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Rock Picks 

For the week of February 22 – March 1

Wednesday, Feb 21 2007
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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22

The Shakes at Safari Sam’s

For many years, the Shakes have warded off fame with an anonymous-sounding, generic band name and a morbidly sarcastic form of self-deprecation that usually keeps the hipsters at bay — even as relatively recent bands like the White Stripes have broken out with some of those same garage-rock influences. That’s why it’s so satisfying that the Shakes have finally fulfilled their pure-pop potential with the minor (and possibly — time will tell — major) masterpiece, The Rise and Fall of Modern Living (Teenacide), where Peter Gilabert’s ambitious song cycle about the streets of Silver Lake is fleshed out with lavish string and horn arrangements. It’s perfectly appropriate that the Shakes are part of tonight’s bill celebrating the music of the Kinks and Love — their snappy version of Britney Spears’ “Oops! . . . I Did It Again” a few years ago was cleverly dressed up in Kinks clothing, and the string parts on the new album often evoke Love’s Forever Changes. The Shakes’ own tunes encompass Big Star yearning and Monkees brightness, laced with the typically black humor of Gilabert (keeping one step ahead of invading yuppies on “Gentrification Blues”) and ex–Redd Kross drummer Janet Housden (singing the deceptively pretty, wickedly unsentimental child-hating ballad “Little Babies”). These are some great Shakes. (Falling James)

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Cold War Kids at the Troubadour

Cold War Kids are one of the best post–White Stripes garage-blues acts around because they’re not afraid of using their imagination: On the Long Beach band’s debut, Robbers & Cowards, front man Nathan Willett narrates from the POV of all kinds of characters he’s not, including a pistol-packing thief and a recovering-alcoholic father. Where too many of his peers view tall-tale-telling as a compromise of indie-scene authenticity, Willett understands that playing lyrical make-believe is only natural when you’re doing music more often made by grizzled old men than by dewy young hipsters. (He also knows that singing about suppertime in solitary confinement is about 77 times more interesting than describing how fucked up you got at last night’s party.) Cold War Kids also at El Rey Theatre, Wed. (Mikael Wood)

Willie Nelson, John Trudell at Gibson Amphitheatre Willie Nelson, God love him, is nuts. The man is pushing 80 years of age but nonetheless maintains a road schedule so heavy that it’d probably cause a lot of 20-somethings to turn purple and wilt. This visit is of particular note, a cancer-awareness fund-raiser that pairs the venerable country renegade-philosopher with John Trudell, the profound Native American enigma whose calling card these days is as a rock & roll poet, but whose 1970s-era notoriety came as one of the leaders of the American Indian Movement (up to and including AIM’s occupation of Alcatraz Island and a prime spot on J. Edgar Hoover’s personal shit list). When Nelson’s and Trudell’s drastically unorthodox minds meet, the results are likely to be flat-out spectacular. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday: FLOGGING MOLLY, STREET DOGS at Henry Fonda Theater; MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD, BLACKALICIOUS at the Wiltern; MOONRATS at the Knitting Factory; SHARP EASE at Mr. T’s Bowl; PASTILLA at the Roxy; CARLOS GUITARLOS at Charlie O’s Lounge.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23 David J, Abby Travis, Nora Keyes at Safari Sam’s Bela Lugosi is dead, and so is the Black Dahlia, but that shouldn’t stop David J from hosting his own macabre Cabaret Oscuro, which the Bauhaus bassist has said is his attempt to link the “stark visual presentation” of German Expressionism with punk rock freedom and the fatalistic creativity of the 1920s Berlin cabaret scene. Dr. J is backed tonight by his own acoustic guitar and Joyce Rook’s cello, as well as pre-recorded music he cobbled together in the studio. He’s joined by a strange and merry crew of freaky sideshow performers and bizarre art-rockers, including the sometimes mannered but deliciously daffy Nora Keyes, who David J produced when she was in the local synth-rock saboteurs the Centimeters. Adding an air of old-Hollywood glamour is that Renaissance woman Abby Travis, who’s perhaps best known for backing the likes of El Vez, Beck, Elastica, the Love Dolls, Cherie Currie and the Bangles but whose own solo albums, including 2006’s Glitter Mouth, have a glam-rocking allure. The cabaret also spotlights such eccentrics as Vin Santos & the Ghost of Elizabeth Short, Fauxnique, Ego Plum, Creekbird and Count Smokula. (Falling James)

Flogging Molly at Henry Fonda Theater Celtic punk is alive and well, largely thanks to Flogging Molly, who got their name from their relentless Monday-night gigs at Molly Malone’s. Along with guitar, bass and drums, the band’s accordion, mandolin, tin whistles and banjo are what really make their music an assault on your uilleann pipes. And it’s all as authentic as stewed cabbage, since front man Dave King holds an Irish passport. And their fans? Let’s just say that heads that bop in unison like that are part of a special breed. After a Guinness or six, they will be glad to let you into their club. Also Thurs., Feb. 22. (Libby Molyneaux)

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