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Music Picks: Evelyn Evelyn, Booker T. Jones, Kaki King, Pete Rock

Brainy Brooklynites: The National
PHOTO BY KEITH KLENOWSKI

FRIDAY/MAY/21

PETE ROCK AT THE KEY CLUB
Bronx-born DJ and rapper Pete Rock came into his own as hip-hop was coming into existence. It was old-school originator Marley Marl who gave Rock his first audience — in 1987 on the pioneering WBLS station — and three years later, the young producer made a name for himself laying down soulful beats for the Socratic lyrical excursions of CL Smooth. Despite the classic chemistry displayed on singles like "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)," the duo split in 1995, leaving Rock to follow his own path. He'd already put in work producing for Run-DMC, Nas and Public Enemy, so the leap to a solo career wasn't difficult at all. His 1998 debut, Soul Survivor featured everyone from Wu-Tang to members of the Soulquarian tribe to forefathers like Kool G Rap and mainstreamers like Big Pun. His latest album, NY's Finest, lacks some of the fire that fueled Rock through those early years, but his jazz-steeped tracks still sound good accompanied by a fresh Raekwon verse. (Chris Martins)

THE NATIONAL AT THE WILTERN
Judging by their recent press coverage, these mumbly Brooklyn sad sacks are set to break big with High Violet, their fifth full-length, which has earned the National high-profile spots in the New York Times Magazine and on the cover of The Village Voice. (The Times even streamed the album for several days prior to its release — a first for the Gray Lady.) Given frontman Matt Berninger's literary aspirations, you can understand why America's culture writers are falling for High Violet; he makes hunching over your laptop sound like a cool way to spend your Saturday night. But this is also the first National record that's felt bigger than the sum of its parts, with gratifyingly propulsive mope-rock grooves that do more than provide a moody backdrop for Berninger's sad-guy monologues. Here's hoping the band's Wiltern shows tap into the album's energy as well as its emotion. Also Sat. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Friday: L.A. WEEKLY'S L.A. WEEKEND at Saban Theatre; THELMA HOUSTON, JIMMY WEBB at the Grammy Museum; FRANCIS & THE LIGHTS at the Echo; OK GO at the Music Box; EVEREST, MINUS THE BEAR at the Glass House; FAR at the Troubadour; JOHN BUTLER TRIO at House of Blues; GLEE LIVE! IN CONCERT! at Gibson Amphitheatre; SWEETHEAD at Alex's Bar; YOON SEUNG CHO QUINTET at Blue Whale; THE UNTOUCHABLES at Brixton South Bay; THE DAN BAND at Club Nokia; HYPERCRUSH at Roxy; FEEL FREE at the Smell; THE DAMN SONS at Spaceland; THE KENNY DENNIS TRIO at LACMA; OLMECA at El Cid; JACK SHELDON ORCHESTRA at Catalina Bar & Grill.

 

SATURDAY/MAY/22

SHOOTER JENNINGS, LUKAS NELSON AT THE TROUBADOUR
Here's a nifty double bill featuring the L.A.-based progeny of two country-music greats: Waylon Jennings' son Shooter and Willie Nelson's kid Lukas. (Ironically, Jennings and Nelson opened their 1978 joint effort Waylon & Willie with "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" — advice neither of their wives made much use of.) Jennings debuted with a bang in 2005 with the appealingly raucous, endearingly profane Put the "O" Back in Country, on which he voiced his discontent with Nashville (snooze) but actually rocked hard enough to justify his complaint. His new one, Black Ribbons, rocks pretty hard, too, though it also bogs down with loads of spoken-word concept-album bullshit courtesy of guest star Stephen King — pray that King declines to show tonight. Nelson's singing voice bears a crazy-strong resemblance to his dad's, but his musical tastes tend toward Ben Harper–style jam-band fare. (Mikael Wood)

KAKI KING AT EL REY THEATRE
When Kaki King first came to attention by busking solo in New York City subways, she was primarily an instrumental guitarist who dazzled commuters with her elaborate fret-tapping techniques and the way she pounded on her acoustic for percussive emphasis. Clearly, the Atlanta native wasn't your typical folkie panhandling for change. King's 2004 CD, Legs to Make Us Longer, was a mostly instrumental affair, with feverishly tangled workouts like "Playing With Pink Noise" scattered amid such gently expanding art-prog soundscapes as "All the Landslides Birds Have Seen Since the Beginning of the World." On subsequent albums, she's added breathy vocals and arty lyrics to her music, formed a full electric band, and experimented with loops and layering effects. As her fame has grown, she's collaborated with Tegan & Sara and even managed to make such generic rock dullards as the Foo Fighters sound adventurous. King's latest CD, Junior, sparkles with her trademark guitar flourishes, such as the celestially shimmering plucking that adorns "Spit It Back in My Mouth," but ultimately the album is more about songs than flashy guitar pyrotechnics. (Falling James)

NOKIE EDWARDS AT JOE'S GREAT AMERICAN BAR & GRILL
The Ventures are the standard-bearers of twang, that quintessential electric-guitar sound found in everything from country to surf and from punk to spaghetti Westerns. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers have sold 100 million instrumental records worldwide over the last 50 years, and hits include"Walk Don't Run," "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" and "Hawaii Five-O." Originally the band's bassist, Nokie Edwards became lead guitarist in 1962. Revered by George Harrison and John Fogerty (among many others), Edwards is a thrilling, aggressive player who used a fuzz tone when Jimi was still Jimmy and an electric 12-string before the Byrds had wings. Backing Edwards up tonight, as well as playing their own miniset of Ventures rarities, are Venturesmania!, a tribute band of hotshots featuring another fret monster, Deke Dickerson. Dickerson and his group the Ecco-Fonics open the show with over-the-speed-limit rockabilly, honky-tonk, and Western swing. His most recent album, King of the Whole Wide World, is an all-American feast, finding Dickerson dabbling in doo-wop and bluegrass and mastering whatever he touches. (Michael Simmons)

ENTRANCE BAND AT SILVER LAKE JUBILEE
All played-out or the de facto center of the universe? Silver Lake refuses to die, in any case, and we've got the Silver Lake Jubilee to prove it again with a two-day music and art fest that offers more than 40 food vendors, 60 arts & crafts vendors, four interactive villages (art, literary, eco and children's), comedy shows, theater and performance art — and is totally plastic-water-bottle-free (right on), so bring your own flask. The musical lineup is outstanding with the headlining psych-blues-rock of the Entrance Band chiefly something you do not want to miss (also, the Growlers, Foreign Born, the Living Sisters, Dublab Sound System and loads more). It all goes down on Myra Avenue in Silver Lake, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Fountain Avenue. Also Sun. See silverlakejubilee.com for lineup, schedule, deets. [Also see Go LA] (John Payne)

Also playing Saturday: L.A. WEEKLY'S LA WEEKEND at Saban Theatre; GLEE LIVE! IN CONCERT! at Gibson Amphitheatre; CHAPIN SISTERS, I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. at McCabe's; CHRIS PUREKA at the Mint; ODELIA at Pehrspace; CLEM SNIDE at Spaceland; RUST at the Viper Room; JACK SHELDON ORCHESTRA at Pasadena Bar and Grill; DOHENY BLUES FESTIVAL at Doheny State Beach.

 

SUNDAY/MAY/23

FRIGHTENED RABBIT AT THE MUSIC BOX
Before 2004, the best-known export of Selkirk, Scotland, was a dry fruitcake called "bannock," which, according to Wikipedia, is "made from wheat flour and containing a very large quantity of raisins." It's for this reason, among myriad others, that we're incredibly pleased to be acquainted with Frightened Rabbit, an angular little indie-rock band from that same Celtic burg. Dismemberment Plan, Red House Painters, and the Frames all come to mind in turn while listening to the group's just-released third album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Songs like "Swim Until You Can't See Land" and "Living in Colour" go a great way toward illustrating the record's feel and theme: a hopeful exuberance seemingly inspired by a need to leave something dark behind. Hand claps, shakers, spiky guitars and the yearning vocals of Scott Hutchison all play heavily into that vibe, which moves listeners quite deftly through a filler-less collection of emotion-bearing tunes. (Chris Martins)

BOOKER T. JONES, BETTYE LAVETTE AT THE DOHENY BLUES FESTIVAL
As the "blues" festival bill of fare grows increasingly erratic (Crosby Stills & Nash? Can we look forward to Justin Bieber next year?), it's a downright relief to come across a pair of acts who don't merely uphold musical tradition, but also took an active hand in steering its direction. Memphis keyboard prophet Booker T. Jones and salty Detroit soul shouter Bettye LaVette immersed themselves in the soul crucible just as it reached boiling point, and each represents a distinct, regional approach with which they've consistently excelled. Jones, of course, served as the backbone of Stax Records, a ferociously creative accompanist who made history with his own MGs hits and his close, drastically fruitful collaborations with Otis Redding (as well as with most of the company's fabled roster). LaVette trod a far thornier path, but consistently met each challenge with the elegant aggression which colors her distinct and intense vocal style. For a double-barreled blast of expressive, emotional and altogether classic soul — whether it's LaVette taking on the British Invasion songbook or the hard-rocking material from Jones' startling 2009 Potato Hole album — these two flat get it done. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Sunday: SILVER LAKE JUBILEE at Myra Street in Silver Lake; BLEED THE DREAM, WE ARE THE ARSENAL at the Roxy; THE TENDERBOX at Alex's Bar; THE GROOVY REDNECKS at the Echo; LAWNDALE at Liquid Kitty; PATRICK WATSON at Hotel Cafe; LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA at Royce Hall; LOS ANGELES MASTER CHORALE at Disney Hall.

 

MONDAY/MAY/24

NOODLES AT BOOTLEG THEATER
With nine full-lengths, eight mini-albums and nearly two decades to their name, Tokyo's Noodles may very well be "Japan's best all-girl rock ensemble," as their bio claims. The band is best known internationally for its sound track to the acclaimed progressive lesbian romance Love My Life, but even a cursory perusal of their CV reveals an impressive body of work. Singer guitarist Yoko, bassist Ikuno and drummer Ayumi are formidable rockers with a sound that traverses girl-group pop, grunge, punk and shoegaze. Think Rilo Kiley meets Hole, but with lyrics that trade off between Japanese and cutely mangled English. The group's most recent releases are Our First Noodles, a solid retrospective, and The Music Moves Me, a three-song set recorded in San Francisco last year — all in all, a relatively cheap and easy way to get a feel for the Noodles legacy. (Chris Martins)

Also playing Monday: THE LIKE at the Echo; STEEL PANTHER at House of Blues; THE VENUS ILLUMINATO at the Mint; ESSAY, REPETITIONS at Pehrspace; GRASS WIDOW at the Smell, SWEETHEAD at Spaceland; THE UGLYSUIT at Hotel Cafe.

 

TUESDAY/MAY/25

EVELYN EVELYN AT LARGO
Evelyn Evelyn are purportedly conjoined twins who've spent their entire lives performing in circus freak shows, but, on closer inspection, they really appear to be former Dresden Dolls singer-pianist Amanda Palmer and the Seattle street musician Jason Webley. Perhaps not surprisingly, the duo's new self-titled CD has a carnivalesque flavor with such playful cabaret-pop tunes as "Elephant Elephant" and "Tragic Events, Part II." Guest stars like "Weird Al" Yankovic, comedian Margaret Cho, Morningwood's Chantal Claret, Andrew W.K., Tegan & Sara, Frances Cobain and Palmer's boyfriend, graphic novelist Neil Gaiman, add to the merriment and overall casual mood. While there's nothing here approaching the emotional heft of old Dresden Dolls epics like "Truce," Evelyn Evelyn's spare, ukulele-flecked reinterpretation of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is somberly moving, and much more than just a novelty cover. Also Wed.-Thurs. (Falling James)

Also playing Tuesday: THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT at the Echo; X (Aussie Band) at Five Stars Bar; JR. JUGGERNAUT at Spaceland; NADA SURF at the Troubadour.

 

WEDNESDAY/MAY/26

BATHS AT LOW END THEORY
Chatsworth resident Will Wiesenfeld led a relatively quiet life up until about two months ago. As the mastermind of the sometimes solo, sometimes 10-piece Post-Foetus project — not to mention a pretty great ambient sideline called Geotic — the 21-year-old seemed almost content to bubble just below the buzz, experimenting at his own pace as fans slowly glommed on. And then, Baths happened. Inspired by the local beat music movement, and upon receiving some sage advice from veteran L.A. electronicist Daedelus, Wiesenfeld embarked on a new path that unexpectedly ran right up to Pitchfork's front stoop. His winning mash-up of big beats, swooning vocals and instrumental chops (he plays viola, piano and guitar) has earned him burgeoning blog love and plenty of favorable comparisons. The current lore places him at the crossroads of two emerging sounds: the L.A. thing, of course, and the greater chillwave microgenre typified by artists like Toro Y Moi. This is the last night of Baths' residency at Low End Theory, so dress for bass. (Chris Martins)

Also playing Wednesday: NADA SURF at the Troubadour; DRAGONETTE at the Echo; SODOM, INFERNAL DAMNATION at House of Blues; EVELYN EVELYN at Largo; SA-RA at the Roxy; HOSE THIEVES at Spaceland; BRAKE & REPAIR METHOD, GROUPLOVE at Hotel Cafe; BLACKBREW at Viper Room; UCLA SYMPHONY at Schoenberg Hall; MALACATES TREBOL SHOP at the Conga Room.

 

THURSDAY/MAY/27

SPECTRUM AT SPACELAND
Spectrum is in fact Pete Kember, aka Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3, England's premier alternative-experimental band of the entire damn '80s. Sonic's Spectrum takes up the mind-warp baton again by head-diving into an even newer brand of psychedelic pop, let's call it, that delivers all the head-pinching feedback/fuzz epic Velvets/biker/Krautrock wide-screenery of Spacemen 3 (whose catalog the band will be digging into tonight), but generally feels less obscurely psychological. Strangely, the payoff is darkly nostalgic: Sonic's enormous walls of guitars, booming bass, pulsating tubs — and, especially, creaky old analog synths — serve to enhance an apparent newfound respect for something approaching trad song form and classic rock's power to transform and elevate. He's not the Bruce Springsteen of alt-psychedelia, exactly — more like a parallel-universe rock & roll spiritualist. (John Payne)

LOST IN THE TREES AT THE TROUBADOUR
Back in 2008, Ari Picker released his impressive All Alone in an Empty House, a gentle, meditative country-folk album with a certain classic Neil Young–ish vibe. Picker developed his Lost in the Trees project in North Carolina as a kind of "folk orchestra," taking advantage of his earlier training in composition and arranging at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Now signed to L.A.'s burgeoning Anti- Records, Picker will be presenting a revamped version of Empty House, this time enhanced by the help of Mountain Goats' producer Scott Solter. Lost in the Trees is rootsy music that can also delight sophisticated fans of Morricone or Jack Nitzsche. With Plants & Animals. (Gustavo Turner)

BUNBURY AT HOUSE OF BLUES
When Spain's iconic rockers Heroes del Silencio broke up in '96, lead singer-composer Enrique Bunbury embarked on a solo trek that roamed a bewilderingly broad range of personas and styles, from heavy rocker to power popper to folk-roots reinterpreter to techno-dancer to jazzy-pop crooner. His most recent disc, 2008's Hellville De Luxe, found him zeroing in on a grittily poetic pop-rock. Bunbury's liberated free-flow has earned him a perfervidly fanatical following throughout the Latin music world, a status owing in part to the man's serious unstudied cool: Onstage, he's your total rock star awash in fog and flashing lights, pumping out anthemic rockers and lite-metal-ish power ballads, then twisting things around with intimately shaded tales of love and life gone very wrong or oh-so-right. He's quite a literate storyteller, too, so brush up on your Spanish to get the full story. (John Payne)

Also playing Thursday: AGENT ORANGE, MIKE WATT & THE MISSINGMEN at Air Conditioned Lounge; WILLIE BARCENA at the Canyon Club; EVELYN EVELYN at Largo; NEON WEST at Cinema Bar; VOXTROT at Echoplex; LITTLE BROTHER at the Key Club; LA SANTA CECILIA at Little Temple; JARED LEE at the Mint; REBECCA PIDGEON at Molly Malone's; GROUNDATION, ORGONE at Roxy; SONS OF LAWLESS at the Viper Room; BOOKA SHADE at the Music Box; DAVID SANBORN TRIO at Catalina Bar & Grill.

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