Music Picks: Laura Veirs, Experience Hendrix, Boyz II Men, Earthworm Ensemble
The Bird and the Bee, Juliette Commagere at El Rey Theatre
The Bird & the Bee's Inara George and Greg Kurstin are a madly talented pop duo. George is the daughter of the late Little Feat mastermind Lowell George, and she's also a part of the dreamy new femme-vocal supergroup the Living Sisters. Meanwhile, keyboardist/producer Kurstin has collaborated with Lily Allen, Peaches, Beck, Gwen Stefani, Rilo Kiley and Little Boots (among many others). As the Bird & the Bee, George and Kurstin whip up retro, highly stylized pop tunes that are both sugary and smart, although their mellow moods can sometimes get a bit twee and precious. Case in point: At tonight's show, the Bird & the Bee are celebrating the upcoming release of their new CD, Interpreting the Masters, Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates. While it's debatable that Hall & Oates are masters of anything (beyond watering down Philly soul to the point of fluffy insubstantiality), George and Kurstin will likely put their own distinctly charming twist to dorky hits like "Private Eyes" and the exceedingly annoying "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)." Better catch the Bird & the Bee now, as the pregnant George is expecting a baby in April and will be out of action for a spell. The local singer Juliette Commagere opens with a set of invitingly ethereal electropop chansons from her latest CD, Turntablism. (Falling James)
Experience Hendrix at Gibson Amphitheatre
What kind of music would Jimi Hendrix make if he were still alive today? Of course, we'll never know the definitive answer to one of rock's great what-if questions, although tantalizing clues might be found on the upcoming Valleys of Neptune (due next month), a collection of previously unreleased recordings whose mere existence (and recent rediscovery) is somewhat astonishing, given how many times Hendrix's musical tomb has been ransacked over the past 40 years. Near the end of his short life, the prolific Seattle guitarist was exploding in seemingly a hundred different directions at once, jamming with Miles Davis and inventing his own fusion of fluidly grooving space funk and otherworldly world music. One thing's certain, however: Hendrix — who was increasingly frustrated that his teenybop fans only wanted to hear the early hits — probably wouldn't still be trotting out his oldies with the kind of deferentially unimaginative note-for-note treatment that often occurs at tribute concerts like this. That said, this edition of the annual Experience Hendrix tour does feature some interesting guests (along with a more predictable assortment of the usual flashy suspects, like Joe Satriani, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang). Jimi's old Army buddy and post-Experience bassist Billy Cox will be on hand to lend some much-needed authenticity and warmly rounded bottom end, along with Isley Brothers guitarist Ernie Isley, the terminally underrated Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford, Los Lobos' Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo, and Living Colour (buried puzzlingly at the bottom of the bill). Still, one wishes that the booking of this all-male, mostly retro lineup showed the same freewheeling creativity and genre-crossing bravery that Jimi once embraced. Just imagine how fiery it might have been if the promoters had invited such disparate freak-flag wavers as, say, Marnie Stern, P-Funk's Blackbyrd McKnight, Love's Johnny Echols, Meshell Ndegeocello, Backbiter's Jonathan Hall, Kaki King, MOB's Roger Miller, the Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood and Tinariwen's Ibrahim Ag Alhabib. Oh well. Guess we're "still raining, still dreaming ..." (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
EVEREST, DEER TICK at the Natural History Museum; ROCKY VOTOLATO, ADAM H.STEPHENS at the Troubadour; MALFAKTOR, UNWRITTEN LAW at the Queen Mary (Long Beach); MIKE WATT & THE MISSINGMEN, TOKYO LIGHT, THE MORMONS at the Bootleg Theater; THE GLASSELL PARK 3, DALMACIO VON DIAMOND & THE ENOCHIAN KEYS, WOMAN, OTHERS at the Smell; BRIG FELTUS at the Dakota Music Lounge; VAUD & THE VILLIANS at Fais Do-Do; THE COOL KIDS, PAC DIV at the Key Club; LIMBECK, THE ABSOLUTE, COYOTE GRACE, ANGIE EVANS at the Mint; OLD CALIFORNIO, RICHARD MARCH at the Redwood Bar.
Boyz II Men at Club Nokia
For early-'80s babies, there's no R&B group more smooth, sensitive and in sync than Boyz II Men. The legendary vocal quartet came together in 1986 at a Philadelphia high school for the arts, and rose to fame with the coming of New Jack Swing, the game-changing hybridization of sample-heavy hip-hop and barbershop soul. So what if boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman engineered Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC after he witnessed BIIM's success in the suburbs; it never got better than Nathan, Michael, Shawn and Wanya. Much of that is due to the fact that while other groups were going deeper down the rappin' hole — or going straight pop — these four stayed mostly old-school over the course of 10 albums (!), having more to do with the Spinners than with their contemporaries. Today, BIIM is down one member — bass singer Michael McCary — but the remaining Boyz are showmen to the bone. They will woo you fully, shower you with roses, then leave you a little bleary-eyed as they go on their way. (Chris Martins)
826LA Benefit feat. the Submarines, the Growlers, Pity Party, Summer Darling at the Echoplex
The Chickens in Love "mini music festival" takes its name from an upcoming compilation curated by the good folks at 826LA, the Echo Park–based chapter of Dave Eggers' nationwide nonprofit youth + writing organization. The record itself is composed of songs whose lyrics were written by 826LA students (ages 6 to 18), recorded by L.A.-area artists. The list of players runs the gamut — from Fiona Apple and Tim & Eric to Dum Dum Girls and She & Him — and includes the four bands performing at this event: folksy pop duo the Submarines, surf-country Costa Mesa crew the Growlers, indie experimentalists Pity Party and the math-rock–inclined Summer Darling. The Hive Hair Shop is scheduled to be on hand to provide on-the-spot punk 'dos, apropos "rocker accessories" will be available from local designers, and the Grill 'em All food truck will provide burgers. All proceeds from the $15 show go right back into 826LA, which means enabling hardworking creative types and wide-eyed kiddies to execute yet more great ideas. (Chris Martins)
Joe Henry at Largo at the Coronet
Sounds a bit corny, but our Joe Henry really is a quadruple threat. A grittily nuanced singer and an advanced guitar stylist, he's also a revered production wiz capable of elegantly original studio shadings for the varied likes of artists such as Solomon Burke, Elvis Costello, Loudon Wainwright III and Allen Toussaint. His most impressive feat in recent times, however, has been his ascent as a songwriter, where, in history-probing works that elegantly weave alternative country, rock, jazz and folk, he spins highly literate and richly metaphorical tales with a grand cast of hugely memorable and moving characters. The Tin Pan Alley/neo-kool-jazz/country-blues and beyond of Henry's latest, Blood From Stars(Anti-), is a startling leap into a rootsy but intriguingly unfamiliar musical space that's somehow all of the above and none of it at all — and, as you know, that distinctively American brand of genius is where it's at. (John Payne)
Also playing Saturday:
BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA at Royce Hall; MOSES CAMPBELL, VOICE ON TAPE, MISSINCINATTI, HOMESICK ELEPHANT, MORE at the Echo Curio; DAVID WILCOX at Smothers Theater (Pepperdine University); KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, DARK TRANQUILITY at the Wiltern; JARROD GORBEL, ORENDA FINK at the Bootleg Theater; REBELUTION; SOJA, ZION-I at House of Blues.
Earthworm Ensemble at the Echo
All you new moms and pops out there trying to keep up with the latest and most infotational "music for kids" are no doubt discovering that there's a problem, namely that said namby-pamby nursery noise just makes you want to barf. But here now is a welcome exception whose humor, intelligence and really ace musicianship mean you ain't gotta have a rug rat to appreciate it: presenting Earthworm Ensemble, a sterling bunch of real rock & roots musicians such as country renegades I See Hawks In L.A., the Chapin Sisters, progressive C&W boys Mike Stinson, Brantley Kearns and David Jackson, and, dig it, Sly Stone bassist Jimi Hawes. Their eponymous CD features these great players and their kidz singing their li'l hearts out in imaginatively arranged tunes dealing with good stuff about taking care of the planet and being nice and fair to other people, and there's no skimping on tunes about train riding or the timeless joy of pizza. Bring the babies and dig on in. (John Payne)
Also playing Sunday:
DEVON ROLAND & THE CRAZY HEARTS at El Cid.
David Scott Stone at Echo Curio
Sir DSS, as he's sometimes called, may be best known to civilians as a dextrous musician who's played with the Melvins, the Locust, Keiji Haino, Jello Biafra, Merzbow, Big Business and others. Which is a pretty amazing group to be affiliated with, if you look at the macro of it all. You've got some legends of Japanese noise, some beefy post-punk/metal, an annoying S.F. punk singer and lots of guts. He's also kinda fancy: He's gigged the Centre Pompidou and appeared in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. But what he's been doing at the Curio, so we've heard (lame, lame, lame, not been yet), is collaborating with miscellaneous kindred spirits. In the friendly confines of the Echo Curio, there are worse ways to spend a Monday. Also on the bill: The Urxed, Mirror to Mirror. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Monday:
DAVID BAZAN, HEADLIGHTS, KISSING COUSINS at Alex's Bar; YEAR LONG DISASTER at the Troubadour; THE BIRHTDAY SUITS, GOD EQUALS GENOCIDE at the Five Stars Bar; THE KEVIN O'DAY BAND, DJ QUICKIE MART at the Mint.
Laura Veirs at Spaceland
The Oregon songwriter Laura Veirs could just as well be describing herself on her latest album, July Flame, when she sings, "Not a household name but/She's been in your head all day/It would be so cool to/Be like Carol, Carol Kaye." Veirs is referring to the legendary session-musician bassist (who, coincidentally, was profiled by Jessica Hopper in these pages two weeks ago). Veirs' new CD might also end up in your head all day, although her spare folk-pop songs are many miles away from the elaborate arrangements of Kaye-pumped classics like "Good Vibrations" and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." Instead, Veirs' longtime producer, Tucker Martine (the Decemberists, Spoon, Jesse Sykes), imbues tracks like "Little Deschutes" and "Summer Is the Champion" with low-key string and horn embellishments. My Morning Jacket's Jim James deepens the austere sound of acoustic idylls "I Can See Your Tracks" and "Silo Song" with big, dramatic, sky-filling harmonies. Even with such stellar help, Veirs ultimately finds her own way on July Flame, as she confesses, "Oh I can see your tracks/But I won't follow them." (Falling James)
The Big Pink, A Place to Bury Strangers at El Rey Theatre
After turning many a hipster's head last year with a handful of U.S. shows in support of their celebrated debut, A Brief History of Love, London's Big Pink are coming back our way for a five-week North American tour that launches tonight at El Rey and wraps next month at Coachella. The best parts of Brief History sound like the dude from Arctic Monkeys fronting Nine Inch Nails; their semi-hit single "Dominos" is a block-rocking blast of salty soccer-hooligan soul. Volume-wise, the Big Pink should be given a run for their money by Brooklyn-based openers A Place to Bury Strangers (who, incidentally, warmed up some of NIN's crowds during the Lights in the Sky tour); on last year's excellently titled Exploding Head they use huge guitars to disguise the sad-dude vulnerability of songs like "I Lived My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart." (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Tuesday:
HIS ORCHESTRA, RED TIDE, SUPERHUMANOIDS at the Silverlake Lounge; MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA at the Troubadour; DIRTY ED TUESDAYS FEAT. THE NEUROTICS, THE CRAZY SQUEEZE, OTHERS at the Redwood Bar; PLANETS, TOTALLY SERIOIUS, L.A. FOG, SECONDARY at the Smell.
Little Boots, Dragonette, Class Actress AT El Rey Theatre
U.K. solo artist Little Boots, aka Victoria Hesketh, presents a pile of stylistic contradictions that seem perfectly suited for modern ears. Among her primary influences, she places Britney Spears on the same plane as French synth pioneer Jean Michel Jarre and, well, Captain Beefheart. That last reference may be tough to pick out in Hesketh's decidedly straightforward music or lyrics; she does have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes her accessible to the masses, but a wee bit more interesting than most pop chart–toppers. As far as associations go, it also helps that she's signed to rising L.A. indie label IAMSOUND. Canadian electro-pop band Dragonette is almost exclusively throwback — hell, the group even wrote a song for Cyndi Lauper's 2008 comeback LP — and is often described as a female-fronted Scissor Sisters. That polished brand of synthesized glam defines the band's recent full-length, Fixin' to Thrill. Brooklyn's Class Actress puts a grittier, lo-fi spin on this night's common sound, making the trio a closer cousin to Cold Cave than Human League. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Wednesday:
NOBUNNY, TV GHOST at the Five Stars Bar; MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA at the Troubadour; THE TEMPER TRAP, DARKER MY LOVE at the Henry Fonda Theater; THE DELTA SPIRIT, WE BARBARIANS, JONNY CORNDOG at the Bootleg Theater; CORREATOWN at Spaceland; SEVENDUST at House of Blues; JOE SIB, AUDRA MAE at Largo at the Coronet; TRAVIS X, A-TRACK at the Roxy; WET & RECKLESS, AGENT RIBBONS, KISSING COUSINS at the Silverlake Lounge.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Echoplex
These L.A.-based garage-rock believers get off on freshening up old sounds, but there's lots of newness happening inside the BRMC camp right now: a new album (Beat the Devil's Tattoo) featuring a new drummer (former touring Raveonette Leah Shapiro) on a new label (the band's own Abstract Dragon). (Also worth noting: the trio's inclusion on last year's New Moon soundtrack.) To celebrate all this novelty, BRMC are doing three nights at the Echoplex shortly before heading to SXSW in order to convince the music industry to pay attention to Devil's Tattoo. Should you? Sure! In addition to an awesomely self-parody–skirting title, it's got an abundance of hazy, Jesus and Mary Chain–style jams about such niceties as bad blood, war machines and the River Styx. Ooh, which reminds me: new-genre alert! Shoegaze + the blues = bluegaze, people. (Mikael Wood)
Slow Club at Spaceland
Slow Club are a delightful folk-pop duo from Sheffield, England. Singer-guitarist Charles Watson claims to be "heavily influenced by Leonard Cohen (the later years)," while singer-guitarist/percussionist Rebecca Taylor, in turn, proudly declares that she's "heavily influenced by Rod Stewart (all the years)." Slow Club's music on their debut album, Yeah So (Moshi Moshi), is considerably closer to Cohen's than Rod the Mod's, with Watson plucking somber acoustic chords while he and Taylor exchange gently witty sentiments like "Sorry About the Doom" and "There Is No Good Way to Say I'm Leaving You." There's an engaging air of romantic mystery on the aptly titled hazy reverie "I Was Unconscious, It Was a Dream," as they sing, "I'll let you say I love you/When I know I'll never say it back/And you open up the floodgates/And wipe the village clean off the map." Slow Club aren't always slow, picking up their heels on the rootsy, up-tempo romp "It Doesn't Have to Be Beautiful," and they're too restlessly clever and playful to be obediently faithful folk revivalists. Don't miss 'em. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
THE NEW MASTER SOUNDS, TROMBONE SHORTY, SALVADOR SANTANA at El Rey Theatre; DAWES, CORY CHISEL & THE WANDERING SONS, JAASON BOESEL at the Troubadour; THE WATSON TWINS at Largo at the Coronet; MILES KUROSKY at Amoeba Music; WIG OUT! at the Bordello; BUSHWALLA at the Mint; PROGNOSIS NEGATIVE ZEE DOCTA, OLIVERMORE, DANGER RANGER, SINFUL SAINTS at the Cobalt Cafe; LA SANTA CECILIA, SUNNY WAR at Little Temple; MARK MULHOLLAND, JAMES FINCH JR., RUSTY MILLER at the Redwood Bar & Grill.
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