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
And why shouldn't they? The industry doesn't put out lowest-common-denominator music for nothing. Formula guarantees income. And the great cost of touring with a baby grand piano in tow should give some indication of the fat load of money it's looking to recoup from this band. Stargunn are already comfortably ensconced in the proverbial green room of stardom, preparing for their 15 minutes of fame, ready to suck. (Liam Gowing)
RAY MAKERS, TOMMI SUNSHINE at the Echo, January 11
Who needs downtown lofts when the swingin'est can't-shut-'em-down house parties are happening on East Sunset Boulevard? Ray Makers took the stage with the caveatlike announcement "We're gonna play some stuff you all know and some other stuff you probably don't care about." While their current CD, Phantom Third Channel(Transistor), is sprightly and minimal, the duo's live act is a much bouncier, MC-driven affair soaked through with college-radio-jacking boom-bap and spooky theremin quivers courtesy of Seksu Roba's Kevin Lee. "They're a little too New York for me," my electroclash-expert friend said, but she was speaking strictly sartorially (hey, those pimp threads are pretty damn groovy). Before launching into their finale, an early Cure tune ("I'm a Cult Hero"), Marcus glumly declared, "This is one of the songs Robert Smith wrote before he became a fat drunk."
With zero fanfare and no distracting video projections, Chicago's Tommi Sunshine dashed club kids' expectations right out of the gate with an intoxicating revamp of Dark Side of the Moon-era Floyd that went on with Floyd-like endurance — which seems to be the point. "He plays whatever the fuck he wants," Sunshine's booking agent said, "not what people expect." More disjointed than a straight mix but without the lookit-me obnoxiousness of a mash-up, Sunshine is as affectionate toward his source material as he is derisive of it. Tonight he careened from Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up" to Duran Duran's "Planet Earth" to Black Flag's "TV Party" to Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran" to Motley Crue's "Looks That Kill" with no apparent logic, yet some sort of knowing pop-culture critique emerged from the connect-the-dots rampage. "Sunshine throws some electro in there to cater to the crowd," Ray Makers' Marcus said, "but really, this is just rock." With kids pogoing a full 10 minutes after the lights went on, he's damn right it was. (Andrew Lentz)
SILKWORM, CONSONANT, STRAIGHT TO VIDEO at the Knitting Factory, January 9
The night resembles a musical puzzle — all these oddly shaped bands and motifs that suggest completion yet never quite mesh. On the one hand we have Consonant front man Clint Conley, AWOL since Mission of Burma did the disappear. On the other we have Silkworm, who've been very much present over the last decade but never particularly visible, lost in the Sturm und Drang of indie rock.
Where Silkworm's only been pared down over the years, Conley's beefed up his new band with members of Come, Fuzzy and Bedhead. Call them three more pieces scattered across the table. Unfortunately, only Chris Brokaw (guitar) makes a real contribution. His spidery phrasings both complement and impair Consonant's music; even as the phrasings visibly shimmer, the songs themselves recede, like a web we admire but are never snared in. Consonant plays earnestly and with some power, but it feels nothing like deliverance.
Silkworm's greatest strength lies in the attention Steve Albini has lavished on them. Live, the reasons for this attention are visible, while at the same time we miss the viscera of those recordings. Michael Dahlquist is a drummer who doesn't so much play as assault his instrument, lending the expansive guitar noodling much-needed force. Yet here too we admire a facet instead of the gem; the strength of the rhythm section exposes the songs' essential mediocrity. There's little to distinguish Silkworm from the pack of kind of sad/kind of stumbling. Still, Silkworm's time served serves them well; their greatest moment is a requested and eventually remembered version of "That's Entertainment." Like any good inmate, they've got their shtick down; they entertain even if they do little more.
BOOKS ON TAPE, TENDER BUTTONS, XIU XIU, LYBTHTH at the Smell, January 11
This third installment of the "Neon Hates You" series was an eclectic mix, with an acoustic performance by Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu and a lot of electronic bands whose names you can't pronounce, and a few that you can.
The Smell's communal atmosphere complements a wide variety of music. One-man project Lybthth might seem a bit alien at any other venue, but at the Smell this space-themed oddity fits right in. Hooded like the Grim Reaper and playing a MIDI drum kit, front man Qrqyt Ixoteptek had varied moments of fluidity but was a bit too cacophonous overall. The highlight of the smoky evening was Books on Tape, whose Todd Drootin is the Amadeus of electronic music in Los Angeles. Erratic yet precise, Drootin pulled off a crowd-pleasing set while heavily intoxicated, bobbing around onstage, spasmodically attacking the equipment, and stopping every now and then for self-deprecating jokes. When someone in the audience shouted, "Hey, we need more bass, we're from the ghetto!" Drootin was more than happy to comply, cranking up the beats louder than a souped-up Honda Civic.
Next in line were Tender Buttons, whose hybrid/conceptual though awfully obscure take on electroclash seemed a bit pretentious. Vocalist Zack Wentz and his wife, K8, appeared content making music for the minority, so whatever . . . (Tatiana Simonian)