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
|Photo by John Falls|
MERCURY REV, THE SHINS at El Rey, June 11
"Plans and schemes/Thoughts and dreams/Who cares what they mean/When they work they're amazing things" is how the song goes. And amazing is how tonight's sold-out show goes. First, though, are the Arizona-based Shins with their we-may-be-here-by-accident onstage demeanor and catchy enough psych-pop tuneage sung by a guy with a remarkably high voice. Close your eyes and you're at any number of '90s No Life Records in-store performances. Open your eyes and you're underwhelmed . . .
Until the theater goes dark and the light/sound guy gets your attention by timing the strobes with the riff-breaks of Brian Eno's "Needles in the Camel's Eye." And then there's Rev singer-guitarist Jonathan Donahue ambling sheepily onstage in the same unnaturally happy mood he was in last year at the Troubadour, as if he's been ordered to be nice or he'll be swimming with the fishes. The whole set Donahue is all beatific smiles and broad "thank you's" and mime-motions: He flaps his arms for "Tides of the Moon," points at his mighty proboscis for the big-nose lyric in "Lincoln's Eyes," impersonates a petulant child's tantrum during "Little Rhymes." Dressed in black, standing on a stage lit in Romantic color schemes, he's a goth caught in the amber, a cool-blooded psychedelicist, a lizard queen whose theatricality complements the dreamy melodramas and color-burst bombastics of the six-piece band's minisymphonies: the Vangelis-ish keyboards of "Chains," the buttery lines from lead guitarist Grasshopper on "Spiders and Flies," the stretched-out disco boogie of "You're My Queen," the almost-motorik pulse-groove that extends "Opus 40" into a cover of "Once in a Lifetime," featuring reworked lyrics ("You may find yourself/With a big record deal/And you may find yourself/Behind the trigger of a large gun") from Donahue . . . who, midsong, is tracing a five-pointed star in the air with his finger as piped-in fog drifts down from the ceiling vents. What does it all mean? Who cares? It works. It's an amazing thing.
THE GOSSIP at the Smell, June 20, and at the Echo, June 21
Thursday night the Gossip brought their Arkansas heat to the Smell, the concrete walls dripping sweat in appreciation of the "secret" opening appearance by Glass Candy. Shirts were stripped off and bodies shook as the Gossip laid into the downtown crowd with their unique red-hot blues rock. The next morning singer Beth Ditto woke up "with lumps all over my vocal cords"; still, it was impossible to hear any aural injury that night, as her voice swayed and sauntered into every corner of the Echo, a funky former Latin dance club turned fabulous Echo Park rock/hip-hop venue. Post-show, guitarist Nathan Howdeshell would tell me that he loves music that aims for one genre and misses, like the Ramones, who wanted to be the next Beatles but ended up inventing punk rock.
The Gossip try to be punk rock but end up reinventing ancient blues and gospel traditions. Case in point: A new song, "Don't Disturb the Water," plunged the band's punk sound into the deep end of religious revival slash gospel ya-ya. Ditto waved her arms like a black mama in a Southern Baptist church, "haaay-haaay"ing and "hmmmmm-hmmmmm"ing fit to wake the latent spiritual fervor in the least of us. The clapping, stomping, hollering crowd wasn't just rocking out, they were testifying. Of course, when Ditto started preaching over "(Take Back) The Revolution," God wasn't the subject of conversation. "Unity, that's the best fucking bet ever made!" To end the song Ditto shot out into the motley -- short, fat, old, weird, queer, crusty and punk -- crowd to let members of her flock finish the anthemic chorus. Ditto: "Take back!" Fan: "THE REVOLUTION!"
As strong as the Gossip push their political agenda, their real religion is rock & roll. This was abundantly clear as the band took the stage for an encore with their tour mates the Chromatics and launched into a criminally insane cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Howdeshell overlaid Sonic Youthworthy distortions (even after falling on his back in the middle of the audience) on top of Ditto and Chromatics lead singer Adam M. Regrettably's oscillating Iggy-screams, audience members beat on broken bits of drum, and finally everything collapsed into beautiful chaos. (Nathan Ihara)
GOLDENBOY, THE RAY MAKERS
at the Echo, June 22
Electronic shows often read as a trip through the musical looking glass, presenting the band behind the band, jaded men crab-handing their Powerbooks as if only adjusting the music filtering through from some unimaginable space. The crowd's limpid, many-limbed moves read as the energy released from this inversion, or as a celebration of it, or even as a celebration of music returned to a purer state. What these shows lack is any staying power; they hit and fade like cheap MDMA.
Goldenboy & Miss Kittin have created a record not so easily reduced, and without his partner in crime Goldenboy is unable to re-create that experience live. Miss Kittin has a voice so purely artificial it seems sincere: android with a lisp, human and not, right at the crux of what makes electronic music interesting. She works in an eyeliner vein (what to say/girls & fashion/boys & girls/boys & fashion/oh whatever), but it's not the lyrics themselves, it's the way they're embedded and the way they seem simultaneously created by the beats and oppressed by them. That's the point. And that's what Goldenboy seems to be missing. He appears in a coat of golden mirror ball, reflecting images off himself. The beats are compelling, a yellow brick road you can't help but skip down, but without Miss Kittin there's nowhere to arrive; Goldenboy is the Wizard of Oz, dazzling the natives, hidden in artifice. When Kittin wearily asks, "What should I say?/I don't know what to do/I don't know what you want me to," it's not the listener that's being addressed, it's the music. Here, we only hear half the conversation and can make nothing substantial of it.