KCRW’s A Sounds Eclectic Evening

KCRW’S A SOUNDS ECLECTIC EVENING Universal Amphitheater, March 12 Despite a lineup of “eclectic” artists such as Paul Buchanan and Coldplay (in their first stateside gig since ’03), Atlanta soul brother Van Hunt and Mexico City’s Café Tacuba stole the show. “Someone’s gonna get a blessing,” Van Hunt spat before kicking into “Highlights,” a funky jam about “the girl that wants Hollywood attention.” Visually, and at times musically, the band seemed to cross Living Colour with Fishbone, with a Mohawked bassist and a keyboardist sporting a pimped-out hat-and-feather with matching suit. For his part, Van Hunt did it all — taking us back Prince-style on “Anything (To Get Your Attention)” (“All right, y’all, it’s 1985! Put your hands together!”), then channeling Curtis Mayfield on the soulful “Seconds of Pleasure.” Covering Sly’s “I Want To Take You Higher,” Van Hunt made good on his earlier promise by blessing the crowd, now on its feet. Mass was in session, and with Van Hunt doing splits on the pulpit, we were definitely on some higher soul shit. KCRW DJ Raul Campos introduced the “chingones” (rough translation: badass mofos) Café Tacuba, led by front man Rubén Albarrán in a gothlike outfit (black polo shirt, black kilt and black wrestling Asics). As Albarrán kicked into “No Controles,” a crazy light show magnified their Metallica-like “One” rip, and Café proved the liveliest band of the night. With the tight supporting crew of keyboardist Emmanuel Del Real — who got on the mic for “Eres” — and brothers Joselo and Quique Rangel on guitar and bass respectively, Café flaunted their versatility, from melodic ballads “Mediodía” and “Las Flores” to the ska-punk “La Ingrata” (which had all the drunks dancing). Little Rubén killed it on “La Chica Banda,” prancing and busting out his famous black rooster mask. As he announced in chilango English, “Everything that starts, it has to end. For us the time has come,” he broke into “Dejate Caer” — ending the show with a Depeche Mode riff, a synchronized four-man dance, and a standing O from the crowd. SLINT at Avalon, March 13 After a 13-year hiatus (and having never played L.A. during their first go-round, circa ’88-’91), the reunited Slint were greeted with enough whoops and war cries to drown out any heyday GN’R show. Before so much as a guitar cable was jacked in, the audience went apeshit, screaming for favorites from the band’s 1989 ambient-art noise exploration Tweez and ’91 masterpiece/swan song Spiderland — prompting singer-guitarist Brian McMahan to remark, “Wow, I didn’t know there were so many geeks in L.A.” For indie kids coming of age in the early ’90s, Slint’s then-novel devotion to soft/loud dynamics and disinterest in conventional melody gave birth not just to new sounds but to whole new ways of identifying with and codifying music. Through a numinous combination of hushed, eerie ambience, feedback squalls, arpeggiated chords and bombastic, off-time percussion (to say nothing of their legendary secrecy and eccentricity), Slint effectively created the post-rock/math-rock/slowcore movements, almost single-handedly ushering in the soft/loud revolution that would eventually seed everything from Nirvana to Tortoise, Mogwai, . . . Trail of Dead and many more. Performing a wealth of material, Slint gave Avalon’s rapt audience the biblical experience they’d been awaiting for more than a decade. Drummer Britt Walford commanded center stage with a passion and precision to be rivaled only by the likes of the Melvins’ Dale Crover. Meanwhile bassist Todd Brashear and guitarists Dave Pajo, Ethan Bucker and Brian McMahan each stood nearby, perfectly still, working their dissonant, arcane science. When McMahan delivered the spoken/shouted verses to “Washer,” first sublimely imploring listeners to “Wash yourself in your tears/and build your church on the strength of your fears” before prophetically claiming, “I won’t be back here/though we may meet again,” it felt as if time were collapsing in on itself. The old had come back to us doubly new and astonishing. Mind-blowing. —Arlie John Carstens THE KING CHEETAH at the Echo, March 1 Though the King Cheetah have relocated to L.A., the English trio’s sound and demeanor remain proudly post-punk British. Black-clad and suede-headed, they exude a bristling disillusionment with, well, everything. Their attitude is more confrontational than wallowing, pumped with the fists-in-the-air optimism of a summer’s night riot and bathed in a rough-hewn workingman’s romanticism. The flagship tune, “Six Inch Killaz,” hangs and harangues on Robin Holden’s stubbly Stranglers bass line, while hoarsely sensitive, alienated Psychedelic Furs verses bookend a lurching chorus that’s equal parts pop anthem and hooligan herd call. But there’s nothing moronic or morose here. The King Cheetah are masters of three-piece dynamics — each Cheetah knows when not to play, and they reserve the option of three-way vocal vitriol when points need hammering home. Robert Mune’s cultured rhythm-guitar playing is deceptively vital, segmented stop-start sections liberated with tumbling, fuzzy arpeggios. The angular Holden’s Bruce Foxton bass work is mobile, melodic and menacing, while Simon Hancock’s studied grooves lurk with intent before detonating beneath the big moments. The King Cheetah’s very manly frustrations are offset by a boyish, before-the-bedroom-mirror delight at just being onstage, at being able to vent in front of their mates, at being allowed to live their teen dream. These rabble-rousing, blue-collar blokes nonetheless are unafraid to show a croaking, Bowie-esque sensitive side and, dare we say it, dabble with artiness. Like Paul Weller, whose stage rage he channels, Mune is both Doc Marten and paisley shirt, scribbled poetry and wall-daubed slogan. And the King Cheetah have the tunes to make us listen, never pandering, never carpet-bombing when squint-eyed sniping will suffice. Out of step with fashion’s hypnotized parade, the King Cheetah remind us that real men play whatever the fuck they want. —Paul Rogers


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