Shake Your Coconuts 

Thursday, Jun 5 2003
Photos by Wild Don Lewis

JUNIOR SENIOR at the Viper Room, May 28

“We wanna take you to outer space! We wanna shake you, the human race!” Hail the rallying cry of Danish duo Junior Senior, because summer heat plus a zesty beat should make you move your feet, and the world needs some sweaty relief. Denmark, with its Carlsberg beer, blond ambition and smoky clubs, isn’t simply a tiny country epitomized by Viking ships, Hamlet, pastries and seasonal depression. Yes, garage-heads the Raveonettes unearth the minor-chord grit of Scandi life, but straight boy singer/guitarist Jesper Mortensen (Junior) and gay boy singer Jeppe Breum (Senior) slap some drunken relish onto that dirty wound and call it a dance craze!

One listen to Junior Senior’s punkified ’50s disco-pop opus D-D-Don’t Stop the Beat (Atlantic) produces raging hip movements; seeing the band live creates a sing-along orgy. “If you want to die, you want to die in the Viper Room!” proclaimed Senior on Wednesday night. Midway through the band’s L.A. debut, the tall, soaked, happy-face-pin-sportin’ Senior hugged Junior so tightly that the petite player’s Fender Mustang gave him shocks. Aided by drummer Yebo, a bassist and two backup singers, the boys layered yelps and harmony on the Brit chart-topper “Move Your Feet,” distorted go-go chant “Shake Your Coconuts” and B-52’s-style party anthem “Dynamite.”

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Junior exuded a blue-eyed hotness worthy of his retro-fit riffs. “Boy Meets Girl” and “C’mon,” with their circa-’68 “Mony Mony” jangle and punches, also rode high on waves of surf and soul. The call-and-response tune “Chicks and Dicks” answered to audience whoops and screams, while Senior and backup singer Laursen fused covers of “Twist and Shout” and Salt N Pepa’s “Push It” into a freak-groove medley. Junior Senior want you rigtig ful (rightly drunk) and feeling positively pisse godt (piss good).

QUETZAL, BURNING STAR at the John Anson Ford Theater, May 31

Latino L.A. celebrated two 10-year anniversaries this Saturday — the UCLA student hunger strikes that forced the creation of a Chicana/o studies department, and the birth of Eastside troubadours Quetzal. Of course, the events are related: Grainy footage screened before Quetzal’s set at the Ford showed them strumming for the starving during those days of dissent. They’re still at it a decade later, their subversive son sounds continuing to flower the conscience and eardrums of all who listen.

Prior to Quetzal’s enchanting performance tonight, however, there was an opening set by local outfit Burning Star, whose hip-hop worldbeats motivated body shaking usually experienced only during religious visions. The septet didn’t play tunes so much as transmit tantric trances: keyboard flourishes and guitar dervishes accompanying three drummers whose rhythms originated from the primordial recesses of the soul. Even the distraction of three belly dancers slithering across the stage during one raga could not dim Burning Star’s incandescent wonder.

But this was Quetzal’s night, and the group did not disappoint, leading off with four dancers Morse-coding the furtive passion of “Planta los Pies” by stomping on the wooden-floor instrument called a tarima. From here the group’s all-points Afro-Carib percussions, solemn violins and heir-of-the-East-Los-sound ax arpeggios overpowered the small venue. Best was the brother-sister powerhouse of Gabriel and Martha González, simultaneously challenging and nurturing each other’s volcanic voices toward the heavens as they shepherded Quetzal through a too-brief retrospective that included the pretentiously powerful “Sing the Real,” charming Zapatista-inspired cumbias and a slew of selections from their upcoming release Worksongs. A decade ago and today, Quetzal practices music too rarely found in this country — politically progressive while sonically superb — and the joyous filled the Ford’s aisles in appreciation. (Gustavo Arellano)

SILVERCHAIR at the Henry Fonda Theater, May 27

Aussie trio Silverchair scored a huge hit with the Nirvana-tinted “Tomorrow” in 1995, while still in high school. Since then, despite increasingly accomplished output, they’ve gradually dropped off mainstream radar. Yet here they are, packing the Fonda for two nights with a diverse and devoted following, some of whom slept overnight on the sidewalk to ensure prime position. And Silverchair do not disappoint the faithful, clutching and caressing them through a lengthy, occasionally self-indulgent set.

Mainman Daniel Johns boldly opens proceedings at his piano with the plaintive “After All These Years,” his vulnerable vibrato chiseling through the Beatlemania yelps and bellowing PA. Guitar in hand, and joined by his bandmates (plus two touring keyboard players), Johns sets the tone for the evening with “World Upon Your Shoulders” from last year’s epic Diorama disc: ambitious melodic majesty and heady falsetto escapism, with tasty tandoori undertones recalling Zeppelin’s more exotic adventures. Sadly, tonight’s ham-fisted mix bruises Diorama’s butterfly wings, an apocalyptic, arena-rock drum sound savaging the material’s subtleties. Even with five musicians, Silverchair struggle to realize Johns’ sublime cinematic vision: The momentum ebbs and flows uncomfortably, and repeated instrumental workouts are more gluttonous than glittering. But all this is overridden by the band’s grinning enthusiasm, their prog-rock tendencies counterbalanced by punky irreverence. Johns — dandy in open white shirt and black cravat — calls the shots, lost within his work and firing off solos with shameless ’70s bravado. Silverchair focus on Diorama’s crafted compositions, which, with the album a year old, are already received as classics, and, in a remarkable display of integrity and self-confidence, skip “Tomorrow” altogether.

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