Music Picks: Dr. John, Herbie Hancock, Sunset Strip Music Festival
RON EMORY AT THE BLUE CAFÉ
When the mighty Orange County punk veterans T.S.O.L. deign to perform a rare concert these days, they're usually part of some massive traffic jam of a bill like the Warped Tour, where they're often buried anonymously among a horde of modern corporate-punk pretenders and emo whiners, or — if they're lucky — shunted off harmlessly onto some "Legends of Punk" side stage. Yet there was a time in the early 1980s, after the suicide of the Germs' Darby Crash, when T.S.O.L. were the genuine leaders of the Southern California punk scene. (Who can forget how they stood down the L.A.P.D. and soothed the maddened crowd at the infamous near-riot at S.I.R. studios?) As lead singer, the devilish and charismatic Jack Grisham still grabs most of the attention, especially in the wake of his celebrated campaign for governor of California in 2004. But it's guitarist Ron Emory who makes the band go, powering classics like "80 Times" and "Code Blue" with sinisterly heavy, overdriven, almost metallic riffs and meteoric lead-guitar flashes. Tonight, at the Blue Café's recently reopened Long Beach location, Emory steps out from beneath the shadows (to paraphrase the old T.S.O.L. album title) with songs of survival, recovery and sobriety, from a new solo CD, Walk That Walk, which includes contributions by Grisham, Social Distortion singer Mike Ness, the Knitters' Jonny Ray Bartel and the Offspring's Dexter Holland. Also at Spaceland, Sun. (Falling James)
MELLODRAMA: THE MELLOTRON MOVIE AT THE EGYPTIAN THEATRE
The Mellotron is the creakily quirky keyboard first developed in the 1950s that uses pre-recorded strips of magnetic tape to simulate orchestral textures. The instrument looms large in rock/pop's history, with the Beatles, Genesis, King Crimson and many others using its distinctively canned effect to expand and color their fields of sound. No band did more to popularize the Mellotron than the Moody Blues, whose keyboardist Mike Pinder was among the instrument's early developers. Pinder will be on hand tonight for the L.A. premiere of Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie, a fascinating documentary on the instrument's history. There'll be in-person talks and Mellotron demonstrations by Pinder, Bigelf's Steve Frothingham, Richard Chamberlin of the Chamberlin Company (the pioneer of what became the Mellotron), filmmakers Murray Lerner and Dianna Dilworth, and Brian Kehew, author of the rather awesome Recording the Beatles book and Who keyboard technician. Also tonight, the premiere of the concert film The Moody Blues: Threshold of a Dream. Presented as part of the Mods & Rockers Film Festival. (John Payne)
SUNSET STRIP MUSIC FESTIVAL 2010
Though Friday's show is essentially a warm-up for the Sunset Strip Music Festival's outdoor extravaganza Saturday (see below), it nonetheless boasts some worthy SoCal stalwarts. At the cozy Cat Club, Golden State's elegant, organically epic post-U2 pop (as recently heard on Deadliest Catch) should alone justify your trip. Over at the Key Club, Nico Vega — always more of a live experience than a studio band — will have torsos twisting with their deceptively groovy, skeletal rock & roll (and necks craning for damaged-debutante vocalist Aja Volkman). San Diego's P.O.D. (yes, "Youth of the Nation" and all that), their metal made interesting by Caribbean and Latin flirtations, will be better than you expect at the Whisky. Full lineup at sunsetstripmusicfestival.com. (Paul Rogers)
BORIS AT EL REY THEATRE
" 'I love sushi!' exclaims the woman in the thick-rimmed glasses. 'I love Japan, period,' says the middle-aged man in the blue shirt, slight Southern drawl lending a down-home earthiness to his earnest proclamation. 'J-Rock!' screeches a greasy-haired delinquent, quite obviously high on something. 'Oh, my, someone should be watching over that poor child,' Kobayashi thinks to himself. But, before he can finish that thought, a rotund man bursts forth from the masses, the makeup on his face still smeared across his fleshy visage. 'Girugamesh!' the horrifying painted man exclaims, stabbing the air vehemently with two massive, pudgy digits." All right, you will find very few (if any) weeabos at a Boris show. This is the dark underbelly of all the infantile Nippophilia rampant in L.A. — these Japanese geniuses are cosplaying the hardest '70s hard rock–meets–Nick Drake in a stylish squat that houses the obscurest psych record collection you've ever seen. Oh, yes, they will melt your fucking face. You were warned. Go MySpace them, then buy tickets before they sell out. With Red Sparowes and Helms. Also at the Glass House, Sat. (Gustavo Turner)
Also playing Friday: FRANK SINATRA JR., LENNY WHITE BAND at Catalina Jazz Club; ASIA at Club Nokia; THE LITTLE ONES, DOWNTOWN/UNION at the Echo; THE SHANTS, CAVE COUNTRY, RICKY STEIN at Echo Curio; THE JULIANA THEORY at the Glass House; CYNDI LAUPER, ALLEN TOUSSAINT, DAVID RHODES at the Greek Theatre; SOMETHING CORPORATE at the Grove of Anaheim; JOHN WILLIAMS AND THE MUSIC OF THE MOVIES: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC WITH JOHN WILLIAMS at the Hollywood Bowl; JAYME STONE at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; E HULA MAU at Long Beach Terrace Theater; GAMBLE HOUSE, WALTER MEEGO, MYSTERY CLAWS at Pehrspace.
SUNSET STRIP MUSIC FESTIVAL 2010
For the third Sunset Strip Music Festival, the boulevard will be closed for an unlikely combo of big (and big-ish) names on two outdoor stages. Even as they live and breathe, in some form, Smashing Pumpkins' gorgeously paranoid, fizzy rock is already bearing young (see Silversun Pickups for details). Main man Billy Corgan might be whacked (and often wacky), but he can pen staggering tunes in his sleep and harbors a number of grandiose visions that may never be fully realized. Kid Cudi brings an odd angst to his sometimes-detached raps, while Gym Class Heroes vocalist Travie McCoy's good-natured hip-pop seems made for summer afternoons. Otherwise, Fergie guesting with fest honoree Slash should be a sight, while impossibly animated gutter glamsters Semi Precious Weapons and (only slightly funnier) metal-parody combo Steel Panther will surely set out to make spectacles of themselves. Also appearing: Common, Neon Trees and Big B. (Paul Rogers)
CAP'N JAZZ AT THE ECHOPLEX
Fans of the Promise Ring and Joan of Arc — twin pillars of late-'90s Midwestern emo — know that both bands sprang from suburban Chicago's Cap'n Jazz, whose sole studio disc bottled a bit of musical lightning between emo's brainy beginnings and its eventual mall-punk fate. (Two telling covers from the group's repertoire: A-ha's "Take on Me" and the theme song from Beverly Hills, 90210.) But it's probably safe to say that many, if not most, of those fans never actually saw Cap'n Jazz during the group's original run. I didn't, and I owned a copy of that sole studio disc, whose full title, by the way, would take up the rest of my space here (look it up). So this summer, the band is on the reunion-tour circuit playing songs that 15 years ago somehow felt as immediate as they did profound. Think they can still pull that off? (Mikael Wood)
FUNKFEST: MORRIS DAY, THEBAR-KAYS, LAKESIDE, SLAVE, KLYMAXX AT THE GREEK THEATRE
Though Morris Day was, to the generation that knew him first and perhaps best, always existing under the (cherry-moon?) shadow of Prince, younger showgoers see him differently. To them, he's neither the Minneapolitan high school buddy of his Purple Badselfness nor the too-cool and hopelessly vain antagonist of Purple Rain. Instead, he's the golden-suited credits-closer of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, the frontman of, in Jason Mewes' words, "the greatest band in the world ... Morris Day & the Motherf*cking Time." Those words made the singer of "Jungle Love" a bona fide stand-alone legend for the under-30s, and after three-plus decades in the business, that's how he should be greeted. The Bar-Kays, of course, were responsible for dozens of hits between 1967 and 1975, from "Soul Finger" to "Son of Shaft." Lakeside, if you don't recall, penned "Fantastic Voyage" (another one for the generation gap thanks to Coolio), and Klymaxx is a purely '80s affair. Slave may turn out to be the most modern of the bunch, considering frontman Steve Arrington is working on a new album for L.A.'s own Stones Throw Records. (Chris Martins)
JON BRION & NELS CLINE AT LARGO
One never knows, does one, what all's gonna happen at the infamously talented producer/composer/performer Jon Brion's long-running Largo shows — which is what makes these nights so magical. But then, much of the time, Brion himself doesn't quite know what all's gonna happen when he sets up to one-man-band on keyboards, guitars, drums, electronic gizmos and sundry other variables, and proceeds to work out on every song in the pop tune book going back to the '20s (test him on it). Oh, and if he doesn't know the song, he'll fake it and invariably come up with something even better. Brion's solo nights often come with heapin' helpings of guest musicians, and none more spectacular than Brion's equally diverse musical-encyclopedic pal Nels Cline, whose guitar will deconstruct/revivify with Brion a bunch of solo/duo stuff, veering from heavy-duty avant-ish jazz into light chamber pop, and — best of all — something in-between and none-of-the-above. (John Payne)
Also playing Saturday: FRANK SINATRA JR., LENNY WHITE BAND at Catalina Jazz Club; SOMETHING CORPORATE at Club Nokia; CINDER CONES at Echo Curio; BRIDGES at El Cid; THE JULIANA THEORY at El Rey Theatre; ARTISTS FROM L.A. OPERA at the Ford Amphitheatre; THE ANTLERS at the Getty Center; JOAN SEBASTIAN at the Gibson Amphitheatre; BORIS, RED SPAROWES, HELMS ALLE, FUTURE STATIC at the Glass House; ASIA at the Grove of Anaheim; JOHN WILLIAMS AND THE MUSIC OF THE MOVIES: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC WITH JOHN WILLIAMS at the Hollywood Bowl; ROGER ESPINOZA at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; E HULA MAU at Long Beach Terrace Theater; ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK at Pechanga Showroom Theatre; ONEIDA, JONAS REINHARDT, THE LIGHTS at Spaceland; FORMER GHOSTS, WAMPIRE, SUN ARAW, REPORTER, RELIGIOUS GIRLS at the Troubadour.
CHROMEO, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, YACHT AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
At the Bowl tonight, three of electronic music's reigning revisionists shall shear thy skull with the sound of the synth. Dance-music kingpins the Chemical Brothers lay out the transcendent Technicolor mind warp and bombastic beatsbeatsbeats of new and thrillingly noisy record Further (Astralwerks). They will, however, be given a real run for their dosh with the slickly smooth and down-'n'-dirty lovers' funk of Montreal bad boys P-Thugg and Dave 1, aka Chromeo. The curiously cracked synth- and art concept–strewn geek dance of Yacht opens things up. The Bowl, by the way, has become one of the best places in town to experience the overwhelming power of big-ass electronic beat jams, because of the way the setting's acoustics have, after much fiddling around, just happened to come out right, spreading that "sweet spot" where the low end massages the body even up in the cheap seats. (So, Bowl engineers, don't mess with it no more.) Now, go forth and shake a tail feather. (John Payne)
PETE SWANSON, RENE HELL, JOHN WIESE, ROBEDOOR, INFINITE BODY AT ECHO CURIO
Experimental electronic music doesn't have to be impenetrable and punishing. OK, some of it does. Like that of headliner Pete Swanson, he of retired cult-beloved noisenik duo Yellow Swans, who now performs solo. Sort of: His bandmates are his machines, a large array of what appears to be various soundboards, computers, samplers and hot-wired objects, with which the expert Portlander fiddles between screeching into the microphone and grinding on his guitar. But then there's the stuff of Rene Hell. Despite dude's chosen surname, his music is beautiful and serene, bringing to mind vintage material by German originators like Cluster and Harmonia. Not Not Fun Records band Robedoor has got its own thing going on — namely, a stormy and stonerishness sort of tribal doom that revolves around live instruments at least theoretically (though perhaps actually) dripping in sludge. Highland Park's Infinite Body has a new LP out on PPM, the label run by No Age's Dean Spunt, and presents a fuzzy, throbbing, drone-prone sound complemented by piano notes and Fennesz-like guitar-play. [Ed's note: Also, John Wiese, who likes vintage Madonna and the sound of breaking glass.] (Chris Martins)
Also playing Sunday: FRANK SINATRA JR., LENNY WHITE BAND at Catalina Jazz Club; GOO GOO DOLLS, SWITCHFOOT, GREEN RIVER ORDINANCE at the Greek Theatre; WEST INDIAN GIRL at the Hotel Café; RHYTHMIC CIRCUS at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; E HULA MAU at Long Beach Terrace Theater; YOUNG THE GIANT, FAMILY OF THE YEAR, THE SMILES, RACHEL GOODRICH at the Troubadour.
SLAYER, MEGADETH, TESTAMENT AT LONG BEACH ARENA
Area thrashers won't know whether to use their fingers for air guitar or other guilty pleasures as genre pillars Slayer, Megadeth and Testament team up on tour for the first time since 1990's "Clash of the Titans" watershed. Slayer will deliver, start to finish, their Seasons in the Abyss classic of that year — a cruel, bleak disc of drill-sergeant vocals, swarming guitars and octopus beats that was used to pump up grunts for Desert Storm. Not to be outdone, Megadeth will trot out their platinum-selling Rust in Peace (also celebrating its 20th anniversary), the album that perhaps defined their clenched-teeth, twin-ax musicality and cynical worldview. Testament's galloping metal never quite had the personality of tonight's headliners, but their unpretentious, earnest ethos and Chuck Billy's textured vocals are worth arriving early for. (Paul Rogers)
HYPERCOLORS, NICOLE KIDMAN, GENERATION, DIMPLES, SO MANY WIZARDS AT PEHRSPACE
Once upon a time, there was an L.A. art-punk band called the Mae Shi, who released a pretty great poppy, skronky album called HLLLYH in 2008, then broke up over bad blood following a confusing Pitchfork Fest appearance. Half of the band performed using the familiar name — the wrong half of the band, according to founder Tim Byron and his brother Jeff. Actually, the Mae Shi may still exist. Visit their MySpace page and find the ominous message, "We do not break up." But perhaps they would've been better served by borrowing that famous phrase from Bébé's Kids: "We don't die, we multiply." The former members of the Mae Shi (that first half: John and Bill Gray and Jacob Safari) have been busy, popping up in the electronics-damaged rock project Signals, the beat-influenced Bark Bark Bark and the thrashing Man's Assassination, Man. All of this to say: Hypercolors is billed as the "debut of new Mae Shi band," which could mean anything within the realm of noisy and awesome. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday: FOL CHEN, SISTER CRAYON, EVAN VOYTAS at the Echo; MICHAEL NHAT, HALLOWEEN SWIM TEAM, SO MANY WIZARDS, PIZZA! at Echo Curio; WHITE ARROWS at Spaceland; UNKLE MONKEY at Waterfront.
THE SUBMARINES AT BOOTLEG THEATER
Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti may have had an off-and-on relationship as romantic partners, but their musical collaboration as the Submarines has always been strong. There's a distinctive, unselfconscious charm at the heart of their deceptively simple pop-rock songs, which come wrapped up in dreamy electro layers and playful arrangements. Candy-cane keyboards swirl around Hazard's cheery vocals on "Swimming Pool," from the Subs' 2008 CD Honeysuckle Weeks. The tune saunters along buoyantly with all the giddy deliriousness of new love, but it's also pockmarked with spacey pauses, where the narrator gets starry-eyed and whispery, dazed by a kiss. It's been too long — a year, in fact — since the L.A. band has played locally, but Dragonetti and Hazard promise to make it up to us with a set of old favorites and songs from an upcoming album. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday: ISA HILTON at Catalina Jazz Club; BOBBY BARE JR. at the Echo; TUESDAY CLASSICS: LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC with BRAMWELL TOVEY, DANIEL MÜLLER-SCHOTT at the Hollywood Bowl; GREEN DAY, AFI at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; THE RICHARD GLASER JAZZ BAND at Waterfront.
HERBIE HANCOCK AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
The jazz-piano giant turned 70 earlier this year, and to celebrate the occasion, he's playing the Bowl with an expansive group of pals such as neo-soul lady India.Arie, Colombian rocker Juanes and jam-band husband and wife Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. All those folks appear on The Imagine Project, Hancock's recently released follow-up to his Grammy-winning 2007 tribute to Joni Mitchell. Imagine hasn't stirred up the same interest, but it's got some deeply adventurous highlights, including a funky rendition of Bob Marley's "Exodus" that features help from Los Lobos, K'Naan and Tinariwen. Expect to hear material from the new album — along with older stuff like "Cantaloupe Island," "Chameleon" and "Rockit" — at tonight's show, which marks the end of Hancock's first season as the L.A. Phil's creative chair for jazz. (Mikael Wood)
MEN AT THE GLASS HOUSE
MEN, JD Samson's post–Le Tigre band (or parallel to it, if Le Tigre is indeed "on hiatus" and not over), is one of the most interesting propositions in contemporary music. A much looser trio than the Kathleen Hanna–led band, Samson's dance-political party is prone to agitprop, costumes and the energetic, upbeat hectoring of its ringleader. Always worth checking out, even if they will be back in L.A. proper for an Echo show in a couple of weeks. (Gustavo Turner)
Also playing Wednesday: PRINCETON, BONEDADDYS, REFLECTACLE at the Bandshell; TY SEGALL, GRASS WIDOW, GAROTAS SUECAS at Spaceland.
NITE JEWEL, TEEN INC., HEART SHAPED ROCK, PEANUT BUTTER WOLF (DJ SET) AT THE TROUBADOUR
Stones Throw Records CEO and hip-hop producer Peanut Butter Wolf may seem an odd choice to spin wax in between the acts on this experimental rock-ish bill, but there's more of a connection than one might assume. Within the last year or so, Leimert Park funk star Dâm-Funk, a Stones Throw act, became enamored with the swoony, groove-steeped tunes of Ramona Gonzalez, aka Nite Jewel, no doubt seeing her as a sort of artistic soul hermana. She too has a thing for the '80s, though her particular poison is a lo-fi swirl of hazy synth-pop, filtered new age and scuffed-up disco. She's got a new EP out called Am I Real, and the fresh-faced, aptly named local act Teen Inc. contributes to the titular track. Their style is decidedly dripping with the influence of Prince, but like Nite Jewel, they dress their adoration up in tons of warped-tape goodness. Heart Shaped Rock is another Ramona Gonzalez project, featuring songs written by Human Ear Music founder Jason Grier. (Chris Martins)
DR. JOHN & THE LOWER 911, EDDIE BAYTOS & THE NERVIS BROTHERS AT SANTA MONICA PIER
The man-made disasters that have been foisted on Louisiana in the last five years are a microcosm of our nation's decline. On his new album, Tribal, the Crescent City's Dr. John — aka Mac Rebennack — rails against current realities in "Only in Amerika" and comes on like a struttin' Karl Marx in "Big Gap" (the one twixt rich and poor). It's protest music you can dance to, created to help his neighbors transcend their relentless trials and provoke the rest of us into takin' action. With its call-and-response vocals and heavy percussion, it's reminiscent of the Night Tripper sounds Mac blessed us with over 40 years back, and will "doctorate your bones," as the physician of phonk proclaims in the opener. And Lord knows we can all use some a dat. Opening tonight at the Twilight Dance Series at the pier is fellow N'awlins native Eddie Baytos — squeeze-box master, proponent of "World Mardi Gras Music" and keeper of the laissez les bon temps rouler flame here in Hollywood. To paraphrase good-time hell-raiser Emma Goldman, "If I can't shake my butt, you can keep your revolution!" The two pursuits are not only not mutually exclusive, they are downright symbiotic. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Thursday: BERNSTEIN'S "CANDIDE": LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC with BRAMWELL TOVEY, ALEK SHRADER, ANNA CHRISTY; LOS ANGELES MASTER CHORALE with GRANT GERSHON at the Hollywood Bowl.
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