Music Picks

Blah Blah Blah

L.A. Lovin’

We interrupt our usually scheduled Blah Blah to celebrate the doings of May 1, and express pride in our hometown. The march on Wilshire was by far the most mellow-yet-massive human gathering I’ve experienced. (You get a better workout at a typical Dodger game — what with hiking in, getting beer, etc.) Our fair city deserves an ovation for exercising free speech with style. In honor of L.A.-tino pride, I gotta endorse Friday night’s Cinco de Mayo Dodger game (against Milwaukee), which will feature fireworks, followed on Saturday night by Jose Feliciano at House of Blues. As you may read elsewhere in this week’s paper, Feliciano’s “Star Spangled Banner” at the 1968 World Series was a bit of a killer. (And surely the inspiration for Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.) As Feliciano recalled in 2003, “I thought, ‘Jose, you have a great opportunity to express how you feel about America.’ When I did it, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I was going to cause such a stir . . . It was soulful. It was a little bit gospel. It was done in a way that has never been done before.” Kinda like, you know, what happened in L.A. on May 1. (Kate Sullivan)

THURSDAY, MAY 4

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)


FRIDAY MAY 5

{mosimage}Andre Williams at Alex’s Bar

One of the R&B underworld’s finest, orneriest and raunchiest practitioners, Alabama-born, Detroit-informed chanter Andre Williams began infecting the youth of America during the late 1950s with a series of immortal, incendiary rhythm bombs (“Bacon Fat,” “Jailbait,” “Greasy Chicken”), all put across with a delirious drawl and blue, dynamic tension quite unlike anyone else in the business. A drastically physical showman with a voracious taste for the after-hours high life, Williams almost destroyed himself and wound up a panhandling bum on the streets of Chicago. That fate reinstated him as a working performer is a genuine blessing, and Williams’ shows invariably savage the psyche with an unparalleled blend of venal aggression and soulful frolic. 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. (562) 434-8292. Also at Spaceland, Sat. See Hoopla. (Jonny Whiteside)

Nortec Collective at Amoeba Music

Cinco de Mayo sees the Nortec Collective celebrate their latest release, Tijuana Sessions, Vol. 3 (Nacional Records), as well as the publication of the book Paso del Nortec: This Is Tijuana! by Jose Manuel Valenzuela (available from finer bookstores with tailless cats near you). Playing in places as disparate as Ibiza and East Los Angeles, Nortec pump rhythms (with equally shifting portions of norteño and techno) from computers like stones skittering across a sea made entirely of china; their oral history is that of people who do work no one else wants — cleaning up the awful offal of litterbugs and other fucktards — and who exist outside “mainstream” society, where most are certainly not maid in Manhattan. 6400 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; 6 p.m. (323) 245-6500. (David Cotner)

 

SATURDAY MAY 6

Acid Mothers Temple at the Knitting Factory

A “freak-out group for the 21st century,” Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. were founded in 1996 by members of the Acid Mothers Temple music-art commune. Led by electric guitarist/violinist/occasional bowed-peacock player/visionary Kawabata Makoto, they’ve put out approximately 800,000 albums of psychedelia varying seriously in quality, including the truly epic glories of In C, their radical reworking of Terry Riley’s famous minimalist piece (which, for F’s sake, also included their own “In E,” and, on the CD reissue on Squealer, the 19-minute bonus track “In D”). Their earlier Hawkwind-meets-Zappa improvised loon-pants-floppy-hats-and-cheesecloth-shirts hippie litter has recently evolved (probably ’cause they’ve learned to play their instruments) into more satisfyingly conceptualized works like the brutal monster heaviness of Starless and Bible Black Sabbath (Alien 8), honoring King Crimson and Black Sabbath, or the very groovy medieval space-rock of Mantra of Love. (John Payne)

Junkie XL at Avalon

A native of the Netherlands who moved to Venice Beach last year to be nearer to the film and TV industry that keeps his music career pumping, Junkie XL rocketed out of studio-hound semi-obscurity in 2002 when his tweak of Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” (originally recorded as the soundtrack for a Nike spot) became an international pop smash. These days, the man known to friends as Tom Holkenborg is for the most part back to studio-hound semi-obscurity: The new Junkie XL CD, Today, is a streamlined slab of guitar-stoked disco-house, largely free of the celebrity guest spots that drew attention to 2004’s Radio JXL. At Avalon, he’ll likely emphasize his big-beat bona fides; not unlike Moby, though, his soft-serve stuff might be his best. 1735 N. Vine St., Hlywd. (Mikael Wood)

Jose Feliciano at House of Blues

While the popular perception of Jose Feliciano, the born-blind Puerto Rican singer-guitarist of “Light my fire, light my fire, light my fire” infamy, is likely that of a large, glistening cheeseball, nothing could be further from the musical truth (perhaps you’re thinking of Trini Lopez). As a kid, he’d stay in his room for hours at a stretch, absorbing rock & roll and jazz platters, and the man can dig into a tune with a masterly combination of ferocity and restraint that could only come from such a diet. Long story short, Feliciano’s gift for taut, provocative and tastefully economical jams, delivered hot and fraught with atmosphere, is still tragically underrated. See Blah Blah Blah. (Jonny Whiteside)


{mosimage}KIIS-FM Wango Tango at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

Converting his and Jon Brion’s intricate Late Registration arrangements to the stage will prove hard work for Kanye West, who headlines this year’s Wango Tango as a thank-you to Top 40 powerhouse KIIS-FM for playing his record. But if anyone can make live hip-hop work as something more than an extended shout-out session, it’s West, a born showman unable to accept the idea that a task might be beyond his ability. R&B queen Mary J. Blige — riding high with “Be Without You,” her finest single in years — does the live thing just fine, making up for a lack of precision with plenty of baby-mama drama. Also: reggaetón heavyweight Daddy Yankee, dancehall diva Rihanna, R&B smoothies Ne-Yo and Ray J, popwise MC Baby Bash, singer-actor Nick Cannon, and U.K. pop tart Natasha Bedingfield. 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine. (213) 480-3232. (Mikael Wood)


R. Kelly at Gibson Amphitheater

If piss doesn’t turn you on, you’re probably not into the idea of R. Kelly putting his “key” in your “ignition.” But there’s still a universal horn-dog benefit to appreciating the near-iconic impression that Kelly’s knack for the thuggishly literal has on pop culture. The success of “Trapped in the Closet” indicates that subtlety is passé, innocence is doomed, and butt-sweating, melodically motionless, concept-driven relentlessness is in. Embrace this as obviously as you can, like the “sticky-icky” playa you are, by getting nasty with this shit live as Kelly, backed by a full band, performs as “Mr. Show” in the Light It Up Tour. Evidently, Kelly still believes he can fly, even after all the litigiousness that’s gone down. We might have better sex if we believe him. Also Sun. 100 Universal City Plaza. (818) 622-4440. (Courtney Fitzgerald)

 

SUNDAY MAY 7

{mosimage}Starlight Mints at the Troubadour

Oklahoma does not revolve around The Grapes of Wrath or the Flaming Lips. Starlight Mints, the other surrealist-pop Okie meat, have their own Tornado Alley taste. “Boring” places known for tumbleweeds breed a special kind of creativity; the Mints’ ballsy quirk is proof. Their ambitiously experimental arrangements of bells, whistles, violas and dreamlike storytelling make the Mints fresher than the pop you normally suck on. It’s hard to put into real words — even if you try doing it backward: Google their recently released third album, Drowaton, and see. The L.A. stop of their two-month tour promises to be an especially “Rhino-Stomp”–ing good time: They’re flying in a string section just for us — an element crucial to their texture that hasn’t been employed live since ’99. The full effect also includes a crazy light show and some potential guest Muppets. Mmm . . . minty. (Courtney Fitzgerald)

MONDAY MAY 8


Angels & Airwaves at the Troubadour

A sold-out four-night stand at the Troubadour by a band whose debut album isn’t out till May 23 — seems extravagant, right? Of course, Angels & Airwaves isn’t just any new band; this San Diego quartet is led by Tom DeLonge, singer-guitarist with pop-punk superstars Blink-182, who by most accounts have officially broken up. On We Don’t Need to Whisper, DeLonge picks up where he started in 2002 with Box Car Racer, his short-lived emo-rock side project. (Angels guitarist David Kennedy was in BCR; the other two members are veterans of the Distillers and Rocket From the Crypt.) That means moodier melodies, a depleted sense of humor and more ambient electronics — an airtight formula for success with Blink fans who’ve grown out of penis jokes and into high school psychodrama. Also Tues.-Wed. (Mikael Wood)

TUESDAY MAY 9

8-Bit, The Advantage, Kewl Kids Club, Super Mario Opera, Totally Radd at the Knitting Factory

This “Nintendo Punk Event” harks back to a simpler time when all you had to do to be happy was line up your 20 quarters on the Super Mario Bros. game at the Alpha Beta, trade Polish jokes with your friends, and wonder why Lionel Richie won an Oscar but Harrison Ford hasn’t. Gangsta-rappin’, fire-retardant/retarded robots 8-Bit wow the world with tales of urban despair like “Bubble Tint,” 8 Bit Weapon plays Commodore 64 & Gameboy choons with old computers and live drums, just as the Advantage unveils full-length rock versions of NESTM themes like “Metroid.” Super Mario Opera? Q.E.F.’ing D. Totally Radd? Yes. 14 Year Old Girls? Unclear, and since this is a family publication, propriety and the editors prohibit us from commenting further. (David Cotner)


WESNESDAY MAY 10


{mosimage} Erasure at John Anson Ford Theater

Nothing peculiar about two of the biggest disco dollies of gay-club subculture going unplugged: Andy Bell can out-sing the highest-octave-climbing diva underwater. And he can wear wings (or an Edwardian costume or hot pants) onstage too if he wants, ’cause he truly has the voice of an angel. Bell and Vince Clarke — the Silent Bob to Bell’s Jay — are touring their current all-acoustic Union Street (recorded in Brooklyn), which features mostly lesser-known tracks and B-sides from previous albums they think deserve a second, more intimate listen. So don’t expect a greatest-hits night. But make enough clamor — gently, though, this isn’t last call in Boys Town — and you just may get an “Oh L’Amour” here or “Blue Savannah” there with nothing but a guitar onstage, trees in the back and stars above. 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hlywd. (888) 464-2468. (Siran Babayan)

The Wailing Souls at the Echo

Although they are currently down to a two-man operation, Jamaican trailblazers the Wailing Souls, namely Lloyd “Bread” McDonald and Winston “Pipe” Mathews, certainly have more than enough grit, soul and skill to live up to a stunning track record. Bread and Pipe began their artistic life as studio singers, but by the early ’70s, the Wailing Souls were at Studio One, creating a tall stack of hard-headed, harmonious classics (“Back Biter,” f’rinstance), an inspired output that rates them as not only one of reggae’s pioneering forces, but also as an act who have managed to maintain undeniable quality and vision: ”Fire House Rock,” kiddies. (Jonny Whiteside)

 

THURSDAY MAY 11


Keren Ann at the Skirball Cultural Center

Shut up for a minute, and let the throbbing inside your temples subside. Allow your breath to catch up from the climb over the mountain, and watch the maddening city slide downhill far below you. Calm yourself and listen to the silence until the constant ringing in your ears finally dies away. Only then will you be in the right place to detect the faint signals emanating from that ghost-whispering balladeer Keren Ann. The Parisian pop singer has released several collections of gently intoxicating chansons sung in English and French, most notably (and most recently) with last year’s romantic Manhattan travelogue Nolita. Her evocation of the landmark Chelsea Hotel on the somber reverie “Chelsea Burns” is so melodically beguiling that it would be just as haunting if it were arranged with a reggae bounce or sped up to a punk rock tempo. Even when she’s backed by a small electric trio, as she will be tonight, Keren Ann always manages to conjure up some intimate spaces filled with glassy, fragile beauty. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd. (310) 440-4500. (Falling James)


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