MGMT, FRANCIS AND THE LIGHTS, HELIOS CREEDAT THE GREEK
What happened to MGMT? One minute the Brooklyn band is all synth swells, dance-floor thump and falsetto vocals about the electrifying effects of eels, and the next it's composing album-length love letters to Ray Davies. While 2007's Oracular Spectacular neatly defined the experimental-rock-meets-electronic-pop identity crisis that good music was going through at the time, the band's recent follow-up, Congratulations, finds the band going its own way. Main songwriters Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser ditched Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann for Spaceman 3's Sonic Boom, a man who knows how to go for the jugular when it comes to excellent psych-rock. The end result is an unironic dip into Anglophilia, with aural tributes to Pink Floyd and the Kinks, and song titles that reference Brian Eno and Dan Treacy (he of Television Personalities). It's a good look for MGMT, and songs like the buoyant "It's Working" and the stripped-down titular track undoubtedly display the band at its best yet. What happened to MGMT? They got good, dammit. Congratulations. (Chris Martins)
JOHN DOE AND EXENE CERVENKA, LIVING SISTERS AT THE AUTRY
The Autry Museum of Western Heritage ought to provide suitably rootsy ambience for this special performance by John Doe's and Exene Cervenka, the former husband-and-wife team behind punkabilly potentates X. The pair will cover some of their more country-leaning material, drawn from Doe and Cervenka's solo albums plus the odd cover tune — and an acoustified X tune or three, no doubt. Openers the Living Sisters are the jazzy-pop-folk power trio of L.A. singer/songwriters Inara George (the Bird and the Bee, see Sunday), Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and the sublime Eleni Mandell, whose individual gifts as composers, players and singers dovetail as if by divine intercession on their just-out debut album, Love to Live (Vanguard). Hipsters: Note early start time of 7 p.m. (John Payne)
"BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY" AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
Ladies and gentlemen, it's a big year for Bugs. 2010 marks the 21st consecutive year that the wisecracking rabbit has dabbled in the live symphonic arts, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic is more than happy to help Mr. Bunny celebrate that milestone. Our own orchestra will play all those Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn hits (and twisted Wagner and Tchaikovsky) while classic Looney Tunes characters and skits play on the big screen. For music fans, it's a chance to reconnect with the Warner Bros. of their early youth (as opposed to the one that puts out records by Flaming Lips and Built to Spill). For everyone else — namely, the young'ins — it's an opportunity to see Tweety, Sylvester and Pepé Le Pew in a larger-than-life context that doesn't involve ice skates. Expect oldies like "What's Opera, Doc?" and "Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl," plus appearances from the Hanna-Barbera stable — we're told the Flintstones and Scooby-Doo are on the guest list. Let's just hope Harvey Birdman isn't in charge of the fireworks. Also Saturday. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Friday: MAHJONGG at Bootleg Theater; LORDS OF ACID, MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT at Club Nokia; ERIC BURDON & THE NEW ANIMALS at Coach House; SECRET HISTORY, SWEATER GIRLS, WATERLASO at the Echo; MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP, GILBY CLARKE, INBERST at Galaxy Concert Theatre; PEPE AGUILAR at Gibson Amphitheatre; TYRONE WELLS, ANDREW BELLE at the Hotel Café; ETRAN FINATAWA at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena [see Music feature]; HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RESIDUAL ECHOES at Spaceland; SO COW, SIGNALS, RARE GROOVES at the Smell; SLIGHTLY STOOPID, CYPRESS HILL at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.
COBRA LILIES AT HISTORICAL MARKER 157
Cobra Lilies started in 2007 as a simple folk-duo side project by the Monolators' Eli Chartkoff and his wife, Mary Chartkoff, but they've since blown up into a sprawling 12-piece collective with members of the Cat Hair Ensemble, Smells Like Flan, Ema & the Ghosts, Divisadero and Shiloe, who play banjo, trumpet, saxophone, ukulele, violin, bass, guitar, harp and accordion. The only percussion is provided by — and, no, we're not kidding — Dutch-clog dancers and an amplified tap dancer. If nothing else, Cobra Lilies are a goofily entertaining spectacle onstage, mixing traditional vaudeville with Weird Folk experimentation. But the local musicians reveal that they're more than just a novelty act on their new EP, In the Key of Bicycle Bell. Songs like "She Grows Wings at Night" and the endearingly hopeful "There's Always Love" combine the Monolators' garage-pop lyrical whimsy with circus-y arrangements, while group sing-along vocals give "Tiny Dot in the Deep Blue Sea" a jaunty, sweetly old-timey vibe. (Falling James)
SHELBY LYNNE AT MCCABE'S
Shelby Lynne never quite attained the mainstream stardom that I Am Shelby Lynne, her 1999 breakthrough, seemed to set her up for. And given the general excellence of the music the Palm Springs–based country singer has made over the past decade, it's definitely a shame that more people didn't hear records like 2003's Identity Crisis. But you also have to wonder if Lynne's stuff has maybe benefited a bit from her persistent bridesmaid status; her albums all share an appealingly astringent quality that might not have survived the lifestyle rewards of big-time success. Earlier this year Lynne released the stripped-down Tears, Lies and Alibis, her first disc on her own indie label following stints with a series of majors; it's a smaller-stakes affair than the few that preceded it, and no worse for it. Tonight she'll be accompanied by guitarist Val McCallum. (Mikael Wood)
DIE ANTWOORD at El Rey
By now you're probably aware that the much anticipated HARD L.A. festival curated around M.I.A. has been cancelled. HARD organizer Gary Richards (aka DJ Destructo), however, immediately rescheduled novelty South African hip-hoppers Die Antwoord for a showcase at El Rey. It sold out equally immediately, as the appetite for the YouTube sensations behind "Zef Side" and "Enter the Ninja" (aka "I'm a butterfly/I need your protection/Be my Samurai") seems unabated. (Gustavo Turner)
Also playing Saturday: MICHAEL TOMLINSON at Coach House; DESCARGA at El Cid; PEPE AGUILAR at Gibson Amphitheatre; GIPSY KINGS at the Greek Theatre; BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC with GEORGE DAUGHERTY at Hollywood Bowl; LEERONE at the Hotel Café; BAD COMPANY at Pacific Amphitheatre; DEAD MEADOW at Spaceland; LET LIVE, WE BE THE ECHO, WITT, BADASS MAGIC at the Smell; THE WALDOS, THE STITCHES, D.REX at Redwood Bar & Grill; TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET, BANNER PILOT at the Troubadour.
THE SWELL SEASON, SHE & HIM, THE BIRD AND THE BEE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
Fans of guy-girl pop duos are unlikely to experience better one-stop shopping this summer than at this nifty Hollywood Bowl triple bill, which continues KCRW's smartly programmed World Festival. You know the Swell Season from Once, the 2007 Irish street musical that (sort of) depicted the musical and romantic relationship between Frames front man Glen Hansard and Czech singer-pianist Markéta Irglová. Their latest studio disc, last year's Strict Joy, doesn't quite replicate the lightning-in-a-bottle charm of their Oncematerial, but its huge-hearted emotion should still have no problem filling the Bowl tonight. She & Him is Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's '60s-styled retro act (see Music feature). And be sure to arrive in time for the Bird and the Bee, singer Inara George and keyboard whiz Greg Kurstin's thoroughly delightful L.A. electro-pop duo; earlier this year they released an affectionate covers album in honor of a top-shelf guy-guy duo: Hall & Oates. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Sunday: JETSTREAM at the Canyon Club; MGMT, FRANCIS AND THE LIGHTS, HELIOS CREED at Fox Theater Pomona; GIPSY KINGS at the Greek Theatre; DECAPITATED, THE FACELESS, ALL SHALL PERISH, THE RED CHORD, VEIL OF MAYA, CEPHALIC CARNAGE, DECREPIT BIRTH, CARNIFEX, ANIMALS AS LEADERS, VITAL REMAINS at House of Blues; TOOL at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE; DRINK UP BUTTERCUP, RABBITS RUNNING, OH MY STARS at Spaceland; CABO VERDE CRETCHEU at the Waterfront.
NEW PORNOGRAPHERS AT THE MUSIC BOX
New Porn chief A.C. Newman's got a knack and obvious love for the craft of pop songwriting — with a twist. His is the classic stuff of addictive melody and winsome harmony, for sure, but dig a bit and you'll find the surprising and strange harmonic shadings that make each tune sound different with every play. Newman's Vancouver band, occasionally featuring powerhouse singer Neko Case and Destroyer's Dan Bejar on multi-instruments (he co-writes much of the band's more instantly catchy material as well), contributes mightily to this deepened effect, where obliquely disquieting words and deftly arranged instrumental colors mingle as one supremely atmospheric, even cinematic grandeur. This is a new and very heavy kind of chamber pop, perhaps best experienced on Newman and Co.'s recent Together(Matador). (John Payne)
Also playing Monday: MISSISSIPPI MAN, BIG WHUP, BUDDY at the Echo; TOOL at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live; YELLOW RED SPARKS, THE FLING, SAM OUTLAW at the Silverlake Lounge; SUMMER DARLING, EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS, THE FRANKS, SEASPIN at Spaceland; UNKLE MONKEY at the Waterfront.
LE BUTCHERETTES AT SPACELAND
Le Butcherettes are a weirdly fascinating jumble of contradictions. They sing in English, and their name sounds like fractured French, but the duo are actually based in Mexico City and got their start in Guadalajara. Normandi Heuxdaflo wears a mask and pounds out relentless beats while singer Teri Gender Bender dangles from the rafters, dives into the crowd, stuffs eggs into her mouth (because "eggs keep girls silent") and bloodies herself after dragging a pig's head around the stage. Sometimes, she even gets around to playing her guitar or pumping out her crudely compelling art-punk tunes on keyboards. For all of her messy theatrics, Gender Bender is an ambitious songwriter who attempts to marry feminist-punk theory and performance-art shock with Sylvia Plath's morbid acuity. While her confrontational, unsentimental lyrics aren't as disciplined and radically expressive as Plath's later poems, she's certainly got a lot more to say than other rock singers. Think of her as G.G. Allin with a conscience, or Courtney Love with a better voice and an actual point of view. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday: GRAND ARCHIVES, KAISER CARTEL at the Echo; ALL-MOZART: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC with NICHOLAS McGEGAN, KATIA, MARIELLE LABÈQUE at the Hollywood Bowl; JAMES TAYLOR, CAROLE KING at the Honda Center; CHARLIE MARS at the Hotel Café; SILVERSTEIN, EMERY, I SET MY FRIENDS ON FIRE at House of Blues Sunset Strip; SPACEHOG at the Key Club; THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, THE DODOS, IMAAD WASIF at the Music Box; JUSTIN BIEBER, SEAN KINGSTON at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE; GRAM RABBIT at the Troubadour; THE RICHARD GLASER JAZZ BAND at the Waterfront.
GASLIGHT ANTHEM AT THE WILTERN
The Gaslight Anthem sound harks back to the Jersey Shore of yore — a place that's about as far away as you can get from the grotesque excesses displayed by MTV's Jersey Shore and, um, Pauly D's hair. For ever-earnest singer Brian Fallon and his band, it's a blue-collar thing, just as it was for Bruce Springsteen and Willy DeVille before him. And rather than peddle the sort of generic Balearic beats that the guidos prefer, the Gaslight Anthem makes rock & roll roughed up by punk gruffness and occasional Americana twang. Lyrically speaking, Fallon's songs drip with working-class signifiers — references to "Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts," tattoos and Tom Petty — while the band's latest album is aptly titled American Slang. He delivers the latter in a Jeremy Enigk–grade growl that's offset by his between-song banter. A self-deprecating prole to the bone, Fallon could easily open for his own band as comedic support. (Chris Martins)
THE DEAD WEATHER AT THE HOLLYWOOD PALLADIUM
You have to suspend your disbelief a little when it comes to the Dead Weather. Singer Alison Mosshart and her foil, Jack White, sound like they've been to hell, and not necessarily back, with all of the doom and gloom and pain and suffering they sling at each other on the band's second album, Sea of Cowards. Romance only leads to madness, and every heartbreak is apocalyptic, to the point where the nonstop bluesy dread starts to seem more mannered than real. Still, Mosshart's witchy imprecations feel impressively menacing when they're backed by the group's Led Zeppelin–style riffing, especially on "Gasoline" and "The Difference Between Us." Too often, though, promising opening lines are followed by throwaway rhymes, and the overall songwriting isn't as strong as it was on their first album, Horehound. With other bands, such a slowdown might be a problem, but the Dead Weather exude so much attitude, it almost doesn't matter. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday: JAMIE CULLUM at Ford Amphitheatre; KEANE, INGRID MICHAELSON, FRAN HEALEY at the Greek Theatre; LEE RITENOUR & DAVE GRUSIN feat. TAJ MAHAL, KEB' MO' and JOHN SCOFIELD, DIANNE REEVES at the Hollywood Bowl; GUGGENHEIM GROTTO at the Hotel Café; BRIAN VOGAN at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; HALLOWEEN SWIM TEAM, EYES, JESUS IS ANGRY, BESTIAL MOUTHS at the Smell; RIHANNA at Staples Center; GRAM RABBIT at the Troubadour.
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TEARIST, THE CYSTS, HAWNAY TROOF, BRO-MAGS AT THE SMELL
It's unclear what sort of music the Bro-Mags make, but with a band handle that clever, it's got to be good. Or at least extremely ironic. What precious little help The Smell's home page offers is promising: The group includes members of the spazz-punk crew XBXRX and local "grunge-gaze" outfit Bipolar Bear, while clicking on the newly minted band's name sends you to a live clip of Pennywise doing their also well-named frat fave, "Bro Hymn." Considerably more is known about Oakland's Hawnay Troof, a love-him-or-hate-him type who openly raps about his feelings over clangy, sometimes dancey electronic beats (he's also the lead screamer in XBXRX). Meanwhile, headliners Tearist are famous for their wild live shows. Whether stationed at a skuzzy downtown club or a house party in Bel Air, these typically involve keyboardist and beatsmith Will Menchaca banging out the noisy disco, while singer Yasmine Kittles jerks, writhes, coos, yelps and otherwise displays a healthy love for spectacle and a general distrust of pants. (Chris Martins)
JOVANOTTI, ANA TIJOUX AT THE SANTA MONICA PIER
Since the late 1980s, Jovanotti has been a superstar in Italy, where he was one of the first homegrown rappers to have commercial success. The former Lorenzo Cherubini hasn't caught on much in America, in part because he usually sings in Italian and in part because he's closer to Pat Boone than Little Richard in the scheme of things. Even when Jovanotti raps in English, as he did on "The Rappers," he comes off as earnestly dorky instead of menacing to society. After all these years, he still sounds a little stiff on his new live CD, O Yeah, where a slick, Vegas-y backup band ushers him through breezy renditions of his old Italian hits "L'Umbelico del Mondo" and "Serenata Rap." However, it's his unintentionally campy versions of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" and Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' " that should provide the most amusement for English-speaking listeners. The title of Chilean-French rapper Ana Tijoux's new CD, 1977, is a reference to the year of her birth and not punk rock, but her music takes a similarly adventurous look at the collision of two cultures and two continents. She also opens for Jovanotti on Wednesday at the Viper Room, where he'll make his L.A. debut. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday: MAPS & ATLASES, CULTS at the Bootleg; SONORA CARRUSELES at the Conga Room; CYNIC, INTRONAUT, DYSRHYTHMIA at El Rey; DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, FROM FIRST TO LAST, SLEEPING WITH SIRENS, ATTILA at the Glass House; BARENAKED LADIES, KRIS ALLEN, ANGEL TAYLOR at the Greek Theatre; VOXHAUL BROADCAST, CHASING KINGS at Hammer Museum (courtyard); ALL-MOZART: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC with NICHOLAS McGEGAN, KATIA & MARIELLE LABÈQUE at the Hollywood Bowl; JOEY RYAN, LELIA, JAKE NEWTON, GARRISON STARR at the Hotel Café; VICTIMAS DEL DR., CEREBRO at the Key Club; MARTINA MCBRIDE at Pacific Amphitheatre; PARNO GRASZT at the Skirball; OFF WITH THEIR HEADS, OLD MAN MARKLEY at the Troubadour; MIGUEL GARCIA AND THE VAQUETONES at Weber's Place.