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
DJs SAEED & PALASH at Red, August 23
It's flag-waving season, so here goes: Despite our enchantment with anemic, bump-snorting superstar jocks from across the pond (they do indeed mesmerize with those perfect blends and cold beats), the USA is where new music evolves. It was the bittersweet alchemy of the African-American experience that long kept us on top, but immigrants and their sons and daughters are taking over the innovation machine as the browning of America seeds fresh sounds from people like Iraqi-born Saeed Younan and his Bangladeshi production partner, Palash Ahmed.
The Washington, D.C., duo are at the forefront of progressive house, a variant of Yankee post-disco usually associated with British cover jocks but which has been taken back by Saeed & Palash, their Iranian-born D.C. buddies Deep Dish, gay-community legend Danny Tenaglia, Cali Latinos Hipp-e and Halo Varga, and the Balance crew from planet Florida. Where U.K. progressive can suck in its cheeks like a supermodel, the Saeed & Palash strain has a fat-ass, exotic percussion and a downtown attitude. Arena in Hollywood is a former ice factory where Red's Friday-night Asian-American massive likes trance hard and fast. But Saeed & Palash took turns taming the vibe by pitching down the bpm and funking up the 4/4 beats. Their brooding bass lines felt almost Californian, Funky Techno Tribestyle, as the floor jammed with hypnotized marchers. A sample of "We Care a Lot" lightened the air, then a gorgeous female vocal track killed with the girls. The duo's recent mix CD, TIDE:EDIT :07, is a showcase of the sometimes gloomy progressive sound of now -- relentless congas, twisted low end, sinister strangers whispering at you -- but S&P felt much more optimistic live onstage, like they'd found an exit from the cave and were taking us there, candles in hand.
With DJs all over the globe trying so hard to be more tribal than thou, it's a lesson to see two of the sound's hottest producers (they've remixed progressive hits ranging from John Digweed's "Voices" to the current "U Need It" by Peter Bailey) thinking outside the record box and reaching for new flavors. It's this kind of human chemistry that makes America the leader of the e-world. (Dennis Romero)
MICHAEL GIRA at the Derby, August 16
"Is it going to be like this all night?" someone asked me at the Derby's bar, three songs into an uneven, morose set by W.A.C.O., which followed an uneven, morose set of murder ballads and sea chanteys by Dame Darcy. I replied, "It's only gonna get worse -- or, I guess, better." Realizing that she and her pals were here looking for an evening of Johnny Red Hot and His Rootin' Tootin' Snazzy Dressers or whatever swing-type action used to be Friday-night fare at the Derby, I told her, "It's not gonna be a dance party here tonight."
And it wasn't. It was Michael Gira, founder of '80s/'90s power-rock gods Swans, alone onstage with acoustic guitar and his many demons, singing to an audience seated on the Derby's dance floor and standing 'round the bar, straining necks to get a view of the man who almost single-handedly birthed, for better or worse, the industrial-rock genre.
But there weren't really demons up there with Gira. When you see him play -- working himself into a red face, howling, playing repetitive guitar parts so ferociously that his fingers' calluses swell and bleed -- you realize that he's up there utterly alone. In songs like the Swans' "Failure," which he performed tonight, Gira occupies the furthest existential position imaginable, where the only options seem to be disgust for others, for oneself, for commerce, for the servant-master setup at the root of every human relationship -- followed by a wry laugh at the self-seriousness and self-pity of all that disgust and fatalism. (Then there's the sadistic humor of last resort, the kind of pitch-black jokes you make when confronted with the bottomless cruelty of the human race. Deep in the set, an audience member yells, "Call the police!" Gira instantly replies, "No thanks, I don't feel like sex right now" to gasps and laughter.)
At the same time, we can be in the presence of absolute, puzzling beauty. That's what's in Gira's songs too, and that's what happens tonight during this stunning, magnificent, tiring and distinctly un-dance-party performance. Breaking through the morbid drones and laments, through the lyrics filled with nooses and snakes and shame and rape, is an occasional pretty guitar line or vocal melody, sung in that deep, authoritative voice of Gira's that is as fundamentally true as all those other men in black: Ian Curtis, Scott Walker, Johnny Cash, etc. It might not be what you want to hear on a Friday night, but it remains a voice -- a vision, really -- to be reckoned with. (Jay Babcock)
JONATHAN RICHMAN at the Fold, August 22
Nailed above the stage of the Silverlake Lounge is a sign that says "SALVATION," made up of many tiny white lights. It floats above performers' heads like a thought bubble, a halo, an annotation. Jonathan Richman's three-night, sold-out stand at the 100-something-capacity club was a match made in a special kind of heaven where seedy evenings come to innocent ends.