, is no mere gimmick.

Hurray for the Riff Raff: Nov. 1 at The Sinclair, Cambridge. Lead singer Alynda lee Segarra might be a bit of a Gillian Welch clone but that doesn’t make her voice any less compelling, or her songs any less affecting. Plus, I’m partial to bands with fiddles in them.

You Won’t/Bombadil/The Suitcase Junket: Nov. 1 at TT the Bear’s Place, Cambridge. Boston-based indie rockers You Won’t headline at Great Scott with support from North Carolinian folk-pop outfit Bombadil and one-man band the Suitcase Junket. I can’t say enough nice things about these three groups, which display impeccable musicianship, love of detail, and thoughtful lyricism.

Laura Mvula: Nov. 21 at The Sinclair, Cambridge. I’m tired of describing music in terms of genre—in this case soul-pop-something-or-other—so I’ll just say that Mvula’s debut album, “Sing to the Moon,” sounds like it might lift you up and catapult you into the farthest reaches of the heavens. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, as long as Mvula was singing the whole time.