BRAD MEHLDAU AT WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
Few pianists in any genre or sphere match Brad Mehldau's shattering blend of soulful physicality and deep, probing mind flow. We think of him as a true "jazz" musician in that respect (and he is), but he's also among the rare few who knows how to bring these principles into play in wildly varied contexts, adding an out-there, kinda dangerous vibe to the proceedings. Mehldau's finger-twiddlings are not numbingly virtuosic, either: His solo, trio and large-ensemble work imparts a genuine sense of shape and structure, and, most importantly, purpose. He's got a new album out, Highway Rider (Nonesuch), produced by Jon Brion, who collaborated with Mehldau on the fascinating Largo album in 2002. Tonight Mehldau works out Highway's "through-composed" piece in interaction between chamber orchestra and a small and real heavy-duty ensemble: Scott Yoo, conductor; Joshua Redman, saxophone; Larry Grenadier, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums; Matt Chamberlain, drums. (John Payne)
THE MELVINS, SHEPARD FAIREY (DJ SET) AT THE SATELLITE
As you all know by now, our Melvins are playing each Friday throughout January, with a different set and sort of theme each night, some of which feature entire albums from the band's vast catalog stretching back to somewhere like 1905. In this third installment, the semilegendary master monsters of metallic mayhem (when they choose to be) present, first, a stripped-down (though hardly unplugged) version of the band starring, of course, almighty Buzz Osborne. Wielding his shiny chrome ax, moppy Melfro and wizard's cloak, Buzz will be joined by bassist Jared Warren. Then you get a "normal" set by the whole band, featuring the lads doing the job on the entire Bullhead album. The Bride Screamed Murder, their newest and best record yet, no doubt will figure in the mix, too. Stay tuned for next week's Stoner Witch. (John Payne)
PHYSICAL FORMS, SKULL TAPE, TURRKS, BLEAK END @ BERNIE'S AT THE SMELL
One of the best things about the Smell is seeing how many new bands play there that are combinations of members of old Smell bands. Physical Forms features ex-members of the Mae Shi, Silver Daggers, Busdriver and Bad Dudes playing myriad instruments (including light-sensitive "self-oscillating" gloves of their own invention, called Sound Glovernors). Shouty, celebratory punk epiphany Skull Tape boasts ex-members of the Mae Shi (the band that keeps on giving), Robin Williams on Fire, XBXRX and Robotonists. This could mean there are four members of five bands — or it could mean two people are in each band and each of those people has been in multiple bands. Turrks used to be called Bipolar Bear and Bleak End @ Bernie's is the brief and broken-funk industrial drum-machine rantings of the enigmatic Bernie Bleak. Somewhere there's a vast Peter Frame–style family tree for the Smell that's just waiting to be drawn up in all its 47x63 glory. (David Cotner)
Also playing Friday: GEORGE GLASS at Origami, OLD 97's, LANGHORNE SLIM at the Music Box; BONDED BY BLOOD at BLVD Café; DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL at the Troubadour; SILVERSTEIN at Glass House; LA FONT, KAZAI REX, BODY PARTS, MASKS at 325 Glendale; RETRIBUTION GOSPEL CHOIR, PETER WOLF CRIER at the Echo; ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS at Molly Malone's.
SUZANNE VEGA AT LARGO
Considering that Suzanne Vega is coming off one of her strongest albums — Beauty & Crime, a multilayered noir-romantic opus set in New York — it's a bit surprising that the singer-songwriter is revisiting her past work with her new, multivolume Close-Up series. But rather than acting as a mere greatest-hits roundup, the four-part collection gives her a chance to strip her songs down to their core, making them simultaneously more intimate and exploratory. These reinventions often are revelations, whether she's thematically linking her more personal confessions on volume one's Love Songs or taking a reportorial perspective on volume two's People & Places. (Upcoming volumes have the themes States of Being and Songs of Family.) "I need to reorient myself in this new landscape since the old system seems to be crumbling," Vega says about the music industry in a phone interview from Troy, N.Y., on the eve of her West Coast tour. She remains a master of evocative lyrics, conjuring a dreamscape of things that are both real and imaginary through such recurring, mysterious, half-seen images as veils, stockings, lace, threads, foam, smoke and fire. "What I'm after is spirit," she says. "There's a world beyond this one; I want to define it and catch it in some way." (Falling James)
KIMYA DAWSON, DEFIANCE OHIO, MOSES CAMPBELL, PETER PANTS AT THE SMELL
It's ironic, of course, that "Kimya" is Swahili for "silent." From the moment we first met Kimya Dawson, the prolific antifolk heroine has been destined for her own subversively cutesy sort of stardom. As a member of the Moldy Peaches, she couldn't help but stand out. That King Buzzo–esque shock of frizzled hair belied a small but penetrating voice — a dangerously adorable weapon as likely to deliver a line about true love as one about dancing until a turd drops from one's pants. Most folks know her work from Juno, via the MP's "Anyone Else but You," but the Olympia, Wash.–based Dawson has a sizable catalog of solo albums (title sample: Hidden Vagenda) and odd collaborations, including work with Aesop Rock and Third Eye Blind. Her latest is the children's album Alphabutt, released on K Records and no doubt inspired by her 4-year-old daughter, Panda Delilah, who accompanies Dawson on the road. Expect an even split of fart jokes and universal truths. (Chris Martins)
THE BLOODY BRAINS AT THE LITTLE CAVE
The Bloody Brains are a sloppy, frantic, mad-dog outfit that represents an extraordinary exercise in rock & roll purity. Fronted by longtime KXLU airwave insurgent Reverend Dan — a wild man driven by an innate desire to reduce the band's sound to the most primitive essentials — the Bloody Brains are specialists in a brand of cerebellum-shattering, punk-garage psychosis that stirs up those impulses first proposed by the likes of Little Richard and Chuck Berry. It's almost a duty for these self-proclaimed "middle-aged delinquents," and as they crash through a set of gutter-bred covers, taking on everything from Bo Diddley and Flipper to the Damned, the band transposes decades of big-beat profligacy into a loose, shimmering state of chaos best characterized as some weird kind of revelatory aesthetic desperation. Strictly for rockers, not for the timid, the Bloody Brains, who'll take the stage at 7 p.m., stand ready to pummel all comers into blissful, black-and-blue submission. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Saturday: OZOMATLI PRESENTS OZOKIDS at the Echoplex; GUSTER at the Music Box.
WANDA JACKSON AT EL REY
More than 50 years after she emerged from Oklahoma as a fiery feminine counterpart to her old pal Elvis Presley, Wanda Jackson continues to surprise, reinventing herself for the umpteenth time with her latest album, The Party Ain't Over (Third Man Records). It's inaccurate to call the CD a comeback, since the country-rockabilly diva never really went away, turning to gospel music in the 1970s and phonetically singing in German and Japanese in recent years. Much will be made of how the White Stripes' Jack White has championed Jackson and produced her new album, an act of rediscovery along the lines of his collaboration with Loretta Lynn. But it's not like Jackson really needed the help — after all, Elvis Costello and members of the Cramps were among the special guests on her previous "comeback" album, 2003's Heart Trouble. Still, White provides a considerable amount of glitter and sparkle as he backs Jackson on sizzling remakes of "Shakin' All Over" and a raw-throated version of Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown." Perhaps most interesting of all is her interpretation of a recent Bob Dylan song, "Thunder on the Mountain." Instead of remaining faithful to Dylan's foreboding version, she and White turn the song into a brassy, rambunctiously swinging celebration. Great stuff. Also Mon. [More on Page Two.] (Falling James)
HIEROGLYPHICS AT KEY CLUB
Watching your friends and family succeed can be bittersweet, especially if they're running in the same race as you. In the early '90s, Del tha Funkee Homosapien began writing lyrics for his cousin Ice Cube's backup band, and Cube repaid the favor by helping Del release his first album, which was commercially successful. But Del, the son of an abstract artist, wanted greater self-expression. While Cube went from AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted to a TBS sitcom, Del dove underground and formed the Oakland-based Hieroglyphics. The group is composed of 10 or so rappers, including the members of Souls of Mischief (93 'til Infinity) and was heralded for the jazzy sound and solid, conscious lyrics that became the hallmark of alternative hip-hop. Though the Hieroglyphics have been in existence for 20 years, they've only produced two studio albums as a collective. But a tightly edited discography means only the best stuff got through. Like all signature underground acts, they credit their large following to their performances. In other words, they get live. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
WEEKEND, CATWALK AT THE ECHO
Weekend is part of a rising crop of San Francisco bands making a name for themselves by reinventing noisy garage rock for more melodic ears. Alongside better-known acts like Ty Segall and Girls, this young trio is catching praise for closing the distance between the fan and the music — shrugging off the aloof artiness of their recent predecessors for something more immediate and rewarding. Weekend's influences aren't hard to suss out. Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain are all whipped together into a loud and comely whole on last year's Sports, the band's celebrated debut on the respectable Slumberland label. Opener Catwalk hails from Oxnard and specializes in a similar but slack sound. With reverb-drenched vocals and guitar, main man Nick Hessler, 19, carves out a loose and jangly, often melancholic profile for his band. Hessler's been at it since he was 15, and Catwalk recently found a home with Captured Tracks, the imprint owned and operated by Blank Dogs' Mike Sniper. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Sunday: GHOST OF A SABER TOOTH TIGER at the Troubadour; CAPITALIST CASUALTIES at BLVD Café; VOXHAUL BROADCAST at the Echoplex; NATIVE, FAKE PROBLEMS at the Echo; LOS ANGELES CHAMBER ORCHESTRA at ROYCE HALL.
MADAME RÉCAMIER AT THE HOTEL CAFÉ
Not to be confused with the 19th-century French socialite and literary patron Juliette Récamier (or, for that matter, the couch that later was named after her), Mexico City band Madame Récamier is the brainchild of Gina Récamier, who sings artful pop songs in Spanish and English. Tonight, Récamier and her group preview tunes from their debut CD, Chocolate, which ranges from the shimmering pop shivers of "No Dudes" to the perky dance-rock ebullience of "Ordinary Boy." The frothy "Mira Mira," pumped up by a sunny horn section and fuzzy guitars, evokes Ceci Bastida's cheerier melodies or perhaps a Spanish-language version of Feist. In other words, there's considerable commercial potential in Madame Récamier's original songs, and the band is even more delightful when Gina Récamier translates hits by Lady Gaga into Spanish, putting her own spin on things and finding new life in even the most overplayed melodies. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday: WHITMAN, JOHN BARBA, FORMER GHOSTS, NO PAWS (NO LIONS) at Pehrspace; WHITE LIES, GIANT DRAG at the Troubadour; GROUPLOVE at the Bootleg; THE FLING, BELLE BRIGADE at the Satellite.
WALLPAPER. AT THE TROUBADOUR
Like the RZA said, hip-hop should be fun. Dressed in a sequined blazer your grandmother might wear to Christmas dinner and accessorized with a dookie chain and neon-green sunglasses, producer/rapper/UC Berkeley music-composition graduate Ricky Reed (aka Eric Frederic) dances on the beach while singing, "I go big on the weekends/I go T. Rex" through Auto-Tune. Lest you think he's late, he's been doing this since 2005, the same year T-Pain put out his debut album. Reed, the frontman, and drummer Arjun Singh, make up Wallpaper., an electro-pop project originally intended to be a satire of mainstream music and American pop culture; a representative song is "I Got Soul (I'm So Wasted)." But in the past five years, folks started taking the duo seriously: Their remix of Das Racist's "Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" was gobbled up by Pitchfork and MTV.com, and they've toured with Girl Talk. Fortunately, they don't put much stock in other people's opinions. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
IRON AND WINE AT THE WILTERN
Lame-brain indie-folk purists disappointed by the dramatic expansion of Iron and Wine's sound on 2007's The Shepherd's Dog probably should steer clear of the band's new one, Kiss Each Other Clean: Not only has group mastermind Sam Beam teamed again with producer Brian Deck, but this time they've tricked out Beam's songs with synths, sax solos and whatever that instrument that sounds like a drinking straw in a fast-food cup is called. A few months ago Deck told me he'd been inspired on the album by Fleetwood Mac and Elton John, and indeed there is a hint of gold-dust crocodile rock in fresh jams like the funky "Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me." Last time I caught Iron and Wine, at the Orpheum in 2007, Beam drove his groove-machine backing band surprisingly close to dance-party territory; with any luck they'll get all the way there tonight. With U.K. singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Also Wed., with Rhode Island's folk-rocky Low Anthem. (Mikael Wood)
YOUNG HUNTING, PACIFIC HURT, YOYA AT SILVERLAKE LOUNGE
On its Bandcamp page, L.A. quintet Young Hunting refers to its sound as "slow-fi." This is probably just a riff on the ongoing proliferation of goofy genre names invented by bloggers and critics, but it actually goes a long way to describing the group's style. Taking a cue from Grizzly Bear, these guys create a creeping, wistful brand of indie rock typified by careful arrangements and an almost orchestral sound, despite the absence of chamber instrumentation. Songs like the recent 7-inch single "Into Yr Mind" are classic California dream-pop, while MySpace track "Ornament" showcases a love for slowcore — an obvious nod to the classic crawling downers of Songs: Ohia or Idaho. It's beautiful stuff, and it should be nicely prefaced by the boldly epic U2-inspired rock of Santa Ana's z (formerly Aushua). Opening is Yoya, the local duo of Alex Pfender and Noah Dietterich, who combine folksy familiarity with electronic embellishments on their recent self-released album, Nothing to Die. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Tuesday: THE VACCINES at the Satellite; AMANDA JO WILLIAMS, OLIN AND THE MOON at the Echo; ITZHAK PERLMAN at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
LIZZ WRIGHT AT THE ROXY
The title track of Lizz Wright's latest album, Fellowship, has the slow, bluesy burn and "Let's all get together" mentality we've come to expect from its composer, Me'Shell NdegeOcello. Yet instead of copying NdegeOcello's gravelly talk-sing vocal style, Wright takes it to the next logical level. Singing in a throaty alto that would be welcome in both church choir and juke joint, she takes her time fleshing out the spare track in a leisurely fashion with almost guttural "amens." That's a sentiment you just can't fake. Growing up in a small town in Georgia with a Pentecostal pastor for a father, Wright wasn't allowed to listen to popular music. She now regularly tops the jazz charts, but whether she's singing spirituals, love songs or Gladys Knight & the Pips covers, those Southern gospel inflections are permanent press. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
UNDEROATH AT HOUSE OF BLUES
To legions of wing-haired Warped Tour kids, Underoath's 2004 They're Only Chasing Safety was their metalcore Appetite for Destruction: a semimelodic masterpiece that pushed the genre into the mainstream and inspired waves of increasingly image-conscious clones. Safety made these Floridians a half-million–selling hurricane, the possessed gurgling of Spencer Chamberlain and anxious, angelic crooning of drummer Aaron Gillespie mixing, matching and apparently resonating with anyone who'd ever browsed a Hot Topic. But within a couple of years the band had bickered its way off Warped, and when Gillespie left last year, not a single original member remained. Yet you'd never know it from Ø (Disambiguation), released in November (with guitarist Timothy McTague handling the "clean" vocals and ex–Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison aboard), which if anything is a return to form after a couple of rather complacent efforts. Underoath as an idea seems to have transcended its parts, and remains able to dovetail tuneful teen ruminations with utter, nutter rage. (Paul Rogers)
SWAMP MONSTER VARIETY SHOW AT THE TERRACE
"We will swamp you with fun" is the motto of the Swamp Monster Variety Show, the promoters who have brought all-ages punk, noise and assorted weirdness back to the greater metropolitan Pasadena area. Tonight's latest manifestation of their Swamp Hug ethos stars at least nine bands in the festival-cum–variety show, including magic and comedy. "Dress classy, please," they ask, because the host wears a tuxedo and he's going to feel pretty foolish if he's the only one wearing one. Some of the bands playing tonight: Oxnard's favorite twangy seaside sons, Sea Lions; kids' magician Micah Cover; artists Devon Dunsmore and Luis Sanchez; and five more to be announced. Can you stand the suspense? (David Cotner)
GOLDSBORO AT SILVERLAKE LOUNGE
It's a truly great band that can lose two-fifths of its members (and the singer and co-founding guitarist at that) and simply morph into another, albeit very different, great band. But so it went with power trio Goldsboro, who were all previously in rock/soul enigma Orson — an overlooked local quintet whose Bright Idea album suddenly topped the U.K. charts in 2006 before they drifted apart. Bassist Johnny Lonely, drummer Chris Cano and guitarist (and now vocalist) Kevin Roentgen eventually reconvened back home as Goldsboro: a taut, throbbing musical muscle whose debut album (according to rough mixes) should be a thinking hesher's must-have. Standout "White Buffalo" distills much of Thin Lizzy's galloping, romantic majesty, while the chunky, semistoner boogie of "Bottom" just aches to be rechristened "Bell Bottom." Elsewhere, Goldsboro's soaring vowels and burbling riffs head straight for the (Sound)garden. With Orson, these lads graced Euro stadiums and megafests — expect them to murder little Silverlake Lounge. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Wednesday: TOKIMONSTA, FUZZ (LOW END THEORY) at the Airliner; TYPHOON, BRAINSTORM at Spaceland.
SOCIAL DISTORTION AT HOLLYWOOD PALLADIUM
"Life gets hard, and then it gets good," sings Mike Ness on "California (Hustle and Flow)," from Social Distortion's new album, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. It's a lyric that says a lot about the punk-rock legends, who are kicking off their 33rd year as a band with a three-night stint at the Hollywood Palladium. Their seventh album, and their first in seven years, displays the kind of hard-earned wisdom that could only come from touring the world multiple times over, from singing blue-collar blues for decades, losing two members to sudden, unexpected deaths and having a singer who struggled through a serious heroin addiction to rebound mightily. Social D have worked damn hard to pull themselves up to this point in their career, and it makes perfect sense that the elder statesmen, now signed to Epitaph instead of Epic, would be labelmates with Bad Religion. Ness and co. have lost none of the fire that made them such a thrilling proposition to begin with. (Chris Martins)
MONOTONIX, TY SEGALL AT THE ECHOPLEX
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The Israeli noise-punk band Monotonix are known just as much for their literally riotous live performances as they are for their music. Lead singer/exhibitionist Ami Shalev spends most of his time in the audience — that is, when he's not hurling garbage cans and floor toms into the pit or lighting his mates' equipment on fire. Thanks to his antics, Monotonix's shows frequently are ended early by nervous soundmen and the band's chief nemesis, the Tel Aviv police department. The music on the trio's upcoming album, Not Yet, reflects that state of permanent chaos, as guitarist Yonatan Gat stirs up savage midperiod Black Flag riffs while drummer Haggai Fershtman bashes away ceaselessly at his battered cymbals. For all of Monotonix's confrontational punk attack, there's also an element of good, old-fashioned power-trio heaviness in their rambling wreckages. Don't worry about standing back from the stage; Shalev and his crew will bring the show to you, no matter where you're hiding. They're billed with San Francisco howler Ty Segall, whose primitive, lo-fi blues-punk rants are even cruder and noisier than Monotonix's rabid blasts. (Falling James)
WOVENHAND AT BOOTLEG THEATER
David Eugene Edwards and his Wovenhand recently put out their seventh album, The Threshingfloor, on Sounds Familyre Records. It is — much like Edwards' pioneering work in the late, great Sixteen Horsepower — a dark and troubling work that deals in spiritual hells and heavens, the roles of "God" and old-time religion as straitjacket, branding iron and only seeable way through when your back's to the wall and your horses need feeding. With true drama, the charismatic Edwards disavows and proclaims, his faith denied, shattered, gathered and sown again and again and again. The musical backdrop is provided by a superb ensemble that includes Edwards on guitar, mandolin-banjo and vocals, ex-Horsepower man Pascal Humbert on electric and double bass, Ordy Garrison on drums and Jeff Linsenmeir on keyboards. They make a craggy-peaked and wide-open-valleyed sound, much like the landscape from which this strangely moving aesthetic comes. (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday: THE BLOW at the Satellite; GRAYDON at Silverlake Lounge; THE GET UP KIDS at the Troubadour; CAT PARTY, THE LOVELY BAD THINGS, RED ORCHESTRA at the Prospector; NOCHES DE TROVA at Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock.