Music Picks


Los Lobos at the Conga Room

Will the wolf survive? Ask L.A.’s seminal band Los Lobos. We know Los Lobos’ music will survive — they’ve been rockin’ for 30 years now — but the question is whether the Conga Room, L.A.’s premier Latin-music venue, will. Before the doors close at the club’s current location (it’s scheduled to reopen in a year or so at a new home across from Staples Center), don’t miss the O.G. Eastside band Los Lobos performing classic hits like “A Matter of Time” and “One Time, One Night.” How bad are these Wolves? Their debut album, How Will the Wolf Survive, was on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time — not bad for four Mexican kids from Garfield High. Don’t be surprised if Conga Room part-owner/actor-comedian Paul Rodriguez, who attended rival Roosevelt High, is in attendance; he’s always down for a good neighborhood party! (Ben Quiñones)

Petra Haden & the Sellouts at the Troubadour

Former That Dog singer-violinist Haden is setting out with the Foo Fighters on an international acoustic tour that launches July 10, but before she leaves town she’s gracing us with a live presentation of her creepy yet beautiful a cappella music: stuff from Imaginaryland, her 1999 solo debut, and last year’s Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out, a true feat of vocal cunning on which she played the entire Who album with her mouth. Tonight she appears with the Sellouts, a nine-piece band of backing-vocal ladies that includes Haden’s sister Rachel, who’s going on tour herself in July with a reconstituted version of That Dog’s old sister band the Rentals. (Mikael Wood)


{mosimage}Elefant, Silversun Pickups, Voxtrot at the Wiltern

Elefant started out in the dance-punk ghetto, but The Black Magic Show gets beyond affected moodiness for a pleasurably hooky, full-bodied rock record. GQ-looking leader Diego Garcia achieves a Morrissey-reminiscent grace this time while gently refracting the cultural nuances he absorbed in a recent trek to his native Argentina. Retaining the Manhattan-at-4 a.m. vibe of Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid, Magic is also flecked with literary references from Nabokov and Bulgakov to filmmaker Marcel Camus. L.A.’s best-kept secret may not stay hidden after Silversun Pickups drop Carnavas, where pop energy chafes consistently against a cold, mechanical framing device. Voxtrot is a contender in the ’80s British sweepstakes, but the new EP is as addictive as singer Ramesh Srivastava’s onstage voguing is distracting. (Andrew Lentz)

One Self at the Echo

Positive hip-hop used to be a mainstay, but that stopped the minute N.W.A argued that “Life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money” on “Gangsta Gangsta.” That the rest was G-funk history sucks, but conscientious, creative collectives like One Self, featuring Ninja Tune standout DJ Vadim, songbird Yarah Bravo and rhymer Blu Rum 13, are helping bring the vibe of the Golden Age back. If the title of their latest joint, Children of Possibility, doesn’t make it plain, then songs like the truth-telling “Fear the Labour” and the space-hop of “Hollow Human Beings” should communicate their longing for change, however funky. And the cozy Echo is the perfect environment to get the party started and the revolution televised. (Scott Thill)

Neil Innes at McCabe’s

In the same way that comedians seldom win Academy Awards, musical parodists never receive the kind of respect that a “serious” band like U2 enjoys — it’s the old “Tears of a Clown” syndrome. Neil Innes has been involved in his share of joke groups — most notably the ’60s British absurdists the Bonzo Dog Band (who inspired Death Cab for Cutie’s name) and his wickedly spot-on Beatles parody, the Rutles — but you could argue that his delicate balancing act of mixing silly lyrics with supremely unforgettable pop melodies is much trickier than merely writing pompous anthems about saving the world. (In fact, Innes’ “Protest Song” betrays more intelligence and sly wit than the zillions of earnest folk songs that inspired it.) And while such Fab Four subversions as “Goose-Step Mama” and “The Knicker Elastic King” are undeniably funny, Innes’ psychedelic homages “Joe Public” and “Let’s Be Natural” are so gorgeously and lovingly crafted that they rise above mere satire and linger in the memory just as indelibly as the best tunes by the real John Lennon. Also Sat. (Falling James)


{mosimage}Mobb Deep at House of Blues

If The Massacre’s gun fetish/death wish left you cold, Mobb Deep is G Unit’s antidote. Featuring a cameo each by Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, Mary J. Blige, and a whopping four by 50 Cent, who exec-produced it, Blood Money’s narcotized thunk is backlit by Dalek-like guitar effects and synthy shimmer that’s pure backbone despite a hazy-lazy veneer. Throughout, Havoc’s and Prodigy’s drawling pathological flow, especially on the intro, “Smoke It,” is chilling (but in the best possible way). Like last year’s break-out MC, Young Jeezy, or Fifty himself, Mobb’s unqualified shout-out to the thug life may not be original, but it’s refreshingly unconflicted. Now all that noise about New York City having lost its grip on hip-hop can die, too. (Andrew Lentz)

The Dagons at Mr. T’s Bowl

Although Dagons duo Karie Jacobson and Drew Kowalski managed to get out of New Orleans on one of the last flights before Hurricane Katrina rolled in last year, escaping like Hansel and Gretel in a real-life version of one of their own grim fairy-tale songs, they’ve only played a couple of local shows since relocating to their old home base of Los Angeles. Just back from a tour of eastern Canada, the Dagons head up another fine Blue Mask bill of truly underground rock stylists (including the psychedelic fuzz-pop of Motorcycle Black Madonnas; the new Urinals spinoff, the Chairs of Perception; and an all-star hard-rock jam with members of Backbiter, the Obsessed and Melvins). The Dagons’ new CD, Reverse (Dead Sea Captain Records), is a typically thorny garden of sweetly poisonous flowers, highlighted by the exotic strumming of “It Flies Out” and the ominous hum of “In Gingham,” with Jacobson’s mournful little-girl-lost keening over Kowalski’s fierce drum slashing and imperative tom-tom shudders. For all the pair’s doom & gloom, they show a sense of humor in dedicating a new song to George Bush’s Katrina-relief efforts; it’s called “Not Enough.” (Falling James)


{mosimage}Carlos Guitarlos at the Liquid Kitty

Blues-rock jolter Carlos Guitarlos has carved out a bizarre and troubled swath in Los Angeles music history, and the ornery little bugger shows no outward sign whatsoever of giving up. Prized for his disorderly participation in legendary ’80s R&B guerilla troupe Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs (yeah, you may have heard the same-named Van Halen song celebrating that band’s volcanic effect), Guitarlos has deepened the always dazzling scope of his wild repertoire and unrivaled technique (he plays as if he has opposable claw hammers rather than thumbs), climbing his way out of the gutter and back onto the bandstand with undiminished power. Joined tonight by surviving Rhythm Pigs Gil T., Dig the Pig and Joey Morales, he should be positively ferocious. (Jonny Whiteside)


Mono, Pelican at the Troubadour

No words, just ambitiously progressive all-instrumental onslaughts from two exponents of something weakly termed “post-rock.” Mono are from Japan, have three or four releases now and critical nods from the likes of John Zorn. Their Steve Albini–produced new You Are There (Temporary Residence) is six longish cuts of devastating electric beauty, dolloped out in guitars, bass and drums, with some piano and a string section; these spare, tranquil and repetitive tracks suggest fog in the hills, the lure of the moon, the remains of the day, though something catastrophic lurks — when they inevitably explode, it’s a black ambience like the end of time. Much of the above is also true of Mono’s American counterparts, Pelican, a generally more riff-oriented band with whom Mono split a disc in 2005; Pelican’s second album is the recent The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw (Hydrahead). (John Payne)


Pinback at Avalon

From Three Mile Pilot to Pinback, Zach Smith’s bass has provided both spine and hooks for an array of amazing songs. With Rob Crow, another San Diego indie legend, he’s found a guitar player who can keep up with him, and Pinback have earned cred and crossed over. Head-bobbers like “Sender” and “Fortress” from Pinback’s latest effort, Summer in Abaddon, have worked their way firmly into O.C. Nation’s heart, while Three Mile diehards have leaned on favorites like “Crutch,” “Seville,” and a B-side named . . . ”B.” Between Zach’s bass, Rob’s ax and the pair’s harmonizing precision, you’re sure going to head home with sonic signatures swimming in your head. (Scott Thill)

Gil Mantera’s Party Dream at Spaceland

Keep your pants on — proof that music is still fun is coming to our city. Fortunately, Gil Mantera and Ultimate Donny refuse to work within the constraints of their spandex for more than 20 minutes, so not only will they exorcise the crowd of their swaying hipster blahs, but they’ll also show you how two brothers from Youngstown can be nearly naked and get all the straight boys with nappy beards to sing along like they were at a Rilo Kiley show. Keyboard/vocoder/jazzercise aficionado Gil wiggles up an interpretive dance routine akin to a midprom interlude between Molly Ringwald and Bruce Lee, while Donny lands his tongue-in-cheek punches with Robert Tepper panty-chasing vocals, dosing every guitar line with Neil Schon-esque precision. They’re not sad, mad or mod. They’ll remind you of what you loved when synth-pop was queen and overdramatic stage antics were king — when you heard a great hook and it made you want to dance with your baby. Big smiles, bigger songs — a duet of the finest imported cheeses from Ohio, perfectly timing their arrival to clean all of our snooty scenester palates. (Ryan Ward)


His Name Is Alive at Spaceland

Why does it seem that Michigan turns out more solid musicians than other states? Lately, most of the attention has been directed toward balladeer Sufjan Stevens. But, flying under the radar for many years, stalwart Michigan group His Name Is Alive churned out numerous albums in their long collaboration with 4AD (which ended in 2002). Like most 4AD groups, HNIA’s music has a spaced-out quality to it. However, the band has always managed to add subtle organic touches that range from strictly shoegazer to gospel. And while many members have revolved through the band’s lineup, the sound has essentially remained a stripped-down yet complex thing of beauty. The band’s newest incarnation sees a return to their original haunting style on their first headlining tour in 10 years. (Tatiana Simonian)


Jane Wiedlin, Colin Hay, The Motels, Tommy Tutone at the Viper Room

If you’ve been comatose for the past 25 years, here’s a news flash: The torn-shirt Kirk of the ’80s was violently overthrown by the Ensign Richards (episode 70, uncredited) of sloth and grunge. To revive one and all, Sidewinder Music’s compilation ’80s Hits Stripped offers acoustic versions of Reagan-era pop songs stripped to their essences. You’ll hear Go-Go Jane Wiedlin perform “Our Lips are Sealed” (complete with fluffy-bird vocals during the breakdown) and witness the doomed elegance of the Motels’ “Only the Lonely” while Tommy Tutone faithfully performs “867-5309/Jenny” — an area-code-by-area-code test of which lies here: “And more” is the watchword for hits taking you back to a time when you sat in front of MTV for hours, fingers hovering nervously over the “record/play” combo on yonder Betamax. (David Cotner)

{mosimage}Theo & the Skyscrapers at the Knitting Factory

Fans who miss the garishly theatrical spectacle of Theo Kogan’s old NYC punk band the Lunachicks should enjoy this tattooed Valkyrie’s return to rock action with the self-titled debut CD on Morpheus Records by her latest project, Theo & the Skyscrapers. While the Skyscrapers aren’t as militantly goofy and quirkily in-your-face as the Lunachicks, they ruthlessly hammer down crunchy hard-rock slabs such as “Doppelganger Death Disco” and “Lay ’Em Out” and coat them in a glittery sheen. The Toilet Boys’ Sean Pierce, who draped Kogan’s breathily restrained vocals in a gauzy pop veil on her underrated and surprisingly subdued 2002 solo CD, Theo, amps things up here with surging guitars and spacy keyboard flourishes. It’s a genuine thrill to hear Kogan serenely belting out majestic tunes like “Not Alone” with her trademark goddess-on-the-mountaintop power. The heavy-rock storminess subsides briefly for the jaunty swagger of “Red Shoes,” where Kogan wraps herself up in Dimitry Makhnovsky’s intricate thicket of dub bass as her magic dancing shoes whisk her away into the ether. (Falling James)

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