The Warlocks proved a thornier subject, saturating the stage with their ELO-size sound. Capping three midtempo, four-chord songs in a row, the band's "Red Rooster" straddled the fine line between maintaining a groove and sliding into monotony. With three guitars swishing away in time, and two drummers playing almostthe same patterns, the songs developed a hypnotic quality that made you feel sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, but never quite let you snore.
The impact of Moving Units, filling in for New York's snowbound Stills, was clear the moment they walked off the stage: They played an uncomfortable set to an unknown audience, sounding like they'd shown up unrehearsed (because they had), and — with only average renditions of "X and Y," "Between Us and Them" and "Melodrama" — still proved they're Silver Lake's best new band. (Liam Gowing)
David Lindley's virtuoso facility with odd-shaped and stringed foreign boxes is legendary. He also has a sweet, engaging, cartoony voice. Wally Ingram is a locomotive percussionist with full kit plus chimes, blocks and a WWI German army helmet. The two longhaired, Hawaiian-shirted freaks bantered to the crowd's delight and eased through originals such as "Meth Lab Boyfriend," "Catfood Sandwiches" (an odorous ode to backstage chow), "When a Guy Gets Boobs" (for which a fan gifted them with two bras), and, receiving the most adulation by striking an understandable nerve, "Sports Utilities Suck, Hang Up and Drive You Blood Clot."
Lindley stuck to various lap guitars for half the set but also played the oud and saz. He introduced "Lazy Farmer Boy" as a five-string banjo tune, then proceeded to pick it sinuously Middle Eastern on a bouzouki with added frets that enable African scales, after which it morphed into a Scottish reel. Los Chromasomés (as Lindley and Ingram refer to themselves) are reminiscent of that photo of Earth taken from space — only the very far-out can see our planet in its gorgeous totality and ignore man-made borders.
Opener Kaki King is the most striking young musician to emerge in decades. The 23-year-old acoustic-guitar instrumentalist and composer alternates between hard percussive flailing and banging (literally using her ax as a drum) and the fleetest, most fluid right- and left-hand fingers. Sometimes she drapes both hands above her round-backed Ovation and taps the strings over the neck and bridge, improvising passages in altered tunings lower than standard to achieve a booming bottom. The stunned audience went ballistic at her spectacular musicianship. (Michael Simmons)
KITTIE, 18 VISIONS, SWORN ENEMY, DRUG OF CHOICE at the Whisky, February 14
Canadian metal grrrls Kittie bitch-slapped the entire hard-rock community back in 1999 with their savagely catchy grindcore, effectively killing the notion that penises were a prerequisite for quality racket mongering. After the critical and commercial success of their debut, Spit, the band delved deep into the roots of their métier with the follow-up, Oracle, a conservative gloss on the '90s Earache/Relapse catalogs, replete with blast-beats, chugalugging shred and singer Morgan Lander's throat-wrecking bellow. What, you thought they were gonna start penning ballads?
Whatever your preferred aggro style, anyone jonesing for primal noise got a fix tonight, and then some. The ladies were brimming with satanic blood lust, except that Lander's vocals seemed stuck on the she-devil-shriek setting — no doubt due to years of abuse — and never has a damaged diaphragm sounded so good. The absence of pasty, scowling bassist Talena Atfield was keenly felt (the band has been hemorrhaging members since its inception — another story), but Jennifer Arroyo nicely fills her predecessor's custom combat boots, while touring guitarist Jeff Phillips seems tickled pink to be fret-burning with his heroines. Decked out in Axl Rose head wrap, Morgan's nonchalant li'l sis Mercedes hammered her kit as casually as most people eat pasta, even spinning her sticks à la Tommy Lee as the kliegs flickered with her every double kick.
Mosh pits traditionally ooze testosterone, but a Kittie show is the one place where females start shit. This reporter got a swift Doc Marten to the shin as the bouncers dragged away two scrapping hesherettes. After the third encore, a few drunken dudes were screaming for the siblings to kiss each other — however, it's the front woman herself who fed into these adolescents' impulses: "I'll be your Valentine, Mercedes," said Lander, honoring Cupid Day with curious innuendo. Baby, you've come a long way from a Warrant concert. (Andrew Lentz)
BEN KWELLER at the Roxy, February 22
It's one thing to launch a solo career from the impetus of a successful band, but quite another to go it alone after fronting a paradigm of major-label misjudgment. So it's a credit to Ben Kweller — who led teenage Texan Nirvana-lite trio Radish (an expensive debacle for Mercury Records in '97) — that he's here for a second sold-out night at the Roxy. Championed by everyone from Dave Matthews to the Strokes, Kweller's been enjoying snowballing acclaim for last year's Beatles-meet-Ben-Folds sophomore offering, Sha Sha, and his cute but classy live show.
Ambling into the Roxy's rapturous embrace, B.K. and his bandmates epitomize anorexic That '70s Show chic. Yet being aligned with the ironically hip tight-T-shirt-and-mop-top brigade is a two-edged sword for Kweller, whose substance-over-style output is in a different league from similarly garbed, eyes-on-the-prize Weezer acolytes. Kweller's appeal emanates from rock & roll's Holy Grail: He understands how to weave a vocal melody through a chord progression, and delivers his gift via ultradynamic, keep-you-guessing arrangements. In tonight's Sha Sha-centric set,B.K. piles on keys-propelled nostalgia ("Falling") and rain-on-the-pain melancholy ("In Other Words"), and apes Lennon & McCartney ("Family Tree") while offering optimistic light at the end of his tunnel vision.