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
Photos by Wild Don Lewis
MUSE, THE EXIT
at the Wiltern, December 9
Opening for a band of Muse’s caliber (and stage equipment) is a challenge. So rather than try to rock harder, New York’s the Exit just turned the Wiltern into their own personal garage; with their amps dwarfed by the technical gizmos of the Muse stage rig, the three Exit lads just bobbed around happily and frenetically, fancy light shows be damned. It’s been a long time since anyone could say that a band sounds like the Police, but these boys are chips off the Synchronicity block. The highlight was an all-out jam with three (count ’em, three) drummers, including Muse front man Matthew Bellamy, that was strangely hard not to love.
Let’s be clear, Muse could come on plenty strong without their fancy lights, too. Live, the diminutive Brit trio blow the Radiohead comparisons out of the water. Not sure if we’re still in the era of deifying Radiohead at all costs; anyway, Muse are at least equal performers. Bellamy seems to appropriate more Jeff Buckley intonations when he bellows out his earnest, heart-wrenching lyrics onstage, and the guitar lines feel straight out of Placebo or early Jane’s Addiction. Throw in the pseudo-classical piano embellishments, and suddenly you have a very complex creature.
The audience mood was high-energy and oddly emotional. Dancing, crying, smoking weed, making out — listeners were inspired any number of ways. By the end, the ritzy hall was reduced to a sweaty, frenzied mass, from goth kids to blond Westside princesses. Although it’s hard to be sure, one could guess that had the band stage-dived, they could have been carried to Santa Monica.
at the Knitting Factory, December 5
As long as there’s life left in the chewed-up Boy Toy, there’ll be a queen out there who thinks wearing a headset is cool. Madonna impersonators come in all shapes and sizes, but you won’t find many like Mark Edwards, who looks like he should be on a Harley wearing a T-shirt with "If you can read this, the bitch fell off" printed on the back. But Edwards also happens to be a fantastic singer, and the male tribute band he fronts, San Francisco’s Mandonna, performs everything live.
Edwards — think carnival bearded lady — sauntered onto the stage in Marie Antoinette garb, vogueing his heart out, and worked a set showcasing Madonna’s early material. (Not even an impersonator can stomach rapping, "I drive my mini Cooper/I’m feeling superduper.") When it was time to get "Into the Groove" and take a "Holiday," Edwards — now think Hulk Hogan — slipped into mesh pants and a feather boa (must be hard to do scissor kicks with thighs that could put Hulk in a chokehold); for "Like a Prayer," he donned a priest’s collar. Listening to faux operatic climaxes while an attendee yelled "Free Bird" was a religious experience much like staring at a velvet painting of The Last Supper.
Even funnier was Edwards’ take on his idol’s more infamous songs. He made it through the wilderness in a virginal wedding dress straight out of Aardvark’s. Put a pillow under that dress and voilà — you’ve got pregnant teen Madonna exhorting "Papa Don’t Preach" and even faking labor pains. Would the real Madonna do that? Would the real Madonna walk up to your table and ask you how you’re doing?
Boys may come and boys may go, but there’s a Marriott lounge out there that needs to book these boys for New Year’s.
at the Knitting Factory, December 8
Back in the mid-1970s, before Brian Eno was acknowledged as the Architect of Ambient, helped produce a few rock masterpieces and evolved into a respected art-fueled philosopher of modern life, he made four of the greatest art-pop albums in the canon. Sadly, mainstream rock & roll history has filed these records — Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World and Before and After Science — on a top shelf where only industrious seekers reach for them. Of course, those who make the discovery end up pledging eternal allegiance.
Hence this evening’s communion between Enorchestra, a septet of musicians from prominent Bay Area groups realigned as an Eno cover band, and the 100 or so middle-aged fanatics relishing the opportunity to sing along with rarely performed songs. "You guys are nerds!" noted bassist Seth Lorinczi toward the end, a truism applicable to everyone involved.
Certainly bandleader/guitarist Doug Hilsinger, whose Eno-approved song-for-song CD remake of Tiger Mountain with vocalist Caroleen Beatty inspired the venture, got his geek on. Rearranging the synth-heavy pieces for three guitars, two drums and no keyboards, Hilsinger unwound guitar solos that brought classic prog-rock grandiosity to songs whose magic lay in layers of understatement (lyrical, instrumental, melodic). Far more in keeping with the Eno spirit was the orchestra’s nonstop erotic pulse and its gender-bending makeup. Alongside five men, Beatty and guitarist-vocalist Sunshine Haire represented the glam-femme Eno, who struggled against the solipsistic testosterone that built so much big rock, while the staccato guitars and driving percussion created the type of propulsive Kraut-funk (think Neu!) he favored, and allowed for some hilarious Deadhead-style interpretive dancing in the audience. Such a display may have frightened the punk rock out of the few gathered indie kids, but it also served as a reminder that these grooves were pop first and museum pieces last.