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Viva la Revoluçion 

Sound and sedition at the LAMC

Thursday, Aug 21 2003
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It was sometime Friday when the mutiny occurred. The people occupying promotional booths at the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) had listened to the symposium’s mediocre double-disc compilation for too long and came to the conclusion that sabotage was necessary. Nearly every stand in the Beverly Hilton’s moldy conference room quickly volunteered a CD of a favorite L.A.-based band, and those infernal LAMC records were surreptitiously replaced with scratchy indie productions. The floor soon rumbled with approval for local Latin alternative music — but who wanted inspiration here? Certainly not the LAMC organizers, who quickly returned the audio to the status quo.

The sonic suppression neatly sums up this year’s LAMC, four days of panels, workshops and shows that functioned as a corporate-sponsored excuse for music-label scalawags to get sloshed and discuss business safely away from the smelly rockero masses. Sad, really, because many of the LAMC activities would have been better appreciated by run-of-the-mill fans.

Local loves Los Abandoned and Go Betty Go solidified their status as Next Big Things during the opening-night Indie Showcase, GBG lead vixen Nicolette Vilar in particular showing how a peek-a-boo red bra strap can be as much of a musical statement as a screech. Lumpy chilangas Las Ultrasónicas’ too-brief set at the Friday Acoustic Showcase revealed a Gipsy-Kings-play-Lil’-Kim sense of song. “Maybe ustedes can shut your mouth and listen to us or suck on it,” the drummer (built like a Humvee) growled. Las Ultrasónicas then strummed into their infamously wonderful “Vente en Mi Boca” (“Come in My Mouth”).

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Open-to-the-public events included Venezuelan sex funksters Los Amigos Invisibles on Thursday at the Santa Monica Pier, and two California Plaza presentations — Kronos Quartet and the Nortec Collective on Friday, and a Saturday-eve Plastilina Mosh/Jumbo/Volumen Cero free-for-all with P. Mosh and Jumbo covering “Mr. Roboto.” Domo arigato for the freebies, LAMC overlords, but shouldn’t all the concerts have been like this?

Everybody’s favorite crazy rockero uncle, El Tri front man Alex Lora, emerged from his sarcophagus long enough on Friday to ramble about accepting payola and having played “Los Rolling” a couple of centuries ago. And the prune’s solo mumblings during the Thursday-night La Banda Elástica Awards fiasco at the Mayan was a reminder of why atheism persists.

In addition to the Friday fun, local renegades organized two separate but unrelated hoi polloi counterattacks — an all-Spanish ska showcase at South Gate’s decrepit Allen Theater Friday night that saw headliners Las 15 Letras inspire a near-riot with their jumpy surges, and an Eastlos-centric slate at the Knitting Factory’s AlterKnit Lounge held in direct competition to the official Indie Showcase. Songstress Lysa Flores hosted the latter with her acoustic cries, while Los Villains turned off their double-drum mortars to whisper some folkloric punk. As for closers Ollin, any group that can rockabilly-out a reference to City Terrace, recall the displaced families of Chavez Ravine, and chirp a rendition of “The Wearing of the Green” that can cause all of County Cork to cry deserves the world’s blessings.

LOLLAPALOOZA at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, August 16

“Next year you’ll all bring cell phones!” Not exactly the call to arms you might expect from one of alternative music’s most subversive bands, but then Jane’s Addiction aren’t the group they used to be, and the guy touting the wonders of text messaging from the stage, Perry Farrell, isn’t the same dread-headed freak he was when he started Lollapalooza back in ’91. Farrell’s then-innovative melting-pot party exuded an organic, whimsical and even volatile communal atmosphere that had nothing to do with technology and everything to do with diversity. Who can forget the Siouxsie Sioux/Nine Inch Nails/Ice-T bill from the first tour? Lollapalooza 2003, sponsored by X-Box, lacked the same kind of magic, but there were moments of fun and fury.

A Perfect Circle’s dramatic angst cast a rapturous spell, but the supergroup, which currently boasts James Iha (ex–Smashing Pumpkins), Twiggy Ramirez (ex–Marilyn Manson) and singer Maynard Keenan (Tool), was a bit too somber under the afternoon sun. Incubus’ grooveful melodies suited the bikini-topped crowd better, with singer Brandon Boyd’s shirtless bongo solo giving swooning gals an opportunity to bust out their Shakira bellydance moves. Even more evocative of the old fest’s spirit, Audioslave were also the rawest. Though their music lacks the danger of Rage’s, their set didn’t lack passion, especially during a curious but amazing cover of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” If the tune wasn’t already headed for classic-rockhood, it is now.

“Jane Says” is another anthem destined for a VH1 Countdown show, and when Jane’s Addiction fell into it at the close of their set, it was almost like old times. Up to that point, the performance had been a sexed-up spectacle featuring gyrating “Lolla girls,” cyber-industrial set décor, and Farrell (looking way too Lux Interior in a vinyl catsuit) and David Navarro (shirtless of course) vamping about. It was shticky and high-tech, but when a band’s on the comeback trail, guess they have to try it all — even if they know better than anyone that nothing’s shocking. (Lina Lecaro)

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