KROQ INLAND INVASION at Hyundai Pavilion, Devore, September 17 I have seen the future of rock & roll, and its equipped with two violins and an accordion, and theyre dressed like exchange students whove lost their way to the private school. At this years KROQ Inland Invasion festival, the Arcade Fire rocked the house in a major way, filling the stage and our hearts with what can only be described as music from a dream we have yet to dream. As the band shredded through material from their fantastic debut, Funeral, one of the percussionists just couldnt take it any more; he ran into the crowd and whipped his drumstick toward the stage, squarely nailing one of the big video screens. To prove it wasnt a mistake, he did it again a second later, tearing back onstage to beat the crap out of a motorcycle helmet, then a keyboard, then himself. The frenzy didnt stop there: Whoever slipped something into Rivers juice box should be commended, because the show that he put on, nearly single-handedly, was also furious and intense, quite unlike Weezers gentle Coachella set earlier this year. Wielding his dark red Gibson SG like a nerdy Angus Young, running around the stage and leaning back during every major melodic crescendo, Cuomo was feeling it from the opening strains of My Name is Jonas through current hits Beverly Hills and We Are All On Drugs, slowing down only for the shows sole encore, Island In the Sun, which he performed from the back row of seats to the thousands in the lawn. The surprise of the day came from Madness, whose infectious spirit had the entire crowd on its feet but what do you expect when you open with the giddy House of Fun and keep it light while showing the kids what ska was like in the 80s? Beck teased the crowd with two bars of Debra; then covered Do You Realize from the Flaming Lips which was as beautiful as the harvest moon that had crept up behind the cheap seats. His percussionist nearly stole the show, though, as he breakdanced, pop-locked and goofed off, providing comic relief to Becks more serious vibe of late. Ive always wanted to ask KROQ why they play so much 311. Sadly, their performance at the all-day/all-night affair didnt answer that question. Kudos to them for busting with the drum solo, but their 50-minute set seemed to last all day. Also no love to Oasis, who just stood there (as always), reeling off hits with the apparent attitude that we should feel lucky they crawled out from under the rock of obscurity for our benefit. At least Live knew they didnt belong there. Also noteworthy: Garbage, Bloc Party, Fishbone. Not noteworthy: The Bravery, DJ AM, Jet. The latter proved that if you steal your sound from the Beatles and the Stones, youd better have a live act to back it up. The Arcade Fire are the future, Jet are already has-beens.
PAUL WELLER at the Wiltern, September 16 The last couple of L.A. visits from Paul Modfather Weller erstwhile leader of mod-punk masters the Jam and soul pastichers the Style Council, and working-class hero to Brits of a certain age have been low-key acoustic affairs. So theres palpable anticipation for this full-band appearance, and the Wilterns teeming with burly blokes and Anglo accents. In shoulder-length, highlighted locks and boho scarf, the still-skinny Weller is straight outta Stewart-era Faces and, at 47, oozes rock-star aura. With a beat behind him, Wellers roosterlike head bob, stomping strut and who-wants-some posturing are almost involuntary as he works his way among his laddish four-piece band. The instant-retro of Hammond organ and loose-yet-determined beats recalls Charlatans U.K. (whose Tim Burgess guests during the encore), but Wellers soulful down-the-pub timbre, rueful nostalgia and grainy romanticism are his alone. Liberally dipping into the upcoming As Is Now, for all its eclectic charms, leaves an already subdued crowd mumbling; then the Jams In the Crowd, the obscure (and tonight overarranged) Tales From the Riverbank, and a shockingly tasty take on Rose Royces Wishing on a Star get cups aloft. Midcrescendo, Weller and co. sit themselves down for an ill-timed acoustic section, muffling the rooms energy until the Jam hit Thats Entertainment and the Style Councils Shout to the Top replete with very un-Jamlike jamming ensure an encore. A generic swathes-of-color light show lends the impression of watching a giant-screen TV. But everything that made this man a bona fide legend, in his homeland at least, is here: timeless song-savvy; an intriguing mélange of soul, pop and British Invasion stimuli; and an absolute authenticity that doesnt dim with time.
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DKT/MC5, SUN RA ARKESTRA, BARBEZ at Royce Hall, September 17. Retro-rock fun for old and older alike, DKT/MC5s set turned out to be quite the ex-rebel party. Didnt begin that way, though, with original MC-Fivesters Michael Davis, Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson unable to conceal their avuncular geekitude. Kramer personified impotence behind the microbone, while guest barfer Handsome Dick Manitobas used-car comedy fell flat. It took BellRays vox cyclone Lisa Kekaula to pump some gas, and lawd, I Believe to My Soul indeed, that woman poured it on. Then Greg Dullis expert rhythm & bellering, augmented by Gilby Clarkes git-tar and the blasting horns of local ex-Detroiters Phil Ranelin, Charles Moore and Buzzy Jones, kept the energy injeculated, and an extended gang-bang with the Sun Ra Arkestra, launched via the Ra/5 noise nugget Starship, took the event extragalactic. But lo, the evening had peaked two hours earlier with the Arkestras voyage. I beheld the units majesty four times prior to Mr. Ras 1993 repatriation to Saturn, and this was better. Blowing through older charts plus compositions by current director and 40-year apostle Marshall Allen, the 15 masterful explorers nailed the essence of Ras transcendent weirdness, seizing tight swing riffology, Ellingtonian tapestries and blustery downtown blues, and pushing the forms to the limit of chaos. Dense, crazy harmonies and multipulse rhythms like these can be found nowhere else, and the cheering audience could feel the impact. Its all about vibrations, said veteran Ark trombonist Tyrone Hill, waylaid after the performance. Youve heard about the trumpets and the walls of Jericho, right? Music can change the world. Brooklyns Barbez, a midtempo Balkan-rock ensemble featuring colorful malletwork and virtuoso theremin, opened with their doleful, chilly tribute to Europe Deceased. Music good, motivation elusive.
SIX DEGREES FESTIVAL at Six Degrees Warehouse, downtown L.A., September 17 Strange things happen when you mash up art, fashion, politics and downtown Los Angeles. For one, you get scammers, like the shipping company that arranged parking across the street from the Six Degrees Fests five interconnected warehouses. After grifting $5 per car, they changed their minds, causing partygoers to race madly to beat a phalanx of tow trucks sent to impound everything in sight. The dissonance was also evident inside the event a downtown art/music/shopping extravaganza marking its second year. In the Zone 5 fashion area (the event was divided among several warehouse zones) they were blasting Motorhead at deafening levels. (It was so loud, in fact, I almost forgot how bad Lemmy would want to kill himself if he knew he were being used for a sales soundtrack.) J. Boogies rousing set limped to a finale when songbird Gina Renee called for more nonviolent rallies and fewer antiwar protests which wouldve been fine, except that she was sporting both a camo hat and a Che Guevara tee. The Ninja Tune label fronted some quality musical acts, including Ammon Contact, Dwight Trible and Blockhead, who played his Apple laptop to an audience that mostly stood and watched, waiting for who knows what to happen. (Things got better when some b-boys started breakdancing and fake-fighting.) But it was the funk collective Breakestra, armed with real instruments (!), that supplied Six Degrees with its highest temperatures, jamming without pause through everything from James Brown to Jurassic 5 without a water break. Watching Do the Right Thing actor/activist Roger Guenveur Smith lug around a huge cardboard box soliciting dollars for Katrina relief was a blast, but I wasnt surprised when some jackass reached in and took a handful of cash for himself. Were just that kind of country sometimes, especially when politics get arty, baby.