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
So picture yourself in a boat on a river . . . better yet, an ice floe in an Arctic sea. You are aware of movement but have a simultaneous sense of suspended animation. You see enveloping shadows and blindingly white lights amid floating faces of children and distant dancing figures. You hear an unrelenting swirl of strings, magnificent piano and crystalline keyboards, the occasional orchestral cacophony of bowed guitar atop plodding bass and reluctant drums, all accompanying a virtual choir of angels emanating from just one man — a fully grown boy soprano named Jonsi — singing lullabies for hibernating polar bears . . . then thunderous applause as you awake from your dream state.
Integral to their charm, Sigur Rós' songs are intentionally abstract landscapes: fluid, unstructured, indefinable. There simply is no place for a concrete depiction of reality in their bowl of surreal. The form and the content are one. The metaphor isthe subject. You get it or you don't. And to say any more than that really would just be more gibberish. (Liam Gowing)
THE DATSUNS at the Troubadour, April 12
Doug Martsch notwithstanding, there's not exactly a long tradition of indie shredders; reacting in turn against lugubrious '70s rock and the hair-metal of the '80s, indie rock has placed a premium on the primitive. Put simply, no one wanted to be seen as similar to a rock culture considered devoid of spiritual depth. No one wanted to sound like groupie rock. So when considering a band like the Datsuns, the return of the Great White Guitar Solo deserves particular attention.
Make no mistake, these guys have the hot licks. But how to make a case for them? For starters, they play with a tone dirty enough to bring R.L. Burnside out of his swamp smiling. This isn't stadium rock; this is barroom sprawl. More importantly, the lead guitar's a natural extension of their perfect incoherence, making one last furious attempt to say what can't be said. Think of it as the scribbling that occurs across the palimpsest of a teenage love letter; the scribbling in large part is the love letter. But don't let that image soften your idea of the band. This is rock that's ready for underage girls and fucking over friends and family. Take the opener — a crooned "ladies and gentlemen/ladies and gentlemen," and then a tidal wave of noise destroys whatever's said next. The band never relents — guitars coming out of taut bass grooves like animals from their den. Before the last note shimmers, the band will climb the scaffolding, convulse and throw their equipment into the crowd (it's always a special treat to watch security swimming after tossed cymbals while the band gleefully re-toss whatever's retrieved; see again rock as fucking people over).
This is rock as fun, raucous and out of control. Fun most of all. Because rock is first and foremost a celebration of itself; rock exults in itself as the intangible thing that absorbs the unbearable fracas of the norm. And here we find the error of hairspray metal: It was never their virtuosity that was insipid — it was their privileging of that virtuosity. Rock despises false idols. The Datsuns however, are the real deal. (Russel Swensen)
BOBI CÉSPEDES at the Conga Room, April 4
BRIGHT EYES at the Henry Fonda Theater, April 10
Don't go to the Conga Room unless you know how to dance, because patrons here take their rug-cutting seriously, even when they're just goofing to the cumbias cracking on the house system. Regardless of which Latin steps you dig, this "art-deco copacabana" is an ideal boîte to feel equatorial rhythms, especially when plantain-sweet Gladys "Bobi" Céspedes is laying 'em on so thick you can practically see the orishas smiling down at her.
Looking agelessly handsome with her graying dreads and bejeweled dress, the Yoruban-Lucumi priestess kicked off the evening with an ode to her favorite African deity, "Obatala." But despite her Caribbean lineage, she's proud of being a Bay Area girl, showing much love with the thumping "California" (a racist republic may seem an unlikely subject of homage, but Céspedes has positive juju to burn). And you can see why Mickey Hart wanted Céspedes to contribute to his Planet Drum project: not only because One Drop Scott's polyrhythms patty-cake to conguero/timbaleroNengue Hernandez's whiplashing hand slaps, but because even when Céspedes isn't shaking the rafters with her hearty Celia Cruz-inspired croon, she's shaking a gourd-maracca or scatting percussively with Hausa-Ibo tonal chants the audience repeats with childlike delight. "I think I'd better stop that," an impressed Céspedes said, "or you're gonna take my job."
While much to-do is made of guitarist and Grammy nominee Greg Landau's production work (and rightfully so), live it's keyboardist/ trumpeter Oriente Lopez and bassist Rahsaan Fredericks who anchor this groove machine. The only puzzling thing was the band taking a "15- or 20-minute" intermission after seven or eight songs — just as the crowd got all hot and bothered — and then not returning for almost an hour! While it may have refreshed their batteries, their absence triggered a dance-floor exodus the evening never quite recovered from. (Andrew Lentz)