Music Picks: Baaba Maal, Snuffaluffagus & Rats, Carlene Carter and Friends, Country Throwdown
DONNA SUMMER AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
It's far too easy to write off disco, but a hard look at Donna Summer's back catalog would tempt even the stiffest critic to embrace the dark art of dance. Simma down now, boys and girls — we're not just talking about the First Lady of Love's sex appeal, slathered as it was over those provocative album covers and dripping from each note of her best-remembered single, "Love to Love You Baby." Nay, Summer's early work has a great deal more to offer music nerd and boogie junkie alike. Her partnership with producer and synth pioneer Giorgio Moroder resulted in some astounding proto-disco and disco proper that seemed to take plays directly out of the prog-rock rulebook. While CD compilations cut "Love You" down to a bite-sized four minutes, the original, at nearly 20 minutes, took up the entire A-side of Summer's sophomore full-length. What's more, she seemed to prefer the concept album as her main method of delivering her freewheeling, four-on-the-floor soul. Her most recent material (like 2008's Crayons) updates her sound for 21st-century dance floors with her usual left-field touches, but it's a safe bet that the Bowl show will also serve as a deserved career retrospective. (Chris Martins)
FREESTYLE FELLOWSHIP, BUSDRIVER, NOCANDO AT THE ECHOPLEX
It's a damn shame that L.A.'s early-'90s alt-rap community doesn't get more dap. Had Freestyle Fellowship never existed, it's quite possible that there would have been no Def Jux and no Anticon, let alone local hip-hop staples like Mush Records, the Shape Shifters crew and — to some extent — the contemporary beat scene. This supergroup-in-hindsight was formed in 1991 in Leimert Park by rappers Aceyalone, Myka 9, P.E.A.C.E. and Self Jupiter — all students of the Good Life Café freestyle sessions that inspired Jurassic 5 and the greater Project Blowed collective (which FF was a part of). The Blowed open mic continues to this day with the same spirit — a commitment to poetic thought, strong improvisational skills and forceful cadence — while these elder statesmen have wrought legacies of their own. Aceyalone has released 10 solo albums in 15 years, experimenting with blues, reggae and soul modes even as his own style seems to hail from a future yet unexcavated. If you're at all interested in underground hip-hop, Freestyle's return should be an essential gig. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Friday: PANTHA DU PRINCE, DELPHIC at the Echo; THE WHIGS, EVEREST at the Troubadour; KEIKO MATSUI at Catalina Jazz Club; STEVIE B, SHANNON, COMPANY B at Gibson Amphitheatre; BROTHER SAL, THE QUIET, JANET ROBIN at Hotel Café; MULATTO, TREVOR WESLEY at Key Club; JIM LAUDERDALE at McCabe's; CITY MUSEUM, SUPER DUPER at The Mint; GEMMA RAY (see Music feature), WHEELS ON FIRE, DIRT DRESS at Redwood Bar & Grill; DAVE GONZALEZ & THE STONE RIVER BOYS at Weber's Place.
BILLY JOE SHAVER AT REDWOOD BAR
Billy Joe Shaver, Shaman Laureate of the Outlaw Country movement, has always done it the hard way. Starting at childhood, when, "with no shoes on my feet/I walked 10 miles of train track/to hear Hank Williams sing," to his recent acquittal on a heavy-gauge assault charge stemming from a barroom shooting in Waco, the singer-songwriter has doggedly outwitted the toughest of times and developed a singular, hard-headed, uncompromising style along the way. Prized for penning lyrics that are bonehead simple yet distinguished by a brilliantly evocative employ of language, Shaver remained true to form during cross examination his recent trial: Asked if he was jealous of another man looking at his (then) wife, he replied "No, I got more women than a passenger train can haul." Queried as to why he didn't just leave the premises, Shaver said "I'm from Texas. That would be chickenshit." This gloriously bad attitude, along with one of the finest original set lists in country music history, make any Shaver appearance an attendance-mandatory situation. (Jonny Whiteside)
COUNTRY THROWDOWN AT VERIZON WIRELESS AMPHITHEATER
Presented by Rockstar Energy Drink — the same folks who put on the heavy-metal Mayhem and Uproar festivals — the Country Throwdown tour sports as headliners two of Nashville's toughest-talking acts: Montgomery Gentry, who're kind of like Brooks & Dunn for AC/DC-loving libertarians, and Jamey Johnson, whose fearsome Rasputin-style facial hair accompanies a voice that sounds like it could kick your ass. So you sort of figure you know what's going on here: outlaw country revisited, or something along those lines. But then you see that the bill also features Little Big Town, the shiny coed outfit responsible for the appealingly corny 2005 hit "Boondocks," recent Oscar winner Ryan Bingham, plus Jack Ingram, who covers Hinder's excellent hair-metal power ballad "Lips of an Angel." Might Country Throwdown welcome wimps as well as bruisers? With Eric Church, the Lost Trailers, Emily West, Cory Branan and more. (Mikael Wood)
Also Playing Saturday: VERY BE CAREFUL at Kolor Graphics Bureau; THE GAY MEN'S CHORUS OF LOS ANGELES at Avalon; DRAKE, SNOOP DOGG, NE-YO, TREY SONGZ, BABY BASH, JASON DERULO, B.O.B, BRUNO MARS at Honda Center; IRON MAIDEN, DREAM THEATER at San Manuel Amphitheater; KEIKO MATSUI at Catalina Jazz Club; JIN AKANISHI at Club Nokia; SON CACHE at Conga Room; DESCARGA at El Cid; JAMIE LIDELL, ALEX B at El Rey Theatre; IMOGEN HEAP at Greek Theatre; JONNY LANG at House of Blues; ROONEY, THE YOUNG VEINS, BLACK GOLD at the Music Box; LA ARROLLADORA BANDA EL LIMÓN at Nokia Theatre; PAUL ANKA at Pechanga Showroom Theatre; THE LIKE at Troubadour; DEMOLITION, LAZARUS CASKET at the Whisky A Go-Go.
ERYKAH BADU, JANELLE MONÁE AT THE GREEK THEATRE
A word of warning to those with work on Monday morning: Reports from the road indicate that Erykah Badu has been in no hurry getting her ass onstage at gigs on her current tour (hit up the Village Voice's Sound of the City blog for an amusing roundup of various showgoers' time-killing tweets). Fortunately, Badu's performances tend to be worth the wait. Few artists do the psychedelic-R&B thing as arrestingly as she does, and that includes ones with albums more explicitly songful than Badu's very jammy New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, which came out in March. Opener Janelle Monáe, from Atlanta, just released a self-consciously sprawling avant-soul debut called The ArchAndroid that doesn't always live up to its ambition. But her Big Boi–assisted single "Tightrope" is one of the year's best. Shake your Polaroid picture to it tonight. With Lupe Fiasco. (Mikael Wood)
BAABA MAAL, PLAYING FOR CHANGE, YEASAYER, TINARIWEN, FOOL'S GOLD AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
This evening's lineup at the Bowl is loaded with fascinating performers, including the sprawling world-music cover band Playing for Change, the arty Brooklyn alterna-rockers Yeasayer and the sunny tropicalia of L.A. combo Fool's Gold. But it's headliner Baaba Maal and the lower-billed Tinariwen who are likely to conjure the most entrancingly dreamy sounds of all. The Senegalese singer-guitarist Maal plucks gently mesmerizing tunes that accrue an understated power as his blend of French vocals, atmospheric keyboards and guitars slowly build momentum. Songs like "International" ride on funky grooves that turn slightly psychedelic, with subtle overdubs that recall Manu Chao's blurry fever dreams. Saharan nomads (and former rebel freedom fighters) Tinariwen fuse electric guitars and soulful voices together in an unusual way that sometimes evokes the primal timelessness of the blues, yet their music also has a swirling, shape-shifting expressiveness that really doesn't sound like anybody else. Their recent album Imidiwan: Companions has an inexorable power, with the guitars twisting into weird shapes and patterns that glow like coins in the sun, before being buried by shifting sands and hot desert winds. (Falling James)
BERT JANSCH AT LARGO
The legendary Scottish acoustic guitarist Bert Jansch visits L.A. for a rare appearance. Jansch was a founding member of revered '60s folk-jazz group Pentangle, playing alongside highly regarded guitarist John Renbourn, singer Jacqui McShee, bassist Danny Thompson and percussionist Terry Cox. Jansch's hard-picking, deeply voiced and inventive guitar playing has been hugely influential, as has been testified by the likes of Jimmy Page, Neil Young and Johnny Marr. He's got a naturally rustic, nasally vocal style that perfectly matches the mostly traditional songs of the British Isles in which he's staked his highest claims. Jansch's most recent release was The Black Swan
(Drag City), a very fine collection of self-penned and trad folk tunes with heavy guests including Devendra Banhart and singer Beth Orton. Singer-songwriter (and Neil's spouse) Pegi Young opens for him. (John Payne)
Also playing Sunday: JD SOUTHER at Coach House; THE GAY MEN'S CHORUS OF LOS ANGELES at Avalon; ROONEY, THE YOUNG VEINS, CANDYGRAM FOR MONGO at Canyon Club; KEIKO MATSUI at Catalina Jazz Club; JIN AKANISHI at Club Nokia; ELIZA RICKMAN, SEA OF BEES at Hotel Café (see Music feature); CABO VERDE CRETCHEU at the Waterfront.
SNUFFALUFFAGUS & RATS AT ECHO CURIO
Canyon hippies, patchouli oil, redwood hot tubs and naked toddlers running amuck in the hot summer haze might come to mind on one's first listen to Brazil Wood Poetry, the new album by San Diego's Snuffaluffagus — but a truly contemporary undercurrent runs through it. This home-studio spawn of Chris Braciszewski and Say Anything's Alex Kent infuses an indie spirit into the jams that spill out in densely textured orchestrations, soaring messes of near-chaos and just enough quiet spots. And Braciszewski is sharing the love by offering the whole album for free on his Web site. At the trailhead of their meandering West Coast tour, they're joined tonight by Rats, who make a jazzy, shimmering, ruckus-lite. Head rat Eric Kiersnowski goes all experimental — careening across the neck of his baritone guitar — as one would expected from a guy with a résumé that includes stints with L.A. prog lords Upsilon Acrux and Godzik Pink. It's all strung together with Jonathan Silberman's drawn-out, breathy woodwind tones (he's also ex-Godzik) and Kelly Kawar's beautifully bending bass lines. (Wendy Gilmartin)
GOGOL BORDELLO AT THE MAYAN
Singer-guitarist Eugene Hütz smashes to pieces romantic Western notions about the lives of Gypsies on Gogol Bordello's new album, Trans-Continental Hustle. "Just because I come from Roma camp up the hill/They put me in the school for mentally ill," he sings. "You love our music/but you hate our guts." The furious racket stirred up by his band — Old World accordions and violins colliding with punk rock guitars and reggae bass, as sexy dancers spin and dash across the stage — sometimes obscures Hütz's serious messages, which lie just beneath the nonstop musical merriment. "In corridors full of tear gas/Our destinies jammed every day/Like deleted scenes from Kafka/Flushed down the bureaucratic drain," he laments on "Immigraniada." As much as the Ukrainian singer identifies with the dispossessed and calls for a global cultural revolution, he also keeps things on a personal level, chanting his restlessly surreal poetry in inventively fractured English. Although the increasingly popular Gogol Bordello are getting the star treatment this time around, working with the likes of producer Rick Rubin, Trans-Continental Hustle still sounds organic and real, and it's very much of a piece with such earlier releases as Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike and Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony. Also Tues. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday: LINE AND CIRCLE at Silverlake Lounge; WE BARBARIANS at Spaceland; ATHLETE, CARNEY at Troubadour; SPEAKEASY TIGER, LORDS OF JACK at Viper Room; UNKLE MONKEY at the Waterfront.
BEBE BUELL AT THE ROXY
"It's easy to smile, seduce and beguile and live in denial, so I'll play the fool, I'll play the mess, I'll look real cool in my Versace dress," Bebe Buell declares on "Air Kisses for the Masses," from her latest CD, Sugar. She's likely referring to her former life as a groupie (although she prefers to call herself a muse), when she seduced and beguiled such celebrities as Elvis Costello, Jimmy Page, Stiv Bators, Jack Nicholson and Mick Jagger. While she's better known as the mother of Liv Tyler (who was raised for many years thinking that her real father was Buell's former beau Todd Rundgren instead of Steven Tyler) and as the co-author (with Victor Bockris) of the 2001 memoir, Rebel Heart, Buell has also had a legitimate longtime career as a singer, working with the Cars, Power Station and Don Fleming. She's backed by her husband, former Das Damen guitarist Jim Wallerstein, on the new album, which ranges from the glittery nostalgia of "When We Were Godhead" and an interesting remake of Johnny Thunders' "(She's So) Untouchable," to more generic '80s-style synth-pop and new wave. At times, Buell's tuneful alto is shaded with a newfound low, shadowy huskiness that recalls the world-weary persona of Marianne Faithfull. Tonight's bill also features a rare return by late '70s new-wave journeymen Gary Myrick & the Figures ("She Talks in Stereo") and a solo turn by the ever-captivating power-pop/punk chanteuse Holly Vincent ("Wanna Go Home"), who's collaborated with Johnette Napolitano and Joey Ramone. (Falling James)
DEVIN, GARY & ROSS AT SYNCHRONICITY SPACE
The Gary in the middle of "Devin, Gary & Ross" is none other than Gary Panter, the brilliant, inspiring visual artist whose career is usually milestoned with references to his set design for Pee-wee's Playhouse, Frank Zappa album covers, and his strange underground comics and illustrations for groundbreaking magazines like RAW and Slash. But Panter has always been so much more than that, an all-around, uncontainable creative soul in the body of a polite, self-effacing Okie by way of L.A. and Brooklyn. His commitment to "psychedelia" in all its forms (paintings, posters, light-shows, etc.) also encompasses music. He's bringing his DIY riffs on the psychedelic blues tradition of Cream and Hendrix to town in conjunction with ZPFfffft!!!, a group exhibition featuring classic and new works by Panter, Bob Zoell and Devin Flynn, who is also in the band. This is a group with links to the Residents and Lightning Bolt, so expect a clever alloy of playfulness and intensity. Like all of Panter's artistic offerings, highly recommended. (Gustavo Turner)
Also playing Tuesday: GOGOL BORDELLO at the Mayan; GEMMA RAY at Origami Vinyl (see Music feature); PEGGY SUE at Spaceland; SPACE WAVES at Bootleg Theater; CASSANDRA WILSON at Catalina Jazz Club; BLUE RODEO, JUSTIN RUTLEDGE at the Mint; THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE, FEDERALE at the Music Box.
GREGORY ISAACS AT HOUSE OF BLUES
It's been estimated that reggae great Gregory Isaacs has released more than 500 albums over the past half-century. Although that number includes compilations, it's a stunning feat, especially considering how often that man's dulcet voice has struck gold. The Cool Ruler, as he is known, may possess the most gorgeous set of pipes that Jamaica's ever produced (and Jamaica's produced plenty of pipes). Those smooth vocals powered him through countless talent contests as a teen in Jamaica and eventually lent themselves to the invention of a subgenre called "lovers rock," which found reggae crooners abandoning the pot, politics and proselytizing for paeans to the fairer sex. His biggest, most enduring hit was 1982's "Night Nurse," which described a very serious medical condition that needed constant afterhours attention. But Isaacs' best material came from the especially prolific streak he experienced between '73 and '76, when he collaborated with virtually every hit-making producer on the island in order to stock his independent label and record store, African Museum. (Chris Martins)
MATMOS AND SO PERCUSSION, LEXIE MOUNTAIN BOYS AT REC CENTER STUDIO
Classical-steeped eccentric ensembles seem to grow on trees in Brooklyn, but So Percussion is the real deal. The Yale-spawned quartet has worked with everyone from Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt to the Dirty Projectors and Dan Deacon, playing everything from gongs and cymbals to beer cans and cactus spines. They've also co-written and recorded an entire album's worth of left-field forays in collaboration with Baltimore production duo Matmos. The record is called Treasure State, and it finds these longtime conspirators achieving a harmonious synchronicity: While Matmos offers bubbling melodies and electronic squall peppered with instrumental exoticism, So Percussion counters with steel drums, chimes, blown-into bottles and various unidentifiable sources. The result is an album that'd be classified as ambient or minimal is if wasn't so utterly brimming with brightness. Come out for this one and you're almost guaranteed to see something get smashed, be it a teacup for the sake of sampling or your expectations. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Wednesday: GEMMA RAY at Hotel Café (see Music feature); HOT HOT HEAT, EULOGIES, LINKS at Bootleg Theater; CASSANDRA WILSON at Catalina Jazz Club; EVERY AVENUE, SING IT LOUD at Glass House; AVENTURA at Honda Center; JOSH RITTER & THE ROYAL CITY BAND, CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS at the Music Box.
ELI "PAPERBOY" REED AT THE ROXY
This buzzy Brooklyn-via-Boston dude is like the East Coast's version of Fitz & the Tantrums: He's a goofily named throwback-soul specialist less concerned with originality than with sparkle. Reed released two albums on his own before Capitol picked him up last year (probably in the hopes of creating a male Amy Winehouse), and you can hear that experience all over Come and Get It!, his self-assured major-label debut, which was produced by Mike Elizondo and hits U.S. stores August 10. Reed's songs aren't always as sharp as you want them to be; Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding, to name two of his heroes, probably would've demanded a few more hooks. But onstage he's unafraid to sweat out his carefully presented coif — totally crucial when it comes to this kind of stuff. (Mikael Wood)
CARLENE CARTER AND FRIENDS, DAVE ALVIN, EXENE CERVENKA, SYD STRAW AT THE ECHO
When Nashville was flooded this past May Day, more than 30 people were killed and many more lost homes, recording studios and musical instruments. Few musicians have ever been very good at taking care of their own health and well-being, but they rally when others are in need. The noble brothers and sisters at MusiCares have set up the MusiCares Nashville Flood Relief Fund to provide medicine, food, clothing and shelter and aid clean-up efforts for victims of The Great Flood of 2010 (there's a song in there somewhere). Tonight's bill is an extraordinary lineup, featuring many of the pickers who were "alt-country" before the phrase existed. Syd Straw weaves the threads of American music into a seamless whole, while L.A.'s Dave Alvin and Exene Cervenka have blended rock & roll energy, folkie roots and a country heart with the Blasters (Dave), X and the Knitters (Exene and Dave) and as solo artists. Carlene Carter is one of the most underrated hillbilly lady singers of all time. Her L.A. appearances are almost as rare as world peace, so here's your chance to catch her live and donate a few bucks to your fellow human beings. See www2.grammy.com/MusiCares/NashvilleFloodRelief. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Thursday: FAMILY OF THE YEAR at Bootleg Theater; OTTMAR LIEBERT & LUNA NEGRA at Catalina Jazz Club; THE STUDIOFIX, MAD PLANET at Silverlake Lounge; FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS at Spaceland; EVERY AVENUE, SING IT LOUD at Troubadour; FAT FREDDY'S DROP at the Music Box; BLACK TUSK, ZOROASTER, DARK CASTLE at the Viper Room; NEIGHBORHOOD BULLYS, TEXAS BRENNEN LEIGH at Weber's Place; THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS, SHE WANTS REVENGE at Wiltern.
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