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
Thee Outfit, a laptop artist, opened. Though his pleasing glitch-hop blips & burbles went relatively unappreciated by the rock-oriented crowd, he deserves credit. Standing onstage alone, trying to get the New Year’s Eve party started while looking like you’re doing nothing more than checking e-mail, takes guts.
The club went from lethargic to electric as the mighty 400 Blows lurched their audio assault into action, front man Skot Alexander and his bandmates again proving themselves first-rate punk showmen. Reminiscent of Crime’s Frankie Fix, at once fantastically agitated and bizarrely at ease, Alexander wore mirrored shades and rocked a Nazi-cop vibe while peppering the band’s invective-laced workouts with banter exalting friendship and encouragement for 2005. It was hilarious, loud as hell and exactly what I needed.
Autolux, on the other hand, while proficiently striking a shoegazery pose and making a few very pretty sounds, delivered a decidedly lackluster set. Much hyperbole has greeted this band (chiefly within this very paper), but apart from the drummer’s genuinely inspired playing, such fuss, as yet, is unwarranted.
OZOMATLI, KINKY, JUANA MOLINA
at Walt Disney Concert Hall, December 22
Hosted by KCRW’s Nic Harcourt, this "A Latin Christmas" extravaganza heated up the night like a holiday tamale. Experimental solo artist Juana Molina provided the soft, smooth masa shell; the electro-pop band Kinky added a kick of spice; and the local rap/salsa troupe Ozomatli topped it all off with some rich, sweet mole. The juicy combination gave downtown’s premier classical concert venue a true taste of Latino rock & roll.
In a floor-length red dress, Molina performed first. The Argentine chanteuse’s graceful alto glided over shifting layers of sound, with loops of synthetic beats thumping beneath guitar riffs and prerecorded backing harmonies. Though famous in her native country as a former comic and TV star, Molina maintained an intense veneer, cracking it only a few times — once barking like a maniacal Chihuahua, and later telling the audience behind her, "I didn’t mean to give my back to you!"
The entrance of the talented, sexy quintet Kinky was met with shrieks from young girls and middle-aged women alike. The lithe guys from Monterrey, Mexico, launched into a funky version of "Jingle Bells" before flashing through their high-energy set. Percussionist Omar Gongora played standing up, smashing a traditional set of drums while expertly pounding a pair of congas. Floppy-haired singer Gil Cerezo, grinning and hyperactive, led the shimmying crowd in yelling along to the group’s wah-wah–infused 2002 hit, "Más."
But Kinky only swept the stage for Ozomatli. L.A.’s favorite hip-hop/rock band throws a joyful shindig. "Dip/Dive/Socialize/Get ready for the Saturday night!" shouted MC Justin Porée and rapper Jabu as the group’s eight other members cheered the audience to its feet. "Saturday Night," from Ozomatli’s new Street Signs, is probably the best party anthem a Disney Hall audience has heard. With the bass-hooked "Christmas 1985" and the sing-along "Santy Claus," the band gladly encouraged participation: "It’s okay to clap between movements at this show," said saxophonist Ulises Bella, and the line between band and audience crumbled soon after. Chanting "Ozomatli, ya se fue!" the group filed offstage, still playing, and strode down an aisle, through the theater’s doors, down some stairs into the foyer and out onto the street, surrounded by chanting throngs. The spark of solidarity felt warm enough to melt the Disney Hall’s cold metal frame.
Artie Shaw was a difficult man, but I couldn’t help liking him anyway. He was so cantankerous that it often made me laugh out loud, but his insistence on speaking the truth as he saw it was a rare and beautiful thing.
By the time I met Artie, 45 years had passed since he quit being a jazz musician, and his house in Newbury Park was the silent environment of someone who spent his days reading, and writing the fictionalized autobiography that had become his primary focus. Music was still very much a part of his life, however. It was one of the things we regularly argued about, and once — just once — he took me upstairs to the library that housed his record collection and played me a few of what he considered his best selections. It was fascinating watching his face as he listened to these tracks he’d surely heard hundreds of times. I’ve never seen anyone listen so intently, and he was clearly still dissecting the performances, still finding passages that could’ve been improved. Artie’s ability to hear unlimited potential in a given composition, in fact, played a role in his decision to put down his clarinet. Yet, he said, "I can’t help thinking like a musician — I wake up and there are chord sequences going on. But it would kill me if I tried now, because I can’t play what I hear in my head."
Artie had been struggling against the indignities of declining health for several years, and I think he felt he’d finished what he set out to do when he died at his home on December 29. "There are things I’ve done that are as good as it gets," he once told me. "People are entitled to be judged by their best, too, because everything else is accidents that happen along the way. When a guy does something important, he deserves credit, because it’s hard to do. You do it in spite of the world."