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
TELEVISION, ELENI MANDELL at the Henry Fonda Theater, September 30
An aw-shucks-humble Eleni Mandell expressed surprise that Television’s audience was so patient during her opening set of quietly confessional ballads. She needn’t have worried. Backed only by subdued upright bassist Ryan Feves and her own insistently chipping guitar, Mandell made for a distinctly austere — and pleasant — contrast with Television’s dense thickets of guitar. She proudly wore her bohemian-punk influences on her sleeve, or rather on her white X T-shirt, leering conspiratorially with each railroad-spike-certain downstroke on “Pauline,” invoking a sense of luridly menacing Exene/John Doe atmosphere. She slowed things down on the languid idyll “Dutch Harbor” and a sweetly respectful, spare interpretation of Merle Haggard’s “I’ve Got a Tender Heart,” her breathy cooing barely rippling the glassy stillness before Television’s impending electric storm.
“It’s pretzel time,” an amused Tom Verlaine announced, tossing snacks into the front rows in response to some desperate song requests from the madding crowd. And it was pretzel time all night long, as Verlaine and especially Richard Lloyd twisted up some gorgeously fiery lead guitar during epic workouts “Little Johnny Jewel” and “Marquee Moon.” Mr. Lloyd casually flicked off the intricately snarled curlicues of “Calling Mr. Lee” as if he were absently swatting at flies, and the quartet’s surprise encore of “Psychotic Reaction” — despite a bit of stiffness on the double-time rave-up — was bookended by improvised instrumental passages in which Verlaine and Lloyd masterfully manipulated their volume controls to create moodily pretty shape-shifting waves. And these famously surly bandmates were having more fun than usual. As a pregnant silence and audience expectations gathered mass at one point, Verlaine seemed stuck for something meaningful to say. He glanced across the stage at Lloyd and burst out laughing for no real reason, all the tension dissipating. For that moment, at least, it really was all right not to think twice.
AESOP ROCK, EL-P, 2 MEX, AWOL ONE, BUSDRIVER, PIGEON JOHN, THE PROCUSSIONS at the Troubadour, September 27
When a crew comes all the way from Colorado to throw down in WeHo, you know the shit’s serious. The Procussions, an enjoyable threesome of b-boys who embroidered their tag-teaming flows with choreographed wit, were a startling reminder of rap’s playground/street-corner roots. More diverting, though, was the “tease” among 2 Mex, Busdriver and Awol One, trading off on the microphone while the turntablist adapted the 1s and 2s to each MC’s respective style: the jazzy-scat vibe of 2 Mex, the stripped-down adagio of Awol One, and Busdriver’s boom-tic/tic/tic-boom. That said, substance trumps form every time: the head-nodding crown goes to Busdriver.
The Kangol-rocking Pigeon John — calling out every South L.A. burg from Carson to Cerritos — definitely bumped the energy a notch but struck a weird chord when he said, “I love you all, but at the same time I hate you.” Check out his upcoming Pigeon John Is Dating Your Sister, and you’ll hear how not all styles in south L.A. County have to ape the doo-wop of Ugly Duckling or the watered-down funk-izzle of Snoop.
Aesop Rock and his mentor El-P got fists feverishly pumping until 1:30 a.m. While Aesop’s twisted flows were the night’s showpiece, the Def Jux honcho couldn’t resist ribbing his star rapper: “Yo, Aesop — who owns the company?” The pair of motor-mouthed underground New Yorkers weren’t shy about challenging attitudes, parsing profundity via DJ Big Wiz’s uptempo swing, or getting their politics on: “If you elect Schwarzenegger,” said El-P, “I promise I’ll never come back here.” In a moment reminiscent of guitar-solo solemnity, Aesop blistered through a freestyle that opened a window on his fleetness of tongue. He wasn’t merely bragging when he said, “You’ll need to keep playing Bazooka Toothat least a month, cuz there’s no way you’ll get it the first time.” (Andrew Lentz)
While providing mild musical engagement and prime people-watch fodder, this was one of those shows where a night at home with the album, a six-pack and a lava lamp could’ve been as satisfying. Interpol competently delivered tunes from last year’s inspired Turn On the Bright Lights and some older ditties, but offered little embellishment or enthusiasm.
Interpol, though essentially a meeting of the Smiths, Bauhaus and Joy Division, never quite descend into the minimalist yet stifling Eraserhead desolation of J.D. The Palladium’s often cruel acoustics were admirably tamed right from the opener, a sluggish “Untitled” bathed in suitably ethereal lighting. Paul Banks’ vocals divided their time between a dusky Richard Butler rumor and sudden, pleading Peter Murphy proclamations. Deadpan melodies were kept afloat by talking guitars, wandering Peter Hook bass lines and occasional backup vocals from a touring keyboard player. Bassist Carlos D. had his clammy Crispin Glover look down, but his white blazer and skinny tie were an incongruous cartoon next to his bandmates’ understated guy-from-the-office anonymity. Only guitarist Daniel Kessler made any effort at true crowd connection, visiting the stage lip while resuscitating some potentially dull passages with his twinkling arpeggiated counter-melodies.