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
MUSIC FOR RELIEF
at the Wiltern L.G., January 17
Besides writing compelling anthems about The Rock, Tenacious D also give good tsunami benefit. In fact, of the countless tsunami fund-raisers held recently, the D’s was surely the most fan-effing-rockotastic. Jack Black and Kyle Gass — who emceed, and performed the finale — understand that nobody wants to hear funny fat guys get serious in a situation like that. And all the performers grasped their roles implicitly: Eddie Vedder tongue-lashed Bush; Dave Grohl was funny; Beck was nerdy; Chris Rock joked about fucking white chicks up the butt on MLK day. When fans are paying good money for a good cause, that’s what you do.
The comedy was fine (including Will Ferrell’s Coldplay spoof), but music was the star, presented with a hootenanny intimacy that celebrated, in a non-depressing way, the grunge generation’s contribution to rock.
Josh Homme did Queens of the Stone Age’s "No One Knows" alone, just to be a sport, and a gorgeous new song with Cobainesque melodic turns. (Even outside the studio, this guy’s got a falsetto to fucking kill for!) I thought he’d stolen the show until Vedder turned up, at which point the night unfolded its wings. Through his poetic take on everyday tragedy, it became possible, for a moment, to actually grieve. ("The ocean is full ’cause everyone’s crying/The full moon is looking for friends at high tide.") His covers were stunning: "You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away" got the whole theater singing together; Cat Stevens’ "Trouble" silenced everyone — even the jerks at the bar. I mean silence. No treacle, no showing off, just this weird guy, and a moment of musical alchemy tapping a great well of loneliness among a couple thousand strangers. As Dave Grohl lamented after, "I’m real glad I had to go on after Eddie Vedder!" Grohl’s song written that morning featured a nifty arpeggiated Joe Walshy riff, and "Everlong" was heartfelt. (Love the theory it’s about Kurt; wouldn’t he have enjoyed being called a "she" in song?) The D’s set was hooky, funny and righteous (with a salute to Queens’ "Flash"!). Traditionalists to the core, Tenacious finished the show supergroup-style — Grohl on drums; Homme on bass; Vedder, Beck and the D on guitar; and Ferrell on cowbell — performing a medley including Zep’s "Good Times Bad Times." By giving this rock fan the chance to see Grohl play John Bonham, his idol and only superior in rock drumming, Tenacious D proved they really do know how to fuck a girl gently.
THE ARCADE FIRE
at the Troubadour, January 15
Every pop-art collective has that one member who doesn’t quite carry equal weight, yet perfectly personifies the group’s idiosyncrasies — good and bad. In the live version of this moment’s premier buzz band, the Arcade Fire, that person is percussionist Will Butler, brother to singing bandleader Win Butler and, judging from this show, the member most likely to have enjoyed performance classes in art school. Willfully eccentric as he beat the hell out of every surface surrounding the stage, Butler continually lost control, at one point breaking not just his cymbal but also his cymbal stand, which cracked one audience member’s skull — in between songs where he literally did nothing. It was mosh-pit choreography disguised as artistic intensity, a needless side act to a show that did not need one.
Because without all the art-school accouterments, the Arcade Fire would still offer plenty of tradition-minded tangibles for the New Sincerity seekers. But with a twist. Live, it is a familiar folk-rock-anthem-making outfit, under the spell of Conor Oberst’s bright-eyed, big-hearted collectivism (especially evident in Win’s voice), with mid-’80s U2 as a musical road map, especially in the lyricless melody moans, which offered hope (eight people singing does that), and choppy Edge-like guitar runs, which spelled action. That action comes with beats — half the octet played percussion instruments over the course of the night — and it is this love of rhythms, coupled with the audience’s desire to move to those rhythms (often disco high hats or tambourine shakes) that separates the Arcade Fire experience from most indie rock. Besides being earnest, Arcade throws a rock & roll dance party. And this too has much to do with Will Butler, whose spotlight-hogging energy did not just aid and abet bonus grooves, but transformed those grooves into an invitation, making him invaluable after all.
at the Echo, January 11
Opening a set with a cover tune can be a dodgy business, but when local new wavers Midway kick off with Styx’s legendary audio folly "Mr. Roboto," it makes for an appropriate calling card that betrays many of this quintet’s pre-existing passions: insistent, often unison melody; 1980s kitsch; ironic humor; Jetsons-jocular futurism. Though not without moments of discordant blunder, they deliver "Roboto" faithfully (Vocoder and all), and most of the Echo’s sizable crowd knows Midway well enough to take this flippant red herring as exactly that.