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 Wild Don Lewis
DEERHOOF, VIVA K., EVENING, Our Time screening at the Derby, May 23
“Rock is the new dance” is the new swing, apparently. It’s been 15 months since the Derby relegated the dwindling lindy-hop crowd to the back bar every night but Monday; tonight, Scott Sterling’s Fold annexed even that space. The occasion: a screening of Our Time, a well-meaning documentary by Piper Ferguson and Ravi Dhar (also guitarist of the middle-billed Viva K.) that oversells the current Brooklyn-centric garage and electroclash scenes via generous live footage and numbingly repetitive interviews. (Can you say “Williamsburg”? Can you say it again?) The filmmakers want to make a case for the political urgency of this crop of bands, but inclusions as bland as the Realistics or as witless as W.I.T. don’t help.
As for the 3-D portion of the lineup: Evening, featured briefly in the film, are a Bay Area five-piece with a tightly coiled rhythm section, a Fender Rhodes–pounding front man and a thorough familiarity with Interpol’s effects-box settings. Locals Viva K. were more substantial, despite the so-old-it’s-new-again combination of programmed rhythms and Dhar’s muscular guitar. (Remember Blackbird?) Except for “Love Everybody,” their songs were driven less by hooks than by Scott Zweizen’s lively bass parts and the compelling presence of singer Christine Evans, a rail-thin, full-throated cross between Karens Carpenter and O.
In this fashion-forward company, Deerhoof’s near groovelessness was downright invigorating. Bent pop material like “Dummy Discards a Heart” from their recent Apple O’ was transformed into something much further out, thanks to the Cream–meets–Red Krayola interaction among guitarists John Dietrich and Chris Cohen and drummer Greg Saunier, an inspired, almost overpowering player. These three did most of the heavy lifting, but Japanese-born bassist Satomi Matsuzaki defused their muso machismo in disconcerting ways, as when a lengthy passage of Nels Cline–worthy instrumental improv was cut off cold by Matsuzaki’s stratospheric second-language chirp: “Bunny bunny bunny bunny bunny.”
BUILT TO SPILL, DRAW, SOLACE BROTHERS at House of Blues, May 24
Formed in 1992, Built To Spill developed their initial following amid the Pacific Northwest’s indie-rock scene, then caught up in grunge’s brief commercial ascent. BTS’s front man, Doug Martsch, is from Idaho, and one guesses Seattle seemed a more attractive home base than some hick bar in his native state. Indie rock, however, has also made for an awkward home. Sure, Martsch’s voice is a nasal whine — a tone used by many an indie singer — but his songs stretch out as long as seven minutes, and his guitar playing has more in common with the note-bending solos of Neil Young than with the messy, short-attention-span scrawl of those with roots in underground pop or punk.
The categorization error was readily apparent at last week’s shows at House of Blues. Martsch took the stage at around 11 p.m. joined by usual bandmates Scott Plouf on drums and Brett Nelson on bass, and a grizzled rhythm guitarist who went unidentified. Save for the drummer, all of the band members had beards and appeared to be in the early stages of male pattern baldness. Martsch wore a T-shirt with the words “Musician’s Pro Shop” on it. It seemed an ironic indie-rock gesture until you noticed it also included the store’s location, his native Boise. (That’s right, he’s not just a spokesman, he’s also a client.)
The band fitted little more than a dozen songs into an hour-and-a-half set. Their choruses expanded into dreamy rock songs with long solos and odd time changes, and when they erupted into a particularly intricate instrumental passage, bright white spotlights illuminated the group. One could imagine Phishheads appreciating the band as an opening act, a relatively restrained and tasteful first course. Martsch’s voice was the only thing rooting the group’s songs in indie rock. (It also provided a point of focus that differentiated them from the darker, more ruminative rock of the openers, Draw and Solace Brothers.) With former Pavement leader Steven Malkmus playing chooglin’ rock music these days, and groups like Tortoise and Sonic Youth passively courting the jam-band audience, college radio dials are ripe for a new format: indie classic rock. (Alec Hanley Bemis)
TRI-FACTOR at the World Stage, May 16
Consider Tri-Factor, the unsurpassed living embodiment of American African improvisation, individually. Hamiet Bluiett (“Blew-It” to his friends) churns up the guts on big-ass bass sax, swingin’ it island-style or extracting wondrous overtone effects ranging from jet-engine howl to sweet whistle-tweet. Billy Bang, vested like a 1920 street dancer, plugs his fiddle into his Fender amp and saws a devilish jazz barn dance one moment, bounces his bow with a dirty slap the next, then plucks a beefy pizzicato that sounds like a thumb piano — the man plain reeks with hot technique. Kahil El’Zabar, the Freud-bearded Mr. Charisma, stirs the traps like a tornado comin’ in low before blowing you away with his three African drums, tossing the baobabs around so you got limbs and twigs all rammed through your grateful torso.
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