|Photos by Ted Soqui|
L.A. WEEKLY 25th-ANNIVERSARY PARTY at the Park Plaza, December 11
The L.A. Weekly celebrated 25 years as the countrys biggest and best alternative newsweekly with a party for longtime friends, family and foes at the grand old Park Plaza Hotel. The event was, as they say, a rousing success, with more than 1,500 people gathering in the hotels lobby and ballrooms to catch up with old cohorts and cronies, slap some backs, scam a lot of free food & drink, ogle the luminaries (and belly dancers), have a tarot-card reading, get a henna tattoo, and dance, dance, dance to Brendan Mullens freaky, funky DJ set. In the Plazas small concert area, several bands comprising members of the Weeklys editorial and production staff performed, including a tenacious set by Gary Eaton and his Kingsizemaybe, Weekly creative director John Currys reconvened pop punks the Flyboys, and Dean Chamberlains timelessly suave Code Blue. The live-music segment of the evenings entertainment was brought to a climax by the Kinksian jump of the 88 and the mosh-pit-inspiring energy and heart of Weekly-approved punk vets Bad Religion. The vibe was nice, everyone seemed really into it, and our gracious guests made the charity raffle benefiting Hollygrove Children and Family Services another huge success. Thats 25 years of free thinking and award-winning journalism, folks, something we can all be proud of. (John Payne)
MONDO GENERATOR, AMEN at the Troubadour, December 11 Amen prioritize attitude and adrenaline over artistry, epitomizing the current metal malaise: a slew of bands who present intriguing lyrical imagery and perform with endearing abandon, but when the smoke clears offer little in terms of tunes. Front man Casey Chaos and his long-black-bangs brigade assault the stage with confrontational, strobe-light energy, gouging through passages of fizzing guitars, Rotten vocals and structured bombast with impassioned punk irreverence. A few weeks back, Amen relished pissing off Killing Jokes 30-something crowd at El Rey, but Mondo Generator fans are not easily offended, and, robbed of their shock factor, Amens redundant rage makes little impression beyond the first three rows. Rich Jones chiming guitar layers and drummer Luke Johnsons barbarian battering leave dents, but overall, with a hollow mix and frigid crowd, Amens flailing around only brings an overly tattered edge to already indistinct material.
Mondo Generator at first appear to be a predictably eccentric side project: the emaciated, bearded hooker (Kyuss/ Dwarves/QOTSA veteran Nick Oliveri) on vocals, the naughty-nurse-stripogram bassist, a Starsky and Hutch street-hustler drummer (exKyuss/Fu Manchu man Brant Bjork) and, apparently, Drew Carey on guitar. It doesnt bode well, but theres an immediate and welcome contrast with Amen: Mondo groove, understanding how to let a riff breathe and bloom, and, however putrid Oliveris beyond-the-grave squawking becomes, theres no hiding his musicality and, at times, downright melodiousness. Its tempting to think that this lot wouldnt get arrested without Oliveris résumé, but, after a set of stoner beats, fuzzy n flexible bass lines and effected guitar, theyve established their own tasteless yet tuneful space. Much of Mondos material channels Oliveris love of controlled substances if this sonic and visual apparition is indeed drug-induced, consider yourself warned. (Paul Rogers)
DAVID ALLAN COE at the Key Club, December 13
The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy hadnt appeared on a Los Angeles stage for many years (reportedly awaiting a statute of limitations to run its course), but once he got there, the 64-year-old David Allan Coe made clear that he remains as threatening a performer as ever. Brandishing his trademark stars-and-bars Flying V, beard and hair entwined into multicolored ethnocentric hillbilly dreads, clad in a bright white antebellum pimp topcoat and hat, Coe launched into Son of the South with sweet, subdued menace; suddenly casting off the coat and hat, Coe lunged at the writhing, weed-burning crowd with naked musical aggression that he easily sustained for 90 minutes.
Burdened with decades of bizarre, self-aggrandizing stunts, Coe complained during one of many reflective between-song dissertations that the press rarely if ever writes about his music. Its a valid beef; hes a songwriter of considerable accomplishment and great metaphoric beauty (Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone); hes a master of hard-country balladry (This Bottle in My Hand) and hardcore rabble-rousing (If That Aint Country had everyone screaming along, You can kiss my ass!). Coe threw down an orgiastic version of Steve Goodmans backhills apocalypse You Never Even Called Me by Name and an eerie turn on his ghost-of-Hank number The Last Ride.
Coes five-piece band mostly worked a heavy-gauge Southern rock sound, he tossed out more motherfuckers than youd find at a gangsta-rap festival, and at one point the proceedings nearly erupted into a riot. With a swaggering defiance tempered by an elegiac sense of his own mortality, Coe demonstrated not only his vaunted rebel pride but also a degree of crafty artistry that few others come close to approaching. (Jonny Whiteside)
THE FEVER, THE VUE, JESUS FOR VEGAS at the Echo, December 12
An odd neo-goth-metal crossover ensemble, openers Jesus for Vegas were part hard rock, part glam rock, with a little Evanescence thrown in. While the band didnt lack charisma, they did seem more suited for the Sunset Strip than Echo Park.
Next up were current buzz band the Fever. There are plenty of new bands returning to that old hard-hitting rock sound, but while most of them focus on the energy, they lack the Fevers solid songwriting prowess. With ingenious chord progressions, triumvirate singing and copious amounts of dynamism (singer Geremy Jasper bobbed around onstage like a nouveau Iggy Pop), this group of exhigh school chums treated the moderately sized Echo like a rock arena. If more people in L.A. werent so afraid to dance at a rock show, the place would have been one big, sweaty pit. Whether cranking out high-voltage originals or a new take on Sheila E.s 80s jam Glamorous Life, the Fever were clearly the stars of the night. And yes, that was Quentin Tarantino checking them out . . .
Last to take the stage were the Vue. Its obvious this quintet are from San Francisco not many male lead singers can pull off wearing a peasant shirt these days. Rex Shelverton did just that, sort of, and the band entertained the crowd with their 60s-ish, Stones-tinged rock. While they were certainly tight, something about the bands appearance served as a time warp; it felt odd that the room wasnt filled with the smell of pot and/or fluorescent psychedelic posters. Nonetheless, the Vue were a lively and pleasurable bunch. (Tatiana Simonian)
PORTASTATIC, THE MINDERS at Spaceland, December 13
If indie rock is dead like the novel, and irony why did this show feel so lively? Mac McCaughans first West Coast appearance under his solo pseudonym Portastatic drew a been-waiting-for-this-for-years crowd that behaved suspiciously as though it actually cared about his music. Hes sometimes used the name to explore byways the louder-faster-harder Superchunk cant barrel down: a collaborative EP with Ken Vandermark, another of Tropicalia translations. But full-lengths like last years Summer of the Shark are modest yet inventive vehicles for his economical songcraft.
Tonight, McCaughan gussied up two songs with prerecorded backing tracks: a rumbling, low-tech loop for Paratrooper (I just dropped in) and his own drumming on Noisy Night. The show of effort was hardly needed, as a solo acoustic Hey Salty, with its lilting major sevenths and nautical puns (We may be washed up, but we beat this boat to hell) proved. On the decade-old Naked Pilsners and the brand-new Autumn Got Dark, McCaughan rocked out as much as the setting allowed, vibrating in place like a bobble-head doll while leaping to the upper-octave bray he uses to bore through Superchunks barrage. Punks not dead either, just older, and traveling lighter.
If Elephant 6 holdovers the Minders are underrated, its their own fault: The recent The Futures Always Perfect barely hints at their live energy. Many of their songs could have issued from Robert Pollards pen and mouth, though Portland-based but Portsmouth-born front man Martyn Leaper comes by his accent honestly. Drummer Joel Burrows drove the band straight past the candy store into the garage, while psychedelic codas tagged onto every third song or so kept them there. And Rebecca Cole, ably handling the bassless trios low end, Ray Manzarek style, was the most impressive keyboardist Ive seen in a rock band this year indie or otherwise. (Franklin Bruno)