Music Picks


Josie Cotton, Thursday (Clearly Johnny was queer.)Josie Cotton, Geza X at the Knitting Factory

It would be a shame if Josie Cotton were remembered only for her 1981 hit version of “Johnny, Are You Queer,” the somewhat annoying power-pop tune that was also a staple at Go-Go’s shows in the late ’70s. Her own songs, scattered sporadically over the decades, betrayed a sly wit and defiant intelligence that ultimately forced her to sink deeper underground and maintain an emotional blockade against the machinations of the music industry. With the shape-shifting pop personas of Movie Disaster Music (Scruffy), her first full-length release since 1993’s Frightened by Nightingales, she’s back — and unlike any Josie Cotton you may think you already know. She wraps herself invitingly in the gauze of Paul Roessler’s glimmering keyboards on “Bridget in the Sun,” kicks up her rockabilly heels while “Lookin’ for Elvis,” slinks through the serpentine exoticism of “Nikita” and is quietly spellbinding amid the spectral chimes of the aptly titled “Beautiful but Deadly.” The similarly reclusive Geza X — best known for producing the Germs, Redd Kross and Meredith Brooks — opens with a rare set of his new-wave deviations, such as the aggressively eccentric “Isotope Soap.” (Falling James)

Mamadou Diabate at Skirball Cultural Center

Stodgy traditionalists believe that folk music should remain frozen in time like a museum piece. But for the songbook to get off life support, it must evolve organically, whether it’s Appalachian or West African. The best torchbearers respect the old ways, but also transform them to keep the legacy fresh and relevant. Griot cousins and master kora players Toumani and Mamadou Diabate have recontextualized the Manding harp-lute within globally informed modernist soundscapes while honoring the centuries-old musical stories of their people. Mamadou moved to the U.S. from Mali a decade ago and almost snagged a Grammy last year with Behmanka, a gorgeous solo recital of nuggets and newbies. His soon-to-be-released Heritage, a sometimes jaunty, other times meditative suite, continues to channel ancient-future wisdom with rippling riffs and shimmeringly subtle melodies. Free; starts at 8 p.m. (Tom Cheyney)

Don Caballero at Spaceland

Let’s face it, the term “math rock” is so, so utterly lame. On the other hand, in a pinch it suffices to describe veteran Pittsburgh brain-crunchers Don Caballero. Recorded live, their new album, World Class Listening Problem (Relapse), is their first in six years, and offers more of the same — tricky time signatures, longish constructions, genuine dynamic variation, a lot of dissonance, indie-ironic song titles like “Mmmmm Acting, I Love Me Some Good Acting” and “Palm Trees in the Fecking Bahamas” — all pummeled and prodded with the fierce precision of a metal or punk band, only . . . smarter. Free jazz and Beefheart figure in their mix, as do Crimson, the minimalists, and the entire history of headbanger symphonists attempting to transcend the limitations of the rock-band format. Electric chamber music? You do the math. (John Payne)

FRIDAY, AUGUST 25Redd Kross, The Cramps, Hank III at the Sunset Junction Street Fair

Wild in the streets, baby. That’s the plan at the annual blowout Sunset Junction, and this one may surpass every preceding edition: Saturday mixes Ashford & Simpson’s smolder with the hot thrum of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but it’s the unbeatable high-bubblegum-rock blast from Redd Kross that’s sure to sate the craving-est of thrill seekers. Come the Sabbath, things may spin out of control; somewhere between Candye Kane’s sultry blue purr and the hellbilly thrash of Hank III, the receptors should flare open enough to allow the magnificent monstrosity of the Cramps to take total possession. The notion of Lux Interior rallying a mob frenzy is hardly farfetched, and, with Poison Ivy’s hypnotic guitar primitivism and Buster Bateman’s skull-denting drums, they may well take you to places scarcely imaginable, not of this Earth — but indescribably beautiful. 3600-4400 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. See Hoopla. (Jonny Whiteside)

Richie Havens at the Troubadour

Folk boss Richie Havens has slipped through a remarkable American cultural course, whether kicking off the infamous Woodstock festival (with a powerhouse three-hour set) or living it up with Muhammad Ali. The singer — who began life as a street-corner doo-wop rocker — never fails to mesmerize. A personality of extreme high-voltage charisma, Havens shifts naturally from big-beat guttersnipe to Greenwich Village bohemian, and he made it with such a rare combination of ambition, art and a spiritual sensitivity that, by the early 1970s, he was virtually a household name. While you’re likely familiar with his classic albums Mixed Bag, Something Else Again and Alarm Clock, even they can’t prepare you for the sublime jolt that Havens conjures onstage. (Jonny Whiteside)

SUNDAY, AUGUST 27Rickenbacker’s Anniversary of the Electric Guitar at House of Blues


Where would rock & roll be without Rickenbacker guitars? They were the guitars of the Beatles, and their 12-string tones forged the Byrds’ signature sound. Bands from the Who through Franz Ferdinand have all played Ricks. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first fully electric guitar — a Rickenbacker, naturally. So the Southern California guitar maker is celebrating with a big bash that’ll benefit the Carlsbad-based Museum of Making Music (whose new exhibit focuses on the electric guitar). The eclectic lineup of Rickenbacker worshippers ranges from rock warhorses Jefferson Starship and Yes’ Chris Squire to slightly younger acolytes the Minus Five (featuring R.E.M.’s Peter Buck), the Smithereens, the Church’s Marty Willson-Piper, and that mod duo, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs. But will anyone have the nerve to smash his or her guitar, Townshend-style? (Michael Berick)

Gotan Project, Zero 7, José Gonzáles at the Hollywood Bowl

The French-Argentine collaboration Gotan Project do love their tango. So much so that nothing less than Buenos Aires’ famed ION studios would suffice for the recording of the band’s latest material. Being so geographically literal-minded, the band were bound to stumble over a few clichés, and the jaunty strains of bandoneon are everywhere on Lunático. But even this doesn’t take away from Gotan’s magic-realist touch: dance-floor precision with no loss of Latin fire. It took several releases, but Brit duo Zero 7, thanks to an assist from Sia and other singers, have left the down-tempo ghetto for good. Like an all-expense-paid vacation for the ears, the unqualified slice of creamy pop heaven that is The Garden requires absolutely nothing of you. On the contrary, Swedish/Argentine crooner-picker José Gonzáles (who contributes to The Garden) is so spare, he’s barely there — a technique that demands you listen closely. (Andrew Lentz)

The Tyde at the Echo

Since the late ’80s, Brent and Darren Rademaker have been a constant presence on the local music scene leading such bands as Shadowland, Further, the Beachwood Sparks (Brent only) and, currently, the Tyde. But the Tyde’s intoxicating new disc, Three’s Co. (their debut), might be the one to make them a national presence. Front man Darren has found the perfect balance for his many musical loves (beach music, noise pop, country, ’80s new wave, to name a few). “Country Line” is an irresistible Sweet–meets–Beach Boys hybrid. “Brock Landers” and “Too Many Kims” beautifully match bouncy beats with barbed lyrics, while “Aloha Breeze” shines as a lovely slow dance. The Tyde’s bubbly pop serves as a refreshing tonic for the end-of-the-summer blues. (Michael Berick)

Eric Burdon at Warner Center Park

If you missed the British Invasion — or were in too much of a stupor to remember it — you can still catch one of its rare survivors in concert when Eric Burdon and a new breed of Animals bring back psychedelic rock to the San Fernando Valley. The band launched in 1962, but it was Burdon’s singular gutsy-bluesy style that spearheaded the Haight-Ashbury music scene, mesmerizing fans the world over. Forty-plus years later, John Lennon’s Egg Man still hits those nasty notes with brick force and is sure to blow the top off the park’s shell with rip-roaring versions of “See See Rider,” “Sky Pilot” and “San Franciscan Nights.” After all, he’s been the ruin of many a poor boy (and girl) from those hazy daze of hippiedom. 6-8 p.m.; 5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 704-1358. (Heidi Dvorak)

U Roy, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles, Leonard Dillon, Stranger Cole at the Henry Fonda Theater

Another mind-bendingly-comprehensive roundup of Jamaican innovators, this features not only one of the biggest and most influential figures in reggae history — the mighty U Roy — it also boasts some of the rootsiest forces still able to hoist a mike: Stranger Cole, who shook things up with bangarang classics like “Rough & Tough” and “Run Joe”; plus, the first-ever local appearance by Leonard “the Ethiopian” Dillon, with whom legendary producer Coxsone Dodd cut some brilliant records, not to mention the Heptones’ Leroy Sibbles, and the achingly soulful pipes of Ken Boothe. But it’s U Roy who’s certain to dominate — he’s the toaster who first brought hardscrabble street-life truth to reggae and, with his 1975 album, Dread Inna Babylon, he set the spiritual and stylistic standard for the idiom as a whole. (Jonny Whiteside)


Jeremy Enigk at the Troubadour

Back before emo godfather Jeremy Enigk made the final Sunny Day Real Estate record, the singer supposedly suffered a breakdown, returning as born-again or something. It’s a neat anecdote, but musicians’ faith gets attention for the wrong reasons. A better attitude might be “Hey, whatever it takes.” That’s exactly how I felt when SDRE disbanded and Enigk formed the short-lived Fire Theft, an inconsistent project redeemed by ecstatic shoegazery crescendoes. Like his maiden solo outing, Return of the Frog King, the new World Waits also has grandiose elements (church carillon, mandolin and pipe organ), but they supplement instead of overshadow the good stuff: jangly guitars, crashing drums, swelling choruses, and Enigk’s blissed-out voice, swinging between falsetto and brittle baritone. Think of it as Enigk in his Sunny Day prime but without the drama. (Andrew Lentz)



Radio Birdman, The BellRays at the Wiltern

In the mid-’70s, Radio Birdman and the Saints practically invented Australian punk rock. While the Saints slogged on over the years, Radio Birdman, in true punk style, broke up early — basically after one album. However, they left behind probably the greatest punk-surf tune ever, the Hawaii Five-O–inspired “Aloha Steve and Danno,” along with an influence that survives today in the current garage-rock boom. The band’s cornerstones are Deniz Tez, a Michigan-born guitarist reared on the Stooges and the MC5, and fierce vocalist Rob Younger. The two recently reconvened the group with original members Chris Masuak (guitar) and keyboardist Pip Hoyle to record a long-awaited new album. The result, Zeno Beach (Yep Roc), boasts an intensity that shatters any “oh, here’s another re-formed punk band” cynicism, and their recent live shows Down Under have drawn raves. They are kicking off their first-ever (yes, first-ever!) U.S. tour with this L.A. show. (Michael Berick)


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