ELEFANT; EVERYBODY ELSE; RUN, RUN, RUN
at the Henry Fonda Theater, January 20
A very packed house supported some local darlings and the boys from New York. As always, Run, Run, Run served up a straight-up set of rock & roll and superlative hairstyles; it's hard to buy the shoegazer comparisons they've received. As time goes by, they're crafting their sound and opening for just about every band that passes through town.
As for fellow neighbors Everybody Else, there's an obvious problem with a name like that, and in a sense, they do sound like everybody else - straightforward indie rock with solid musicianship and no crazy tricks. Regardless, they're a tight outfit and turn out catchy tunes.
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Elefant could be the Psych Furs for the new millennium if the Furs weren't still packing houses and if Elefant had a bit more range. However, the band did exhibit enough swagger to prompt a mass migration of overly excited girls from bar to stage. Diego Garcia, Elefant's swarthy Argentine front man, was almost disproportionately the focal point. Sauntering across the stage, tossing his hair gingerly, growling low - those years studying Iggy videos have paid off. While the band play their moody rock extremely well, the highlight arrived when Garcia took an acoustic turn during one of the encores, showing off varied melodic chops.
Yes, that was Gina Gershon in attendance. And yes, she is hot.
DJ QBERT, DJ SWAMP, GRANDWIZZARD THEODORE
at the Viper Room, January 21
The room explodes in sweaty fervor as DJ Icy-Ice plunks down Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," flowing like the fine wisps of jay that curl through the hot club air. DJ Flair's electro spectrum-ripping begins as cameras project the affair onstage. His pants-shaking bass whips through the audience; his surgical hands don't blur so much as flash like precision instruments. Slowly along the right side of the stage squeeze A-Trak, DJ Disc, QBert and Z-Trip. They hang out and watch or take turns, DJ Disc starting a duel with Flair on the Vestax QFO integrated mixer-turntable.
As A-Trak sits and spins, the appearance is that of a skilled journeyman at an age-old trade like smithing or brewing. QBert takes the reins amid a crushing sea of applause and cheers, beginning with speaker-eating breaks wrought from Cagean needle feedback and the physical properties of vinyl itself. "We call this The Masters Tour,' he says, the funk, early-'80s NYC electro and funky Krautrock coming from angles not even that Nina Blackwood robot from the "Rockit" video could match.
Everyone renders tribute unto Caesar as hip-hop scratch inventor GrandWizzard Theodore comes in with a skanking beat culled from Akira Ifukube's score to Godzilla. It's like that original NYC frisson where everyone crowded elbow to elbow, checking the DJ out between segues and wondering where they could get those records. Crazy hesher DJ Swamp follows, laying down some fine Gazzari-era metal loops spiked with gabber, the armored car of his beats beating the potholes of boredom while the whole evening reminds you that you used to love scratching the hell out of your zipper to this shit back in the day.
at the Roxy, January 18
Loose and boozy metal is about as unfashionable as Axl Rose's old head scarves right now, but don't tell that to Philly's Silvertide. Primed to be Clive Davis' rock & roll redeemers, the young fellas had a somewhat sparse crowd to mug and chug for when they took the Roxy stage, but they weren't about to abandon the arena-size audacity that got 'em signed in the first place. Guitarist Nick Perri (wearer of said hair accouterment) definitely knows how to fondle a guitar, and he pulled off his Angus Young spasms, both physically and sonically, with impressive precision, even if his overzealousness seemed like attention-whoring at times. Perhaps if singer Walt Lafty had a more powerful presence . . . but the waify crooner's Chris Robinson ish vox were too often drowned in the maelstrom of ricocheting riffs and bass lines spewed by his bandmates - a departure from their Oliver Leiber-produced J Records debut, which boasted a bluesier, vocal-driven mix. Still, Lafty did attempt to make his own impression with a ballsy stunt that a more seasoned performer would never dare attempt (even on the intentionally over-the-top Metal Skool night, which this wasn't). Ambling sweaty and shirtless out into the crowd, he commanded everyone to get down - yes, all the way down - on their knees for a sing-along. Demanding such subservience from an L.A. crowd . . . well, it's rock & roll suicide. Or so you'd think. But just as we cringed for the inevitable awkward lack of response, bodies started to fall to
at Spaceland, January 21
What to do when a key songwriter in your band (in this case Jimmy LaValle) quits to focus on his recorded-with-Sigur-Rós, this-week's-The O.C.-featured side project (the Album Leaf)? "Jimmy's like this conduit between the emo kids and the techno kids," one hipster was overheard extolling amid the crowded house who showed up curious to hear what San Diego's Tristeza sounds like since LaValle's 2003 departure.
Having since recruited Alison Ables (the Nervous Return) to take LaValle's half of lead-guitar duties, joining new keyboard player Sean Ogilvie and founding members Christopher Sprague on guitar, Luis Hermosillo on bass and Jimmy Lehner on drums, the band debuted an entirely new batch of through-composed instrumentals that mostly eschewed the emo-techno common ground on which LaValle's Album Leaf and others such as the Postal Service have trod, favoring the more Tortoise-like explorations of 1999's Spine & Sensory. It was all eyes-on-fretboards onstage as Tristeza perpetuated their early sound: cleanly played twin lead guitars weaving intricate, note-on-note riffs atop ambient keyboards and a studied post-rock rhythm section. While some new melodies weren't as tight, the band maintained their knack for deftly segueing through a range of sonic vignettes. Lehner's solid drumming punctuated otherwise static moments, with raps on the off beat that jarred the shimmering guitars along their pleasant progression of motifs. One of the new tunes, "Balabaristas," encompassed six or seven distinct passages, including a dub-infused foray with delayed guitar, while the solid "Palindrome Dome" - named for the geodesic practice space the band inhabits in Tijuana - engaged the crowd with its catchy vintage-Tristeza guitars.
Looking for a new label, Tristeza are using the current tour to raise funds for next month's recording sessions. Watch out; they've got 22 new songs, some of which will incorporate additional electronics and new timbres, including classical acoustic guitar and (gasp!) the human voice.
at Zen, January 23
Ladies in the know made their way to Zen's red room for the second incarnation of Ditch, a queer women's event that bills itself as a unique blend of thought-provoking intellectualism and libidinous revelry. The room was packed, as more than 200 women - from Asian baby dykes flaunting mulhawks (it's the new uniform) to lip-locked couples impervious to the outside world - came to witness the spectacle. Organized by a bevy of well-known academics and artists, Ditch aims to fill a long-standing void in the lesbian community, but melding academic theory with entertainment can be tricky.
The evening peaked early when the Miracle Whips took the stage for their debut burlesque performance. They kicked off with a racy striptease to Prince's "Darling Nikki" and followed with a Bush satire before trading in their corsets for thin white tank tops and inviting women to soak them with water guns for a $1 donation - an attraction so popular that the number of participants had to be limited. (The Miracle Whips also drew an unwelcome small contingent of straight-boy gawkers.)
Two experimental performances followed. The first featured a woman wearing a fantastical, avian-inspired headpiece (think chef's hat coated in white feathers) while making her way through the audience and plugging in cables in a painfully protracted manner. That was called Flight, and many in the audience took that as a cue, drifting into the adjacent lobby. Then came Marriage, a New York-based audiovisual art-school duo featuring two women in futuristic white clothes droning nonsensical statements over a background of mostly mundane images. "It's like Matthew Barney meets Björk," one audience member commented. "I know they've already met, but this is tragic."
More successful was the booty-shaking portion of the evening's festivities, helped along by the hip-hop-infused beats of DJ Triple X. There were even a couple of celebrity sightings, with Katherine Moennig of The L-Word and Clea DuVall of Carnivàle both making the scene.
Unlike the first Ditch event, this one wrapped up by 11:30. The next salon - they're monthly from now on - is slated for February 13 and will feature a critical look at love, with a sex-toy discussion and something called "critical karaoke." Despite a few kinks, Ditch is a welcome alternative to the typical nightclub.