Rock Picks: Mulatu Astatke, The Soft Pack, Katy Perry, Merle Haggard 

Also, Cut Chemist, NOFX, Hal Blaine’s 80th bash and more

Wednesday, Jan 28 2009


Infinity at Spaceland
Beware detached hipster: One refrain of that first keyboard riff on “Don’t Stop Believin’” and you’ll lose all capacity to restrain the warm wave of nostalgia growing inside, like a glowing scarab spaceship leaving the sun — you know what I’m talking about. This Journey tribute is heads and high-heeled boots above the rest. Infinity’s boy-girl players from L.A. bands like Longstocking and Patsy are headed by the masterful Michelle “Woody” Stevenson — whose re-creation of Steve Perry’s wide-legged stance, eerily accurate clenched-hand gestures and weirdly flat hair can kick anything the real Journey’s new Filipino singer (the guy they found on YouTube) can dish out. So go ahead and tuck that cucumber down your crotch, grab a brew and clear your pipes for some off-key sing-along fun. Infinity does ’em all — “Stone in Love,” “Separate Ways,” “Any Way You Want It” — with enough theatricality and ridiculousness to do justice to the dreamiest of butt-rock bands, faithfully. (Wendy Gilmartin)

Also playing Friday:

click to flip through (4) Beat Killers: Quintessential garage-rockers
  • Beat Killers: Quintessential garage-rockers

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ADELE at the Wiltern; FERDINAND at Amoeba Music; TYRONE WELLS at El Rey Theatre; ELENI MANDELL at the Hotel Café; HED PE at Key Club; BLOOD at the Knitting Factory; JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; LEDWARD KA’APANA at McCabe’s; LUCY LAWLESS at the Roxy.



Kenneth Pattengale at El Cid
Drop the needle down and dig that crackle and pop. Er, how old is this guy, anyway? Young Kenneth Pattengale’s ace new disc, Storied Places (Milan), like a lot of youthful musicians’ material of late, spans a range of classic American styles, from rhythm & blues and C&W to nice folkie interludes to heartfelt pumping piano balladry. Pattengale’s songs are done with a subtle but significant wink of the eye, as if to tacitly acknowledge the passage of time from these tunes’ origins, and the resulting challenge in dealing with them in anything but ironic terms. Pattengale tosses the songs into a big grab bag of musical history, and delivers each with a wise eye, yet — crucially — a sincere, simple affection. And please enjoy augmenting Tin Pan Alley cats the Found Object Orchestra, on hand to enhance your trip down false-memory lane. (John Payne)


Beat Killers at the Redwood Bar & Grill
The local group Beat Killers have the quintessential ’60s garage-rock sound — snarling caveman vocals, circus-y Farfisa organ, rumbling fuzz bass and raging surf guitars — and juice it up further with punk rock tempos and distortion. There are only about a million such garage bands in the world today with the same retro ambitions, but Beat Killers stand out from the ratty pack with their boundless energy, deft chops and crafty songwriting. The lead singer’s name is listed as only “!” (à la Question Mark of the Mysterians), and he howls over Danny Magana’s primal tom-toms with a feral tenacity that evokes the Standells, the Troggs and the Seeds. Kenny Wessel shoots up tracks like “Gimme a Kiss” (from the Killers’ iTunes CD, Beat, Broken, Bruised) with savagely efficient lead-guitar injections, as “Speedie” John Carlucci (ex-Fuzztones) lays down some nimbly agile, sludgy-thick bass solos. Meanwhile, Laura Carlucci coats “Wha Cha Gonna Do” and “Kids Are Getting Restless” in a sheen of groovy keyboard accents, adding another layer of frenzy to the group’s methodical madness. (Falling James)

Katy Perry at the Wiltern
We’re still trying to figure out just who Katy Perry really is, although it’s possible that the former Christian-pop singer doesn’t know yet, either. Raised in the Santa Barbara area by parents who were both pastors, she brims with musical talent and potential, stalking the stage with natural (although she calls it “God-given”) charisma and belting out her new-wave tunes with a brassy theatricality. Of course, her facility for artifice is also her biggest drawback. To her credit, Perry wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on her 2008 full-length One of the Boys, but hack collaborators such as Desmond Child and producer Butch Walker tend to smooth out traces of individuality, burying the occasional interesting lyric in an avalanche of clichés. The title track is fairly unremarkable until the break, where the “don’t wanna be” backup vocals swirl around her quite hypnotically, before returning to the standard bombastic-pop formula. “UR So Gay” is merely the modern equivalent to Josie Cotton’s “Johnny, Are You Queer?” — although Perry tries to deflect accusations of homophobia by tossing in a quick “and you don’t even like boys” while dissing a poor guy for being vegetarian, liking rainstorms and driving an electric car (the cad!). “I Kissed a Girl” appears to be an attempt to kiss and make up with the gay community (while titillating voyeuristic boys), but it tries too hard to be shocking and is ultimately less daring than the Jill Sobule song it rips off. Perry is at her best on acoustic-based ballads like “Lost” and the candied ethereality of “I’m Still Breathing,” where she almost sounds sincere. (Falling James)

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