Music Picks: Jail Weddings, Summer Darling, Roky Erickson, Jonathan Richman
BAJOFONDO & GUSTAVO SANTAOLALLA AT DISNEY HALL
Gustavo Santaolalla is an inventive musician and producer who has received a lot of attention in the past decade for his work with the South American electrotango collective Bajofondo and for his evocative, Oscar-winning contributions to the sound tracks of Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Babel (2006), but his career actually extends all the way back to the late 1960s, when he was a member of the cultlike band Arco Iris. The Argentine native would later garner international acclaim in the late '80s and '90s as one of the leading producers of rock en español, recording such musicians as Café Tacuba, Los Prisioneros, Juanes, Maldita Vecindad, Julieta Venegas and Molotov, but he also had an earlier, less-recognized role in the local punk scene after moving to Los Angeles in 1978. Santaolalla fronted the quirky new-wave group Wet Picnic (alongside former Crucis keyboardist Aníbal Kerpel), but, perhaps more crucially, he produced the Plugz's second album, Better Luck, as the L.A. trio was starting to move away from the zippy, minimalist satire of its early punk era into a more melodically and musically adventurous style that presaged the entire rock en español movement. He's a major reason why Bajofondo are far from a traditional tango band, mixing in electronica, classical, rap, dance music and atmospheric folk-pop influences for a bewitching brew. Tonight they'll follow an opening set by conductor Alondra de la Parra and the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, who'll return at the end for "a collaborative grand finale." (Falling James)
SUMMER DARLING AT PEHRSPACE
Summer Darling's songs often start out as simple, jangling folk pop, but by the end they're usually transformed into powerful, heavy-dreamin' rock opuses. The new track "This Would Be the Time" (from the local quartet's upcoming self-titled album on Origami Music) opens with Ben Heywood's and Dan Rossiter's majestic interlocking guitars, as the former intones in a hazy, haunted voice. Even as the guitars ratchet up the chaos, Heywood remains coolly somber underneath it all. Like his bassist-wife Heather Bray Heywood, the singer-guitarist is the child of ministers, and many of his lyrics reflect the contradictions of "his dissolving faith and darkening worldview." Nonetheless, that worldview is often illuminated with witty insights and intriguing lines like "We eat our young to keep you guessing" (from the euphoric early tune "Ride This Wave of Good Feelings") and "I've got cancers to reward for sticking with me" (from "The Zealot"). At their best, Summer Darling evoke the emotional storminess of Neil Young's old work with Crazy Horse. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday: ANDREW BIRD at Largo at the Coronet; OLIVER FUTURE at Bootleg Theater; THE ULTIMATE DOO-WOP SHOW at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts; LAURIE LEWIS & THE RIGHT HANDS at McCabe's; MIDNITE at Key Club; FLYING LOTUS at The Echoplex; YUNG BERG at Whisky a Go-Go; MURDERLAND at Redwood Bar & Grill; KLYMAXX, LISA LISA, JJ FAD at The House of Blues; TURIN BRAKES, HARD DRUGS, LUCY SCHWARTZ at The Echo; CAROLE KING & JAMES TAYLOR at The Hollywood Bowl; THE RUSE at The Roxy; DELTA MIRROR at Spaceland; NATIVE VIBE at The Baked Potato; BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE, CHIODOS, AIRBOURNE, ARCANIUM at the Grove of Anaheim; ANDREW ABARIA, AMY LOFTUS & JASON LAND, SKYLAR THOMSON at Genghis Cohen; JERRY JOSEPH, WALLY INGRAM at The Mint; AIDEN MOORE at Molly Malone's; IRATION, PACIFIC DUB at Saint Rocke; KINGSIZE, UTLRAVIOLET SOUND at The Viper Room; ANNA OXYGEN, THE FINCHES, KEY LOSERS, PONCE DE LEON at The Smell; O.A.R. at The Wiltern; THE ALAN BROADBENT TRIO at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; DREDG, FACING NEW YORK at The Troubadour; JOSHUA TREE MUSIC FESTIVAL at The Joshua Tree Lake Campground.
A-HA AT CLUB NOKIA
This Norwegian pop combo is best known to Americans (if it's known at all) for the groundbreaking video for its lovely 1985 single "Take on Me." (Actually, they might also be known for the title track from the so-so James Bond film The Living Daylights — though I'd forgotten all about that until the Internet just reminded me.) In any event, given the band's relatively low profile and the fact that they live in Norway, it's not exactly shocking to find that a-ha haven't toured the United States in over two decades. (We've got Owl City, after all.) What is kind of surprising is that they've waited until their final tour ever to make their way over here again. Nice timing, dudes! Last year a-ha released a new studio disc called Foot of the Mountain, and though it doesn't contain anything more memorable than "Take on Me," its twinkly synth textures are awfully pretty. Also Sun. (Mikael Wood)
PATTI LUPONE AT WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
"Matters of the Heart" is the name of Patti Lupone's Saturday-night Disney Hall concert, which closes out the L.A. Phil's 2009-10 Songbook Series. But is a performance by this Tony-winning actor-singer really ever about anything else? Here she'll do show tunes by Stephen Sondheim and Rodgers & Hammerstein, pop songs by Brian Wilson and Cyndi Lauper, folk numbers by Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell and whatever you wanna call the wonderful work of Randy Newman. Accompaniment will come from a pianist and a string quartet. Word to attendees: As YouTube has shown, Lupone has been known to go ballistic on audience members who dare to interrupt her gigs by taking pictures or using their cell phones. Keep that shit on silent! (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Saturday: CAROLE KING & JAMES TAYLOR at The Hollywood Bowl; LOS PINGUOS at The Mint; FLYING LOTUS at The Echoplex; JOHN WICKS & THE RECORDS at Rusty's Surf Ranch; CARNEY at El Rey; 30 SECONDS TO MARS, SHINY TOY GUNS, NEON TREES at The Greek Theatre, ANNUALS, THE MOST SERENE REPUBLIC, WHAT LAURA SAYS THINKS & FEELS at Spaceland; JOSHUA TREE MUSIC FESTIVAL at The Joshua Tree Lake Campground; MICHIKO & THE BIRTHDAY BOYZ at Molly Malone's; NICOLE KIDMAN, ESSAY, KNIGHT RIDER, JONATHAN SNIPES at The Smell; RUST, LIONS IN IRON, ARMY OF KINGS at Viper Room; TOOTS & THE MAYTALS at Saint Rocke; BLACK FAG, A PRETTY MESS at Que Sera.
TOOTS & THE MAYTALS AT THE KEY CLUB
Toots Hibbert has one of the mightiest, most distinctive voices in reggae. It's a wise, weathered and burnished instrument that draws just as deeply from American soul and gospel as it does from Jamaican influences. Of course, when it comes to inspiration, Toots & the Maytals are more influential than influenced. Their 1968 single "Do the Reggay" was among the first songs to put a name to the hypnotically offbeat, slower, spiritually uplifting rhythms that grew out of the ska scene. And "Pressure Drop" (from 1970's Monkey Man and 1973's The Harder They Come sound track) is an enduring classic, with an ominous, universal urgency that came through even when the Clash buried it in punk rock guitars on their 1979 version. Various Maytals have come and gone (or died), but Toots is still a vibrant performer. While the production on his new album, Flip and Twist, is a little plain, there are some fiery moments, ranging from the Staxy strut of "Fool for You" and the gospel harmonizing of "Almighty Way" to the mysterious, electro-funky "There Is a Reason" and a compulsively slinky remake of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Also at Saint Rocke, Sat. (Falling James)
RING FESTIVAL L.A. CONSIDERING WAGNER AT REDCAT
It has been 135 long years since Richard Wagner completed his moving monster Der Ring des Nibelungen, enough time surely for a reasoned reassessment of its creator's indubitable dreams and devilish desires. This night of music and film in four acts skews the angles of Wagner's musical and theatrical innovations and his grand visions for Art through excerpts of several operas given contemporary instrumental and procedural twists reflecting the evolution of creativity itself. At three-plus hours (with intermissions), the varied program presents former Villa Aurora resident composers Peter Ablinger, Marko Ciciliani and Ulrich Krieger; chamber-ensemble performances of compositions by Mark Menzies, Marc Sabat and Wolfgang von Schweinitz; plus Krieger's Ginnungagap & 3 Nornen, featuring Scott Cazan on laptop computer and Krieger on alto saxophone; also films by Peter Rappmund and Meason Wiley. This presentation is part of the 10-week Ring Festival L.A., centered around L.A. Opera's new production of Wagner's Ring cycle. Starts at 7 p.m. (John Payne)
Also playing Sunday: SONNY ROLLINS at Walt Disney Concert Hall; BONFIRE MADIGAN at Bootleg Theater; THE GRAND OLE ECHO at The Echoplex; THE MONTHLIES at Dakota Music Lounge; JOSHUA TREE MUSIC FESTIVAL at The Joshua Tree Lake Campground; RICK HOLMSTROM at Liquid Kitty; KIRRILY KEAYES at The Mint; THE SHRILL, DIRTY LOVIN' DOZEN GUN METAL GROOVE, RAVEN PARADE at The Roxy; THE STOWAWAYS at Saint Rocke; GIL MANTERA'S PARTY DREAM at Spaceland; STEREOFIX at The Viper Room.
JAIL WEDDINGS, THE LIKE AT THE ECHO
Under the baton of singer-guitarist Gabriel Hart, L.A.'s Jail Weddings purvey one of your grittier, scarier even, views of the '60s soul sound. JW are a mini-orchestra known to number up to 10 players, including strings and brass and a beguiling batch of backing singers. Hart's obsessively Orbison-esque vocal pleas can send shivers down the spine and draw a tiny tear to the eye in songs that reek of moody doo-wop and do not skimp on the steamy, heaving punk rock & roll. They've got an excellent EP out called Inconvenient Dreams (White Noise) that you need to seek out. The Like are three young white girls who can boast inspired song craft, a stunning heaviosity in their playing prowess and an oddly wise intelligence and humor about it all. Their new album, the Mark Ronson–produced Release Me(Downtown), is out in June. (John Payne)
Also playing Monday: SWEETHEAD, RED FANG, EARTHLINGS at Spaceland; BRANDI THORNTON at The Lighthouse Cafe; SYNDROME WPW at Pehrspace; STEEL PANTHER at House of Blues; TODD BARRY at Largo; MARK BALLAS at The Mint; WAR TAPES at Silverlake Lounge; FALLING STILL, RAJAS, SQUARE ON SQUARE at The Troubadour; RANDOM IMPULSE, DANCE LAURY DANCE at Viper Room.
ROKY ERICKSON AT THE MAYAN
There's a tiny number of incontestably original voices in rock & roll, and one of those belongs to Roky Erickson. The brilliant, troubled singer, who did his level best to change the universe fronting psych-shock troupe the 13th Floor Elevators, possesses not only one of the most irresistibly arousing vocal approaches ever visited upon us but also a natural instinct for both penetrating, poetic lyrics and mad rocking of the most unhinged order. Between his own drastic rebel modus operandi and the duty-bound peace officers of the Lone Star State, Erickson squandered quite a few prime years in a state hospital for the criminally insane, and while his subsequent output has been consistently, beautifully bizarre, he's rolling in tonight bearing the standard of True Love Cast Out All Evil, his first new album in a long stretch. It's a dangerously engrossing set, fraught with bewildered vulnerability, tender melancholy and a righteous, highly individualized spirituality, urged along by relentless, contrary undercurrents of desperate longing and profound tension. Those qualities are inimitably — and exclusively — pure Roky, and there has never been a better time to recognize him (again) as one of rock & roll's most valiant practitioners. (Jonny Whiteside)
MASSIVE ATTACK AT THE WILTERN THEATRE
Massive Attack hail from a time when it was possible to call yourself things like "3D" and "Daddy G" and still be accepted by the hipsterati. It was a time when stateside hip-hop was still fresh, and European dance was mostly an underground affair — a time when something called "trip-hop" could emerge and not get ridden out on a rail. Though the group formed in 1987, its roots are in the Bristolian collective the Wild Bunch, an influential crew (and Tricky's alma mater) that borrowed its M.O. from the Jamaican DJs of yore. Its sound, however, was far more pan-global, pulling from R&B, dub, ambient, proto-house, punk and rap. The resulting soup was innovative for its time, and even if Massive Attack's early sounds — and the handles associated with them — feel outdated now, the duo has proved that its catchall approach to mellow electronica is wholly updatable. New album Heligoland fittingly includes collaborations with Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn, as well as TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe. (Chris Martins)
JONATHAN RICHMAN WITH TOMMY LARKINS AT THE SMELL
You know it's a big night at the Smell when the prole-friendly, all-ages downtown noise venue raises its standard five-buck fee to a whole $15. Thing is, that's quite a bargain considering what's being offered here: Legendary songsmith Jonathan Richman, he of the short-lived but excellent proto-punkers the Modern Lovers, accompanied by drummer Tommy Larkins (Giant Sand, Vic Chesnutt) in a room able to hold 250 people max. For the uninitiated, Richman has had a profound influence on outsider folksters and quirky indie rockers alike, from the original K Records clan to Violent Femmes. His sound is resolutely grounded in the offhand cool of the Velvet Underground, but almost naively unpretentious and colored by strains of country, the blues and old-school pop. His most recent and 21st album is A Que Venimos Sino a Caer?, a collection of tunes sung in Spanish, French, Italian and English. Don't forget to wish him a happy birthday — Richman turns 59 on May 16. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Tuesday: 60 WATT KID, VOICES VOICES, PIZZA at The Echo; CONVERGE at El Ret; SCARLET GREY at The Troubadour; BLACK MATH HORSEMAN, GREEN & WOOD, LANTVRN, FATSO JETSON at Saceland; CONVERGE at El Rey; BIGELF at The Roxy; THE PROBE at La Cita; CAMERATA PACIFICA at Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens; STYX, FOREIGNER, KANSAS at Gibson Ampitheatre.
CARIBOU, TORO Y MOI, DUBLAB DJS AT EL REY
"Dance music that sounds like it's made out of water" is how Caribou (known until a lawsuit as Manitoba) mastermind Dan Snaith refers to the music he dreamed up for his fifth album, Swim. Listening to songs like "Odessa" and "Bowls," it's surprisingly easy to hear what he means. The man has covered a lot of stylistic ground over the past decade, dipping into Kraut, shoegaze, folktronica and psych-pop, and all of those strains come into play here, infusing his newfound love of thump with infinite nuance. It makes sense that Four Tet's Kieran Hebden and Junior Boys' Jeremy Greenspan lend a hand here — each has proved his ability to make house-steeped songs for the discerning club-goer. Is it surprising that Snaith's name will now appear in that hallowed circle? With extended grooves like "Sun" in his arsenal, he surely is a welcome addition. South Carolina chillwave artist Toro Y Moi should make for a fitting opener, with DJ sets of progressive, beat-based tunes from Dublab tying the night together. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Wednesday: BROKEN BELLS at the Music Box; TALIB KWELI & HI-TEK at House of Blues; JACK TEMPCHIN at Crane's Hollywood Tavern; DUB CLUB at The Echo; ABUSED ROMANCE, ADRIAN VERA at The Troubadour; ROB ROY, 87 STICK UP KIDS, LEXICON DON at The Roxy; SARA RADLE, ANDREW LYNCH, CORREATOWN, C-HORSE at Spaceland; THE TENDER BOX at Viper Room; ASKING ALEXANDRIA at Whisky A Go-Go.
MINUS THE BEAR, EVEREST AT THE MAYAN
Evidently riding high on the solid midlevel success of last year's Silversun Pickups record, local indie Dangerbird has spent the first half of 2010 snapping up bands like they're going out of style. Among their catches: Codeine Velvet Club, Hot Hot Heat, Fitz & the Tantrums and Seattle's Minus the Bear, whose label debut, Omni, hit stores earlier this month. Working with Shins/White Stripes producer Joe Chiccarelli, MTB mellow their typically busy emo-prog sound with more tuneful vocals and some smooth-sailing Steely Dan white-funk bits. Think Maroon 5 for Stella-swilling hipsters. (I really like Maroon 5.) L.A.'s rootsy-punky Everest have a new one out as well, called On Approach; it's their first for Warner Bros. but doesn't sound terribly impressed with that fact. (Mikael Wood)
GLEE LIVE! IN CONCERT! AT GIBSON AMPHITHEATRE
If you're not already a fan of Fox's brilliant show-choir series, there's no way this limited-run stage production is gonna convince you to start tuning in. In fact, the awesomest thing about Glee Live! In Concert! might actually be that it only lends credence to detractors' claims that the series breathes the same performative air as Disney on Ice and the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. (And their point is ...?) Sad to report that the adults who play Sue Sylvester and Mr. Schuester are not along for the ride. But all the principal youngsters are, including the touchingly hilarious Chris Colfer (aka Kurt Hummel) and Lea Michele (aka Rachel Berry), whose extensive background on Broadway should stand her in good stead tonight. Reportedly on the set list: "Don't Stop Believin'," "Somebody to Love," "Sweet Caroline" and "Don't Rain on My Parade." Also May 21-22. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday: KRS-ONE, LUMINARIES, EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS at Royce Hall; CHRIS HILLMAN at the Grammy Museum, SIMPLE CITIZENS at Air Conditioned Lounge; NASHVILLE PUSSY, COCKPIT at Key Club; I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. at Weber's Place; CASXIO, VANAPRASTA, SYMPHONIC CIRCLES at The Troubadour; THE ROYAL HIGHNESS at Viper Room; SHOUT OUT LOUDS at El Rey.
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