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
Illustration by Tony Mostrom
WORLD OUT OF TUNE FESTIVAL at Highland Grounds, May 4
Most of the lineup here promised sure-fire microtonal goodness, including two of L.A.'s best exponents of the kind of Eastern-tinged drones and repetitive, trickling mallet-and-string minimalism one associates with microtonal composers like Lou Harrison, Harry Partch and Terry Riley. Then there was the wild card: the ominously unknown Microtonal Rock & Roll Act . . .
Arriving just before showtime, I find the place pleasingly noisy and packed; loud espresso noises hiss from behind the counter, while some cornball Pretenders-ish pop plays over the PA. First on the bill is the acoustic drone trio Voice of the Bowed Guitar, and I see San Franciscan Doug Williford (thereof) sitting cross-legged amid piles of gear, his violin bow in hand; attentive. Three shiny acoustic guitars lay on the stage.
Then it commences.
The drone: a huge, dark, buzzing-edged chord rises up from the three slowly bowed instruments, lush and tense, violin bows crawling back and forth without a break, scree-ing high overtones tinny in our ears, above the one dark note. It's a loud, densely layered forest of harmonies; buzzes and high squeals hover above, then get lost again in the resulting distilled chord that plows consistently on.
Some people sit with eyes closed, letting the gigantic, overlapping sighs envelop their faces and the room: ssshhhhiiiisshh. . . It's menacing and satisfying. (Later:) What time is it? Who knows? But suddenly the sawing becomes insistently louder (and I cup my ears, and it becomes even sharper and more powerful). Standing up to sketch the crouched-over trio, I see they're sawing the guitars faster now, but who would've known? Then, one by one, it ends. Audience pleased, ravished.
Following some overwrought and out-of-place '70s rock by Swallow (of New York) that goes too long and empties the place, the 10 or 12 of us who stay are rewarded with the incredibly beautiful, dreamy, wind-chiming, abstract, bell-like flutters and swirling patterns of a gorgeous Kraig Grady piece for two vibraphones. Bong. . . It 's the only piece that gives me hallucinations: bursting magenta flowers, dreams inside a Japanese children's book. It feels like water.
Last up: David Beardsley (of New York) plays a short piece of humming, layered tones on his densely fretted electric guitar, bravely competing with the cashieress, who, oblivious, loudly closes down the register. Pissed at her, but we like Beardsley.
THE VINES at the Troubadour, May 7 The VinesPhoto by Gregory Bojorquez
The Vines deserved better, they really did. A mere 30 seconds after their high-adrenaline set at the sold-out Troubadour, the claps and "woo-hoos" faded to nothing. The band's ad hoc MC, Rodney "On the ROQ" Bingenheimer, scolded over the PA: "Come on, you record-company weasels! Let's make a little noise!" It was true; the crowd reeked of industry types, all crossing "See superhot new Aussie garage-rock talent" off their TO DO lists.
Considering the Sydney-born band's Who-worthy rock & roll theatrics, the polite head bobbing seemed especially unkind. Singer and guitarist Craig Nicholls worked extrahard to sex up the set, thrashing and leaping with his guitar, his baby face contorting, his elastic mouth and serpentine tongue fellating the microphone as the band belted out tune after irresistible tune. Except the damn audience resisted. Still, not all the blame should land squarely on the catatonic crowd's fashionable shoulders; the Vines' music refused to settle into any solid groove. After an initial trio of frenetic rock songs, the band launched into a cover of OutKast's "Ms. Jackson." While this may have earned them urban cred (and a few cheers from the crowd), Nicholls' crooning completely killed any garage vibe the Vines had been cooking up. From then on, the band played musical chairs, morphing into any number of seminal rock acts from the last few decades: Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana (when the Vines were formed, they played only Nirvana covers), Radiohead and yes, of course, the Strokes.
It's almost as if Australia were a sponge, soaking up the best rock of recent years and spewing it back out as the Vines. Which is not to say the group are dingo shit -- they're explosively, spine-tinglingly good. They're just good at too many things. (Nathan Ihara)
NUSPIRIT HELSINKI (DJ ENDER) at Club Sugar, May 5
So rare is it to hear such a completely fluid and perfectly balanced serving of nu-soul, broken-beat, house, two-step, trip-hop and stretched-out jazz. Nuspirit Helsinki is a collective of at least 15 players, vocalists, DJs and producers; founding member and ambassador for the group DJ Ender (or Hannu Niemine) brought some records to Sugar's Bossa:Nova, where he spun a set that both tested the waters with new material and served up some old-school house.
Since various Nuspiriters have already contributed trax and remixes for the Jazzanova-Compost, Ubiquity and Guidance labels (the last is putting out the collective's debut), you can imagine the choice material we'll soon hear from Nicole Willis, Chicago spoken-word artist Chuck Perkins and a host of European jazz musicians. They'll probably come back with a larger-scale live show this summer, but in the meantime, we got to hear some Nuspirit dubs -- grooves laden with driving percussion, rich horns and cosmic keys, always fucking with time signatures and genre structures. DJ Ender casually helped himself to beers while fusing his abstract new music with the simplistic yet sublime house staple "Good Life." He had the crowd all the way, as the floor never thinned no matter how far he delved into artcore.