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Rock Picks 

For the week of July 12 – 19

Wednesday, Jul 11 2007
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{mosimage}THURSDAY, JULY 12

Nellie McKay
at Largo

You probably shouldn’t pick a fight with Nellie McKay if you happen to work for any organization with the patriarchal name Columbia. The insanely talented NYC singer-pianist and fiercely committed animal-rights activist has been leading ongoing protests against Columbia University’s quaintly barbaric practice of experimenting on sentient primates for several years now, and she won back the rights to release an unadulterated version of her excellent second album, Pretty Little Head, from her former masters at Columbia/Sony Records after a tearful and unexpectedly exhilarating rant about corporate meddling at her notorious set at the Troubadour in 2005. Now the prolific little troublemaker is back to preview tunes from her upcoming CD, Obligatory Villagers, which ranges from a playfully jazzy subversion of sexist expectations (“Mother of Pearl”) and rapid-fire, free-associating pop (“Gin Rummy”) to brassy reggae (“Identity Theft”) and a festively uplifting and cleverly arranged Sly & the Family Stone–style ramble (“Testify”). The last time she was in town, McKay responded to several conflicting song requests by playing them all in a marvelously improvised medley, seamlessly weaving the lyrics into a brand new whole. She’s simply amazing. (Falling James)


Also playing Thursday:

THEE GENTLEMEN CALLERS
at Alex’s Bar; STARFUCKERS at the Cat Club; DAEDELUS at the Echo; NINJA ACADEMY at Mr. T’s Bowl; BETH HART at the Roxy; HORNY TOAD at Rusty’s Surf Ranch; DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR, REBEL REBEL, 8-BIT at Safari Sam’s; THE FRONT, MONOLATORS at the Scene; PATRICK PARK at Spaceland.


{mosimage}FRIDAY, JULY 13

Os Mutantes, Busdriver at El Rey Theatre

The very strange and curiously influential Brazilian people known as Os Mutantes were formed in São Paulo way back in 1965 by Arnaldo Baptista, Sergio Dias and future pop diva Rita Lee to purvey a tropicalia-tinged psychedelic rock that incorporated environmental sounds and musique concrète, ultra-distortion and way-, way-out studio FX into a chaotically sprawling, extremely good-humored and ultimately quite toe-tapping alternative pop music. In the face of massive obscurity in their own country and elsewhere, the band soldiered on in fits and starts, with Rita Lee eventually departing, the lineup further mutating and the band packing it in several times, but not before settling on a kind of progressive-rock format that, along with their earliest, freakiest recordings, finally found its way into the collections of discerning young tastemakers such as Kurt Cobain and the Redd Kross brothers. When David Byrne got wind of it, he snatched it all up for release and resuscitation on his Luaka Bop label. The band, encouraged, re-formed in 2006 to see that time has caught up with them, even recently scoring a Top 40 hit in Brazil for their remodeled “Balada do Louco.” Be on time to catch the high-art rap of superspeed Shakespeare Busdriver. (John Payne)


Jessica Fichot at California Plaza

Jessica Fichot is a singer-songwriter who was born in the U.S. and raised in France by her French father and Chinese mother. That heritage is reflected in her songs, such as “Le Velours et la Soie,” whose lyrics are in both French and Chinese and whose theme of an interracial romance is topical in a transcultural planet. Her songs and voice are delightful, as pure an instrument channeled through lovely evocations of love and love lost as you’ll ever hear. There is an innocence and beauty all over Le Chemin — her album of mostly originals featuring Fichot on piano, trumpet and toy accordion — that is sadly rare but wholly welcome in a relentlessly ugly world. The French-chanson tradition is alive and well in this Los Angeles resident’s repertoire. 350 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; noon; free. Also at Amoeba Music, Sat., 2 p.m. (Michael Simmons)


Willie Nelson, The Knitters at Pacific Amphitheatre

Back in the late ’70s, when the X song “The Unheard Music” was still largely unheard outside of the L.A. punk rock underground, it was outlandish to think that Exene Cervenka, John Doe and D.J. Bonebrake would ever rub shoulders with a country legend like Willie Nelson. And yet there was always a stubbornly rootsy and countryish blue-collar undercurrent in X’s punk attack, which became clearer when they started up the Knitters, their down-home folk side project with Jonny Ray Bartel and Dave Alvin. By now, their punk outsider status has made them simpatico with a Nashville-bucking outlaw like Willie Nelson. The Red-Headed Stranger, meanwhile, has been fairly prolific in recent years, when he could be resting on his laurels and his considerable back catalog. He exchanges duets with Merle Haggard and Ray Price on the aptly titled new CD Last of the Breed; shines a welcome light on the songs of Cindy Walker with his lovingly crafted 2006 tribute You Don’t Know Me; collaborates with the ubiquitous Ryan Adams & the Cardinals on 2006’s Songbird; and even put his reassuringly warm vocals to lilting grooves on his surprisingly successful 2005 reggae experiment, Countryman. (Falling James)


Tex & the Horseheads at Safari Sam’s

Even as the Willie Nelson/Knitters bill at Pacific Amphitheatre stands as a symbolic summit between the seemingly alien worlds of punk rock and country music, Tex & the Horseheads perhaps best represent what happened when the two genres first collided in the early ’80s. Although they were credited with starting the badly named cowpunk scene (along with the Gun Club, whose singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce was an early member of the Horseheads), the four-piece band were ultimately too bizarre to fit neatly into preconceived notions of what a tumblin’ tumbleweed should sound like. Much of that eccentric charm comes from fishnet-sheathed lead singer Texacala Jones, who howls with a scarifying ferocity on such windswept odes as “Oh Mother” but contrasts that passionate intensity with disarmingly engaging shaggy-dog storytelling and assorted rambling digressions onstage between songs. She evokes classic desert landscapes on “Border Town” and “Hidden by Hills,” but isn’t above name-dropping Felix the Cat on “It’s a Happening” (from 1985’s Life’s So Cool, produced by X’s John Doe). Guitarist Mike Martt buttresses Jones’ yowling with his own world-weary, whisky-burnished vocals and barbed-wire guitar on the classic “Clean the Dirt.” (Falling James)


Also playing Friday:

MAD PARADE
at Blue Cafe; 2 LIVE CREW at Good Hurt; STEPHEN STILLS at House of Blues; MARIA McKEE, WILLARD GRANT CONSPIRACY at McCabe’s; HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T’s Bowl; PEELERS, GENTLEMEN CALLERS at the Scene; ATOMIC SHERPAS at Taix; THE 88, SATISFACTION at Troubadour; BIG JAY McNEELY at Paseo Colorado Pasadena, 6:30 p.m.


{mosimage}SATURDAY, JULY 14

Civet at Alex’s Bar

Civets are carnivorous catlike mammals, but in Long Beach they’re also a pack of deceptively kittenish punk rock girls who shouldn’t be approached in the wild. “I was bad news like a loaded gun,” lead singer Liza Graves howls over her and Suzi Homewrecker’s buzzsaw guitars on “Bleed & Burn,” from the quartet’s 2005 Duane Peters–produced CD, Massacre (Disaster). Potential suitors beware: “I don’t want to be your wife/When did my soul hit the ground?” Graves wonders on the vicious valentine “Everything Everything.” Elsewhere, she reminds you with a Joan Jett snarl that she’s a “Hardcore Bitch” as drummer Bombshell Brenz and bassist Jackie Daniels crank out a brutal smash-&-grab attack. And yet for all their nonstop punk fury, Civet sweeten their tales of revenge and jealousy with catchy shout-along hooks on songs like the anthemic “Closet Death.” But don’t argue with Ms. Graves when she assesses a rival: “Blonde, drunk & crazy/she’s no lady, no lady like me.” Indeed. In this modern era of Hot Topic punk and the faux rebellion of Avril Lavigne, there are no ladies like Civet. (Falling James)


John Duncan, Extended Organ at Vlagrant

John Duncan — ostracized by the arts community of 1980 Los Angeles (and in Stockholm in 2002) after airing documentation of Blind Date, his work involving necrophilia as a metaphor for male emotional repression — returns for the first time in five years with a performance of cataclysmic sound of unknown origin executed in total darkness. Contrast that with the splintered sound collage of Extended Organ, a SoCal supergroup made of Tom Recchion on Kurzweil and guitar, vocalist/mess-making mastermind Paul McCarthy, irascible stuffed-animal noiser Mike Kelley, proto-turntablist sampling by Joe Potts and onanistic organ-grinding by Fredrik Nilsen. That the accumulated effects of these experiences are tantamount to ejaculation in one’s spiritual ovum is an understatement; that these people do mankind a service by exploring the possibilities of sound as betterment of the human organism — not so much. 533 S. Los Angeles St., dwntwn.; 7 p.m. (213) 621-9567. www.thejailgallery.com. (David Cotner)


Also playing Saturday:

SECTION QUARTET & EMILY WELLS
at MOCA Grand Avenue; BITTER: SWEET, MEIKO at El Rey Theatre; SILVERCHAIR at the Wiltern; JESSICA FICHOT at Amoeba Music, 2 p.m.; 45 GRAVE at Boardner’s; HOWLIN’ RAIN, CITAY, MOON UPSTAIRS the Echo; THE RENTALS at Spaceland; REYES BROTHERS, MELLOW MAN ACE at the Whisky.


{mosimage}SUNDAY, JULY 15

The Pinker Tones at California Plaza

Barcelona’s Pinker Tones are just flat-out unbelievably fucking great. The beat-happy crew, spearheaded by enigmatic pop geniuses Mister Furia and Professor Manso, work an interstellar brand of electro/new wave/funk/Latin/flip-out groove that’s downright irresistible. Put over with lacings of robo-vocoder, mysterioso Devo atmospherics, Furia and the good Professor are also constantly plucking exotic tidbits from a wild spectrum of international influences and coloration that are so deftly assembled and executed that they rate as one of the finest exercises in pop confection currently working in the known universe. The Tones are sharp as hell (check their “Sonido Total,” “Pink Freud”), and it’s painfully difficult to accept the fact that this free 3 p.m. shindig is their only Los Angeles appearance — they oughtta be selling out huge venues, not sweating their asses off for unsuspecting passersby. (Jonny Whiteside)


Also playing Sunday:

EARTH, WIND & FIRE, JOAN OSBORNE
at Pacific Amphitheatre; BLUE HAWAIIANS at the Bordello; KAORU & G.E. STINSON, ANNA HOMLER, RICK POTTS, JOSEPH HAMMER at Dangerous Curve; CHUCK E. WEISS, OLIVER FUTURE at Hotel Café; VIERNES 13, KUNG FU MONKEYS at Safari Sam’s.


{mosimage}MONDAY, JULY 16

Vampire Weekend at the Troubadour

The hottest act in the NYC hipster underground right now, Vampire Weekend play an effortlessly appealing brand of jangly, African-inspired indie pop that front man Ezra Koenig calls both “Upper West Side Soweto” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”; the latter also serves as the title of the band’s best-known song, which you can hear on Vampire Weekend’s MySpace page. (Their only official release so far is a three-song digital EP.) “Pavement covering Paul Simon’s Graceland” has already become the critical shorthand for the band’s sound, and it does the job so efficiently that I’ve got no reason to try sharpening it here, except to say that world-music snobs worried about the band’s casual cultural tourism — they do call themselves vampires, after all — can rest easy: Koenig’s juju jones seems about as cynical as apple pie. Also at the Silverlake Lounge, Tues. (Mikael Wood)


Also playing Monday:

BLACK LIPS
at Amoeba Music, 6 p.m.; SUKI EWERS at the Bordello; 5 O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE, MORIS TEPPER at the Echo; WADDY WACHTEL at the Joint; ANAVAN at the Smell; THAILAND at Viper Room.



TUESDAY, JULY 17

Playing Tuesday:

RAUL MALO
at El Rey Theatre; PSYCHEDELIC FURS, FIXX, ALARM at Pacific Amphitheatre; ADAM FRANKLIN, BLACK WATCH at the Echo; MINNIE DRIVER at Hotel Café; MY RUIN at Safari Sam’s; VAMPIRE WEEKEND at Silverlake Lounge; CROWDED HOUSE at Troubadour; PUDDLE OF MUDD at Viper Room.



WEDNESDAY, JULY 18


50 Years of Stax at the Hollywood Bowl

Summer seems to bring every oldies band (or some dubiously authentic version thereof) out of the woodwork, but here’s a bill that’s positively stacked with Stax legends, gathering to celebrate the Memphis soul-music label’s first half century in show biz. Tonight the revitalized label (which went out of business in 1976 before being resuscitated recently as part of Concord Records) spotlights some its iconic ’60s soul survivors as well as newer stylists such as Angie Stone and Lalah Hathaway. Forget about Isaac Hayes’ controversial departure from South Park — the real story is in his music, and not just that marvelously orchestrated epic, “Theme From Shaft.” Booker T. Jones would be a certifiable legend even if all he ever did was the sublime instrumental “Green Onions,” but this terminally groovy keyboardist has played with everyone from Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett to Neil Young, CCR, Barbra Streisand and George Harrison, and also produced Willie Nelson’s Stardust album. You also get the great William Bell (whose songs have been adapted by Albert King and even Billy Idol), Eddie Floyd (“Knock on Wood,” “99½ Won’t Do”) and blues-soul singer (and former Raelette) Mable John. Music just doesn’t get any better than this. (Falling James)


The Polyphonic Spree at El Rey Theatre

With the mercury nudging triple digits, it’s only appropriate that that most summery of acts, the Polyphonic Spree, once again materialize among us. The Spree’s ’60s-inspired symphonic pop, what-are-they-on? collective ecstasy and tireless optimism (sadly incongruous in Bush’s climate-of-fear America) evoke ambling through sun-bleached fields behind their Pied Piper front man Tim DeLaughter. When P.S. first appeared, with 20-plus members draped in robes and cultlike rapture, they invited “novelty” gibes. 2001’s The Beginning Stages Of . . . and ’04’s Together We’re Heavy albums, both rather formless Flaming Lips–y affairs, didn’t help. Yet their new, quasi-military black garb hints at the welcome surge of discipline on newy The Fragile Army. The songwriting has cut the fluff; P.S.’s rock-band heart finds equilibrium with the harp, horns, organ ’n’ all. The call and response between DeLaughter’s trust-in-me early-Bowie sneer and the coed choir becomes a genuine conversation. (Paul Rogers)


Lavender Diamond at the Echo

“My shadow is a Monday,” singer Becky Stark discloses on Lavender Diamond’s new full-length CD, Imagine Our Love (Matador). As consoling harmonies wash over her, she coos, “My heart is in a shadow without you.” Most of the songs on Imagine Our Love are similarly enchanting with subdued guitars, poppy piano, gentle bass and laid-back drums. A soothing breeze of strings anoints the calm reverie “The Garden Rose,” while the initially austere “I’ll Never Lie Again” swells with horns and wind instruments. The curiously mesmerizing “Like an Arrow” rocks a little more with a heavy throb and a handclaps-accented beat, but the airy Kate Bush–like singing keeps everything ethereal. Stark has an overtly pretty, lulling voice, and the rest of the band — which includes W.A.C.O. madman Steve Gregoropoulos on piano — gives her delicate melodies plenty of room to wander. Imagine Our Love is generally charming, although the white-bread arrangements and hippie-ish lyrics can get a bit precious at times. (Falling James)


Also playing Wednesday:

FERGIE, ROONEY
at the Wiltern; THE FRAY, GOMEZ, EISLEY at Greek Theatre; JOE FIRSTMAN at Hotel Café.



THURSDAY, JULY 19

Shout Out Louds at El Rey Theatre

The modest acclaim afforded this Swedish group’s 2005 debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, wasn’t quite enough to keep the Shout Out Louds from being spared the major-label ax earlier this year when Capitol Records and Virgin Records merged. But the corporate pink-slipping might actually end up benefiting the group, judging by the considerable buzz building online around Our Ill Wills, the Shout Out Louds’ sophomore disc, which Merge is releasing in September. Indieland certainly seems like a more appropriate fit for the band: Produced by Bjorn Yttling of Swedish folk-popsters (and unlikely Kanye West faves) Peter, Bjorn and John, Our Ill Wills grooves and jangles like Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst leading a Cure tribute band. Expect a preview of the new album tonight, along with a handful of Howl Howl highlights. (Mikael Wood)


Ryan Adams at Wilshire Theatre

Like his good buddy Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams has been on a veritable tear in recent years, seemingly releasing an album every 15 minutes and producing or collaborating with disparate folks including Jesse Malin, the Wallflowers, Minnie Driver and Nelson. His latest solo CD, Easy Tiger (Lost Highway), is a satisfying collection of countryish laments and lovely pastoral ballads. On “Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.,” he finds himself unwittingly eavesdropping on the lovers in the hotel room next door: “If I could, I’d fold myself away like a card table/a concertina or a Murphy bed . . . I’m open all night and the customers come to stay.” Adams’ customers will likely appreciate how great his voice sounds, as well as the Neil Young–style dramatics and pedal-steel skyline of “The Sun Also Sets.” “I’ve got a Halloweenhead . . . full of candy bags,” he announces on the stomping rocker “Halloweenhead,” perhaps in reference to his gloriously misspent youth. A wailing harmonica suitably frames the album-closing ballad, “I Taught Myself How to Grow Old,” where he confesses to being “crooked on the outside/the insides caved.” It’s sad and lonely and beautiful all at the same time. (Falling James)


Also playing Thursday:

DICKEY BETTS & GREAT SOUTHERN
at the Canyon; TEAM DRESCH at the Echo; JILL SOBULE, JULIA SWEENEY at Hotel Café; DOLORES O’RIORDAN, JESSIE BAYLIN at House of Blues; B-SIDE PLAYERS at Key Club; JON BRION at Largo; CARINA ROUND at the Roxy; JESSIE DELUXE, GEISHA GIRLS at Silverlake Lounge; PATRICK PARK at Spaceland; HAR MAR SUPERSTAR, ROLAN BOLAN at Viper Room; FIELD at Joseph’s Cafe.

click to flip through (5) Nellie McKay: Testifying for the defenseless
  • Nellie McKay: Testifying for the defenseless
 

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