Music Picks: Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, VoicesVoices, Peter Gabriel, Jakob Dylan
PETER GABRIEL AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
First, the bad news: Scratch My Back, the recently released covers album Peter Gabriel is currently touring in support of, is an epic snooze, with the English art-rock great crooning portentously over dreary-ass orchestral arrangements that manage to make Bon Iver's "Flume" sound indistinguishable from Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today." So consider this your warning that the first half of tonight's show — for which Gabriel will be backed by an orchestra minus drums and guitars — could be rough going. (Pray at least for his undeniably moving rendition of Lou Reed's "The Power of the Heart.") Fortunately, Gabriel is supplementing the dodgy interpretive stuff with a second set of newly configured selections from his own incomparable songbook, including "Digging in the Dirt," "Solsbury Hill," "In Your Eyes" and more, according to reports from the road. No word on whether or not he'll give "Sledgehammer" the symphonic treatment — but, dude, how sweet would that be? (Mikael Wood)
THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH AT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
The Tallest Man on Earth isn't really the tallest. He just looks tall. But while you're down there gazing up in semirapt attention, you should know that his second album, The Wild Hunt, was released only a few weeks ago by Indiana-Texas label Dead Oceans. So, do you opt to go into his live show all prepared by listening to Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson's brand-new, nasally clear, jauntily nostalgic songs? Or do you elect to be surprised by the warmth and substance radiating from his six-string, fascist-killing musical revolver? Worry about this stuff and you'll be like Goldilocks trying to find the perfect porridge while everybody else is getting laid. Also on the bill is Gamble House — to be confused with neither Procter & Gamble nor Beach House — and their special blend of dreamlike, gentle folkish guitar and murmuring percussion. They make the perfect intellectual palate cleanser after Dr. David A. Caron's 6:30 discussion, "Toxic Algal Blooms Along the Southern Californian Coast: Causes, Challenges and Solutions." So damn the inertia! Full slouch ahead! (David Cotner)
VOICEsVOICEs, HAWNAY TROOF, PROTECT ME AT THE SMELL
L.A. duo Jenean Farris and Nico Turner call themselves VOICEsVOICEs, among other things. They've got this Prefuse73-produced album called Origins out on the redoubtable Manimal Vinyl, as well as a self-released EP, Outside Sounds, recorded in an art gallery. VV make a richly resonant haze of dark-dream post-rock scapes flowing with a big, thawing ambience of devilish drones and evocatively shaded guitar shriek — a penetrating simplicity that nags at the mind, and the heart. Hawnay Troof is Oakland's Vice Cooler, a maniacally hooky 'n' dancey electro-punk deconstructionist of trad hip-hop beats & structures, strewing left-field breaks and neck-snapping synth razor burn. For some quite fearless fucking with the ossified remains of classic MC style, check out his Island of Ayledisc on Retard Disco, where he's joined by Randy Randall of No Age, Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart and Evangelista's Carla Bozulich. Plus two-piece synthy-gothy-punky propositions from Protect Me. (John Payne)
Also playing Friday: MASTODON at Fox Theater Pomona; PATO BANTON at The Roxy; DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS at Avalon; HURRICANE BELLS at The Echo; THE JANKS, VEIL ERA at Spaceland; LA SALSA FESTIVAL 2010 at Gibson Amphitheater; BRING THE ROCK BENEFIT (JOSH HOMME, BEN STILLER, ETC.) at Largo; LAZAE at El Cid; RUN DEVIL RUN, IRONHEEL at Viper Room; MONO at El Rey; LORDS OF JACK, TRIPLE COBRA at Molly Malone's; THE ABSOLUTE at The Mint; GREIL MARCUS (signing) at Skylight Books.
FREDDIE GIBBS AT SPACELAND
With his deep-voiced delivery, rough-hewn honesty and laid-back swagger, rapper Freddie Gibbs offers the perfect amalgam of his Midwest roots and latter-day L.A. residence. As Gibbs' recent single declares, he was raised in "The Ghetto" ("the ghetto, the ghetto-ghetto," in case there was any question) of Gary, Indiana, where corrupt law enforcement, neglected schools and a horrendous murder rate left few options for the young and impoverished. The rap career came as an afterthought, initiated while Gibbs was supplying drugs to the regulars at an area recording studio. A hasty deal with Interscope led to his relocation to the West Coast, into the former stomping grounds of one of his most audible influences, 2Pac. Unfortunately the cash-strapped label dropped Gibbs before he'd released a single record, and he's since had to claw his way to notoriety through mixtape releases and word of mouth. It's been a hard road, but Gibbs is clearly on his way — witness the climb in person. (Chris Martins)
ANE BRUN AT LARGO
This Norwegian folkie opens for Peter Gabriel Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl — she's also serving as a member of his current touring band — but something about that venue's vast dimensions seems ill-suited to Ane Brun's intimately cerebral sound. She's a pretty thinker in the mold of Martha Wainwright and Joni Mitchell, whose unique vocal phrasing crops up all over Changing of the Seasons, Brun's excellent 2008 disc. That one also features string arrangements by Nico Muhly, familiar to indie fans from his work with Grizzly Bear, Bonnie Prince Billy and Antony and the Johnsons. Brun just issued digital versions of four albums that hadn't been previously released in the United States, so she should have plenty of material to choose from during this cozy headlining date. With Ólöf Arnalds, an Icelandic singer-songwriter who's played for years with Múm. (Mikael Wood)
IAN WHITCOMB AT THE COFFEE GALLERY BACKSTAGE
Ian Whitcomb, the multifarious provocateur whose four-decade career has taken him from a groundbreaking 1963 big-beat start with Dublin-based Bluesville Mfg. (earning him the "Godfather of Irish Rock" handle) to full-blown teen-idol status in the U.S. with the extraordinary, chart-topping 1965 eroto-asphyxiation gasper "You Turn Me On," remains both a powerful showman and a critical firsthand spectator to pop culture's tortuous evolution. With a singular perspective, burnished by views from behind the footlights at the Hollywood Bowl and the Troubadour (a straight-up folk club when Whitcomb became the first rocker ever booked there) and a trove of wild alliances — collaborations with Mae West and, yes, Bugs Bunny — the far-reaching multi-instrumentalist has not only seen it all, he directly participated in much of it. This appearance combines a characteristically unpredictable set of ragtime-to-rock numbers with readings from Whitcomb's recent memoir, Letters From Lotusland, and is sure to twist through a kaleidoscopic montage of astute observations, spontaneous ravings and exotic musical artifacts which you'll find nowhere else. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Saturday: WAS (NOT WAS): LE at Harvelle's; GLORIA TREVI at Nokia Theatre; BILL MEDLEY at The Canyon; E-40 at Grove of Anaheim; 60 WATT KID, THE FRITZ, CENTIPEDE EAST, FRENCH SHIP at Echo Curio; RED SPAROWES at The Echoplex; ANGEL CITY OUTCASTS, THE ROYAL HIGHNESS at The Troubadour; AKWID, CLOROFILA at The Echo; LOS CAMPESINOS at El Rey; T.S.O.L. at Galaxy Theatre; WARNER DRIVE, LOVE & A 38 at The Roxy; SOLITARIOS at Hollywood Park Casino; RUST at Viper Room; LYNCH MOB at Key Club; SANTA MONICA FESTIVAL at Clover Park; WARPAINT, PRIESTBIRD at Bootleg Theater; HOOBASTANK at Hotel Cafe; MARTIN SEXTON at House of Blues; DANTE VS. ZOMBIES at The Smell.
LES SAVY FAV AT THE ECHOPLEX
The difference between a good Les Savy Fav show and a bad one really comes down to one thing: whether or not you enjoy being sweated on/humped by/regurgitated into by a mostly nude bearded, balding man-strosity. Tim Harrington leads his New York–based post-hardcore crew with a peculiar zeal that, at least once, has found him chomping up chocolate Easter bunnies and mouth-feeding the bits to his fans. And if Har Mar Superstar is in the crowd, be prepared for loads of sensual in-crowd crotch-to-ass grindage. That such singular delights don't do much to distract from the music is a testament to the band's weird magic, which has thus far delivered 15 years of exceptional, angular and hugely energetic art-punk. Les Savy Fav's 2007 album, Let's Stay Friends, followed a six-year gap between records but found the group more focused than ever. While tracks like "The Equestrian" are as coarse as ever, others such as "What Would Wolves Do" showcase a certain savvy for cool pop perhaps even better suited to accompany a healthy spray from Harrington's brow. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Sunday: LES SAVVY FAV at The Echoplex; MIA DOI TODD at Space 15 Twenty; PATTI LABELLE at Gibson Amphitheatre; "GRAND OLD ECHO" at The Echo; RECKLESS KELLY at The Roxy; KOZMONAUT, CASPER & THE BAD SPIRITS at Key Club; SILVERBACKS at Liquid Kitty; SYMPHONIC CIRCLES at Cinespace; COLLISIONS at Echo Curio; WHAT DO I GET at Alex's Bar; JOHN WIESE, HATERS, POD BLOTZ, OWL EYES at Show Cave; ALEXISONFIRE, TRASH TALK at The Troubadour; LOS RECODITOS at Pico Rivera Sports Arena.
Playing Monday: STEEL PANTHER at House of Blues; THE LIKE at The Echo; SWEETHEAD at Spaceland; LET GO OF THE RAIL, STATE REC at Pehrspace; LOS CAMPESINOS at The Glass House; PATHOLOGY at Whisky A Go-Go; FANG ISLAND at Amoeba; MARK BALLAS, ERIC BAINES at The Mint; ESTES SHANE WHALEN at Hotel Cafe; THE KEVIN KANNER QUINTET at Blue Whale.
FUCK BUTTONS, SUN ARAW, INFINITE BODY AT THE TROUBADOUR
The Troubadour probably isn't the best setting for a full-bore acid trip — bouncers, bright lights, the Technicolor splay of West Hollywood just outside — but psychedelics are a must for this tripped-out trio. Highland Park's Infinite Body seems to divine his drone-based music from dream scapes, sea wash and whatever happens inside pianos during minor earthquakes. This should make for an easy kaleidoscopic climb into the strange, psychotropical dub-funk of Eagle Rock resident Sun Araw. His music dabbles in the ambient as well, but spends more time exploring reverb-soaked wah-wah guitar, fuzzy bursts of bass, muffled chant and unidentifiable samples. This, in turn, should lay the proper foundation for a headlining set from Bristol duo Fuck Buttons. Truth be told, while these two build incredibly thick, inspired soundscapes that split the difference between Aphex Twin and Mogwai, their sets verge on the repetitive — a mite bit boring if you're sober, but damn-near perfect heard echoing down the ol' rabbit hole. (Chris Martins)
KATE NASH AT EL REY THEATRE
One wonders what Kate Nash would sing about if she could ever find a decent boyfriend. Her new CD, My Best Friend Is You, is thematically much like her 2007 debut, Made of Bricks, in that it focuses on two kinds of people: sketchy boyfriends who don't pay enough attention to her and the conniving sluts who try to steal those sketchy boyfriends away from her. The British singer is able to make this self-absorbed subject matter interesting because she crafts catchy pop hooks and is often a witty lyricist. As usual, Nash contrasts her songs' polite arrangements with presumably shocking swearwords, although there's nothing on My Best Friend Is You that approaches the savagely exhilarating rush of her 2008 B-side "Model Behaviour," where her catty vitriol was aptly matched by pure punk-rock power. (She should really consider punking out more often.) Apart from the bittersweet pop of "Do-Wah-Doo" and the intriguingly shadowy "I've Got a Secret," the new album works best when the arrangements are less cluttered, such as the gently affecting closing ballad, "I Hate Seagulls." Nash sprained her ankle after a concert in Toronto last week — "she's not sure exactly how it happened," says her publicist — but the plucky singer intends to play through the pain at tonight's gig, although a previously scheduled appearance at Amoeba Music has been canceled. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday: SMOG SESSIONS at The Echo; CCR HEADCLEANER, BACK TOTHE FUTURE THE RIDE at Echo Curio; SIMONE at Catalina Bar & Grill; SLACKJAW at Dakota Music Lounge; ROGER CLYNE at The Mint; SHADES OF DAY at Molly Malone's.
WEDNESDAY /MAY /12
THE MELODIANS, JOHNNY OSBOURNE AT THE ECHOPLEX
Those cats down at the Dub Club have got some powerful mojo working, and with any luck at all it's going to be a long, hot, reggae-centric summer. This latest coup, a tag team between veteran Jamaican vocal heroes the Melodians and reggae star Johnny Osbourne, is another magnificent jewel in Dub Club's crown. The Melodians have been bewitching listeners since Coxsone Dodd produced their harmonious 1966 debut, "Lay It On," and achieved Rastafarian immortality several years later thanks to the smasheroo "Rivers of Babylon" (as heard on The Harder They Come's sound track, and also the inspiration for that god-awful Boney M cover version). Osbourne, who first came to notice as lead singer of the Wildcats with 1969's "All I Have Is Love" before striking out solo with the impassioned "Jealousy, Heartache and Pain," is one of reggae's most versatile and long-running attractions. His compelling pipes ably carried him through the roots-reggae 1970s but it was as a dance-hall chanter that he enjoyed his greatest successes; with late-'80s thrillers "Good Time Rock" and "Rude Boy Skank," Osbourne demonstrated an unwavering grace and skill, and when these two acts hit the bandstand tonight, expect some ganja-fueled fireworks second to none. (Jonny Whiteside)
SIERRA LEONE'S REFUGEE ALL STARS AT THE ROXY
When you consider all of the things they've lived through, it's amazing that Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars make such ebullient music. Two of the singers, Mohammed Bangura and Abdul Rahim Kamara, are amputees, victims of the West African nation's civil war in the '90s. Led by Reuben M. Koroma, Efuah Grace Ampomah and Francis John Lamgba, the band was formed in refugee camps in neighboring Guinea, expanding to a larger lineup when they eventually returned to Freetown after the end of the war in 2002. While they were still in a series of camps, the struggling musicians — who showed great ingenuity in cobbling instruments together under extreme circumstances — encountered American filmmakers Banker White and Zach Niles. Their 2005 documentary about the band, surprisingly, got a lot of attention, but the All Stars' music is ultimately just as uplifting as their story. Recorded in Freetown and New Orleans, their new CD, Rise & Shine (Cumbancha), blends intricate Afro-pop guitars with reggae, rap and Crescent City rhythms in mesmerizing ways. Koroma occasionally gets foreboding on heavier songs like "Global Threat" and "Jah Mercy," but he's never preachy or strident, and the soulfully lilting harmonies are usually festive and upbeat, and even a little trippy. (Falling James)
KATE MILLER-HEIDKE AT THE HENRY FONDA
It's time for America to get curious about Kate Miller-Heidke. The Australian songstress' stateside debut, Curiouser,was released in March after topping the charts and nearly reaching double-platinum Down Under. Listening to the disc, it is easy to fall for Miller-Heidke's quirky charms. Her lively dance-pop music comes colored with a theatrical streak and is then twisted up in '70s new-wave disco. A classically trained vocalist who has performed in opera and musical theater, Miller-Heidke sings with a Lene Lovich–like hiccup-y soprano on tunes like "Motorscooter" and the hard-to-resist "I Like You Better When You're Not Around," while evoking Cyndi Lauper on "The Last Day on Earth." Although projecting a "girls just want to have fun" vibe, Miller-Heidke also reveals some lyrical depth on "Caught in the Crowd" (a poppy yet poignant school-yard apology) and "The End of School (another nicely detailed look at growing up). She probably is best known now for the Web favorite "Are You F*cking Kidding Me (Facebook Song)," a deliciously barbed slice of zeitgeist satire. Miller-Heidke, who opened up Coachella a few weekends ago, returns to town opening for witty popster Ben Folds. Don't be surprised, however, if she's headlining her next time through L.A. Also Thurs. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Wednesday: V. V. BROWN at The Troubadour; GRANTE-LEE PHILLIPS at Largo; EVAN VOYTAS at The Echo; WOOLEN at Echo Curio; BEN FOLDS at the Henry Fonda; WHITE SHIT at The Smell; GET BUSY COMMITTEE at Viper Room; DIANE BIRCH at El Rey; MATT ALBER at Molly Malone's.
JAKOB DYLAN & THREE LEGS AT THE WILTERN
If you're one of those people who think that Jakob Dylan's old band the Wallflowers sounded more like wallpaper music, you might be surprised by his latest solo album, Women and Country, produced by T-Bone Burnett. Gone are the treacly, middle-of-the-road rock arrangements and vapid lyrics that typified the Wallflowers, jettisoned in favor of a more stripped-down and soulful folk-country sound. It doesn't hurt that Dylan's laid-back, Everyman vocals are spiced with aching harmonies by Neko Case and Kelly Hogan — both captivating lead singers in their own right — and that he's backed by Case's excellent band (renamed Three Legs for this project), which includes the subtly dazzling steel guitarist Jon Rauhouse. While Dylan's new lyrics aren't as surreally fantastic as his famous dad's (or Case's, for that matter), he breaks things down with simple, palpable imagery that is far more moving than his work in the '90s. Of course, Jakob Dylan's metamorphosis (or is it just maturity?) didn't occur overnight. He paved the way for Women and Country with his first solo album, 2008's Seeing Things, where he was accompanied by little more than acoustic guitar. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday: MICK TAYLOR at The Coach House; ENANITOS VERDES at Ventura Theatre; BEN FOLDS at the Henry Fonda; MISSISSIPPI MAN, PEPPER RABBIT at The Echo; HYPOCRISY at House of Blues; DJ BILLY GOODS at Liquid Kitty; PATO BANTON at Saint Rocke; NINJASONIK at Spaceland; CRASH KINGS at The Roxy; DRAKE at Club Nokia; THE BESNARD LAKES at The Troubadour; THE KARMETIK MACHINE ORCHESTRA at Cal Arts Disney Modular Theater; BOB LOG III at Echo Curio; CCR HEADCLEANER, NASA SPACE UNIVERSE at The Smell.
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