By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
at the Echo, April 13
Flying his Progression Session CD series in from London, LTJ Bukem played a night at the Factory and a second at Silver Lake's the Echo. While the Echo show went off without his great Good Looking Records labelmate Nookie opening, Bukem and his boy wonder MC Conrad still tore it up, giving us the tracks and production values that we seem unable to replicate on the West Coast (or arguably in all the States). Offering much more than just efficiently steamrolling "Amen" breaks, Bukem's "atmospheric" drum & bass combines ambient Eno with the uplift of a '70s jazz-disco record. Conrad knows how to work a crowd, and gives the peeps whatever they can handle -- you go crazy, he gets crazier, only he doesn't lose his cool, his words just roll off the tongue at greater speed and with surprising clarity. Combine that with his knowledge of the tracks and Bukem's technique, and you have an MC who is truly a master of ceremonies.
Since a lot of the kids were off raving at Audiotistic, the crowd was a refreshing mixture of local heads and intelligentsia. The only problem (and this applies to most L.A. venues) was that promoters out here still don't know how to present the sound properly. When the Progression Sessions land in town, your sound system better progress, too. To our shame, U.K. DJs are used to better sound across the pond; it's not an afterthought over there, as cabinets are strategically arranged to create a large sweet spot. We still front-load the stage as if we're getting ready to see Sonic Youth. Bukem is no punk show, and if L.A. wants to be a legitimate electronic-music haven, the clubs better step up, and the fans need to speak up. (Daniel Siwek)
at the Bigfoot Lodge, April 24
A historic achievement of sorts was celebrated between songs halfway through Radio Vago's set, when club booker/DJ Lee Joseph urgently worked his way through the dense pack of acolytes surrounding the small stage to announce that he'd just received a complaint about the noise. "That's a first for us," replied singer Adrienne Pearson, a bit puzzled, since Radio Vago weren't playing any louder than most bands on the scene. The anonymous objection was presumably based not on the group's literal volume but on their sound, which replaces poppy hooks and predictable verse-chorus patterns with an avalanche-assault of calamitous mood swings.
Although Radio Vago are sometimes lumped with the newer-wave revival, there's nothing remotely quirky or cutesy about their music; they're closer in spirit to darker, more experimental post-punks such as Joy Division and Gang of Four. On the ominous, lurching "Blood on My Hands," Jen Gillaspy churned out traditional power chords, but for most of the show she manipulated her guitar to stranger effect, as on the satellite-junk echoes clattering in the eerie spaces of "Intro (Yearly Note)." Bassist-singer Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Jenny Vassilatos attacked their instruments with a similar disdain for retro-rock convention, locking together in unusual death-disco patterns. As the charismatic Pearson writhed, possessed by the malevolent ghost that inhabits "Shotgun," Olivia Parriott typed at her rack of keyboards to evoke a wound-up music box filled with spiders. Parriott shifted from nightmarish to daydreamy on "Mail Order Bride," contrasting Pearson's sarcastic lyrics ("I promise we can customize") with a breezy, insidiously groovy melody.
Now that Pearson's finally back from last year's six-month sojourn in Scotland -- the group had to decline an appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer while she was away -- Radio Vago's eclectic following of riot grrrls, goths, art-punks and new wavers keeps growing. Just about everyone in the bar realized they were in the presence of something special. (Falling James)
LES SAVY FAV
at the Troubadour, April 26
Tim Harrington sauntered onstage in unflattering gray sweatpants and sweatshirt, and proceeded to lead the crowd in a series of warm-up exercises (squats and stretches).
"We're going to work tonight," he explained, and work it he did, as Les Savy Fav launched into an unforgettable evening of improvisational zaniness and some burly punk tunes.
The sweatpants didn't last long; Harrington soon dashed off stage left and returned, stripped down to a skintight bright-red wrestling suit that left little to the imagination (giving new meaning to the expression balls-out). Other antics included crawling (still singing) through the crowd on his hands and knees, humping a photographer's face, carving a makeshift mask out of a white towel, chopping off pieces of audience-member hair and decorating his Farfisa with them, and getting everyone (the sound and light crew, the security guards) in the house to clap ("No one will wake up tomorrow and wish that they had clapped!").
Harrington's crazy-man stage gusto is so off-the-hook and hilarious that it's easy to forget his comparatively sedate backup trio -- bassist Syd Butler, guitarist Seth Jabour and skinsman Harrison Haynes. Same goes for the music, which, for all its vigor, can be upstaged by the carnival performance. Still, it's hard to remember seeing indie-rockers pogoing so hard at the Troubadour; a minor mosh pit began to form until Harrington taught the moshers his "sexy Duran Duran dance."