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
The Clean cobbled up a nice, warm glow under the Fonda’s high ceiling. Jangly brambles “Little Heart” and “E Motel” chugged along sunnily, suffused with psychedelic undercurrents and the Kilgour brothers and bassist Robert Scott’s laconic harmonies. It almost felt reassuring on “Someone” when they sullenly chimed, “Someone might love you/someone might care,” amid David Kilgour’s wiggly waves of guitar. The New Zealand trio rocked harder when Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan guested on the rare punk burst “Odditty,” as David K. and drummer Hamish Kilgour manically barked out the call-and-response “it’s okay”s and “it’s all right”s. A real jolt, perhaps only topped by the seedily mystical closer, “Point That Thing Somewhere Else,” which snaked along with a droning, descending-riff exoticism.
Equal parts political protest and pep rally, Le Tigre’s set shifted the energy to a less introspective level. Whether ironic or not, the opening run through the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” got the sold-out joint hopping and squealing. Things grew serious on caustic broadsides like “FYR” (“Ten short years of progressive change, 50 fucking years of calling us names”), with its livid call to arms, “Feminists, we’re calling you! Please report to the front desk!” Considering the times and former Bikini Killer Kathleen Hanna’s we’re-all-in-this-together exuberance, such slogans came off as daring and unifying rather than preachy. Video projections helped deprogram the willing audience, like the photomontage of counterculture heroes (the Slits, Angela Davis, Babes in Toyland) flashed during the insistent “Hot Topics.” While Devo once tried to turn back evolution with a similar marriage of videos and music, Le Tigre intend to overthrow the patriarchy — and have a dance party.
Yo La Tengo managed to keep most of the audience, quite a feat after Le Tigre’s rebel-rousing fury. The Hobokenites were languid, singing in barely there whispers, with Georgia Hubley’s glassy cooing coming through clearly between snarls from Kaplan’s feedback guitar. While not always as melodically memorable as the Clean, Yo La Tengo share some of the same hazy-dreamy Velvet Underground instincts, which was underscored when Scott came out to strum some acoustic guitar underneath Kaplan’s lovely electric tangle. (Falling James)
THE FALL at the Echo, June 20
There are compelling front men, and then there’s Mark E. Smith. Heavy-lidded and unsmiling, switching between two microphones to no audible purpose, the Manc crank commands attention by withholding it, barely acknowledging his own band’s existence, much less the audience’s. This is a man whose idea of “getting into it” involves scratching his ear throughout a lengthy instrumental break. Still, by Smith standards, tonight’s performance was positively genial. He stalked offstage midsong only once, and later approached the lip of the stage, croaking and gesturing at the crowd for a solid 40 seconds.
In his way, Smith is as autocratic a leader as James Brown, with whatever collection of individuals he’s currently calling the Fall as his Famous Flames. Barely hearable keyboardist/spouse Eleanor Smith’s impact was primarily visual — she’s a delicate-featured gothette, seemingly half Smith’s age. But the core trio (guitarist Ben Pritchard, drummer Dave Milner and a recently recruited bassist who answers to “Dingo”) simply worked, disappearing into monolithic rockabilly (“Foldin’ Money”) and funk (“Telephone Thing”) riffs with effortless drive, despite jet lag and rented equipment.
In this stripped-down setting, material from the about-to-be-released Country on the Click bordered on the comprehensible, with “Sparta F.C.,” a variant on T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong,” the obvious standout. But the most satisfying moments — the reliable garage cover “Mr. Pharmacist,” a spacious, set-ending “I Am Damo Suzuki” — were recognizable even to non-obsessives. Smith even appeared to be enjoying himself during the encore, clapping along with “Dr. Buck’s Letter” before tucking into a bilious checklist of modern necessities: “Amex card — they made such a fuss about giving it to me, but I spend more time getting it turned down.” (Franklin Bruno)
THE FRAMES at Spaceland, June 10
If you were at the Frames’ sold-out show, you may have recognized their front man, Glen Hansard, from his appearance in the 1991 film The Commitments, about a fictional Irish soul band. But probably not. Last time the group played L.A., only a few dozen people showed up. Long “big in Ireland,” the Frames only recently became a buzz band stateside, after the release of their Steve Albini–produced album, For the Birds. That buzz will grow.
“Aren’t we all lost and isn’t it all deadly?” Hansard introduced one tune, apropos of nothing. Aimless monologues like this one prefaced most of the group’s songs, telegraphing the way the band’s swelling folk-rock ranged through big abstract topics — love, life, death — then conflated them, in true romantic fashion. Hansard said the preface to “Lay Me Down” was inspired by the time he bought his girlfriend a burial plot, instead of purchasing a star in her name: “I will write you letters that/Explain the way I’m thinking now/And lay me down/In the hallowed ground/Down by your side I will stay.” The music was flexible enough to hold such grandiosity. A standard rock foursome plus fiddle, the Frames went from big to small in the space of a minute. It recalled the sensitive, inspirational rock of U2 or Coldplay, minus the sense that the emotions involved are — post-fame — more thought than felt.
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