Rock Picks

{mosimage}THURSDAY, November 30

The Duhks at the Hotel Café

There’s a new movement of 20-something acoustic musicians, wryly tagged as “All-Timey.” The Mammals, Crooked Still, Uncle Earl and others have fully immersed themselves in old-time string-band music and added impurities. Along with their more psychidyllic cohorts, they’re dragging North American folk music into the 21st century. This is a welcome development in an age when popular culture too often means legalized torture and Britney Spears (is there a difference between the two?). One of the best All-Timey bands is the Duhks, from Winnipeg. They’re fronted by Jessee Havey, whose powerful, bluesy and distinctly contemporary pipes make her one of the finest singers in any genre. The rest of the quintet — banjo, fiddle, guitar, percussion — are crack instrumentalists who swing like jazzbos. Youth, originality, chops and soul in one package are a damn good sign of things to come. (Michael Simmons)

Mr. Lif at the Knitting Factory

As part of the mighty El-P’s Definitive Jux family, Mr. Lif is also one of its smartest, sharp-tongued hired guns. Whether he’s guest-starring with Def Jukie Aesop Rock, Japan’s DJ Krush or calling one-third of the shots for indie-hoppers the Perceptionists, he’s bringing the brains with the pain. And he’s got the research to back up his potshots, as well as an uncanny flow that would be the envy of mainstream rap stars if they weren’t getting paid to suck. Catch up with the details on that inverted value system via Lif’s latest, Mo’ Mega, a potent dose of analysis and rage that dissects everything from class and oil wars to his deadbeat dad and his beloved kid. Those tired of dumbshit hip-hop need look no further, at least tonight. (Scott Thill)

Lucinda Williams & Miller Williams at Royce Hall

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams didn’t just pick up her acclaimed lyric-writing skills on the street (or, to appropriate one of her titles, on a “gravel road”). Some of it undoubtedly comes from her genes. Her father, Miller Williams, is a well-regarded poet and college professor best known for his recitation at President Clinton’s second presidential inaugural. Both father and daughter share a Southern-bred, plainspoken quality to their writing. Each pens lean, powerful prose, rich with sharply turned details, that travels the dark corners of small-town America to the turbulent emotions of the human heart. The Williamses don’t often perform together, so this evening — billed as “Poetry Said, Poetry Sung” — provides a rare opportunity to see these two talented wordsmiths sharing the stage, swapping songs and poems, just like they might in the family living room. As an added treat, Lucinda also may be trying out some tunes from her February-bound new album. (Michael Berick)

Also playing Thursday:

JOANNA NEWSOM, BILL CALLAHAN at El Rey Theatre; IMOGEN HEAP at the Wiltern; LOS ABANDONED at the Echo; GRANDE MOTHERS at House of Blues; JILL SOBULE, JULIA SWEENEY at Largo; MELVINS at the Troubadour.

{mosimage}FRIDAY, December 1

A John Waters Christmas with Jonathan Richman at Royce Hall

Who would have thought that John Waters — the notorious director of Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble — had a soft spot for Christmas? A couple years back, he compiled a CD of his favorite yuletide tunes, stocked, naturally, with such oddities as “Santa Claus Is a Black Man” and Tiny Tim’s rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Tonight, Waters’ spoken-word performance piece offers his hilarious and acerbic takes on the Xmas season. Opening the show is the endearing pop primitivist Jonathan Richman, spreading his own uniquely skewered holiday cheer. Richman shares Waters’ offbeat look at the world; however, his music holds a sweet innocence that nicely balances Waters’ more twisted tastes. So turn off KOST’s endless loop of Christmas tunes, skip Griffith Park’s Festival of Light, and share the holidays with your lovably eccentric “uncles” John and Jonathan. Richman also at Safari Sam’s, Sat. (Michael Berick)

Blood Brothers, . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Celebration at the Henry Fonda Theater

Seattle’s Blood Brothers do a couple of slow, arty ones on Young Machetes, the zany splatter-punk outfit’s just-released latest album, but don’t take that as a suggestion that they’ll go easy on you tonight: The Brothers’ live show is as much about flailing around like a dying fish as it is about faithfully re-creating anything you can hear on a record. Trail of Dead front man Conrad Keely, on the other hand, has been in an introspective mood lately, telling interviewers that he’s unsure of the band’s future in the rock scene. So Divided, the Austin noise-rock group’s new CD, is as close as they’ve come to mellow, so they may well skip their usual destroy-everything shtick. Baltimore’s Celebration play dark, circus-vibed art-rock. (Mikael Wood)

{mosimage}Imogen Heap at the Wiltern

Frou Frou’s eponymous 2002 album was just another sadly overlooked CD clogging the used bins at Amoeba until Zach Braff’s ex-girlfriend suggested their song “Let Go” for his movie Garden State. The tune’s ornate blend of baroque and beats perfectly encapsulated the film’s precious approach to growing up, an apt centerpiece for the soundtrack’s ad-hoc Big Chill for the iPod-generation sentiment. Singer Imogen Heap’s flair for the dramatic carries over to her solo work, an electrified juxtaposition of emotive introspection and digital manipulation that’s decidedly cinematic. (Her version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” played as Marissa died in Ryan’s arms on The O.C., the series that helped catapult her song “Hide & Seek.”) She shares the stage here with beat-box phenomenon Kid Beyond and acoustic troubadour Levi Weaver. (Scott T. Sterling)

RZA at the Key Club

RZA, a.k.a. Bobby Digital a.k.a. Bob Digi a.k.a. Robert Diggs, is the producer, rapper and sonic brains of the loose-knit Wu Tang Clan and its solo offshoots, with whom his flair for raw, menacing beats and avant-garde textures has been a huge influence on a whole raft of hip-hop producers and players. RZA is a workaholic multitalent of extreme musical gifts and has had a hand in so many varied projects over the years, including his great Gravediggaz stuff and his amusing and technically awesome Bobby Digital albums. Moving deeper into more elaborately arranged settings, he’s done some highly unusual scoring work as well for Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Who knows what’ll he pull off live, but it’ll probably be at least a little bit baaaaad . . . (John Payne)

Also playing Friday:

BLACK EYED PEAS, CIARA, DANITY KANE at Staples Center; NORFOLK & WESTERN at the Hotel Café; THE DICKIES, AGENT ORANGE at the Knitting Factory; BOB FORREST at Silverlake Lounge; AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB at Spaceland; JOE BAIZA at Taix; LEON MOBLEY & DA LION at Vine Street Lounge.

{mosimage}SATURDAY, December 2

Wanda Jackson at the Mint

Why isn’t Wanda Jackson in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Elvis Costello posed this nagging musical question in his liner notes to the Oklahoma singer’s spirited and affectionate new tribute to that other Elvis, I Remember Elvis (Goldenlane Records), and although she made the final ballot in 2004, the ongoing omission of the Queen of Rockabilly — one of the first female rock & roll singers — seriously damages the credibility of the male-dominated hall of fame. And unlike her former touring partner and mentor Presley, Jackson wrote some of her own hits (including “Mean Mean Man”) and still plays a mean guitar to boot. It’s not just that classics like “Let’s Have a Party” have been covered by the Go-Go’s and influenced everyone from the Cramps to a whole pack of riot grrls; Jackson’s wildcat purr puts a soulfully fiery twist to everything she sings, from Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” in 1961 to a bluesy remake of “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” from I Remember Elvis. Her feverishly exotic, Roy Clark–stoked version of Charlie McCoy’s timelessly sublime “Funnel of Love” — a mere B-side in 1960 — is by itself enough justification for her immediate enshrinement. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

THE DEARS at El Rey Theatre; THE SOUNDS, SHINY TOY GUNS at the Wiltern; JOEY ALTRUDA’S CLASSIC RIDDIMS at the Bordello; ERIC BURDON at the Canyon; TYRESE at House of Blues; PAPA MALI at the Knitting Factory; JONATHAN RICHMAN, LONESOME SPURS at Safari Sam’s; CAROLYN EDWARDS, PUTTANESCA at Taix; CHEB I SABBAH at Temple Bar; SEA WOLF, PATRICK PARK at the Troubadour.

{mosimage}SUNDAY, December 3

The Tyde, Lavender Diamond, The Sharp Ease at the Echo

A respite from the charmless and vile bizarro cube of a world beyond the borders of Echo Park, Part Time Punks present this salute to Steven Patrick Morrissey, the bard of embarrassment and TMB (typical miserablist behavior). Playing Smiths/Morrissey covers tonight: Lavender Diamond, the Moon Upstairs, the Sharp Ease, the Tyde and Winter Flowers. Possibly heard: the C-sharp wonderland of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” the Ghidra-voiced falsetto of “Miserable Lie” or the less-arduous instrumental chug of “Money Changes Everything.” The hardest of the hyperliterate hardcore faithful may be seen tearing the back pocket of their jeans and stuffing gladioli thereat, rakishly turning back the collars of baggy dress shirts and bitching about why the heck “Jeane” was ever stuck on a B-side at all. Every day is like Sunday? Well, duh. (David Cotner)

Also playing Sunday:


MONDAY, December 4

Fishtank Ensemble at the Knitting Factory

For those in need of having their dervish whirled, the Bay Area’s Fishtank Ensemble are the rompin’, stompin’ leaders of cross-pollinated Gypsy music. French fiddler Fabrice Martinez paid dues gigging Europe in a mule-drawn caravan, including stints in Romani villages. El Douje is the master of 21st-century flamenco guitar, while Aaron Seeman is the king of punk accordion. Audience eyes tend to focus on Ursula Knudsen, not only for her virtuosic saw playing and a voice that sings in octaves not yet invented, but also for her sensual beauty. The mix includes a Japanese shamisen player and a rock-bottom upright bassist, and we have a young band that is one of the most thrilling live acts on the planet. Also at El Cid, Fri., Dec. 8 & 15. (Michael Simmons)

Also playing Monday:


TUESDAY, December 5

Gob Iron, Jay Farrar, Anders Parker at the Troubadour

Gob Iron — a collaboration between Son Volt’s Jay Farrar and former Varnaline front man Anders Parker — can be viewed as the antithesis of Bruce Springsteen’s recent We Shall Overcome album. While both projects draw inspiration from Pete Seeger and the American folk-music songbook, the Gob Iron disc has a darker and less jubilant tone. This isn’t surprising considering its title, Death Songs for the Living, and its participants, the melancholic musical duo of Farrar and Parker. The two seamlessly touched up some of the vintage song lyrics and enlivened their mainly acoustic arrangements by weaving in electric guitar. Their music winds up being quite compelling and haunting. Each man will do a solo set (Parker just released his own impressive self-titled disc) before teaming up together for Gob Iron time. (Michael Berick)

Also playing Tuesday:

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, JENNY LEWIS & THE WATSON TWINS at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center; NEW CARS at House of Blues; THE COPS, DEAD PONIES, TSK TSK at the Scene; JIM NOIR at Safari Sam’s; ROGER O’DONNELL at Spaceland.

WEDNESDAY, December 6

The Disco Biscuits at the Roxy

Combining programmed beats with noodling guitars, the Disco Biscuits are often seen as rave culture’s answer to Phish. On disc at least, the Philly band’s improv-y jams possess the steady pulse of a dance party, but last April’s live double-CD The Wind at Four to Fly is a bracing reminder — as is any “Bisco” performance — of the band’s awesome inability to ever play the same set twice, especially on disc one’s wildly divergent marathon capper, “Morph Dusseldorf.” With Aron Magner’s keyboard coloratura framing guitarist Jon Gutwillig and bassist Marc Brownstein’s sparring, the urgent snare rolls and jazzy cymbal splashes of now-ex-drummer Sam Altman underpin the sprawl. Fortunately, new traps man Allen Aucoin won membership at an Atlantic City “drum-off,” so you know he’ll carry on the spontaneity-virtuosity mandate like a motherfucker. Also Thurs. (Andrew Lentz)

{mosimage}Primus, Gogol Bordello at the Hollywood Palladium

Though his band’s mainstream fortunes have dwindled along with the anything-goes spirit of mid-’90s alt-rock, slap-bass virtuoso Les Claypool still leads Primus with the undimmed gusto of a career eccentric. His core constituency haven’t abandoned him, either: As you can see on Blame It on the Fish, a new DVD that documents the Bay Area trio’s 2003 reunion tour, Primus fans have found little in recent years to satisfy their absurdist-metal appetites the way Claypool’s stuff does. (Tool appear to have come close, only with the added baggage of pre-apocalyptic paranoia.) Primus has a surprisingly solid new best-of out too, so expect a healthy career overview tonight. Another sign of Claypool’s confidence: handing the opening slot to Gogol Bordello, the high-octane New York Gypsy-punk band capable of blowing pretty much anybody off the stage. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Wednesday:

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, JENNY LEWIS & THE WATSON TWINS at Arlington Theater; PANIC AT THE DISCO, BLOC PARTY at Long Beach Arena; AMOS LEE, MINDY SMITH at El Rey Theatre; KARLA BONOFF at Cerritos Center; MONSTERS ARE WAITING at Safari Sam’s; MIKE STINSON, I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. at the Scene; JIM NOIR at Spaceland; PATTY BOOKER, LISA FINNIE at the Buccaneer Lounge.

THURSDAY, December 7

Amy Millan at the Troubadour

Already familiar to the indie nation for her presence in Broken Social Scene and Stars, Amy Millan takes a solo turn on Honey From the Tombs (Arts & Crafts), which meanders into far folksier, alt-country territory. Songs like “Baby I” and “Losin’ You” are stark, plaintive confessionals that should come complete with a shot and a beer. Lyrical images of dirt roads after dark, front-porch swings and hard-luck lovers wondering where it all went wrong come alive in her music, with echoes of Mojave Three and the mellower side of Mazzy Star. Oddly enough, one of the album’s standouts is the gorgeously lush “Skinny Boy,” a jangle-heavy shoegazing rock jam that turns up the noise and finds hope (however fleeting) in “lips I could spend a day with.” Sweet emotion indeed. (Scott T. Sterling)

{mosimage}The Faint, Ladytron, Ratatat at the Hollywood Palladium

Not sure what the cosmic link might be between these three headliners — and isn’t a cosmic link what we need in our headliners? The Faint are that famous synthed-up indie-rock band straight outta Omaha and its “scene,” and they’ve got some very attitude-heavy and quite swishy and humorous and aesthetically confusing (that’s good) stuff out on the Saddlecreek label. Ladytron make big, beautiful dance-beat teen-trauma with even swishier and funnier and more androgynously challenging flair; they’re all retro synths and Bulgarian lyrics (really, sometimes), and it’s Human League to the 30th power. Ratatat is the New York duo of guitarist Mike Stroud and electronics fella/producer Evan Mast, another eclectic proposition where you never know what they’ll be in the mood to do; when they opened for Mouse on Mars at the Knit not too long ago, they pulled off the most extremely great imitation of Can jamming with Boston I’d ever experienced. It was sick, and exhilarating. (John Payne)

Also playing Thursday:

THE ROCHES at Royce Hall; RBD, NELLY FURTADO & TIMBALAND, DANITY KANE, BOW WOW at the Honda Center; GEISHA GIRLS, SQUAB, THE THINGZ at Alex’s Bar; KT TUNSTALL at the Key Club; STORM & THE BALLS, OOHLAS at the Knitting Factory; JONNEINE ZAPATA at Molly Malone’s; DISCO BISCUITS at the Roxy; BRANT BJORK & THE BROS, ABBY TRAVIS at Safari Sam’s; LES NUBIANS at Temple Bar.

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