Music Picks: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Bridget St. John, Bad Astronaut, Kings of Leon
THE DONKEYS AND BIG SEARCH AT SPACELAND
The members of the Donkeys may not all be mop-topped, country-clothed hippie types, but they may as well be. The San Diego four-piece specializes in a psychedelia -encrusted brand of Americana rock that's well-worn but warmly welcome when it rolls off the edge of the stage and into a crowd of beer-soaked bodies. Think Grateful Dead meets the Eagles, with a little Flying Burrito Brothers coasting around for good measure. It's been a couple of years since the band's kinda lukewarm Dead Oceans debut, Living on the Other Side, so expect a tuned-up repertoire and, quite possibly, a song from Lost called "Dharma Lady" (it's rumored that the Donkeys and Geronimo Jackson, a fictional band referenced in the show, are one and the same). All that said, your real reason for showing up to this gig is catching Big Search, which finds Matt Popieluch — singer from Foreign Born and ax-slinger in Fool's Gold — getting his troubadour on over some excellent, layered bedroom folk. (Chris Martins)
ARIEL PINK'S HAUNTED GRAFFITI AT THE ECHOPLEX
I've never really gotten the work of this local art-pop eccentric, who always struck me as someone who was trying too hard (at least when he wasn't trying at all, that is). But the brand-new Before Today — released last month by 4AD and credited to Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti — reframes his talent, presenting him less as some sort of faux-outsider weirdo than as a guy with an undeniable knack for the kind of dreamy-creamy psych-pop once proffered by Todd Rundgren and Marc Bolan. I don't wanna diminish the centrality of Pink's vision here, but the participation of producer Sunny Levine and former Beachwood Sparks drummer Aaron Sperske seems significant. This show launches a monthlong tour of North America that winds up August 7 in Costa Mesa — if you don't get enough tonight, you know where to go for more. With the Magic Kids, whose debut on True Panther Sounds streets August 31. (Mikael Wood)
THE WAILERS AT HOLLYWOOD PARK
The current lineup of the Wailers is just an echo of the Jamaican band's heyday, in the late '60s and early '70s, when it was a virtual supergroup fronted by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Not to be confused with the Original Wailers, who are led by former Marley guitarists Junior Marvin and Al Anderson, this version of the band includes only one early member, the redoubtable bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett. While Barrett attempts to update the group's sound with modern touches and Afrobeat influences, the Wailers are mainly focused on continuing Marley's legacy. The new song "A Step for Mankind," a plea to end world hunger, carries on Marley's tradition of raising awareness about social causes. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday: TODD MURRAY at Catalina Jazz Club; JORDIN SPARKS at Club Nokia; LEON RUSSELL, THE SCARLET FURIES, CONNIE RAE at Coach House; CJ RAMONE, MENTAL BREAKDOWN at Galaxy Concert Theatre; JOHN CRAIGIE at Genghis Cohen; PANCHO BARRAZA at Gibson Amphitheatre; YES, PETER FRAMPTON at the Greek Theatre; A BEATLES CELEBRATION: HOLLYWOOD BOWL ORCHESTRA WITH THOMAS WILKINS, PATTI AUSTIN, ROB LAUFER, BETTYE LAVETTE, BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL, TODD RUNDGREN at the Hollywood Bowl; TYRONE WELLS WITH ED RHEE & YELLOW LIGHT GO at Hotel Café; THE DIVINE at the Key Club; GOR MKHITARIAN at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; PETER CASE at McCabe's; STEVE MILLER BAND at Pechanga Showroom Theatre; BOBBY LONG, HE IS WE, TROUBLE OVER TOKYO at the Troubadour; THE SPAZMATICS, BRASILIDADE, THE TOLEDO SHOW, THE SANTA MONICA JAZZ ENSEMBLE at the Waterfront; THE CHOP TOPS, FAST OTTO, KITTY CADILLAC, LONESOME BATZ at Weber's Place.
BAD ASTRONAUT AT CENTER FOR THE ARTS, EAGLE ROCK
On paper it may not seem like much: Singer from '90s Fat Wreck Chords punk-pop band discovers serious songwriters (Beatles, Bowie, Elliott Smith), gets inspired and rounds up the best musicians he knows (from goofy acts like Nerf Herder, the Ataris, Sugarcult), then forms a thinking man's band called Bad Astronaut. The thing is, Joey Cape — otherwise responsible for the lead whine in Lagwagon — really, truly succeeded. His new band's 2001 debut is an unsung classic of early aughts earnestry, but rather than go totally emo on Acrophobe, Cape and his crew do an exceptional job at balancing their melodic punk roots against their newfound love for artistry. They wound up recording a trilogy of albums over six years, but called it quits in 2006 after drummer Derrick Plourde, who also played in Cape's other band, committed suicide. Hence the title of the final installment: Twelve Small Steps, One Giant Disappointment. Tragic but eerie, as one of Bad Astronaut's greatest achievements was an astounding, grunge-caked version of Smith's "Needle in the Hay." (Chris Martins)
LILITH 2010 AT VERIZON WIRELESS AMPHITHEATER
Although this summer's reincarnation of the late-'90s festival Lilith Fair is reportedly plagued by slow ticket sales, the cancellation of about a dozen shows and the recent news that Norah Jones has dropped out of several concerts, you've got to give the promoters credit for at least trying to expand the stylistic range of the all-femme lineup. In the past, Lilith Fair (now just "Lilith") was dominated by white, mainstream-pop singer-songwriters who often sounded irrelevant and cautious in comparison to the era's braver and more politically active riot-grrrls. There aren't any genuinely rocking performers scheduled at this local stop on the tour, and the bill is still populated by easy-listening snoozers like Miranda Lambert, Brandi Carlile and the well-intentioned, if inescapably banal, tour founder Sarah McLachlan. However, Lilith breaks from the past a bit with the relatively daring inclusion of the gently subversive Mexican art-pop stylist Ximena Sariñana and Long Beach's Spanish-language pop princess Jenni Rivera. Country-folk matriarch Emmylou Harris lends much-needed gravity and soulfulness to the otherwise sugary proceedings. (Falling James)
SWAHILI BLONDE, WE ARE THE WORLD AT THE ECHOPLEX
Swahili Blonde's Nicole Turley used to whack the tubs and warble with Weave. But one day, Turley felt an itch to expand her horizons, to try something genuinely new, so she got her hands on a load of instruments and recording equipment that she didn't entirely know how to use, and, after much fiddling about in the realm of happy accidents, she woke up with a batch of songs that sound ... truly different. This difference — odd pastiches of skewed rhythms and head-turningly unfamiliar melodic patterns, basically — has a peculiar frisson, as you might say, conceivably similar to a form of popular music in another galaxy many light years away, in the year 2410. All that's now available for your scrutiny on Swahili Blonde's new album, Man Meat, on the intrepid Manimal Vinyl label. Turley's odd visions are aided immeasurably by her inspired band, which includes violinist Laena Myers-Ionita, guitarist John Frusciante, bassist John Taylor and multi-instrumentalists Stella Mozgawa and Michael Quinn. Also, the electronicized theatrical spectacle/dance-pop explosion known as We Are the World. (John Payne)
Also playing Saturday: TAYLOR MADE, HEART LOVE ALIVE at Canyon Club; TODD MURRAY at Catalina Jazz Club; HONK, BLUES ROCKET BAND, WORDSMYTH at Coach House; SKEE-LO at Dakota Lounge; ADLER'S APPETITE, ELVISS SIMMONS AND THE MEMPHIS STRUTTERS, PROWLER, EDEN at Galaxy Concert Theatre; TAIKOPROJECT at Ford Amphitheatre; DAWES at the Getty Center; CHRIS BOTTI, KATHARINE MCPHEE at the Greek Theatre; A BEATLES CELEBRATION: HOLLYWOOD BOWL ORCHESTRA WITH THOMAS WILKINS, PATTI AUSTIN, ROB LAUFER, BETTYE LAVETTE, BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL, TODD RUNDGREN at the Hollywood Bowl; SELENA GARCIA at the Hotel Café; DON CARLOS, TRUE PRESS at the Key Club; ALEJO APONTE Y LATONERA at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; MARY GAUTHIER at McCabe's; ACES HIGH, PERMANENT ABILITY at Mr. T's Bowl; KORN, ROB ZOMBIE, LAMB OF GOD, FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, ATREYU, HATEBREED, NORMA JEAN, CHIMAIRA at San Manuel Amphitheatre; STEVE MILLER BAND, LOS LOBOS at Santa Barbara Bowl; LUKAS ROSSI at the Viper Room.
DM STITH AT SPACELAND
It's somewhat baffling that DM Stith hasn't received a full-on embrace from fans and critics alike for his 2009 Asthmatic Kitty debut, Heavy Ghost. Chalk it up to timelessness, a quality that his densely orchestral, beguilingly experimental and actually quite listenable compositions have in spades. He's something of an unhinged one-man Grizzly Bear or, as has been suggested elsewhere, the black shadow of his label mate Sufjan Stevens. Stith is a gifted arranger and multi-instrumentalist with a delicate-yet-rich voice that sounds not unlike Nina Simone's. And whether or not the specter of that particular singer haunts these songs (she'd probably want to stick around to hear this), tracks like the modern spiritual "Creekmouth" and the voodoo-conjuring "Spirit Parade" are jam-packed with phantoms. They come in cold, choral blasts and rattle around inside of cavernous piano notes. They rise as bows cross strings, and quaver as Stith lithely plucks his guitar. They give Stith whatever strange powers he clearly employs to make his otherworldly music, and you can be damn sure they'll turn out for this gig. (Chris Martins)
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA WITH LIVE SCORE BY STEPHIN MERRITT AT CINEFAMILY AT THE SILENT THEATRE
Captain Nemo and his extraordinary undersea kingdom come to uncanny life in director Stuart Paton's 1916 version of the Jules Verne classic, screened tonight with a live score composed and performed by Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields. This rarely screened 35 mm print of the silent version is a fascinating early vision of filmic possibilities, a rococo alterna-world loaded with exotic locales, the most curious underwater photographic effects and thrillingly inspired (and relatively lo-budge) production design — which included the construction of a full-scale Nautilus ship set. A man eminently qualified to musicalize the methodology in Nemo's madness, Merritt has created a seesawingly rustic score that was originally commissioned by the San Francisco Film Society; it'll be performed by Merritt along with Daniel Handler on accordion, Johnny Blood on tuba and David Hegarty on organ. Screens at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. (John Payne)
STEVE MILLER BAND, LOS LOBOS AT THE GREEK THEATRE
Los Lobos' many strengths include their ability to nail the blue sob that connects the dots twixt old Southern song craft and Mexican traditionals, while never forgetting they're a dance band from the hood. And like the wolves they're named after, Los Lobos have an uncanny sensitivity to their surroundings. Tin Can Trust(Shout! Factory), their first album of originals in four years, has a minor-key weariness — a cognizance of the widespread despair of the early 21st century. In songs like the title track and "All My Bridges Burning" (co-written with the Dead's Robert Hunter), loss of trust and the need to escape are ubiquitous, but the band's never-stop-rockin' ethos symbolizes their tenacious survival instinct. That they're coupled tonight with classic rocker Steve Miller makes absolute sense. Los Lobos' simplicity and energy got them lumped in with first-generation punk, but they're closer to the guitar-based blues-rock that Miller perfected 40 years ago. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Sunday: ADLER'S APPETITE at Canyon Club; TAIKOPROJECT at Ford Amphitheatre; A BEATLES CELEBRATION: HOLLYWOOD BOWL ORCHESTRA WITH THOMAS WILKINS, PATTI AUSTIN, ROB LAUFER, BETTYE LAVETTE, BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL, TODD RUNDGREN at Hollywood Bowl; PARKER AINSWORTH at Hotel Café; THE SPAZMATICS at Key Club; CRYSTAL MONEE HALL at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; TOM FREUND, PIERRE BENSUSAN at McCabe's; CJ RAMONE at Whisky A Go-Go; CABO VERDE CRETCHEU at the Waterfront.
KINGS OF LEON, BUILT TO SPILL AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
After finally matching their U.K. success here at home with 2008's Only by the Night (in particular its pair of crossover hits, "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody"), Tennessee's Kings of Leon have been camped out in New York lately working on a follow-up album they've said might be out by the end of this year. For the summer, though, they're crisscrossing the United States, playing the kinds of outdoor-amphitheater shows for which their tailgate-appropriate arena rock was seemingly intended. According to England's NME, the Kings played a handful of new songs at a Hyde Park gig last week, as well as a cover of "Where Is My Mind?" by the Pixies — hopefully we'll get the same. Idaho-based grunge-guitar openers Built to Spill haven't been thrilling in about a decade, but they nearly always get the job done. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Monday: BMI'S ACOUSTIC LOUNGE at Genghis Cohen; THE SWEET REMAINS, AUSTIN LUCAS & CORY BRANAN at the Hotel Café; STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO, SUPERVILLAINS, THE WONDER YEARS, DON POTTHAST at the Key Club; SUMMER DARLING at Spaceland; UNKLE MONKEY at the Waterfront.
BRIDGET ST. JOHN, ELISA RANDAZZO AT SPACELAND
Tonight the British folksinger Bridget St. John makes an extremely rare appearance on these shores. She came to attention in England in the late 1960s, when she recorded the first of three albums for the late John Peel's influential label Dandelion Records. With generic song titles like "Ask Me No Questions" and "Hole in My Heart," St. John isn't an especially memorable lyricist. Instead, the chief appeal of her music lies in the gentle grandeur of her songs and in her tremulous vocal style. More than just a simple folkie, St. John is arty and experimental enough to have collaborated with Mike Oldfield and the Soft Machine's Kevin Ayers. Elisa Randazzo opens the evening with a set of acoustic-based tunes from her new Drag City release, Bruises & Butterflies, which includes two collaborations with St. John. As with St. John, Randazzo has an arty side, having worked with the Red Krayola's Mayo Thompson. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday: SPIRIT ANIMAL, GUN RUNNER at the Bootleg Theatre; TUESDAY CLASSICS: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC WITH RAFAEL FRÜHBECK DE BURGOS, MARTIN CHALIFOUR at the Hollywood Bowl; SAM BRADLEY at the Hotel Café; STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO, SUPERVILLAINS, THE WONDER YEARS, DON POTTHAST at the Key Club; EYTAN AND THE EMBASSY at the Silverlake Lounge; HEY CHAMP, IMAGINE DRAGONS, THE VICIOUS GUNS at the Viper Room; THE RICHARD GLASER JAZZ BAND at the Waterfront.
SMOKEY ROBINSON, LIZZ WRIGHT AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
Last year, the Motown maestro released a surprisingly strong studio disc called Time Flies When You're Having Fun, which complemented nine fresh originals (including "You're the One for Me," a sultry Joss Stone duet) with a smooth-as-butter cover of Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why." He's expected to play material from the new record at tonight's show — his debut at the Hollywood Bowl, and doesn't that seem kind of strange? — but there's no way his set won't be packed with oldies like "The Tears of a Clown" and "The Tracks of My Tears." Forty-plus years after they helped define late-20th-century pop, those tunes still ripple with equal parts emotion and invention. Opener Lizz Wright comes from the jazz world but knows plenty about country, gospel and soul, as well. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Wednesday: TOH KAY, GUGGENHEIM GROTTO at the Hotel Café; MAMMOTH FOLLIES at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; KINGS OF LEON at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; THE NON at the Viper Room.
ANTIBALAS AT THE ECHOPLEX
Their name is Spanish for "bulletproof," and as far as modern Afro-beat orchestras go, Antibalas more or less are — the Brooklyn-based ensemble deals largely in brass, but their chops are made of steel. The group has more than a decade under its belt, founded in 1998 by saxman Martín Perna and modeled after a combination of Fela Kuti's legendary Africa 70 lineup and Latin jazz great Eddie Palmieri's Harlem River Drive Orchestra. Four albums and a flood of 12-inches have followed, largely sticking to a mix of jazz, funk, dub and improv that isn't so much formula as bouillabaisse — a time-honored recipe whose varying quantities of secret ingredients give it that extra spice. Members of Antibalas have appeared on every TV on the Radio release to date (including Dave Sitek's forthcoming solo thing, Maximum Balloon) and toured with that better-known band, but nothing beats witnessing the 12-man massive in its own element, blasting out those groove-laden, agitprop epics to a crowd full of revelers. (Chris Martins)
KT TUNSTALL AT THE HOTEL CAFÉ
KT Tunstall set herself apart from other pop singers when she released the captivating track "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," from her 2004 debut album, Eye to the Telescope. Stepping on an effects pedal, the Scottish singer-guitarist was able to loop the melody behind her, which gave the song a more layered and engrossing feel. Eventually, the former acoustic busker was joined by a full band, although the electric arrangements on her most recent CD, 2007's Drastic Fantastic, weren't always as interesting as her solo performances. Tunstall returned to her acoustic roots on her recent Rub-a-Dub-Dub Tour of Scotland, and at tonight's intimate performance she'll likely preview such new songs as "Madame Trudeau" and "Glamour Puss," from her upcoming album, Tiger Suit. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday: THE SPAZMATICS at the Canyon Club; LA ROUX at Club Nokia; FITZ & THE TANTRUMS at Hammer Museum; THURSDAY CLASSICS: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC WITH RAFAEL FRÜHBECK DE BURGOS, JOSHUA BELL at the Hollywood Bowl; DWELE, KIDA at the Key Club; THE PIN UP GIRLS, ANDY FRASCO, CONNIE LIM at King King; ALTERNATE ROUTES at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; GIPSY KINGS at Pechanga Showroom Theatre; VANTAGE at Silverlake Lounge; SWEETWATER ROSE at the Viper Room.
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