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
Photos by Gregory Bojorquez
LADYTRON, SIMIAN, MOUNT SIMS at the Henry Fonda Theater, March 8
It's 1980 all over again: scary nukes; Middle Eastern strife; a crazy Republican in the Oval Office. All I could see for miles at this show were leg warmers and fishnets, hot pink tops and black hair dye, faux hawks and bleach-blond disasters. I'm not an expert in international diplomacy, so I'll just tell you the latter fact is an outgrowth of electroclash, the most manufactured faux movement since Malcolm McLaren's Sex Pistols. Though the trendlet's official Web site includes the qualification that it was "a term never intended for genre usage," I attended promoter Larry Tee's October 2001 festival in New York where the name was minted and the smell of hype at that ground zero was as thick as the smell of dust and death at the one downtown. The line for the guest list was longer than that for paid attendees.
Whatever its origins, delivered with a mixture of perversity, humor and decent choruses, electroclash is defensible (see Fischerspooner or Peaches). In times like these, it feels good to revel in thoughts of technology and detached fucking. Then again, such genre-centric hype allows acts like opener Mount Sims to slip in under the radar. Mastermind Matt Sims sang along to backing tracks and in front of two erotic dancers. I wish he'd ditched the music. Simian don't deserve the genre tag that a place on this bill invited. Neither cold nor stridently electronic, the quartet's music is reminiscent of John Lennon's most soulful Beatles songs filtered through Brian Eno's toolshed — sonically rich, well thought out and funky, albeit in an overdetermined, white-guy kind of way. Though Simian's confidence and enthusiasm were infectious, they were limited by the fact that, besides the singer-guitarist, the members were tethered to their instruments — two guys on synths, a drummer playing to a click track.
The most notable thing about Ladytron is that no one's dismissed them as a highbrow version of t.A.T.u. Their best song was the semi-creepy "Seventeen," whose lyrics go, "They only want you when you're 17/When you're 21, you're no fun." Matching vocalists Helena Marnie and Mira Aroyo (Bulgarian, natch) played the part of zonked new wave divas, while Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu operated keyboards and rhythm boxes, abetted by utilitymen on bass and drums. As with any group of musicians who drag out synthesizers and wear all black, it's inevitable that some will claim they represent the future, but I have visions of what the future looks like, and it's not a Depeche Mode video.
EL CHIVO EXPIATORIO, ALMALAFA, INSPECTOR, VIERNES 13 at the Roxy, March 9
Something about ska piques the Mexican soul — but let Carlos Monsiváis ponder that one. Who else but the intellectual giant could explain Sunday's sold-out Mexican skanker showcase at the Roxy? El Chivo Expiatorio started the slamfest with 1950s hot-rod revs, inappropriate facial histrionics and on-purpose stilted delivery that alternately provoked laughter and pogoing and reminded of Tenacious D. Then again, doubt Jack Black and Co. would ever bash Bush, call for an illegal immigrant amnesty or chirp "Don't bomb Iraq!" on the catchiest jingle ever uttered outside a soap commercial. Slowing things down — but inciting the pit further — was Almalafa. Sure, the Ensenada dectet's moody, tropical-laced scratches got repetitive quickly. And, yes, they sang a bit too much about marijuana's joys. But Almalafa produced — when fans forgo the Roxy's stage-dive ban, wrap themselves around lead singers and quiver like Pentecostals, a band has produced.
Then some unpleasant capitalism. Seemed many music moguls were in attendance to hear headliner Inspector, so Universal (Inspector's label) pressured the concert's promoter to have Southgate skankeros Viernes 13 bumped until after midnight. Viernes vehemently protested, arguing that there'd be no fans left for them. Didn't matter — label honchos trump the locals any day. Inspector is the same band that had a Thursday-night appearance at Anaheim's JC Fandango raided after fire inspectors found 500 people too many inside the club, and the prime reason the Roxy nearly encountered that problem also. This fan obsession is puzzling, however; their so-so ska was nothing Orange County didn't spit out about six years ago.
And Viernes 13? Maybe 75 faithful lingered when lanky singer Jay P. appeared onstage around the witching hour. "I want to thank those who're staying," he told the audience. "Those who left — fuck them!" May their furious ska/punk bravura one day receive the respect it deserves. (Gustavo Arellano)
DEAD MOON, MR. AIRPLANE MAN, 20 MILES at Spaceland, March 1
While it's unclear how L.A.'s ubiquitous fire marshals are going to bring back the dead in Rhode Island — or solve the mystery behind Great White's bizarre midlife metamorphosis into Kiss — there was one consolation prize when the fire brigade recently shut down the Smell: the last-minute addition of Smell refugees Mr. Airplane Man and 20 Miles to the Spaceland bill. Hitting the stage past 1 a.m., 20 Miles, with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion singer-guitarist Judah Bauer, must have thought they were still on Manhattan club time, rambling through an unhurried set of keyboard-and-slide-driven blues rock. 20 Miles' best moments evoked the swaggering grooves of the Stones' 1969 Trident demos; a nagging drawback was that everything came off second-hand — even the blues covers were based on the Stones' versions, not the originals.