Music Picks

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R U Orion Experienced?

If you’re skipping Coachella this year like the sane, happy person you are, and if you are up for fun Sunday evening, I have the perfect activity idea for you. A charming power-pop band called The Orion Experience are playing at the Mint. Disclaimer: I have never seen them live — mainly because some of the band members live in New York, and they don’t do many shows. I guess you could call them bi...coastal. Their delightful self-titled, self-released EP was one of my little gems of 2005 — not sure why they don’t post those tunes on their MySpace page! (Apparently, Rodney on the Roq and the producers of that The Real O.C. show also dug ’em!) Uniquely, the Orion Experience have the benefit of a bassist with a hip-hop pedigree (Kareem Lamar of the Mash Out Posse), which suits them, somehow. We hear they’re also playing Monday, 5/1, at the Roxy’s On the Rocks. The band’s moving back to NYC for a while, so catch their stardust while you can. (Kate Sullivan)


THURSDAY, APRIL 27


Mecca Normal at the Silverlake Lounge

Thought I’d pass along Jean Smith of Mecca Normal’s recent posting: “ME: Not here for random sex or one-night stands. I’m 5’3,” 105 lbs. Non-drinker. I have a sense of humour and a positive outlook. I don’t have kids, pets or a car. Intending to establish an ongoing connection based on a mutual agreement, communication and respect. YOU: 100% SINGLE non-smoker, non-drinker (preferably), with a car. No drugs. 38-49. You live alone — no children or teens that you are responsible for. Fit, slim, muscular — not overweight. Employed. Out of previous relationship long enough to be feeling fine and not hooked on the hunt for the next conquest. If you happen to enjoy experimental qualities of literature, art and music — so much the better.”

Mecca Normal, based in Vancouver, is the 20-year-or-so veteran experimental/indie duo of poet/novelist/singer Jean Smith and guitarist/writer David Lester. Over the years, the pair have issued numerous recordings of extraordinarily stark, bleak, bleakly humorous, bleakly beautiful and politically pointed ’n’ progressive music and lyrical imagery; both are gifted painters as well. They’ve got a new album just out, called The Observer (Kill Rock Stars), which details in part Smith’s experiences in the shaky and strange new digital world of online dating. She’s not being ironic, not entirely; in fact Smith sees great possibilities in this brave new love/sex prototype and uses her more romantically life-affirming new songs to interpret brutally straightforward accounts of the varied creeps, losers, liars but also pretty good dudes who happen to like pizza, literature, art and sex just as much as Jean does. Smith is a writer of supremely fresh poetic skills and has a keen, keen eye for the basic incredibilities of our most mundane daily rituals and heartbreaks. One of her new songs is called “I’m Not Into Being the Woman You’re With While You’re Looking for the Woman You Want.” She says, “I am a woman who speaks out loudly, aggressively — weirdly.” Jean Smith’s not alone, as other worthy representatives from that camp are also on the bill tonight: Anna Oxygen and the Sharp-Ease. (John Payne)


Taj Mahal, Mavis Staples at Royce Hall

Taj Mahal is a performer with a prodigious command of both traditional country blues and a wildly disparate slew of additional vernacular music. Enhanced by a kaleidoscopic range of influences — from Hank Williams to Horace Silver — Mahal’s crafty arrangements and light-hearted yet emphatic manner invariably make for an impressive presentation. The presence of incomparable gospel singer Mavis Staples adds irresistible appeal; with revered family act the Staple Singers, Mavis took the innate power of their deep gospel background and plied it with significant, exciting affect to a freewheeling series of pop recordings. Collaborating with some of the heppest and heaviest in the business (Booker T, Curtis Mayfield), Staples has consistently distinguished herself with a soulful mastery of both fields; expect a profound mixture of abiding faith and pure frolic. At UCLA. (310) 825-2101. (Jonny Whiteside)


FRIDAY, APRIL 28


{mosimage}Year Future at the Echo

You know what’s hard to find in a world of bright lights? Magic. And L.A.’s Year Future have turned down the rheostat and hidden some away. Rockey Crane’s guitar playing is a study in sleight of hand, his electric flamenco riffs bouncing through your head in a mausoleum of echo. Sonny Kay’s desperate vocal complaints fall just short enough of “singing” that you’re sure to believe him, his words (“It aches when it rains”) too blunt and true to be just “poetry.” The scattered rhythms are semi-cohering perfectly with drummer Chris Hathwell (Moving Units) and bassist Pete Lyman now careening around the battlegrounds of the brand-new First World Fever (GSL), Year Future’s excellent first full-length. It’s a real band, folks, one of this mystically sunny burg’s best reflections. (Greg Burk)


Keely Smith at Catalina Bar & Grill

Pop and jazz balladeer Keely Smith, although best recalled as the icy, sphinxlike counterpoint to the hot-roasted goombah jive of legendary former husband/bandleader Louis Prima, has always been a remarkable musical force. Still a vibrant and expressive song interpreter — perhaps more so now than on her classic series of Capitol solo albums — Smith has an extravagant manner of phrasing, fulsome with the drawling tones of her Virginia roots, that has developed to a singular level of idiosyncratic, communicative mastery. Better still, her pipes yet peal as clear and strong as they did (thanks in part to a long ’70s-’80s hiatus), and, working here with the happy minimum of a jazz trio, Smith shall undoubtedly deliver both some wicked humor and her uniformly mesmerizing song stylings. Also Sat. 6725 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 466-2210. (Jonny Whiteside)


SATURDAY, APRIL 29


{mosimage}Coachella Music & Arts Festival at Empire Polo Field

When wandering through the desert of Indio for 40 days and 40 nights — well, more like 40 hours this weekend — you will likely seek out the wisdom of the old gods, whether it’s from that Athena of the dance floor and tent-show diva Madonna, or the bittersweet pop divinations of Depeche Mode, or Sleater-Kinney’s sylvan psychedelia, or Tool’s jaggedly refined bolts of lightning. But you should also heed the visions of the newer prophets stirring up dust on the ancient polo field, such as Gnarls Barkley, with Goodie Mob founder (and OutKast protégé) Cee-Lo and insanely inspired sonic prankster Danger Mouse. The blind Malian couple Mariam & Amadou’s percolating gumbo of shimmering chords and shape-shifting melodies is positively enchanting (and wouldn’t it be great if the pair’s America-phobic producer, Manu Chao, made a surprise appearance?). The similarly reclusive soothsayer Cat Power should hypnotize the teeming throngs with her languidly glassy ballads, barring a sudden change in this notoriously fragile spirit’s psychic weather. Metric’s Emily Haines is unafraid of confrontation, taking on the war (both inner and outer) during the exhilaratingly furious rush “Monster Hospital” — and she’s just one of the many brave new gods at this Olympian gathering. Also Sun. 81800 Avenue 51, Indio. (213) 480-3232. (Falling James)


John Butler Trio at House of Blues

This hippie-dippy Australian outfit proves that Dave Matthews’ influence extends much further than the college campuses of the United States. Like Matthews, John Butler is mesmerized by the beauty of the world and of a strummed acoustic guitar; unlike Matthews, Butler sports long white-guy dreadlocks that are fun to watch when the music blands out into student-union functionality. Butler’s bandmates try to keep that from happening as much as possible: They fill their leader’s songs with the sort of tasty rhythmic grooves music-school grads stockpile to impress other music-school grads. Butler isn’t as handy a songwriter as Matthews, so as pop objects, JBT records don’t work as well as DMB ones. But performance is their thing; on a new live set recorded in Switzerland, Butler proves that even the Swiss dig his riffs. (Mikael Wood)


{mosimage}Loudon Wainwright III at McCabe’s

Prolific singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, who first pricked pop culture’s ear with “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” has had no trouble at all shaking off the zany novelty mantle that that unlikely Top 20 hit adorned him with. Since that fine fluke, the Wainwright combination of offbeat, incisive lyrics and gently forceful vocals has lifted him to no small renown (not to mention siring a sprawling musical legacy, extended by his tuneful offspring, son Rufus and daughter Martha). His latest release, Here Come the Choppers, with its apocalyptic bombs-over-Hollywood title track and post-9/11 reverie “No Sure Way,” demonstrates that the singer’s trademark all-American twisting of humor continues to not only entertain but also enlighten. (Jonny Whiteside)


SUNDAY, APRIL 30


Red Krayola at Spaceland

Led for 40 years by Mayo Thompson, a Texas-bred psych-rock visionary who, in a parallel universe, would’ve made for a great talk-show host alongside John Fahey, the Red Krayola play loosely structured (yet tightly considered) avant-pop that bridges the gaps between pretty much every underground rock scene that’s come and gone since 1966. For the past decade, Thompson’s been making records with the group of Chicago post-rock players centered around the Drag City and Thrill Jockey labels; his latest, this month’s surprisingly lovely Introduction, features contributions from Tortoise drummer John McEntire and lounge-pop oddball Stephen Prina. Tonight Thompson appears with McEntire, guitarist Tom Watson, and Allen Ravenstine of Pere Ubu, one of the few American bands with a history comparable to the Red Krayola’s. Also at the Getty Center, Sat. (Mikael Wood)


MONDAY, MAY 1


Mark Olson & Gary Louris at the Troubadour

Dubbed “Together Again,” this acoustic show — part of a two-week West Coast swing — reunites Mark Olson and Gary Louris, the two singer-guitarists who formed the Jayhawks in Minneapolis over 20 years ago. Olson left the band in the mid-’90s, which took a creative toll on the outfit’s subsequent records; they’ve never made one as good as 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall, an alternately tender and rollicking roots-music benchmark that captured the two songwriters’ sweet-&-sour chemistry. Olson lives out in Joshua Tree these days with his wife, alt-country sweetheart Victoria Williams; Louris still leads a version of the ’Hawks and has assembled an impressive resumé as a sideman and songwriter-for-hire. Expect them to bring their experiences over the past decade to bear on the catalog they built together. Also Tues. (Mikael Wood)


TUESDAY, MAY 2


Ladytron at El Rey Theater

Wipe the Coachella dust from your eyes and catch Ladytron in a more intimate setting. “Seventeen,” off 2002’s Light & Magic, was a minor club hit for the Liverpool quartet — Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu on keyboards and rhythm boxes, Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo on mikes — but, thanks to constant Indie 103.1 airplay, “Destroy Everything You Touch” from the current Witching Hour is giving the electro-new-wave-rock (electroclash, RIP) outfit a broader audience. Theirs is a soundscape of cold, nervy and paranoid techno grooves, further enhanced by the surreal yet feathered softness of Marnie’s musings on a distant future and even more distant love. Think the Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser over a blanket of snow. Or, better yet, watch the video for “Destroy,” which has the band’s faces morphing out of frozen tundra, and feel the virtual chill. 5515 Wilshire Blvd. (323) 936-6400. (Siran Babayan)


WEDNESDAY, MAY 3


Morningwood at the Roxy

Morningwood reek of manufacture: been-round-the-block musos (the original lineup featured former members of the Wallflowers, Cibo Matto and Spacehog) fronted by the suitably zany Chantal Claret, who’s flirty enough to draw boys down the front yet sufficiently next-doorsy to be one of the gals. Morningwood are Capitol Records’ attempt to take the “ironic” ’80s pastiches that’ve oozed from the Spacelands of this world for yonks to the bank. If the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an art-school take on new wave and garage rock, then Morningwood just graduated from community college: They take a to-the-point, party-hearty approach, big on glam drum bombast, sneering/simmering verses and fist-in-the-air sing-alongs. Claret’s second-nature sass and adaptable pipes are Morningwood’s moneymakers, and she’s at her best as the embraceable MC of their live shows. (Paul Rogers)


Son Volt, Drive-By Truckers, Curt Kirkwood at House of Blues

News of a Son Volt/Drive-By Truckers tour got No Depression scenesters salivating. Son Volt front man Jay Farrar was one of alt-country’s first stars as co-leader of Uncle Tupelo, while current critics’ faves the Drive-By Truckers have been hailed as Southern rock’s new poets laureate. But even if you’re not an Americana acolyte, this bill’s a killer pairing. Both bands, long lauded for their live shows, offer more musical brains and brawn than your typical twang-bangers. Last year, Farrar revived Son Volt, mixing Woody Guthrie with Crazy Horse to fierce results on Okemah and the Melody of Riot. The Truckers, with their terrific trinity of guitarists/singer-songwriters, successfully expand beyond tales of the Dirty South on their just-released A Blessing and a Curse. Meat Puppets mainman-gone-solo Curt Kirkwood only increases the evening’s luster as the show’s opener. Also Thurs. (Michael Berick)


THURSDAY, MAY 4


{mosimage}Daniel Johnston at Spaceland

The “other” basement recordings are by a man-boy from a Christian family who joined a Texas carnival, worked at McDonald’s, scared an elderly woman into jumping out of a window and psychotically crashed his father’s plane. Then Kurt Cobain wore his T-shirt — the rest is lo-fi history. From Bowie to Beck, rock gods covet covering Daniel Johnston’s spookily childlike, untrained odes to love and demons. But Johnston’s madness is only half his charm. His crude songwriting deserves the cultish attention his legendary D.I.Y. cassette recordings won in seminal 1980s Austin. The troubled little guy showed that something unpretentiously pure and insightful can come from deterioration — a deeper understanding that is perhaps impossible to articulate without being nuts. And we still like the way he thinks. Many pounds and bouts later, Johnston continues to inspire in 2006: a documentary about his life released nationally in March, his drawings featured in the Whitney Biennial, the release of his first greatest-hits collection, and a national tour. Still heartbreakingly crazy after all these years, Daniel Johnston performs in L.A. for the first time in ages. Catch him now before he crawls back inside his basement. Also at Amoeba Music, 6 p.m. (Courtney Fitzgerald)


Aterciopelados at the Conga Room

Doing their best to revive the reputation of Colombia as more than a haven for drug lords, Aterciopelados — which means “the velvety ones,” in case you’d wondered — achieve a harmonious marriage of punk rock, bolero, pop and mariachi that, in the words of the McDLT, keeps the hot side hot and the cool side cool. Grammy winners Andrea Echeverri and Héctor Buitrago, on acoustic guitar and bass respectively, have taken to including string sections and trip-hop aspects in their latest work, and Echeverri released a solo album of not-too-dissimilar grooves earlier this year. She played at the inauguration of Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first female president, last month, and likely these latest performances will be touched by Echeverri’s latest lead: as mother to her tiny hippie baby Milagros. 5364 Wilshire Blvd. (323) 938-1696. (David Cotner)


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