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
If you didn’t already know the band had played together only on occasional minitours like this one since 1997, you wouldn’t have figured it out tonight. Their most potent number was also one of the oldest: “Mania,” a maze of untrackable rhythms wrapped around Hersh’s madwoman-in-the-attic rant (“My hands are cupped and full of blood/my eyes is spiral . . . rat rat rat rat rat”). Tonight, the song sounded as though it had emanated from Hersh’s head and hands just that minute, not 14 years ago. (Franklin Bruno)
LES YEUX NOIRS at the Conga Room, May 7
Although visa problems prevented their two Roma members from coming stateside, France’s Les Yeux Noirs again proved their mettle as master navigators of the celebration and sorrow at the heart of the Central and Eastern European musical experience. Sure, the rad-trad textures of Marian Miu’s clippety-clop cimbalom and Constantin Bitica’s teetering accordion were missed, but their absence opened up more space for the remaining six. François Perchat’s moody cello gained audibility, its latticelike lines fingerlacing Eric and Olivier Slabiak’s blue-hot violins. The rhythm section breathed with the conjoined gusto of Pascal Rondeau’s right-place, right-time guitar, Franck Anastasio’s EKG-charting bass and Aidje Tafial’s sneaky, subtle drums.
When the violins cranked up on “Sanie Cu Zurgale,” “Joc de Loop” and “Calusul,” tempos careened in ever-tightening, ludicrously speedy spirals. You could almost hear some moonshine-swilling dance caller clapping his hands, stomping his feet and shouting, “Faster, faster, faster!” The brothers Slabiak shook their hips like Buddha Bar regulars, leaned on or faced off at each other, bowing wildly, their fingers blurring across the frets. Eric really shredded as string-cheese-like threads came off his bow, the physicality of his playing escalating with each chorus.
Exultation gushed when tempos raced, but the band also drove home the stakes of lamentation. The tenderness of “Lluba” and “Rozinkhes” lingered in a soft melancholic light, while a sense of dread enveloped “Yiddishe Mame,” its haunted house of melody darkened by spectral trip-hop shadows. On the ballads as well as on “Tchaye” and other sing-along rave-ups, the band’s robust vocal harmonies made them more than just another flight of high-speed stringmen. (Tom Cheyney)
UNSANE, JJ PARADISE PLAYERS CLUB at Spaceland, May 10
For a few hours in Silver Lake last Saturday night, Brooklyn was in the house, and we don’t mean trendy Williamsburg, we mean streetwise 718ers who still jones for Helmet and Quicksand — guys with “NYC Hardcore 4 Life” tats who live and die by the code. And like our local scenesters’ sartorial sense, it was all tight-fitting T-shirts, but the torsos underneath them were cut like Marines’ and the non-trucker baseball caps were slung over the eyes. This wasn’t about fashion, though, and even before JJ Paradise Players Club struck their first distortion-swaddled note, the vibe was auspicious: hooting and wisecracking, smack-talking and jostling — the sort of band-audience rapport you just don’t get enough of in polite, industry-strangled Los Angeles.
Specializing in ploddy slow-burn drums, twangy minor-key bass and chugging barre chords, Unsane can be seen in many ways: Sabbathesque doom for hockey nuts, testosterone shoegazer, SoCal desert rock from the Lower East Side, or — when singer/guitarist Chris Spencer breaks out the harmonica — white outer-borough blues. Whatever the context, this groove-based entropy swings in a downward-spiral kinda way. Plus, Spencer rocking back and forth with his guitar like a runner at the starting line before plunging into the band’s funereal jams (culled mostly from Total Destruction and Scattered, Smothered & Covered) was its own reward. But the evening’s real heartwarmer was the sight of Italian stallion Vinnie Signorelli (ex-Swans/Foetus) pounding away at his banana-yellow kit with a busted collarbone “that he broke riding my dirt bike the other day,” Spencer said. That these fellas killed despite grave orthopedic issues, that’s called heart.
Being the pissed-off big-city malcontents they are, it’s no surprise Unsane feel a natural affinity with Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickel, hence the sample from the flick’s classic soliloquy “Some day a real rain will come and wash away all the scum . . .” that the band blasted over the PA, then invited the Paradise guys up on stage for a five-guitar arkestra finale that went off without anyone getting shot. (Andrew Lentz)
VICENTICO, LOS ABANDONED at the Knitting Factory, May 5
Singers who pursue solo efforts outside their main groups are notoriously hit (Manu Chao) or miss (Mick Jagger) affairs. So it was understandable that a sense of trepidation filled the small Cinco de Mayo crowd at the Knitting Factory as they awaited Vicentico, former leader of the late, great Argentine aural amorists Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Would Vicentico expand on the Cadillacs’ ability to inspire as much as perspire audiences, or would he be the latest version of Ringo Starr?
After a stellar set by Los Abandoned, the answer arrived, and it didn’t seem promising. Vicentico appeared onstage decked in vagabond-chic attire: a seedy trench coat with a Chaplinesque cane by his side. Cigarette smoke belched from his mouth, a scraggly beard adorned his face, and his mane appeared as if it had never known the discipline of a comb. But Vicentico allayed any reservations once his crooning commenced. Backed by a nine-member orchestra that out-Cadillac’d the original Cadillacs for musicianship, he opened with “Se Despierta la Ciudad,” a lividly dark number tumbling with Afro-Argentine rhythms that detailed the unrest of his native land. Vicentico’s trademark raspy prayer carried his outstanding solo material, which gravitates away from his former band’s frenzy toward a stately amalgamation of lovely bossa nova, thunderous batucada and a general lounge sensibility. Concentrating on his new songs, Vicentico nevertheless rewarded the faithful with a few Cadillacs favorites — of course, “Matador” was one of them — and even the Rubén Blades classic “Desaparecidos.” The crowd reaction? Dancers made the Knitting Factory floor quake like San Andreas. Vicentico was . . . well, fabuloso. (Gustavo Arellano)