Music Picks: Circa Survive, Joanna Newsom, El-P, Roots Roadhouse
THE PARK WITH TUNJI AND BABYSTONE AT ANGEL'S PIANO BAR
Inspired by the Stax session bands and dubwise riddim sections of yore, San Francisco's the Park formed in 2006 as a drums, bass and keys unit able to operate both on its own and backing bigger names in the business. One of their most esteemed regular gigs is acting as the touring outfit for rediscovered '70s Bay Area R&B eccentric Darondo, though they've also accompanied U.K. soul sensation Alice Russell, Ubiquity Records' eclecticist Nino Moschella, and funk-steeped electronic up-and-comer Wallpaper. The Park is also known for picking up players wherever it goes — hence their lengthy "Special Sauce" roll call of assorted horn players, guitarists, DJs and MCs. At this, their second July gig at '40s-inspired piano bar Angel's, Derek Taylor, Josh Lippi and Ben Schwier plan to welcome to the stage beloved Root Down open-mic king Tunji and Sly Stone's daughter Novena Carmel, aka BabyStone. Get funked up. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Friday: POCAHAUNTED at the Bootleg Theater; PAUL THORN, MISSILES OF OCTOBER at Coach House; JON POUSETTE-DART at Genghis Cohen; TOBY KEITH at Gibson Amphitheatre; SERGIO MENDES & FRIENDS, MORCHEEBA at the Hollywood Bowl; NON STOP BHANGRA at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; JOHN LEGEND at Pacific Amphitheatre; PAT BENATAR & NEIL GIRALDO at Pechanga Showroom Theatre; THE GOODNIGHT LOVING EDGAR at Redwood Bar & Grill; I.E., HYPE BLAST!, THE TLIELAXU MUSIC MACHINE, STONED KOALAS at the Smell; PEPPER RABBIT, CANDY CLAWS at Spaceland; SWINGIN' UTTERS, THE CUTE LEPERS, LOST CABRAS at the Troubadour; BRASILIDADE at the Waterfront.
JOANNA NEWSOM AT THE ORPHEUM THEATER
There are those who'll decry singer/harpist Joanna Newsom's recent album, Have One on Me (Drag City), as a self-indulgent muddle run amok. Especially coming after the tautly drawn wonders of her previous The Milk Eyed Mender and Ys sets, where her ventures across the plains of folk and pop were fenced within tight, albeit quirky, orchestrations. Have One is all over the conceptual map, and, overloaded with ideas, basically runs out of steam midway. Yet with patience the album pays enormous dividends, demonstrating if not a depth, then at least a spectacular width of vision ranging from string- and horn-draped ballads to smart stabs at accessible piano pop to purely impressionistic passages of lonely voice and harp, adrift in a mist. As usual, Newsom's penchant for very personal structures combines with oddly juxtaposed lyrical matter to create an utterly idiosyncratic sense of place. (John Payne)
ROOTS ROADHOUSE AT THE ECHOPLEX
The one-day Roots Roadhouse country-blues festival is such a major affair that it takes place on three stages: one in the Echoplex, another upstairs in the Echo and one outside in the patio. The potent lineup features an intriguing mix of local roots, indie and "cowternative" bands combined with certified blues and country legends. Mississippi blues man T-Model Ford has had a rough life, working on farms and in sawmills before serving time on a chain gang for murder. He didn't even start performing until he was in his 70s, but the singer-guitarist has since released a series of raw, palpably earthy blues CDs, including his latest, The Ladies Man (Alive Naturalsound Records), his first acoustic album. Country singer Red Simpson came out of the same Bakersfield scene as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and is best known for a series of wittily rocking songs about truck driving, including "I'm a Truck," which was written from the point of view of a cab who's had it with those ungrateful "double-clutchin', gear-jammin', coffee-drinking nuts" behind the wheel. Among the other potential highlights are sets by the entrancing folk-pop harmonizers the Chapin Sisters, guitarist-producer Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam, Roy Orbison), former Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin, and Leslie & the Badgers, who marry Dolly Parton–style tunefulness with a winsome modern pop-folk sensibility. The fest starts at 3 p.m. (Falling James)
VIZA AT THE TROUBADOUR
Somewhere between Gogol Bordello and System of a Down's more flippant fancies you have Viza, a largely Armenian-American L.A. troupe that earned, under its former name Visa, quite the cult following over the course of a couple of albums and EPs. Almost inevitably managed by SOAD crooner Serj Tankian's company (Tankian also guests on their new album, Made in Chernobyl), Viza rather overcartoon their exotic aesthetic with the faux Eastern Bloc uniforms of their promo pics, but their sound is less predictable and straight-faced. Spiraling riffs, knee-slappin' Romany rhythms and blurs of oud and tar propel Greek frontman K'noup's melodies in and out of rockish flirtations and massed unison celebrations with some of his eight bandmates. There's humor, heartache, political commentary and intoxicating musical communion here — plus, on a good night, belly dancers. (Paul Rogers)
MAKE IT FUNKY AT CHINATOWN CENTRAL PLAZA
The name says it all. Actually, the old name, "The Funk Rumble Block Party," said a little more, but this still-green annual event is evolving into a full-blown "Music and Arts Festival" for its second year. But first, the funk: Headlining the day of festivities are Connie Price and the Keystones, a locally based, internationally whispered-about soul ensemble led by Breakestra multi-instrumentalist Dan Ubick. Their throwback funk sounds equally hot accompanying old-school hip-hoppers like Big Daddy Kane or seasoned singers like Lester Abrams of L.A. Carnival. The guests they've got lined up for this should go well too — Madlib's old rapping buddy Wildchild and former Jurassic 5 member Soup. Meanwhile, KCRW DJs Jeremy Sole and Anthony Valadez will be heading up a posse of more than 50 spin-doctors, healing revelers with deep cuts from all music that grooves. A handful of other stylistically copacetic bands will play, while the Hive Gallery curates live painting exhibitions and the ubiquitous food trucks flock to the action. (Chris Martins)
SCORPIONS, CINDERELLA AT NOKIA THEATRE
At a time when Sunset Strip pretty boys ruled rock's ragged roost, Germany's Scorpions made unlikely stadium-stuffers. Even as they broke America with squealy weepies like "No One Like You" and "Still Loving You" in the early '80s, they had a balding, 30-something frontman and bygone undertones (having formed in 1965 — yes, sixty-five). So their success was built on potent song craft, Klaus Meine's earnest, accented vocals, a delightfully frantic stage show and the unashamed acceptance of the fact that power ballads put metal bands on MTV. Scorpions remain, in places, staggeringly popular (their last "best of" album went 20 times platinum in Thailand), but expect as many Zippos as iPhones aloft on this farewell tour. Mostly thanks to Tom Keifer's gas-gargling rasp, fellow Reagan-era rockers Cinderella would have — without the mushroom-cloud bouffants and chummy moniker — made a worthy, bluesy bar band. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Saturday: TEANECK FEAT. JOSé FROM OZMA AND BRIAN FROM MATT PO at the Bootleg Theater; LEVEL 42 at Club Nokia; DRAMARAMA at Coach House; REO SPEEDWAGON, PAT BENATAR, EDWIN MCCAIN at the Greek; SERGIO MENDES & FRIENDS, MORCHEEBA at the Hollywood Bowl; AS I LAY DYING, UNDEROATH at the Palladium; MALECO COLLECTIVE at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; KINKY FRIEDMAN, MICHAEL SIMMONS at McCabe's [see Music feature]; SUBLIME WITH ROME at Pacific Amphitheatre; WEAVE, CORRIDOR, ESSAY, NO PAWS at the Smell; WOLF PARADE, MOOOLS at the Wiltern.
FIRE & SOUL: L.A. WOMEN AT THE JOHN ANSON FORD AMPHITHEATRE
Tonight's benefit for the iconic Sylmar bookstore Tía Chucha's Centro Cultural features an interesting assortment of women performers, including Perla Batalla, who used to sing backup vocals for Leonard Cohen and will reinterpret some of his songs in her headlining set. Former Tijuana No singer Ceci Bastida previews tunes from her upcoming solo CD, Veo la Marea, which is poppier and more sonically diverse than the ska-punk anthems she sang with her old band. Bastida's best songs approach the melodic sophistication of her frequent collaborator Julieta Venegas. Much of the event's titular "Fire & Soul" should come straight from the mouth of poet Wanda Coleman, whose jazzily rhythmic work in such collections as The Riot Inside Me: More Trials & Tremors and Bathwater Wine alternates between themes of social justice and more personal observations about the pleasures of food. The bill is rounded out by performance artist Kristina Wong, E.L.A. sketch comedians Las Ramonas and dancers Temachtia Quetzalcoatl. (Falling James)
ZOLA JESUS AT THE ECHO
There's plenty of nonurban college girls with slightly hip parents, girls who felt "weird" in high school and embraced the costumes of goth, the bleakness of Joy Division and the rants of Nietzsche, automatically declaring "French and philosophy" as majors upon arriving on campus. What makes Nika Danilova stand out from her absynthetic cohort is that she talked her parents into opera-singing lessons early on and used those skills to record a really interesting lo-fi album (The Spoils) a couple of years ago as Zola Jesus. The indierati loved it and so Danilova has now graduated to proper studios (the recent Stridulum EP) and touring a mesmerizing stage act, invoking the ghosts of Lydia Lunch, Diamanda Galas and even a little Grace Slick. Those who wish Gaga was actually weird and We Are the World a little less drum-circley should find much to like in La Jesus. (Gustavo Turner)
Also playing Sunday: MICHAEL MCDONALD at the Canyon Club; RUBEN STUDDARD, CLAY AIKEN at Club Nokia; BIZET'S CARMEN at the Hollywood Bowl; RATT, DOKKEN at Pacific Amphitheatre; WHITE ARROWS at Spaceland; CABO VERDE CRETCHEU at the Waterfront.
FOL CHEN AT THE ECHO
The pop music of Highland Park's Fol Chen is knotty by nature. It all started with the release of their 2009 album, Part One: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made (Asthmatic Kitty), which told a story about something no one was expected to comprehend, smuggling within brain-pinching attacks of textural/textual play several supremely hummable li'l toe-tappers. One suspected wry humor when one saw that video Fol Chen shot with the Laker girls, and then they covered Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" for Spin's Purplish Rain compilation, and Pink Floyd's "In the Flesh" for MOJO's tribute to The Wall. Seemingly thousands of remixes of their stuff were done by a peculiar collection of people, including the equally inscrutable Liars (with whom they've toured); along the way, the band also did their own remix of Junior Vasquez. Fol Chen's new Part II: The New December on Asthmatic continues the saga in a fascinatingly schizo slew of profusely harmonized, slightly oblique, steamily synth-strewn stew. (John Payne)
NICOLE SIMONE AT THE BOOTLEG THEATER
Nicole Simone is a promising local singer whose mellow cabaret tunes are infused with traces of Tom Waits' junkyard artiness. While there are so many other modern divas who also attempt to incorporate Waits' bohemian affectations into their pure-pop songs — Eleni Mandell and Jesca Hoop readily come to mind — Simone manages to retain enough of her own personality to make things interesting. On her new self-titled EP, she coos lightly jazzy ballads in an intimate whisper. "I've got to save the world," she announces in a fragile voice, pausing dramatically before adding, "from loving you." While her breathy delivery can get repetitive, Simone really does sound haunting on "Haunt You," where she slyly wraps her vocals around Stewart Cole's languid trumpet line. Members of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and John Cale's and Dwight Yoakam's groups, as well as guest drummer/actor Jason Schwartzman, provide sympathetic support without overpowering the singer's delicate phrasing. (Falling James)
DARK DARK DARK AT ORIGAMI VINYL
For all of its amassed instrumental might, the Minneapolis sextet known as Dark Dark Dark would be plenty formidable were it merely the alias of lead singer and pianist Nona Marie Invie. Her voice — rich, with just a dash of quaver — sounds like it was crafted by divine means in order to sing the kind of blues that Woodie Guthrie once did so well. That's not to say the band's name should be taken entirely literally (they have a song titled "Bright Bright Bright," after all). Though their music tends toward a more melancholy tone, its lushness connotes the sort of organic beauty that instantly dispels the maudlin in favor of something living and vibrant. So while a chorus of troubled voices wail under Invie's mournful croon, accordion, banjo, cello, bass and trumpet twist their brambles around the entire funeral march and push a song like "Something for Myself" into the heavens. A new album, Wild Go, is due out in October. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday: TWILIGHT SLEEP at Silverlake Lounge; WHITE ARROWS at Spaceland; TIM FINN at the Troubadour; UNKLE MONKEY at the Waterfront.
CIRCA SURVIVE AT THE BOOTLEG THEATER
These Pennsylvania emo-prog dudes recently completed a stint as Coheed and Cambria's opening act and will hook up with Deftones for a run following this headlining L.A. date. But Circa Survive definitely deserve their own look: On Blue Sky Noise, the band's major-label debut (which came out in April), frontman Anthony Green layers his yearning little-boy vocals over knotty, complex arrangements that inspire equal parts headbanging and fist-pumping. Like Coheed and Deftones (and Tool, whose sometime-producer David Bottrill helmed Blue Sky Noise), Circa Survive exist within a complicated world of their own devising: It's probably worth noting that the new album's cover, for instance, depicts a Pegasus with a rainbow where its head should be. Yet Green's singing provides a route into the music that personalizes it in an uncommon way. Good stuff. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Tuesday: MICHAEL MCDONALD at Coach House; TUESDAY CLASSICS: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC WITH GUSTAVO DUDAMEL, GABRIELA MONTERO at the Hollywood Bowl; THE RICHARD GLASER JAZZ BAND at the Waterfront.
EL-P AT THE AIRLINER
As indie-rap's resident eardrum-smasher, Brooklyn producer El-P, aka Jaime Meline, has carved out a musical corner all his own by reinventing the explosive boom-bap of Public Enemy for the digital age. Though he's an excellent rapper as well — with a frantic, word-crammed style that relies less upon rhyme than it does the brute force of consonance — El's greatest gifts to music may wind up being his inimitable soundscapes. Early indie-rap adopters were first wowed by his work with '90s crew Company Flow, but his flair for the dense and dramatic evolved into something far more dangerous just as the record label that he founded in 1999, Definitive Jux, came into its own. He produced the entirety of Cannibal Ox's revered 2001 album The Cold Vein, and followed that up with a solo debut, Fantastic Damage, that was everything its name suggests. I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007) found him diving deeper into Orwellian imagery and self-loathing — an intense experience for the artist, presumably, as his last two releases have been heavy-duty instrumental mixes (the Weareallgoingtoburninhellseries) — which he'll be re-creating live here at Low End. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Wednesday: AUTOLUX at Amoeba Music; LEIF VOLLEBEKK at Hotel Café; K'NAAN, BRUNO MARS at House of Blues Sunset Strip; DEATH KIT, STANDING SHADOWS at Silverlake Lounge; TY SEGALL, YELLOW FEVER, ROYAL BATHS, MOONHEARTS at the Smell; SAMMY HAGAR AND THE WABOS at Pacific Amphitheatre.
DECONSTRUCTING DAD: THE MUSIC, MACHINES AND MYSTERY OF RAYMOND SCOTT AT THE SILENT THEATRE
The "Don't Knock the Rock" music doc fest and Cinefamily present an enthralling film about pioneering composer and electronic-music pioneer Raymond Scott. Deconstructing Dad: The Music, Machines and Mystery of Raymond Scott tells the story of a truly pivotal figure in 20th-century music whose madly eclectic achievements remain largely obscure. Scott began in the '30s as a swing/big-band composer and conductor, later creating wonderfully weird scores for Hollywood films, cartoons and commercial jingles, and in the third act devoted his life to his first real love, audio technology. A musician-inventor like the more heralded Les Paul, Scott conceived and built literally dozens of electronic musical instruments. Many of his innovations were years ahead of their time, such as his best-known conception, the Electronium, an "instantaneous composition and performance machine." An essential view inside the wonders of creative genius, American-style. (John Payne)
RICKIE LEE JONES AT THE SANTA MONICA PIER
Rickie Lee Jones returns to her roots tonight at the pier, coming full circle in a musical journey that began when the Chicago native ran away from home and ended up in Santa Monica in the '70s. The seaside setting is bound to inspire memories "that cry and quiver/When a blue horizon is sleeping in the station." Local imagery plays such a big part in Jones' work, especially on her 2007 album The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, which fancifully reset the story of Jesus among modern L.A. landmarks. While her 2009 follow-up, Balm in Gilead, wasn't quite as musically adventurous, it was still a moving collection of folk, jazz and pop ballads, fleshed out with support from such guests as Chris Joyner, Victoria Williams and the late Vic Chesnutt. The ethereal track "His Jeweled Floor" is a moving series of hushed echoes and solemn harmonies that combine into an especially bewitching soundscape. "I am the last of my kind in this town," she confesses on "Eucalyptus Trail," and you'd do well to heed her siren song before she slips away again. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday: EVEREST at the Bootleg Theater; LISA LOEB at Canyon Club; KENNY BURRELL QUINTET at Catalina Jazz Club; OTEP, BIRTHDAY MASSACRE, BENEATH THE SKY, THE AGONIST at Galaxy Concert Theatre; DARREN JOHNSTON QUINTET at the Hammer Museum; THURSDAY CLASSICS: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC WITH GUSTAVO DUDAMEL at the Hollywood Bowl; ELVIS BOSSA NOVA at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; THE B-52s at Pacific Amphitheatre; STEVE RILEY & THE MAMOU PLAYBOYS at the Skirball Cultural Center.
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