Picks for Saturday, February 11


Genre-hoppers Gajin Fujita and Pablo Vargas Lugo are clearly in the forefront of a pan-Pacific sensibility, marrying Mexico to the Far East. Fujita, an east-Los native, weds his heredity to his environment with outsize renditions of Japanese visual pop, from ukiyo-e to anime, overlaid with bold graffiti tags. The cultures smash but don’t clash, roiling together in noisy concert, the eye-candy equivalent of koto sampling hip-hop. Mexico City–based Vargas Lugo takes a subtler approach to bridging the pond, slyly infusing an already abstracted Latin urban sensibility with a delicacy of line and image he attributes to the models of Pacific-Asian art. For all his soft-spoken deftness, though, Vargas Lugo produces works — out of concrete, music paper, outsize light boxes — as big and crisp and in-your-face as Fujita’s billboard-size paintings. There’s more here than meets the yo. At LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Mon.-Tues. and Thurs., noon-8 p.m., Fri., noon-9 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (323) 857-6000. (Peter Frank)

Rocky Dawuni, Leon Mobley, Ashley Maher at Temple Bar

One native son, one child of the diaspora and one naturalized citizen of the motherland, all seeking the eternal resonance of Africa. Rocky Dawuni, L.A. resident and child of Ghana, cultivates root-stock hybrids, nurturing West African groove, reggae and soul into fresh sound plantings on his latest CD, Book of Changes. An impresario as well, Dawuni jets back to Accra a few days after the show to prepare his annual Independence Splash happening, which honors A.B. Crentsil and other Ghanaian heroes of highlife this year. Leon Mobley, best known as Ben Harper’s high priest of percussion, channels the rumble of the ancients through his supple-strong hands. Ashley Maher, celebrating the release of Flying Over Bridges, entwines singer-songwriter craft with Afro-jazz funk and some Richter-registering dance moves. When Africa calls, we all gotta listen. (Tom Cheyney)

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Dos, Chuck Dukowski Sextet, Carla Bozulich at Safari Sam’s

SST Records punk circa 1979 rethinks and regrinds. Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski has Frankensteined a new version of his sextet featuring exotic femme vox and the woodwinds of Cruel Frederick’s Lynn Johnston, a topnotch improvisational conceiver — you know this won’t be formula. Two bassists who’ve lurked inside each other’s heads for a quarter-century, Mike Watt and Kira Roessler, are Dos to the max. And Carla Bozulich may have arrived on the South Bay scene a little later than the rest, but she’s made equal impact with Ethyl Meatplow, Geraldine Fibbers, her Red Headed Stranger tribute, the Night Porter, etc.; lately she’s been invading realms of noise and vocal abstraction. Arrive fortified. 5214 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 666-7267. (Greg Burk)

Mason Jennings, Chad VanGaalen at the Troubadour

Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter Mason Jennings is who Jack Johnson would’ve become if Johnson had grown up a brainy Midwestern lefty instead of spending his college years as a Santa Barbara surf bum. Like Johnson, Jennings plays neatly arranged folk-pop ditties about life and how to live it, a skill that’s earned him a devoted following of relatively amiable fraternity brothers. (Both men also wear tidy, close-cropped haircuts.) Jennings has just become the first artist signed to Glacial Pace, a new Epic Records imprint headed by Modest Mouse front man Isaac Brock; expect an album with drummer Dave King of the Bad Plus this spring. Canadian indie guy VanGaalen is Sub Pop’s latest sensitive post-emo crooner; his stuff is more assertive than Iron & Wine’s, but somewhat less memorable, too. (Mikael Wood)



Purporting to be the autobiography of a man more inclined toward discussing the difficulty of writing an autobiography than actually writing one, and who tends to reminisce about events that occurred before he was even born, Laurence Sterne’s 18th-century novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman departs from the narrative straight and narrow early on, never to return. Momentary asides lead to parenthetical digressions that blossom into full-blown anecdotes that eventually loop back over themselves, by which time we’ve ended up somewhere entirely other than where we thought we were going. As Sterne, writing as Shandy, said of his own penchant for straying off course: “Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine — they are the life, the soul of reading, — take them out of this book for instance, — you might as well take the book along with them.” But I digress. For the matter at hand is not Tristram Shandy the book, but rather the remarkably fecund film that has been made from it — in spite of the conventional wisdom that even to attempt such an endeavor would surely prove a fool’s errand. Foolhardy British director Michael Winterbottom and his frequent screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce (here collaborating under the pseudonym Martin Hardy) have responded to Sterne’s daunting fragmentation by fragmenting it all the further. What begins as a note-perfect Shandy adaptation (starring the game-faced Steve Coogan as both the title character and his father, Walter) soon gives way to a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the making of said film, complete with its own Winterbottomesque auteur (Jeremy Northam), an insecure star (Coogan again) trying to distance himself from his sitcom past, and an eager co-star (the delightful Rob Brydon) yearning for his moment in the sun. (Plus, lest I forget, a last-minute cameo — both in the movie and in the movie-within-the-movie — by Gillian Anderson.) The layering of the real and the reel is as intricate as in Adaptation or The Stunt Man, but underneath the movie’s tricky hall-of-mirrors surface lies a warm, delicate and, yes, distinctly Shandy-esque portrait of the struggle of creation, the general folly of human endeavor and the infrequency with which our lives turn out as we would have scripted them. By not even attempting to follow Sterne to the letter, Winterbottom and Boyce have triumphantly captured his impish creative spirit. (ArcLight; Monica 4-Plex)

NEIL YOUNG:  HEART  OF GOLD   Jonathan Demme’s superb film of Neil Young’s 2005 performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium is as fervent a musical homage as was Demme’s bubbly tribute to the Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense (1984). But this new concert movie is also a warm, unhurried paean to the considered pains and pleasures of middle age — as much, one senses, for the director (who shot it while taking a year off from filmmaking after The Manchurian Candidate), as for his subject. Aside from a sprinkling of the old favorites (“Four Strong Winds” — the only number the musician didn’t write himself — “Old Man” and the title song) that made many of us fall in love with Young long before our joints began to creak, Heart of Gold is far from a nostalgia trip. No big deal is made of the near-fatal brain aneurysm that spurred Young to sit down and write the melodies collected on his well-received Prairie Wind album. Still, the crisis is all there in songs about marriage (Young’s wife, Pegi, sings and plays guitar onstage with the band), his father’s dementia, what it’s like to be a “rich hippie” and his empty nest, as well as in those about 9/11, Chris Rock and the golden wheat fields depicted in backdrops specially designed for the movie (and flooded with the mellow amber light of cinematographer Ellen Kuras’ lyrical camera). Along with Bruce Springsteen, Young is our most durable troubadour of the ordinary, yet I doubt that anyone but his wry, endearingly shambling self will ever dismiss him as an old-fart rocker. As much a champion of punk as of country music, Young keeps on growing without ever pandering to his audience or abandoning the old friends he’s played with, in some cases, for 30 years. As they gather onstage, guitars in hand, for the quietly thrilling finale, Demme tracks from face to face (among them Emmylou Harris in all her precise, bony beauty) and instrument to instrument, honoring the collaborative spirit that goes into the making of a song. (ArcLight) (Ella Taylor)

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