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Music Picks: Lila Downs, Merle Haggard, I See Hawks in L.A., Die Antwoord 

Also, Das Racist, Gonjasufi, Roky Erickson and others

Thursday, Feb 23 2012
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fri 2/24

David Binney

BLUE WHALE

click to enlarge PHOTO BY AUSTIN YOUNG - Abby Travis: See Monday.
  • PHOTO BY AUSTIN YOUNG
  • Abby Travis: See Monday.

Location Info

His bio still says that he's one of the most prolific young jazz musicians on the scene, but the New York–based saxophonist has been around long enough and done enough scene-changing projects with a who's who of jazz to have earned seasoned-veteran status. Binney maintains his youthful similitude by hanging with the new generation, including and featuring on this show the popular L.A.– and YouTube–based electronica duo of Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi (the three of them currently are recording an album together). The fun continues with a plethora of guests from New York and Los Angeles, with all the makings of a beautiful sound orgy, just the sort of thing to maintain and sustain a virile spirit. Musically speaking, that is. —Gary Fukushima

I See Hawks in L.A.

MCCABE'S

Longtime purveyors of what Gram Parsons called "cosmic American music," I See Hawks in L.A. go all-acoustic for their latest, called New Kind of Lonely and due out March 6. It's lovely, beautifully harmonized stuff (with some sweet fiddle action by Gabe Witcher of Punch Brothers), but what distinguishes the record from others by any number of history-conscious roots acts is the Hawks' taste for the less-than-lovely, as reflected in the title track, where Rob Waller recounts the time "Randy went out, got wasted with the boys, chasing skirts and getting hurt." Later, he spins a tale in "Big Old Hypodermic Needle" you don't need me to unravel. Tonight they'll celebrate the album's release amid the appropriately instrument-jammed environs of McCabe's, with former Lone Justice/X dude Tony Gilkyson as support. —Mikael Wood

Die Antwoord

CLUB NOKIA

These South African rave-rap jokers didn't quite manage to jump from Internet fame to the real-world variety after Interscope issued a commercial version of their self-released debut, $O$, in 2010. So that's probably one reason Die Antwoord's new sophomore disc, Ten$ion, arrives not with Jimmy Iovine's backing but on the group's own Zef Records. ("Fuck you, Jimmy, I'm-a never give it back," Yo-Landi Vi$$er promises in "So What?" in apparent reference to whatever's left of their Interscope advance.) But if Vi$$er and her fellow vocalist Ninja regret their failure to crack the mainstream, you can't tell from Ten$ion, which sounds pretty much exactly the same as its predecessor — think gonzo-aggro boasts, creepy singsong hooks and DJ Hi-Tek's synthed-up, strobed-out beats. Remarkably, this show is sold out. —Mikael Wood

Atlas Sound

CENTER FOR THE ARTS, EAGLE ROCK

Seemingly able to do no musical wrong, Atlanta's Bradford Cox has consistently wowed critics and fans alike with his ability to blow past the usual limitations of experimental music. With his band, Deerhunter, he bridges art-punk to dream-pop and winds up with something that Beach Boys aficionados can dig. Meanwhile, under his solo guise, Atlas Sound, Cox has been forging his freewheeling guitar-and-tape experiments into comely bits of emotionally satisfying songwriting. His woozy, sparkling latest is Parallax, a set of fragile songs, which reveal their architect's distinct loneliness — a child of divorce born with Marfan syndrome, he's always felt and looked like an outsider — while exploring his thorny relationships with love and religion. Bits of doo-wop mingle with electronic flourishes, pensive keyboard work and inventive picking, making for a live experience that's thick with texture and aqueous hues. —Chris Martins

Also playing:

MEGADETH, MOTÖRHEAD at Gibson Amphitheatre; GRIMES at the Echo; BUDOS BAND at the Echoplex; STANLEY CLARKE BAND at Catalina Bar & Grill; JACKIE EVANCHO at Nokia Theatre; BARE WIRES at Bootleg Bar; YELLOW RED SPARKS at the Mint; CURSIVE, UME, VIRGIN ISLANDS at the Troubadour.

 

sat 2/25

Ann Magnuson

STEVE ALLEN THEATER

Ann Magnuson's taking Mayan predictions of an apocalypse later this year pretty seriously — well, seriously enough to put on her own cabaret show with frequent collaborators Kristian Hoffman and drummer Joe Berardi. The actor-columnist–performance artist-diva (who's appeared in such films as Desperately Seeking Susan and The Hunger, starred in the TV series Anything but Love and fronted disparate music projects, ranging from anti-folkies Bleaker Street Incident to heavy-metal parodists Vulcan Death Grip to psychedelic art-rockers Bongwater) will belt out end-of-the-world ditties, covers of standards by Jacques Brel and David Bowie, and wonderfully sarcastic pop originals from her most recent solo album, Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. She's calling her humble little soiree "Drawing Room Apocalypse" in an attempt to add an air of Victorian "gentility" to the upcoming global carnage. —Falling James

Lila Downs

WILTERN

Maybe, taken independently, the elements of Lila Downs' music are nothing you haven't heard before. But her signature arrangements, combining traditional sounds of Mexican music with jazz, blues, African and some Klezmer-style instrumentation, capture a genius all her own. To call her craft wide-ranging would be an understatement. In a voice that switches easily from smoky-sultry to all-out operatic, singing lyrics in English, Spanish and several Native American languages, Downs entrances audiences. Chin out, shoulders back, stomping and smiling, she captivates. If at least one person doesn't shout, mesmerized, "Te amo, Lila!" at some point during Saturday's show, we'll be astonished. —Erica Phillips

Garland Jeffreys

McCABE'S

Garland Jeffreys is a longtime performer whose songs capture slices of New York street life as definitely as the work of his peers Lou Reed and Bruce Springsteen. The Brooklyn native's latest album, The King of In Between, is as lively and diverse as the City That Never Sleeps, bursting with jaunty reggae ("Roller Coaster Town"), poetic acoustic ballads ("In God's Waiting Room"), soul-rock anthems ("I'm Alive"), shadowy funk ("Streetwise") and the sparkling thrum of Dylanish evocations ("Coney Island Winter"). Over the years, his insightful songwriting has plumbed the depths of love and racism, and his 1973 single, "Wild in the Street," has been memorably covered by the Circle Jerks and Chris Spedding. A true New York icon, Jeffreys was glimpsed up close in Wim Wenders' documentary film The Soul of a Man. —Falling James

Also playing:

BLEACHED, NEVEREVER at Bootleg Bar; METH LEPPARD at Cobalt Café; SNAKEOIL at Blue Whale; KURT ROSENWINKEL at Musicians Institute; UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA, WHITE ARROWS at the Echoplex; PHIFE DAWG & FRIENDS at Key Club.

 

sun 2/26

Cate Le Bon

MCCABE'S

One needn't start a campaign in order to Keep Wales Weird, but if such a movement existed, Cate Le Bon would no doubt sit high in the ranks. She has collaborated with the vanguard, members of both Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, and her new album, Cyrk, is a vintage-sounding kaleidoscopic slab of chanteuse-psych that channels Nico and Os Mutantes with equal aplomb. Blown-out guitars and keys reign amidst Krautrock grooves and thick atmosphere, with stopovers in modernity: a little Of Montreal here, a little Stephen Malkmus there. Though her 2009 debut was a concept record about dying pets, this latest batch of songs revels in nature themes and spiritual breeziness. This guitar-shop gig offers a rare chance to witness Le Bon unspool her strange magic up close and personal. —Chris Martins

Also playing:

PSYCHIC TV at the Echo; LAURA VEIRS at Largo; ARCHERS OF LOAF, HOSPITALITY at the Troubadour.

 

mon 2/27

Abby Travis

THE DRAGONFLY

Abby Travis is almost too talented for her own good. The singer-bassist first came to attention in the mid-'80s with Redd Kross spinoff the Lovedolls, and her solidly melodic bass playing has backed a virtual galaxy of stars, including Elastica, Vanessa Paradis, Beck, KMFDM, Exene Cervenka, Gibby Haynes, Eagles of Death Metal, Masters of Reality, even Spinal Tap. Travis is in such demand as a guest musician that her solo albums sometimes get overlooked. Her latest release, IV, belies its plain title with a glittery assortment of glam-rock epics and introspective cabaret-pop idylls. In the past, Travis' only weakness was her songwriting, but the new album is much more satisfying and sophisticated, with memorable, Sparks-style tunes such as "Mr. Here Right Now" and "Lulu." It's almost unfair that the eternally glamorous chanteuse now has the songwriting chops to match that gorgeous voice. —Falling James

Also playing:

MILO GREEN, JJAMZ at the Satellite; INCAN ABRAHAM at Bootleg Bar; JUDSON MCKINNEY, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY at Silverlake Lounge.

 

tue 2/28

Flying Lotus performing live score to Harry Smith's Heaven and Earth Magic

CINEFAMILY

Harry Smith was a visionary in the truest sense, exploring questions of humanity and philosophy through fantastically diverse means. Weekly Music section readers will know his culture-changing Anthology of American Folk Music, but Smith had kaleidoscopic talents and taste in music, art, film and more. As many have said, his life itself was a work of art. In 2010, L.A.'s electronic producer Flying Lotus, a similarly ravenous philosopher and polymath, first performed a new live score for one of Smith's hallmark films, the hand-painted, symbolic collages animated into life in the '60s as Heaven and Earth Magic. The result was something between revelation and resurrection: two seekers united in conversation, the years between dissolved away. The word cosmic can be used one rightful last time to describe this night, and then it must be happily retired forever. —Chris Ziegler

Das Racist, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, Young L

ECHOPLEX

With indie rap ensconced in its punk phase, every buzz-worthy lineup is a chance to witness one of two entertaining extremes: best show ever, or total train wreck. But these headliners are seasoned showmen with a love for both drama and comedy. Das Racist may have kick-started their career with a lowbrow chuckle ("Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell"), but they've since proven to be social satirists of a higher order, couching brainy treatises on cultural commodification and race relations within a framework that thoroughly bangs. Heems' beastly rapping more than makes up for Kool A.D.'s affected mumble, and hype man Dapwell could fluff an audience full of geriatrics. Also hailing from Brooklyn is rising star and Danny Brown's best bud Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, an affable old-schooler who raps like a long-lost member of the Wu. Berkeley's Young L comes from the same hypercolored crew that spawned Internet phenom Lil B. —Chris Martins

The Claudia Quintet

BLUE WHALE

Drummer-leader John Hollenbeck's spiky modernists bring the West Coast debut of songs from their highly acclaimed 2011 album, What Is the Beautiful? A deliciously curious pairing of avant-jazz with the poetry of proto–Beat writer Kenneth Patchen, the set features otherworldly vocal stylist Theo Bleckmann. Hollenbeck is a gratifyingly unclichéd composer who crosses over into uncharted areas strewn with madly inspired melodic/harmonic surprises and slippery, hard-pumping counter-rhythms. Music of great power and originality, 'nuff said, and emotionally deep, too, laid out by an ace batch of edge-music's best: bassist Drew Gress, vibes man Matt Moran, accordionist Red Wierenga and clarinet/tenor sax wiz Chris Speed. —John Payne

Also playing:

JOHN C. REILLY, BECKY STARK, TOM BROSSEAU at Bootleg Bar; TOM RANIER TRIO at Vitello's; AUDACITY, COSMONAUTS, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND at Silverlake Lounge.

 

wed 2/29

Merle Haggard

Grove of Anaheim

When Merle Haggard landed in a Macon, Ga., hospital last month, it was one of those hit-the-panic-button moments every fan dreads. A bout of pneumonia is rough for any 74-year-old, but Hag's a reliably unreconstructed hell-raiser with a schedule of road dates men half his age would have balked at, and the prospect of losing this ornery cuss was too ghastly to bear. Hag is an irreplaceable talent who, despite country radio's ridiculous, decades-long boycott, still towers over American music via his complex mixture of drastic musical creativity and excruciatingly well-crafted lyrics. Filtered through his singular, cannabis-fueled jazzman's head and grizzled, honky-tonk heart, every Hag performance is one of a kind. Don't screw up and miss this. He ain't gonna be around forever. —Jonny Whiteside

Gonjasufi, Jeremiah Jae, Dot

LOW END THEORY

One of the top three Los Angeles records of 2010 was A Sufi and a Killer, for very simple reasons: bass, dirt, echo and obliterating force of personality from Gonjasufi and Low End resident Gaslamp Killer both, who hacked together two thick LPs' worth of psycho-conceptual hard-core future-primitive freak music. (Somewhere, most likely in his Swiss ice cave, Lee Perry nodded in salute.) "Timeless, incredible filth," said Flying Lotus when it came out — probably the best piece of music writing of 2010, too — and two years later, every word remains true. With Brainfeeder's Jeremiah Jae, a Chicago transplant finding his way to personal truth one limitlessly idiosyncratic beat exploration at a time, at this release party for new Alpha Pup signee Dot, whose debut, Calliope, would be perfect for a hypothetical Tim Burton movie where Daedelus is the star. —Chris Ziegler

Victorian Halls

COBALT CAFÉ

While these Chicagoans have been rightly roasted for sounding like the Blood Brothers, well, blood brothers, there's still space for their spastic, vaudeville punk (the BBs were hardly household names after all, and left us five years ago). Victorian Halls mash some squelchy electroclash keys and robotized vocals into their itchy 'n' scratchy post-hardcore to spawn something both danceable and moshable. It's the seedy, suggestive sound of after-hours and side doors, with Sean Lenart's agitated (yet tuneful) whine adding a layer of almost reluctantly androgynous discomfort. If you can put your hardcore history books aside for an hour, Victorian Halls will demonstrate that wanton artsiness needn't preclude an adrenalized good time. —Paul Rogers

Also playing:

THE COALS at 1642; CPT KIRK at the Baked Potato; MR. OIZO at Roxy; CROOKED FINGERS at Hotel Café; REPTAR, QUIET HOOVES at the Echo.

 

thu 3/1

Roky Erickson

EL REY THEATRE

Few bands in the tumultuous 1960s were as wild as Austin's 13th Floor Elevators, who were best known for the classic track "You're Gonna Miss Me," which was a key link between primitive garage rock and the more free-flowing psychedelia that closed the decade. Bandleader Roky Erickson was the Lone Star State equivalent to Love's Arthur Lee and Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett — a brilliant and misunderstood madman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent many years out of the limelight, living on the streets or incarcerated in Kafka-esque psychiatric hospitals. Much of the horror he endured (including dubious treatments with Thorazine and electroshock "therapy") was documented in the 2005 documentary You're Gonna Miss Me. Long dismissed as a dysfunctional burnout, Erickson finally got proper medical care, thanks to the intervention of his brother Sumner, and has returned to action in one of the more unexpected rock & roll comebacks. —Falling James

Also playing:

THE BUSINESS at 5 Star Bar; !!! at the Echoplex; EL DEBARGE at Key Club; GANGLIANS, A CLASSIC EDUCATION at Satellite.

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