Music Picks: Anticon Anniversary, Rock the Bells, Murder By Death
The Moondoggies: See Wednesday.
PHOTO BY HILARY HARRIS
Anticon 15th-Anniversary Party featuring Baths, Daedelus, Doseone, et al.
Tip your hat to 15 years of Anticon greatness: The label/collective founded by Oakland's Adam "Doseone" Drucker has championed much of the best in the outsider-rap scene, genre-melting art rock and strange-pop, advanced-guard electronic sound-art and all points in between and beyond. Tonight's anniversary party includes L.A.'s Baths — producer/artist/channeler of beat-driven orchestral meltdowns disguised as thumping pop ditties. Daedelus is an undisputed big daddy of the L.A. electronic scene, a prodigiously gifted composer/tech wrangler whose innovations in the new-sound artscape transcend all genre tags. Anticon favorites Why?, Serengeti, Odd Nosdam and more add their own provocative POVs to the mix. —John Payne
Following a successful residency at The Bootleg earlier this year, Gavin Turek returns to the venue for the release party for The Break-Up Tape EP. These three new tracks take the broken heart of the break-up and replace it with the inspiration to just dance the pain away. The uninhibited disco vigor of these concept songs is a delicious blast from the past, with the synth ballads showing off Turek's Giorgio Moroder influence and spunky, independent-woman persona. Synthesizing smart lyrics and a charged stage persona evocative of Tina Turner, Turek is a force impossible not to orbit. She also has under her belt collaborations with Com Truise and beat-scene favorite Tokimonsta. What we're saying here is that you should wear your dancing shoes. —Britt Witt
With its third album, 1987's Electric, The Cult buried their goth roots (as Death Cult) and made hard rock grittily relevant again in an era when "metal" meant Bon Jovi and Europe. On its current tour, the band is performing this recently rereleased breakthrough record in its entirety, plus a second set culled from its 30-year career. Produced by Rick Rubin, then previously known for his work with Slayer and The Beastie Boys, Electric is a triumph of bare-bones beats, organic tones and AC/DC-esque riffs made sexy by Ian Astbury's escapist, wide-open-spaces wail. Though only half of the quartet that recorded it (co-writers Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy) remains, Electric's songcraft and sense of stylistic purpose, personified by singles "Wild Flower" and "Lil' Devil," retain a mainlined, head-bangin' immediacy seldom heard since. (Also at House of Blues on Sunday, Sept. 8.) —Paul Rogers
Desert Stars Festival
PAPPY & HARRIET'S PIONEERTOWN PALACE
Summer's starting to wind down around the Southland, but out in the Mojave, it's still intensely and palpably hot. Thus, the good folks at Pappy & Harriet's are celebrating the season with the debut of a new outdoor music gathering. The aptly named Desert Stars Festival rises from the ashes of the Clean Air Clear Stars Festival, which was last held in this Morongo Basin outpost in 2011. The free party kicks off on Friday and culminates today with performers including Sky Parade and Asteroid No. 4, whose very names encapsulate the uniquely freaky experience of hearing music far from the city under a dense, glittery tapestry of starlight. The psychedelic mood is further heightened via offerings from such overtly trippy bands as The Spyrals and The Hallucinations, and the later evening includes diverse wonders like The Strangers Family Band, The Shine Brothers (featuring Black Angels' Nate Ryan) and the dark cabaret styling of Bauhaus bassist David J. (Also Friday, Sept. 6.) —Falling James
Rock the Bells featuring Wu-Tang Clan, Jurassic 5, et al.
SAN MANUEL AMPHITHEATER
Established by Guerilla Union founder Chang Weisberg, the wildly successful Rock the Bells festival has brought some of hip-hop's most storied and respected acts, past and present, to Los Angeles, San Francisco, D.C. and New York audiences for the past decade. Headlining 2013's 10th-anniversary festival are the legendary Wu-Tang Clan and Jurassic 5, as well as illustrious newcomers Kendrick Lamar and Black Hippy, J. Cole, and Harlem's own A$AP Rocky with his A$AP Mob. Confirmed appearances include Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Common, KRS-One, Freeway, Dom Kennedy, Juicy J, E-40, Too $hort, Talib Kweli, Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh and Rakim. Original virtual performances by late rap legends ODB and Eazy-E also are scheduled. —Jacqueline Michael Whatley
Murder by Death
It's really a pity that Murder by Death never soundtracked the HBO cult gem Deadwood, because the moody quintet would have been perfect for the job — and not just because their songs sound like bar ballads co-written by Jesse James and Snidely Whiplash. Throughout the Indiana group's 13-year, six-album history, Murder by Death have crafted a theatrical career out of singer Adam Turla's Wild West bark, an insightful lyrical bite and the bittersweet aftertaste of their dark, orchestral melodies. Both sinners and saints come to life in the band's full-bodied, sing-along stories, and recurring topics like alcohol, betrayal, the devil inside and the actual horns-and-hell devil himself have grown more evocative as the band matures. If their most recent album, 2012's Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, is any indication, Murder by Death's good-versus-evil battles long ago transcended black-and-white simplicity, instead delving headfirst into the murky intrigue that exists in the gray area. —Kelsey Whipple
Pangea have a new hit, and it goes, "My dick izzzzz soffffft/these things mean nothing to meeeeeee!" However, if you've seen them do that one live, you can tell those things mean plenty to everyone singing along — the kids aren't all right but turns out they don't give a shit anyway. Newly graduated from Burger to the storied Harvest Records — making them labelmates with Can, and surely paving the way for Sam Flax to come up next — Pangea are about to make their play for world domination, or at least world contamination, with Weezer-y punk-pop riffs with Angry Samoans fuck-you-itude, which is probably what Weezer wanted to do all along anyway. It's raw, it's snotty, it's bloody at the edges ... it's every word the front-desk people at your local urgent care are tired of hearing, and that should make Pangea very proud. —Chris Ziegler
EL REY THEATRE
Wild times in the world of Pixies — original bassist Kim Deal is out, Kim Shattuck is in, and all those people in L.A. who had Muffs and Pixies stickers on their hatchbacks/guitar cases/bedroom mirrors are just losing their minds. Plus there's the promise of plenty of new songs coming soon, with a just-like-old-times single called "Bagboy" available now to prove that this isn't all some crazy dream. And not only that: Black Francis promises this Pixies tour is gonna be bursting with never-performed rarities. (Let's use the power of L.A. Weekly right now to request ... "The Thing!") Although it will break a tiny piece from my heart when there's no Kim Deal to intro "Tony's Theme," this could — speaking sentimentally and scientifically — be the best time yet to love the Pixies. (Also Sept. 10-11 at the El Rey and Sept. 12 at the Mayan.) —Chris Ziegler
There are many ongoing variations of '60s rock bands, but only a handful retains the spirit of their heyday. Some of these groups feature few, if any, original members, while others simply sound tired and irrelevant when trotting out their creaky oldies in a modern setting. And then there are The Zombies, who are still startlingly energetic and full of surprises nearly 50 years after the release of their first big hit, "She's Not There," in 1964. Much of the reason for the British band's eternal appeal is that songs like "Time of the Season" still sound fresh, even as they evoke a vanished era. The reconstituted Zombies feature original singer Colin Blunstone and nimble keyboardist Rod Argent, and their musical chops are, if anything, even tighter than ever. They continue to challenge themselves with memorable new material on recent albums like Breathe Out, Breathe In, while mixing in the hits and obscurities from their extensive combined careers. The duo also performs an acoustic set at McCabe's on Thursday, Sept. 12, and a full-band show at the Satellite on Friday, Sept. 13. —Falling James
Happy Hollows were gone for too long, but they're back now with Amethyst, a second album that's more like a second coming. They've got a new lineup (they lost Chris Hernandez and picked up artful guitarist Matt Fry, of Long Beach's Soft Hands) and an extremely new sound that trades (most of) their indie guitar-shred for synth after synth after synth. Producer Lewis Pesacov (Fool's Gold, Best Coast) has helped the Hollows design some serious sci-fi here — a star is born but in the celestial sense, not the showbiz one. When I say this sounds like Psychedelic Furs with She's So Unusual Cyndi Lauper up front — or like Stevie Nicks getting heavy into Kate Bush — that's for sure a compliment. This is pop, sure, but pop with plenty of secrets at work deep within each song. —Chris Ziegler
There are two legendary instrumentalists who became iconic singers for the ages. One was pianist Nat King Cole, and the second is George Benson, whose exceptional jazz guitar career was somewhat derailed when "This Masquerade" catapulted him to platinum-record pop stardom. Cole and Benson considered themselves instrumentalists first, but there is no turning back if your voice can enthrall millions. Benson has finally recorded an homage to Cole, Inspiration — A Tribute to Nat King Cole, who was his boyhood idol (as evidenced by the inclusion of an 8-year-old little Georgie singing "Mona Lisa"). Cole's singing must be ingrained deep within Benson's psyche, for you could almost mistake the latter for the former on this record. Tonight, the legends fuse live onstage at the Hollywood Bowl. —Gary Fukushima
Seattle combo Moondoggies' Americana-smoked eclectica is a chancey sort of nice — you needn't dig into it so much as just let it hang around a while. With familiarity, its easy charm becomes a new best pal you really miss when it's gone. The band's new album, Adios I'm a Ghost (Hardly Art), is packed with these dudes' open-minded takes on everything from rough-hewn boogie rock and sing-along hoedowns to surfy rockers to epic, folk-laced symphonies framing darkish lyrical themes — all of which gets swiftly yanked out of mopey-dopey land when the 'Doggies slam us all back earthwise with some singular slice of stomping party sounds. Cock your ears, best of all, for this band's primo three- and four-part vocal harmonies, some of the best in the biz. —John Payne
FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH
Local songwriter and CalArts graduate Julia Holter comes from an artistic and academic background, but her experience and training, rather than making her music sound mannered and premeditated, instead open up new passageways of creativity. No matter how you approach them, the songs from Holter's deceptively titled third album, Loud City Song, are quietly beautiful, gently moving idylls. Her fragile vocals float over the icy soundscape of "World" with a refined delicacy, as a wave of orchestral strings washes sympathetically over her. The rhythms pick up a little on "In the Green Wild," where Holter's intricate weave of voices and harmonies recalls the baroque art-pop of Kate Bush and Jesca Hoop. Most of the time, however, Holter's subtle, contemplative songs, which move stirringly from folk and classical influences to an almost-jazzy expansiveness, sound unique. —Falling James
SANTA MONICA PIER
The seaside location of tonight's concert is all the more fitting since images of water course throughout Jimmy Cliff's starring role in, and soundtrack contributions to, the classic Jamaican reggae film The Harder They Come. Even as Cliff's character, the struggling gangster/singer Ivanhoe Martin, resorts to ever more desperate and violent acts, the cool blue of the ocean surrounding the island serves as a soothing, spiritual contrast to the blood that begins to flow. Intoxicatingly languid original songs like "Sitting in Limbo" further sharpen the contrast between the tropical-paradise setting and the real-world poverty Martin is trying to escape. One of the soundtrack's most memorable ballads, "Many Rivers to Cross," also involves a watery spiritual cleansing. Since finding fame in the film, Cliff has spent much of the ensuing decades crossing many large rivers and oceans, only to find that his site-specific search for identity has taken on a worldwide resonance. —Falling James
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