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
Photo by Gregory Bojorquez
By now everyone's aware that Williamsburg has re-defined the map of rock & roll. But Yeah Yeah Yeahs don't just harness the pure energy and smirking cool aesthetic of downtown NYC forebears Patti Smith or Blondie. And their two-year rise to certain stardom doesn't merely mirror the trash-'n'-hipster catwalk of Williamsburg's Bedford Avenue. Are they the new Strokes? Who cares! Does YYYs singer Karen O sport the diva cojones and slippery Souxsie growl to excite a mounting horde of fans? Absolutely.
"You know a band is good when their record hasn't come out yet and they can fill a concert hall." KCRW's intro to Yeah Yeahs' sold-out stint at the Henry Fonda Theater last Friday night could only hint at the rock theatrics to come. In front of clamoring glamour grrrls and salivating boy toys, the threesome launched into a crazed set of 13 songs and three encores culled from their Master EP and upcoming post-punk sex masterpiece/major-label debut Fever To Tell. Black-clad and downright serious, guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase took the band's darkened staccato grind to tighter heights, and disco thumper "Date With the Night" jump-started heaps of joyous indie-ass shaking.
Karen O knew the hype and set out to prove it. A Poly Styrene tease in her Day-Glo green shirt, hot pants and purple fishnets, she colored new come-on "Cold Night" nice and dirty, and saturated EP favorites "Bang" and "Miles Away" with not-so-coy vibrato groans. She shimmied and wailed, pointed and rolled on the ground, held the mic in her mouth midscream during pop-shock number "Art Star," and still insisted that "L.A.'s gonna party tonight!" at the end of the show. The YYYs are performance art of the best kind: sweat-drenched music with a shit-faced grin.
CAVE IN at the Troubadour, April 19
A sold-out club, a major-label debut just released and stage chops finely road-honed: Here's a band at the height of their powers. Yet somehow Cave In sidestepped the overwhelming audience empathy that seemed like a foregone conclusion tonight.
In emo-regulation T's and sneakers, and with joyous guitar tossing to match, Cave In are defined by articulate rhythmic tattoos, epic riffs and Stephen Brodsky's engagingly warm, falsetto-dipped vocals. "Inspire" personifies Cave In's new Antenna opus: a pulsing, mobile rhythm section behind effected guitar arpeggios, slipping into dreamlike verses that wake to an arch-anthemic chorus. Radio single "Anchor" parades Cave In's timeless Lennon/McCartney melodic instincts, its descending verse progression both toe-tapping and tear-jerking.
Cave In's often-aggressive live show is a reminder of their two albums of jagged, post-hardcore angst that preceded the quartet's more radio-ready recent output. The disjointed, overdriven bass and widdle-and-hang guitar of "Seafrost" show their adventurous spirit's intact, bizarrely recalling the Verve Pipe in brooding atmosphere. But just when they're sounding like ultimate purveyors of tuneful bombast, Cave In slip into self-indulgent, sleep-inducing space-rock feedback segues that soon have the back rows chatting among themselves. Though the change of pace should be welcome, in reality it merely bursts the momentum. Cave In end their set purposefully with the talkative bass, tickled snare and subtly harmonized vocals of the schizophrenic "Stained Silver," yet the crowd has remained strangely static all night and is notably thinned by the time the band return for an encore.
Though they despise the comparison, Cave In really do resemble a musclebound Radiohead. For all the frustrations of their subprog noodlings, and the ensuing band-audience disconnect, this is an outfit that could've flattened the Troubadour with its substance-before-style, brave and brutal pop, and respect is due for their ignoring the path of least resistance for the sake of expression. (Paul Rogers)
LEE KONITZ at the Jazz Bakery, April 17
"The first piece will be entirely improvised," Lee Konitz said. "So don't go away." And with that, the legendary alto master began his set by producing a gentle, back-and-forth rhythmic pattern on his horn that was taken up by the trio's drummer, Joe La Barbera. With the two of them slowly feeling each other out, bassist Darek Oles entered the fray, staying mostly in the deeper reaches of his instrument, poking his way through the constantly shifting soundscape with quiet, clear notes. It was an impressive bit of unrehearsed, wide-open communication, and though the music rarely rose above a cool murmur, it held even the always-attentive Jazz Bakery audience unusually rapt.
Fifty years into his career, Konitz still likes to play it dangerous. His tone remarkably well-preserved and his intellect razor-sharp, the cerebral altoist, at 75, is still looking for the perfect phrase, the unplayed line, the better path. Though the remainder of the evening's two sets was entirely devoted to standards such as "Cherokee," "What's New" and "The Song Is You," they were handled so loosely as to be recognizable through the merest snatch of melody, or Konitz's disarmingly wry commentary. ("Next is 'All the Things You Are,'" Konitz said, introducing the evening's second piece. "Um . . . without the harmony.")
With the lights low and unchanging, the three musicians moved from one number to the next with no apparent destination in mind, probing, prodding, delicately teasing out the changes, and flashing small, nodding smiles at a corner finely turned, or a spontaneous passage so startlingly right. The highlight of the evening came midway through the second set, in a stunning reading of "Body & Soul," with Konitz unspooling the melody in long flowing lines against La Barbera's exquisitely tuneful brushwork and Oles sounding superbly controlled. At its end, after trading choruses with La Barbera finally pushed him out of his instrument's perpetual midrange and into its further registers, Konitz lowered his saxophone, took a deep breath and grinned; he seemed almost satisfied with his own contribution. (Brandt Reiter)