Music Picks: The Chapin Sisters, Pink Martini, Freestyle Fellowship, Mark Kozelek
FREESTYLE FELLOWSHIP AT THE ROXY
An L.A. underground rap supergroup in reverse, Leimert Park crew Freestyle Fellowship was, for its time — the early '90s — the gold standard in hard-yet-thoughtful, genre-blending hip-hop. The group's rise coincided with a Left Coast renaissance that included Hieroglyphics in the Bay Area and South Central's Pharcyde, but what set these guys apart was their jazz-steeped, open-mic roots. Each rapper — Aceyalone, Myka 9, P.E.A.C.E. and Self Jupiter — arrived at the party with at least five distinct rhyme styles in his bag, and all were adept at a melodic, elastic flow that bordered on sing-song. Each has also gone on to establish himself in his own right (Acey's released 10 solo albums to date), so a proper reunion — the first we're aware of since they split in 2001 — is a rare treat. Here's hoping they dig deep, to their '93 cult classic, Inner City Griots, a stellar album featuring both the swaggering banger "Bullies on the Block" and the thoughtful meditation on homelessness "Park Bench People." (Chris Martins)
BEAK>, FOOT VILLAGE AT THE TROUBADOUR
Considering its constituent parts, Bristol's Beak> has remained surprisingly overlooked. The trio is Geoff Barrow, founder and chief aural architect of Portishead, alongside two area up-and-comers, Matt Williams of Team Brick and Billy Fuller of Fuzz Against Junk, and came into existence in early 2009. As legend goes, the band was born during a Christmas party at Invada Records, the label owned by Barrow, when a jam session struck up between the future members. Perhaps that's why the group's on-album chemistry is so palpable — immaculate conception? — even as the music itself is so simultaneously challenging and rewarding. The group's pieces range from the absolutely epic, Mogwai-styled post-rock of "Battery Point" to the darkly throbbing Krautrock of "Wulfstan." Their self-titled debut is full of pleasant surprises, all the more so considering Beak> has completely outlawed overdubbing. Raucous opener Foot Village should be a good warmer-upper, as their show typically involves several drum kits, one or two bullhorns and a whole lot of barefoot stomping. (Chris Martins)
PINK MARTINI AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
Ladies and germs, to cap off the Hollywood Bowl's summer season, please welcome the return of Pink Martini, that faboo mini-ork led by pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale and multi-multilingual chanteuse China Forbes. Specialists in cosmopolitan, witty, stylish '40s- and '50s-inspired pop, the Pinks issued their superfun fourth album, Splendor in the Grass (Heinz), last year to typically wild acclaim. See what all the huzzahs are about when they meet the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra led by Thomas Wilkins for three nights (September 10-12), with special guests Rufus Wainwright, Jane Powell, Ari Shapiro and — yes! — the cast of Sesame Street. Did we mention the Bowl's signature spectacular fireworks finale? Showtimes are 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. (John Payne)
SHERYL CROW, COLBIE CAILLAT AT THE GREEK THEATRE
On her recently released 100 Miles From Memphis, Sheryl Crow pays tribute to the music she heard growing up two hours north of that great music town, in Kennett, Missouri: One track, a cover of Terence Trent D'Arby's "Sign Your Name" (with creamy backing vocals by Justin Timberlake), is a painstakingly accurate re-creation of the slow-burning soul sides Al Green cut with producer Willie Mitchell for Memphis' Hi Records label. (Another cover, of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," is no less precise.) Crow is likely to focus on 100 Miles tonight, but given the depth of her hit-stuffed songbook, even those left cold by the new disc's openly retro vibe should come away satisfied. Local folk-pop lady Colbie Caillat gets little respect from critics suspicious of simplicity, which should tell you she's doing something right. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Friday: COLISEUM at 6th St. Warehouse; TREY SONGZ, MONICA at Club Nokia; THE WATSON TWINS, MINI MANSIONS at Bootleg Theater; THE BUSINESS at the Key Club; CALAVERA, DROP DEAD BEATS at Alex's Bar; DREAD ZEPPELIN at Brixton South Bay; THE VANDALS at the Glass House; MICK FARREN (reading) at La Luz de Jesus; REGAL BEAGLE, THE MORMONS, MUTINY at LaBrie's; THE DITTY BOPS at McCabe's; CAPTAIN AHAB at the Smell; DAX RIGGS at Spaceland; LES MCCANN at LACMA; SI SE at the Conga Room; ANNUAL CAMPOUT MUSIC FESTIVAL (CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN, et al.) at Pappy & Harriet's.
THE CLIENTELE AT THE ECHOPLEX
The Clientele's August release, Minotaur, is a mini-album featuring eight pleasant dreams with the odd angle of peril. It's an approach the London band perfected on last year's Bonfires on the Heath, a winsome though vaguely troubling affair in the "thinking/feeling" mode, sketched across the halcyon days of trad English folk, the band's bossa nova leanings and some of the most serenely Donovan-like '60s pop in recent memory. Draped in tremolo guitars and a provocatively heady surrealism courtesy of poet/composer/singer Alasdair MacLean, these songs are classic jewels, resolutely unfashionable in their emphasis on mood and melody, aided by the exquisite ornamentations of pianist/violinist Mel Draisey. Just in time for the fall season — watch the leaves slowly drift to the ground. (John Payne)
THE VIBRATORS AT THE BLUE CAFÉ
The Vibrators might not have been as fashionable and political as the other early English punks, but they nonetheless scratched up some melodically enduring tunes. "Yeah Yeah Yeah" and "Automatic Lover" were short, manic blasts of idiotically compelling simplicity, whereas "Whips & Furs" and "Petrol" were a little weirder (but still just as catchy). They backed Chris Spedding on his charmingly innocent 1976 single "Pogo Dancing," and the Northern Ireland group Stiff Little Fingers named themselves after a fiery track on the Vibrators' 1977 debut album, Pure Mania. Best of all was the frequently anthologized "Baby Baby," an unabashed love song with an anthemic hook that culminated in a glorious crescendo of church bells and punk-rock guitars. Founding members Ian "Knox" Carnochan and drummer Eddie Edwards are still at it these days, playing smaller clubs than some of their peers, but they always manage to kick up an impressive racket. They still work with original bassist Pat Collier, who produced their new CD, Under the Radar, and the Vibrators' excellent 2002 return to form, Energize. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday: SCISSOR SISTERS at the Hollywood Palladium; DEAD CONFEDERATE, ALBERTA CROSS at the Troubadour; KE$HA, B.O.B. at House of Blues; REAL ROCK N ROLL MOVERS at Spaceland; FRANKIE VALLI & THE FOUR SEASONS at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts; MISS DERRINGER at the Doll Factory; THE ART LABOE SHOW (ZAPP, PEACHES & HERB, et al.) at San Manuel Amphitheater; ARIEL PINK at the Glass House; NEIL FINN at Largo; ANNUAL CAMPOUT MUSIC FESTIVAL (CRACKER, et al.) at Pappy & Harriet's.
THE RUNNING KIND AT THE ECHO
It's ironic that the Running Kind named themselves after the Merle Haggard lament about wanderlust, because the local country-rock band is the very portrait of domestic bliss. Lead singer Leslie Ann Bosson and guitarist/songwriter Matt Bosson are married, and the rest of the group — lead guitarist George Alexander, drummer Neil Fukasawa, bassist Frank San Filippo and pianist Kevin Smith — fit in comfortably like members of an extended family. On the Running Kind's new CD, The Girl for All the World, Leslie Ann's operatic purity and Matt's down-home counterpoint twist together into some nice harmonies, while Alexander lights things up with judicious honky-tonk sparkle. Matt is a pleasantly tuneful writer, but he's more interesting when he gets deeper and darker, exploring the bittersweet contradictions of love and wanderlust on the title track and "Old Girl," which fit in best with the sextet's low-key covers of George Jones' "Life to Go" and Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears." The Running Kind precede former Continental Drifter Gary Eaton's country-rock combo Kingsizemaybe with an early-evening set at the no-cover, all-ages hoedown Grand Ole Echo, 6:30 p.m. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday: BRAZILIAN DAYS at La Brea Tar Pits; MOGWAI FILM SCREENING at the Echoplex; CHEB I SABBAH at Boardner's; VOODOO GLOWSKULLS at Cobalt Café; "A MAGICAL MUSICAL LUNCH" BENEFIT FOR THE DOWNTOWN WOMEN'S CENTER at El Chavo; THE L.A. LADIES CHOIR at Family; NEIL FINN at Largo; THE DIME BAGS at Liquid Kitty.
KARNIVOOL AT THE TROUBADOUR
"Look for a big white van full of weird Aussies with bad hair and guitars pulling up at a town near you." So say the mighty Karnivool, the Down Under rockers whose recent Sound Awake is the latest in a bewilderingly rocking mess of wide-ranging and complex manglings of ye olde rock & roll form. This is a group that can engage the little mind as it joyously stomps all over the loud-music spectrum and invents a few choice points in between. Karnivool's way-melodic and slightly weird hash of anthem-worthy mammoth riffs, polyrhythmic smack-ups and soaring guitar comes in multiple parts and odd time signatures. There's also singer Kenny's tormented howls about who knows what, but it sure sounds forking epic. Aw, t'heck with all that — the real fist-pumpin', hair-flingin' action happens tonight when the Vool hit the stage at the Troub. Please demand the awe-inspiring "Set Fire to the Hive" and prepare to have thy face blown off. (John Payne)
Also playing Monday: VANAPRASTA at the Echo; VEHICLE BLUES, HALLOWEEN SWIM TEAM at Pehrspace; PHIL ALVIN at the Redwood Bar & Grill.
OMAR RODRÍGUEZ-LÓPEZ, LE BUTCHERETTES AT THE TROUBADOUR
Omar Rodríguez-López is best known as the Mars Volta's guitarist, but his music is far more engrossing when he's stretching out in his various solo and side projects. With the Mars Volta, he tends to overplay, indulging in endless, undisciplined noodling, and the impact is usually more abrasive than cathartic. And yet, when he's on his own or working with such arty collaborators as Damo Suzuki and Lydia Lunch, Rodríguez-López is surprisingly experimental and adventurous. He doesn't write songs with melodic hooks so much as he creates elaborate soundscapes that dip into psychedelia, jazz and prog rock. Despite his fierce pyrotechnics, he'll likely be overshadowed tonight by his new protégés Le Butcherettes, the confrontational post-punk trio led by Teri Gender Bender. She hails from Guadalajara, but she might as well be from the Valley, since she sings in English and her feminist/exhibitionist stance is drawn heavily from such American riot-grrl predecessors as Bikini Kill and even earlier archetypes like Lunch and Wendy O. Williams. (Gender Bender loves to treat the audience as a big garbage disposal, recklessly hurling shoes, animal parts, blood and unknown substances into the pit — even though such stunts were already old hat in the wake of Johanna Went's much gorier late-'70s performance art.) She might be trying too hard to be shocking, and her stark lyrics aren't yet on the level of her heroes Sylvia Plath and Yoko Ono, but this ambitious Butcher Baby is worth keeping an eye on. (Falling James)
SHONEN KNIFE AT SPACELAND
The beloved Japanese trio Shonen Knife may have only one remaining original member, singer-guitarist Naoko Yamano, but they still pump out the kind of endearingly simple, cartoonish pop-punk that has attracted numerous fans from such heavier and harder bands as Sonic Youth, Redd Kross and Nirvana. While Shonen Knife have never been as intense as fellow Japanese punks Supersnazz nor as arty as Ex-Girl, they concoct harmonious pop gems that combine the energy of the Ramones with their own winsome melodies, while avoiding the facile slickness of most J-Pop groups. Whereas other musicians worry about saving the world, Shonen Knife are obsessed with more momentous subjects like "Monster Jellyfish" and "Rock & Roll Cake." Their 2009 Japanese CD, Free Time, is about to get released here in the States, along with a DVD, Live at Mohawk Place, which documents one of the Osaka band's typically fun and colorful shows. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday: THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH at the Music Box; PRETTY MESS, BLACK WIDOWS at the Redwood Bar & Grill; PALMDALE, TRACY BONHAM & KAISER CARTEL at the Hotel Café; TARANTULA, KLEVELAND at La Cita.
MELVINS AT THE TROUBADOUR
Melvins' June release The Bride Screamed Murder on the estimable Ipecac label is their first album in 26 years of operation to crack the Billboard Top 200. The band — King Buzzo, Dale Crover and the Big Business drum & bass duo of Coady Willis and Jared Warren — made a record that Mr. Buzzo succinctly describes as "Captain Beefheart playing heavy metal," which is nicely put but the merest tip of the heavy-music/art-stuff iceberg. The ever-slamming Melvins have grown deeper and, if possible, even heavier through the years (wider, too — musically speaking), and this newish Mels lineup can lay claim to some real ambitious dyno-mite. The Bride follows 2006's (A) Senile Animal and the Nude With Boots set of 2008, and last year they released Chicken Switch (Ipecac), a 15-song remix CD given the sonic smear by such sympathetic souls as Matmos, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and Japanese noise master Merzbow. (John Payne)
THE WALKMEN, JAPANDROIDS AT THE MUSIC BOX
Never mind the fact that the opening salvo of horns on their new single, "Stranded," seems to borrow its timing and melody from Sting's "Fields of Gold" — the Walkmen have cut a swath unto themselves through the heart of indie rock since emerging in 2002. The New York–based band has been remarkably reliable, both in terms of release (an album every two years on the nose, plus a full-length cover of Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats) and commitment to quality. New record Lisbon features more of the vocal cord–shredding, highly emotive, rollicking garage rock that originally put the Walkmen on the map — songs like "Angela Surf City" — as well as laid-back, almost beachy stuff like "Juveniles." Vancouver's Japandroids are equally earnest, but express themselves through distortion-heavy noise-pop that reimagines Bruce Springsteen as interpreted by Sonic Youth. The duo's 2009 debut, Post-Nothing, is full of songs about small-town girls and local watering holes, and it doesn't spare the hooks either. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Wednesday: SHONEN KNIFE at Amoeba Music; THE FULLY FULLWOOD BAND at the Echoplex; BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB at the Glass House; "LOW END THEORY" at the Airliner.
THE CHAPIN SISTERS AT THE ECHO
The Chapin Sisters shed a half-sister between the appearance of the local outfit's 2008 debut and the just-issued Two. But even minus Jessica Craven (on maternal leave), Lily and Abigail Chapin — daughters of children's-music star Tom Chapin and nieces of "Cat's in the Cradle" folkie Harry Chapin — weave a lush fabric of voices in their new songs, many of which seem less concerned with sounding old-timey than did the group's earlier ones. (The appealingly spooky "Digging a Hole" actually reminds me of Suzanne Vega's oddball industrial-folk outing, 99.9F. At least some credit for that should probably go to co-producer Jesse Lee, of New York's avant-jam crew Gang Gang Dance.) In addition to playing their own shows, the Chapins have spent time this year as part of the She & Him live band, a high-profile gig that's likely tightened their stagecraft. Oh, and make sure to yell out for their cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic." (Mikael Wood)
MARK KOZELEK AT LARGO
Mark Kozelek rose to fame by putting it all on the line, lyrically speaking. With the legendary slowcore band Red House Painters, the Ohio-born San Francisco transplant delivered his intensely autobiographical lyrics in an ennui-laced coo, sometimes accompanied by spare folk-pop, sometimes by thick, shimmery guitar. Over six albums, the band lost virtually nothing in quality, until a series of label disputes and mergers helped spell RHP's demise. In 2001, Kozelek founded Sun Kil Moon, which picked up where his first group left off, even repurposing drummer Anthony Koutsous and bassist Jerry Vessel. SKM is still active, though this is billed as an intimate one-man show. Kozelek's solo output has mostly been limited to live albums, the latest being 2009's Lost Verses Live, a fine collection featuring stripped-down versions of his bands' songs, as well as covers of great old Modest Mouse fare. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Thursday: MENOMENA, SUCKERS, TU FAWNING at El Rey Theatre; PRIMUS at Club Nokia; SAM AMIDON at Bootleg Theater; LES NUBIANS at the Conga Room; THE MOTELS at the Canyon; THE DICKIES at Air Conditioned Lounge; LOS MYSTERIOSOS at Alex's Bar; THE DOUGH ROLLERS at the Hotel Café; DEVILDRIVER, KITTIE, KATA-KLYSM at the Key Club; LAWNDALE, INSECT SURFERS at Liquid Kitty; VENOMOUS CONCEPT at Viper Room.
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