Rock Picks: Akron/Family, Duncan Sheik, PJ Harvey, Jill Scott | Music | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Rock Picks: Akron/Family, Duncan Sheik, PJ Harvey, Jill Scott 

For the week of Oct. 11 - 18

Wednesday, Oct 10 2007
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{mosimage}THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11

Nina Nastasia & Jim White at the Knitting Factory

On their new duo album, You Follow Me, New York–based singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia and drummer Jim White (a member of Australia’s Dirty Three, as well as a prolific session man who’s played with PJ Harvey, Cat Power and Nick Cave, among many others) make a dark folk-blues racket that lends physical weight to Nastasia’s unblinking accounts of emotional upheaval. (Instructive song titles include “How Will You Love Me,” “Late Night” and “The Day I Would Bury You.”) The instrumentation on Follow is purposely pared down to Nastasia’s vocals and guitar and White’s drums (as it will be tonight). Yet because her singing is so full of unexpected swoops and growls and his drumming frequently ventures off into seemingly improvised semi-solos, the music never feels incomplete. In fact, it’s hard to hear how they’d cram anything else into these songs. (Mikael Wood)


{mosimage}The Avengers, Pansy Division at Spaceland

Great moments in presidential speeches rewritten: “Ask not what you can do for your country/What’s your country been doing to you?” as the Avengers’ Penelope Houston railed back in 1979 on the Steve Jones–produced “The American in Me,” an anthemic look at the first Kennedy assassination that still raises chills today. “It’s the American in me that makes me watch the blood running out of the bullet hole in his head... It’s the American in me that says it’s an honor to die in a war that’s just a politician’s lie.” What a shame that we don’t live in wartime or an era when politicians are routinely deceitful — otherwise you could argue that the Avengers, one of the earliest and most thrilling San Francisco punk bands and a direct influence on an entire generation of riot grrls, are still relevant today. After the Avengers broke up, Houston worked for a spell with Magazine’s Howard Devoto, then morphed into a contrastingly laid-back folk-pop persona before reuniting her old band a few years ago with original guitarist Greg Ingraham. They’re backed by drummer Luis Illades and bassist Joel Reader, who’ll do double duty with the reconstituted queercore parodists Pansy Division. (Falling James)


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12

{mosimage}Aesop Rock, Blockhead at Henry Fonda Theater

Brains and beats, two great flavors that are taking hip-hop into this still-new millennium with relevance. While lesser talents manufacture beefs or boasts, Aesop Rock is busy mashing Monty Python, astronomy, capitalism and shitloads more on his new effort None Shall Pass, a stone-cold tome delivered in his acrobatic baritone. Meanwhile, Blockhead has gone from being an esoteric producer touch-padding MacBook Pros in concert to a sought-after soundtracker and solo mogul, self-releasing his latest stack of instrumentals, Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book, and laying down tracks for Aesop Rock, among others. With Block’s head-bobbing tracks propelling Rock’s intertextual talents into the PA of the Fonda for a few hours, one can expect fired and fried neurons, as well as a few ciphers fronting new-school break-dancers. Hands will be thrown in the air, but everyone will wave them like they do, in fact, care. Because they do. There’s no school like the new school. (Scott Thill)


Akron/Family, Greg Davis, Megafaun, The Dodos at the Troubadour

Over the course of three albums, the Akron/Family of Brooklyn (via rural Pennsylvania) have carved a beautifully ornate heart on the aged stump of American music. Using traditional instruments — guitar, banjo, violin, bass, drums — augmented with pretty bells, keyboards, and what seems like a one-room congregation of voices, the four men create exuberant songs that seem both immediate and inevitable. Their remarkable new CD, Love Is Simple, is the band’s best. The centerpiece, “Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music for Moms,” begins with a standard structure before collapsing into a rhythmic breakdown that recalls the Balinese monkey chant, and, like much of the album, is infused with a kind of cosmic tribal fervor. For this tour, the band have expanded to seven members, including the brilliant guitarist/electronics composer Greg Davis and recent Table of the Elements records signees Megafaun. Combined with openers the Dodos, an equally inspired S.F. guitar/drum two-piece, the show has the markings of an instant classic. (Randall Roberts)


{mosimage}Nellie McKay at Largo

It took a village to record Nellie McKay’s third CD, Obligatory Villagers (Hungry Mouse/Vanguard), which features enough ace accompanists to stock a musicians’ institute, including alto saxist Phil Woods and former Miles Davis singer/Schoolhouse Rock composer Bob Dorough, who lends his craggily burnished vocals to the dreamy Spanish idyll “Politan” and the jazzy swing of “Oversure.” Even with the participation of such heavy hitters, Obligatory Villagers is McKay’s show; the multi-talented Harlem wunderkind wrote all the songs, produced the album, and worked out the elaborately sophisticated arrangements and orchestrations. “Wake up in a small café,” she coos on the ruminative cool of “Gin Rummy,” contrasting the tune’s breezy pop mood with a typically sly follow-up, “sweatshop in the sunshine.” Her self-described “schizophrenic voodoo” encompasses the rapid-fire calypso-ska lilt of “Identity Theft” (where she finds herself “runnin’ from the thought police” and insists that “Pluto’s still a planet”) and the swank-and-swampy blues of “Zombie.” Most inspiring of all is “Testify,” where she ties up her social activism, leftist idealism and nimbly clever wordplay into one big package that’s crowned by celebratory Sly & the Family Stone–style horns and a rousing chorus of backing voices that circle mesmerizingly during the song’s wonderfully busy fadeout. Also Thurs., Oct. 11. (Falling James)


Genesis at the Hollywood Bowl

For this much-touted reunion tour, the news is both good and bad for Genesis fans. (Well, it’s strictly all bad if you consider that Peter Gabriel isn’t onboard.) The bad news is that the set list dredges up too much of their latter-day dreck, such as the awful, pansy-lite rockers “Throwing It All Away,” “I Can’t Dance” and — I am gonna puke!! — “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight.” Mercifully, they decided to eschew “Abacab.” For the good news, the show is an exceedingly rare chance to hear prog-rock genius, including a medley, “In the Cage”/“The Cinema Show”/“Duke’s Travels”/“Afterglow,” that should appease us old-timers and even make up for Phil “Stumpy” Collins’ overblown heavenly pleas. Worth the ticket: “Firth of Fifth/I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” — a medley of two songs from Selling England By the Pound — and the stunning “The Carpet Crawlers,” one of the most chilling songs ever written. What I’m trying to say here is take plenty of beer and bathroom breaks. Also Sat. (Libby Molyneaux)


Also playing Friday:

CRADLE OF FILTH, GWAR
at the Wiltern; MORRISSEY at Hollywood Palladium; BILLYBONES, JOHNS at Alex’s Bar; MICKEY AVALON at Boardner’s; BONEBRAKE SYNCOPATORS at the Bordello; CARINA ROUND at Hotel Café; ADICTS, ORANGE at Malibu Inn; VAN STONE, RTX at the Roxy; BOOJI BOY, WOGGLES, PAT TODD & THE RANKOUTSIDERS at Safari Sam’s; SPORES at the Scene; NUMBERS, BIPOLAR BEAR, ANAVAN at the Smell.


{mosimage}SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13

Devendra Banhart at the Orpheum Theatre

There are those I suppose who feel that spidery-fingered mystery minstrel Devendra Banhart has finally gone too far with his new album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Mountain (XL). Consider, though, that this soothsaying singer-guitarist’s massive (16 songs) missive sprawling the oddest reaches of sprightly ’30s music hall, burnished-gold ’60s-’70s folk-pop/epic heavy rock, sad-eyed sea chanteys, doo-wop-dripped crooner suavities and lovelorn lyricism en español is just not eclecticism run amok; rather, he melts down the musical past to brew something quite new. The album was recorded in the Topanga Canyon house where Neil Young lived while making After the Gold Rush and supposedly where members of the Doors hung out; its strengths include Banhart’s startlingly fruity vocal stylings, whose bravery alone ought to fling off any last perceived images of Banhart as a spearhead of any mere “freak folk” scene and instead herald his arrival as a great wizard of fertilely fantastic contemporary music. (Web exclusive: Look for a conversation with Devendra Banhart at www.laweekly.com/music) (John Payne)


Great Lake Swimmers at Spaceland

A Great Lake Swimmers show proves that it’s possible to be nearly asleep on your feet and genuinely engaged at the same time. Glorious indie-rock lullabies (plucked with the speed of sleepy molasses) constitute the breadth of the Great Lake Swimmers’ catalogue (indeed, singer-songwriter Tony Dekker comes from a small Ontarian town in the near radius of said lakes), and the rest is twangy folk that’s usually more haunted lament than barn-burner. Often, the band sounds like a more sober My Morning Jacket or a less hip Iron & Wine. This is dirty feet on warm rocks music, with a sound mined from the quiet spectacle of the Canadian outdoors. It’s also resigned and depressive, casually leaning into the spiritual, and sometimes boring. Ongiara, their third full-length, which was released last spring, is lovely but light, compelling but inoffensive. Just like a lullaby, meant to lull, not provoke. (Kate Carraway)


Also playing Saturday:

MORRISSEY
at Hollywood Palladium; GENESIS at Hollywood Bowl; ANA EGGE at the Bordello; B-REAL, TOMMY CHONG at Knitting Factory; 8-BIT at Mr. T’s Bowl; POLYSICS, MATCHES at Troubadour; ADICTS, NAKED AGGRESSION at Vault 350.


{mosimage}SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14

Duncan Sheik at El Rey Theatre

Duncan Sheik, the sensitive, handsome troubadour with the bedroom eyes, first sang his way into the hearts of fans who live for songs that are heavy on emotional longing and comforting choruses with 1996’s “Barely Breathing.” Several albums later, his career has continued much as it began, with sweet and haunting tunes often set against lush string arrangements that make his fans want to gently apply a warm cloth to his tortured, Buddhist brow. After contributing to movie soundtracks, Sheik took an interesting turn — and won a Tony award — composing the music to the critically acclaimed musical Spring Awakenings. He’s touring with a new band to promote a new greatest-hits package and will no doubt perform all the songs you love to quietly pant to. (Libby Molyneaux)


Los Lobos, Little Joe y La Familia, Tierra at Gibson Amphitheatre

When some crummy punk torched the auditorium at Garfield High School earlier this year, the good people of the Eastside let out a collective groan of disgust. The school, after all, has been smartening up the ’hood for the last 83 years, and several of its most celebrated sons are aiming to put things right with a evening of music that’s downright flabbergasting in its scope. With Garfield alums Los Lobos, the reigning champions of the Southwest Norteno circuit Little Joe y La Familia (long-running roadhogs with a reputation as guaranteed showstoppers), Seventies soul-rock-jam thrillers Tierra and El Chicano, Thee Midniters’ shockingly brilliant vocalist Little Willie G, and youthful reggae-tinged groovers Upground, this remarkable bill represents an almost full spectrum of contemporary Chicano pop. The show starts at 5:45 p.m. (Jonny Whiteside)


Ceci Bastida, Tijuanos at Art Performance Festival

Ceci Bastida’s residency last month at the Knitting Factory only confirmed that the former Tijuana No! singer and Julieta Venegas keyboardist is a genuine star on the rise. In fact, her solo debut CD EP, Front BC, is ultimately more enchanting than Venegas’ recent work, as sacrilegious as that might sound to rock en español fanatics. “Ya Me Voy” is a gently lulling slice of electro-pop that’s diced with weaving accordion, while “No Te Digan Que No” shuffles with spacy flourishes. Backed by Volumen Cero at the Knit, Bastida blew some airily exotic tunes into her melodica, blending sunny, acoustic-based new songs with fresh, unusual arrangements of two of her most well-known Tijuana No! hits, a slinky version of the Clash’s “Spanish Bombs” and an all-too-rare ramble through Venegas’ sublime “Pobre de Ti.” At this free festival, Bastida (who goes on at 2 p.m.) is just one part of an interesting, diverse lineup that includes Tijuanos, the latest band from Bastida’s former Tijuana No! comrade Teca Garcia. Colorado Blvd., between Fair Oaks & DeLacey aves., Pasadena; 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; free. www.pasadenaartweekend.com. (Falling James)


Also playing Sunday:

ANA EGGE at the Bordello; RUBEN GUEVARA, 2MEX, EL VUH at Knitting Factory; PEELANDER-Z, BANG SUGAR BANG at the Scene; BLACK NOTE at Temple Bar; ADICTS, ORANGE at Vault 350.



MONDAY, OCTOBER 15

PJ Harvey at the Orpheum Theatre

Sometimes it’s a good thing to live in Los Angeles, especially if you’re a PJ Harvey fan. The English singer is playing only two shows — in New York and tonight at the Orpheum — on this American tour to promote her latest CD, White Chalk. Unlike her previous albums, the songs on White Chalk were primarily written on piano, and there’s a ghostly stateliness to these spare ballads. On “Grow Grow Grow,” she sounds like she’s singing from the bottom of a well as lavish piano curlicues surround her like fireflies. “The ceiling is moving/moving in time/like a conveyor belt/above my eyes,” she discloses in a cottony haze on the hospital evocation “When Under Ether”; the effect is chillingly beautiful. She evokes England’s white cliffs on the title track, somberly describing “White chalk cutting down the sea at night . . . And I know/these chalk hills will rot my bones.” While her new songs don’t rock with angular artiness of her early recordings, they’re quite moving and personal; she’s surprisingly vulnerable and morbidly romantic on such darkly tranquil tracks as “Silence” and “To Talk to You.” (Falling James)


Also playing Monday:

RILO KILEY, THE BIRD & THE BEE
at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium; HARPETH TRACE, KIND HEARTS & CORONETS at the Bordello; BORIS, DAMON & NAOMI, KURIHARI at the Echo; LISTING SHIP at Mr. T’s Bowl; BLACK FRANCIS at Safari Sam’s; OLIVER FUTURE at Spaceland; MAE SHI, XU XU FANG at Viper Room.


{mosimage}TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16

The Bird & the Bee at Amoeba Music

It was such a happy collision of influences when Greg Kurstin produced Inara George’s 2006 solo debut, All Rise, that the pair decided to start their own side project, the Bird & the Bee, which has taken on a roaming, rambling life of its own. The duo just released a charming five-song EP, Please Clap Your Hands (Metro Blue), of groovy pop melodies that are brightened by George’s sugary vocals and Kurstin’s inventive instrumentation. “Polite Dance Song” lives up to its title as her breathy vocals insinuate themselves neatly within Kurstin’s lazy, funky rhythm (although Joey Waronker’s drums are distractingly distorted). When she asks, “Would you be nasty with me?,” she comes off as innocent instead of crass, while Kurstin’s orchestrations swell resoundingly behind her. “Man” unfolds with ornamental harpsichord flourishes, and “The Races” is a gauzy romantic reverie. “So You Say” churns with a ’60s fuzz-pop dreaminess that attractively frames George’s exultant singing. The Bird & the Bee’s one drawback is that they are sometimes too cloyingly cute, a tendency that recurs on their corny (albeit sincere) version of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” This free set starts at 7 p.m. Also at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Mon. (Falling James)


Jill Scott at House of Blues

Philadelphia-based Jill Scott prides herself on being one of the straightest shooters in the neo-soul scene: Where her peers can get lost in hazy, patchouli-scented ruminations on love’s ability to transform normal men and women into kings and queens, Scott stays grounded in the everyday realities of work, family and relationships; in one of the best tunes on her previous studio disc, 2004’s aptly titled Beautifully Human, she wondered if her niece’s famous potato salad gets its green color from the scallions or the celery. Scott’s brand-new The Real Thing splits its time between uptempo jams like “Hate on Me,” in which Scott gives detractors a dose of her patented what-for, and creamy slow jams like “Come See Me,” where she handily demonstrates that alpha ladies need tenderness too. Also Wed.-Thurs. (Mikael Wood)


Also playing Tuesday:

DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL
at Orpheum Theatre; USSA at Knitting Factory; BLACK FRANCIS at Safari Sam’s; HEALTH CLUB at the Scene; FIGURINES, DAPPLED CITIES at Spaceland.


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17

Playing Wednesday:

DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL
at Orpheum Theatre; JILL SCOTT at House of Blues; CHUPACOBRA, CONDORS at Knitting Factory; BOB MOULD at the Roxy; CARLA BOZULICH at the Smell; SUBWAYS at Spaceland; MATT POND PA, JESCA HOOP at the Troubadour.


THURS
DAY, OCTOBER 18

Playing Thursday:

MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO
at Galaxy Theatre; EAGLES, DIXIE CHICKS at Nokia Theatre; LAVENDER DIAMOND, WINTER FLOWERS at the Echo; JILL SCOTT at House of Blues; ELECTRIC SIX, GORE GORE GIRLS at Key Club.

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