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
“These chicks are ridiculous” (as in “so good it’s ridiculous”), shouted one guy in the men’s room just before the encore. “They must have had some clueless producer, though,” the guy next to him concurred, “because the CD really undersells them.” Actually, the CD kills for the most part, but after seeing Northern State live, you could think the second guy was right. (Andrew Lentz)
BEANS at Temple Bar, August 21
“I wear my Adidas when I rock the beat/Onstage front page every show I go,” declared Run-DMC in 1986. The Adidas present at the 10th-anniversary party for XLR8R magazine, though, weren’t what Run had in mind. The sneakers were prominently placed, all right, and a few pair could be found at center stage, but they were rocking it in Plexiglas display cases. This bit of hip-hop history wasn’t there for tradition’s sake; the shoes served to satisfy the event’s major sponsor.
In keeping with XLR8R’s mission statement — “accelerate culture” — the San Francisco–based publication is intent on documenting the future of left-of-center hip-hop and electronic music. How odd, then, that the night’s featured performer was Beans, former MC of the Antipop Consortium and one of the few rappers today who is effortlessly, wonderfully poised between then and now. His first solo record, Tomorrow Right Now (natch) is a strong blend of three decades: ’70s-style Afro-poetics sung in the bold tones of Gil Scott-Heron; spare beats mimicking the space of Run-D.M.C. and the snap of early electro; and the self-awareness and intellectual itch of ’90s underground hip-hop and intelligent dance music.
Beans had a shaved head and a bushy beard. These days most hip-hoppers are style conscious, be they the baggy-panted backpackers of the Def Jux set, the hippie-leaning traditionalists who surround the Roots, or the bling-bling fetishists on the Billboard charts. Beans? He wore a T-shirt with a crazy-looking black guy on it. (Sun Ra? Bootsy Collins?) His backing band was a CD player, but a multilayered human beat box kicked in as he began the carefree a cappella of “Crave.” “A deeper sense is what the listeners crave,” he rapped, “because there’s too many MCs and not enough listeners.” Point made, he swiveled his hips, without pretense. (Alec Hanley Bemis)
VERTICAL HORIZON at the Roxy, August 19
While sharing a template and background with the slew of overly sincere, strummy college-rockers who enthused their way from campuses to airwaves in the late ’90s, Vertical Horizon possess a musicality and a subtle melancholy that put some meat in their cheese. After their last album, Everything You Want, went double platinum, V.H. now have the famously fraught challenge of repeating the feat with their new Go.At a sold-out Roxy, the new single, “I’m Still Here,” was dabbed with all of the group’s enduring thumbprints: acoustic-guitar backbone, close harmonies, an aerial-view bridge and deft dynamic control. Founders Matt Scannell and Keith Kane boasted a cozy musical connection incubated over a dozen years on the road. The smiling, shaven-headed Skannell has now fully embraced the spotlight — crowd cajolery, grimacing guitar-hero histrionics and all — but when Kane took the vocal helm, his wind-weathered, folksy timbre and fatherly demeanor found the audience’s attention wandering.
Among a smattering of new tunes, the wistful open-road reflection of “Inside” curiously aped former tour mates Stir, while V.H.’s “other hit,” “You’re a God,” had its triple-barreled harmonies battered by a bellowing mix. For all their pop streamlining of late, Vertical Horizon are still stained with the past; they even rolled out the ultimate fuzzy dice — a bass solo. As salvation, the song that took V.H. from VFW halls to VH1, “Everything You Want,” finally appeared like a four-minute best-of collection: gorgeously ominous verses, crowd-swaying choruses and a typically elevated middle eight.
Vertical Horizon genially engaged a polite gathering in their late 20s and 30s, their high-caliber compositions and inclusive aura eliciting barely prompted Burning Man sing-alongs. Whether V.H. can maintain a contemporary connection or be reduced to a college-days nostalgia vehicle for their core audience will be determined by Go’s commercial reach. (Paul Rogers)