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Rock Picks

{mosimage} FRIDAY, JANUARY 12

The BellRays
at Safari Sam’s

A lot of divas sound properly fiery on record, but when it comes to belting it out onstage without studio trickery and embellishments, they often turn into shrinking violets. Not so with the BellRays’ Lisa Kekaula, who can raise the roof live with even more soul-stirring power and awe-inspiring volume than on disc. She needs that extra force to keep up with nimbly rumbling bassist/husband Bob Vennum and brooding guitarist Tony Fate, who stir up a rosily rambling storm of MC5-inspired rock chaos behind her impressive wailing. With so much energy blowing up in all directions, with so many Armageddons going on all the time, the BellRays sometimes come off in concert like a nonstop explosion at a fireworks factory, which is why it’s a relief when they — occasionally — bring it down for mellower, more melodic tunes such as their touching signature ballad, “Have a Little Faith in Me.” The longtime Riverside group is finally getting some international attention through television commercials and Kekaula’s collaborations with Basement Jaxx and the Crystal Method — don’t miss one of their increasingly rare local gigs. (Falling James)


I See Hawks in L.A., Tony Gilkyson at the Echo

One day, sometime after Lucinda Williams heard a car driving on a gravel road, I See Hawks in L.A. co-founder Paul Lacques went looking for a favorite childhood hiking spot, only to come upon rows of houses where open space used to be. That, he says, was the inspiration for the band’s latest CD, California Country. If you’re — excuse me, yer — looking to cry tears in your dust, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in "Midnight in Orlando," "Motorcycle Mama" and the title track, among many other songs that evoke a beautiful sadness. “The album is not only a lament for California, but a lament for the planet, too,” Lacques says. Oh, great — pass the whiskey and the tissues, please. With forward-thinking folkie “don’t call me retro” guitar journeyman Tony Gilkyson, whose latest, Goodbye Guitar, crackles like marshmallows on the fire. I See Hawks also at McCabe’s, Sat. (Libby Molyneaux)


NOFX at House of Blues

You’d like to blame NOFX for all the lame, happy-go-lucky, empty-headed bands like Blink-182 and Green Day that followed in their wake, but it’s ultimately not the Bay Area group’s fault that their ebullient mix of punk, pop and ska was plundered — and then watered-down — by their more major-label-compliant imitators. Singer Fat Mike and various lineups of NOFX have always preferred to work outside the mainstream, avoiding the media and instead relying on the extensive international punk rock underground that has kept the band influential without ever coming close to selling out. And while NOFX are known for their sarcastic attitude, as reflected in album titles like White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean and I Heard They Suck Live, they also have a serious message and have always been firmly on the side of the underdog. This is the band’s last show of a four-night stand at House of Blues in which they’re attempting to play 75 different songs from their long career. (Falling James)


Also playing Friday:

FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS
at Cerritos Center; KELLER WILLIAMS at Henry Fonda Theater; CATIE CURTIS at McCabe’s; LONDON BROIL, ABE LINCOLN STORY, JOSH HADEN at Mr. T’s Bowl; BOB FORREST at Silverlake Lounge; JEREMY JAY at the Smell; CHRIS HILLMAN & HERB PEDERSEN at the Coffee Gallery Backstage; ARCHIE FRANCIS at Beantown.


SATURDAY, JANUARY 13

Citay, The Fucking Champs, Earthless at Spaceland

San Francisco–based Citay is the nom de plume of ex–Piano Magic man Ezra Feinberg, who put out a great record last year on Important Records that harkens back to the ambitious structures of ’70s AM rock, with peculiarly perfect recombinations of misty-green Led Zep acoustic guitars seeping into burnished California-gold vocal harmonies and on into the grand rock vistas of double-tracked guitar mania à la Thin Lizzy, Mike Oldfield and . . . Heart! Sounds gruesome, but it’s so beautiful, and that’s just the tip of it. The album was a studio collaboration with producer/multi-instrumentalist Tim Green from the Fucking Champs, and now Feinberg’s got a big band to reproduce his splendiferously majestic sound onstage. Speaking of the metallic rifftastic Fucking C’s, they’re playing too, and so are S.D. stoner stalwarts Earthless, a very, very, very heavy Nebula/Clikitat Ikatowi offshoot. (John Payne)


The Gears, Billy Bones, The Applicators at Alex’s Bar

Although the Gears never received the media attention — or engaged in the myth-making machinations and nihilist psychodramas — of bands like X and the Germs, they were nonetheless one of the most consistently enjoyable bands in the early L.A. punk scene. They weren’t queen-haters, nor did they intend to save (or destroy) the world. Instead, the Gears churned out such simple summertime-fun anthems as “Let’s Go to the Beach,” “High School Girls” and that immortal hesher confession, “I Smoke Dope,” mixed with the occasional rockabilly twist, like the title song of their classic 1980 album, Rockin’ at Ground Zero. Even Axxel G. Reese’s silliest lyrics on the mosh-pit guide “Don’t Be Afraid to Pogo” were ruthlessly powered by a Ramones-like blur of fuzz from guitarist Kidd Spike (the Controllers), who also added rootsy licks to the band’s one serious tune, “Elks Lodge Blues,” a fairly accurate account of punks being violently ambushed by the LAPD in the late ’70s. (Ah, those were the days.) The Gears are joined tonight by old-school comrade Billy Bones from the equally underappreciated Skulls and all-femme Texas punkettes the Applicators. (Falling James)


Girl Talk, Matt & Kim at the Echo

Greg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk, capitalizes on the inability of party peoples to focus on any given idea for more than, say, 14 seconds. Pulling out the best and most memorable hooks, bass lines and lyrical tidbits from multiple pop songs, Gillis layers the samples 30 or 40 deep in a single track. No generic mashup DJ, he constructs the cacophony of aural activity with serious precision — an old Weezer riff becomes hugely danceable when it rubs up against “Laffy Taffy.” Paul Wall, the Pixies, Mariah Carey and Smashing Pumpkins all collide on Girl Talk’s laptop tracks. Gillis plays with Brooklyn’s Matt & Kim twosome, who bring the giddy art-class super-smile fun-time. All told, anyone with a couple friends and some cans of Red Bull will happily fill their Dunks with sweat at this candy-orgy dance party. (Kate Carraway)


{mosimage} Neurosis, Red Sparowes at El Rey Theatre

Records by San Francisco’s Neurosis resemble the history of heavy metal melted down into aural quicksand: Their tribal-accented drone swirls seductively, beckoning you to lose yourself in an expansive sound it’s hard to believe is produced by five normal guys who, for example, pay rent and buy cat food. Tonight they promise to play material from across the deep Neurosis catalog and preview stuff from a new album they’re set to have completed (in Chicago with Steve Albini) by showtime. On the official Neurosis MySpace page, one blog post reports that the new disc is the group’s heaviest since 1996’s Through Silver in Blood. L.A.-based openers Red Sparowes, a post-metal supergroup including Neurosis’ live-visuals guy as well as a member of Isis, do sludgy but pretty avant-rock soundscape-core. (Mikael Wood)


Also playing Saturday:

MEDUSA
at Fais Do-Do; JOSEPH HAMMER, DAMION ROMERO at Il Corral; REZUREX, BLITZKID, STELLAR CORPSES at the Key Club; VOLTO, BEAT JUNKIES at the Knitting Factory; GRANT-LEE PHILLIPS at Largo; HALF PINT at Malibu Inn; ROCK & ROLL ADVENTURE KIDS, TEENAGE HARLOTS, BE NEATS, SOUTH BAY SURFERS at Mr. T’s Bowl; LUCY LAWLESS at the Roxy; AZTLAN UNDERGROUND at the Scene; RHETT MILLER at the Troubadour; JOEY ALTRUDA’S CLASSIC RIDDIMS at the Bordello; RAY WYLIE HUBBARD, I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. at McCabe’s.


SUNDAY, JANUARY 14

{mosimage}Al Kooper at McCabe’s

Al Kooper has done a little bit of everything, been a little bit everywhere, over the course of his five-decade career. The multi-instrumentalist was an early member of Blood, Sweat & Tears and the Blues Project and has recorded with Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, the Who, Mike Bloomfield, Joan Baez, most of the ex-Beatles and even his similarly named doppelgänger, Alice Cooper. (You may recall that he practically had to play hide & seek with legendary producer Thom Wilson to sneak onto the recording of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” which kicks off with a gloriously liberating blast from Kooper’s organ.) His songs have been covered by Keely Smith, Gary Lewis, Gene Pitney and the Staple Singers, and he’s produced everyone from Eddie & the Hot Rods and Lynyrd Skynyrd to the Tubes and Green on Red. Kooper’s most recent solo album, 2005’s Black Coffee (Favored Nations), is an amiable, well-crafted collection of soul-steeped originals and R&B-flavored balladry, highlighted by a bluesy, uptempo remake of Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready” and a swaggering live blast through Booker T’s “Green Onions.” The Koop plays two sets tonight, 7 & 9 p.m. (Falling James)


Also playing Sunday:

CHINGY, LIL SCRAPPY, LETOYA, E-40
at Gibson Amphitheatre; THE WHISPERS, ANGELA WINBUSH at Grove of Anaheim; LUCY LAWLESS at the Roxy; VIVA MALPACHE, LAS 15 LETRAS, VIERNES 13 at Safari Sam’s; TALKDEMONIC, CAROLYN EDWARDS, CANDYPANTS, JEFF MERCHANT, SEXIES at Spaceland.


MONDAY, JANUARY 15

Playing Monday:

SUBMARINES
at the Echo; WADDY WACHTEL, BRETT TUGGLE at the Joint; PITY PARTY, IO PERRY at Silverlake Lounge.


TUESDAY, JANUARY 16

{mosimage}The Nightwatchman at the Hotel Café

Guitar star Tom Morello is best known for intergalactic riffs and the uncanny ability to make his six-string sound like everything from scratching turntables to charging elephants, first with Rage Against the Machine and now Audioslave. As the Nightwatchman, this fervent political activist shows that there’s more than one way to take the power back. Instead of his customary bombast, Morello makes a folksy acoustic turn, crafting stark, plaintive musings akin to Woody Guthrie and even Johnny Cash — although with his deep baritone croon, Morello’s solo vocalizing can sound eerily reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. His past Hotel Café shows have been benefits for such outreach collectives as Food Not Bombs and his own Axis of Justice, and friends like Perry Farrell and Serj Tankian often join him onstage, so anything’s possible. (Scott T. Sterling)


Also playing Tuesday:

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, PINK
at Staples Center; UPGROUND, HUMO VERDE at the Echo; GARRISON STARR, STEVE FERRONE, ALEX LIGERTWOOD, BERNARD FOWLER at the Mint; TIA SPROCKET at the Roxy; RED HEART THE TICKER at Silverlake Lounge; DARKER MY LOVE at Safari Sam’s; NICO STAI at Spaceland.


WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17


Winston Jarrett at the Echo

Winston Jarrett, another largely unsung hero in Kingston’s critical posse of Rastafarian roots-rockers, boasts the classical reggae pedigree: He grew up with reggae spearhead Alton Ellis and began singing and recording with Alton & the Flames while still in his teens (a spot he maintained right up until Ellis’ 1969 move to Britain). Already a studio veteran — cutting stacks of records with Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd — Jarrett carried on as leader of the Righteous Flames, participating in the artistic and spiritual shift from ska to bluebeat to reggae, finally coming into his own powerhouse style with late-’70s discs like Kingston Rock and Ranking Ghetto Style. A crooner of lustrous tone and fierce messages, Jarrett should conjure both the militant and poetic, that beguilingly contradictory perspective that has always made reggae such an inescapable pop force. (Jonny Whiteside)


Also playing Wednesday:

PATRICK PARK, PRISCILLA AHN
at the Hotel Café; DAPHNE LOVES DERBY, MEG & DIA at the Knitting Factory; CUT CHEMIST at Safari Sam’s.


THURSDAY, JANUARY 18


{mosimage}Die Rockers Die at the Echo

Die Rockers Die might sound like the only logical response to washed-up metal retreads like Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, but the ever-evolving/expanding L.A. band are so much more than just haters of bad hair metal. They formed in the Philippines in 2003 before moving to Long Beach and undergoing various lineup changes. These Rockers claim to be “open-minded people whose membership[s] to the human race are under ‘probationary social conditions’” and they enjoy making contrarian statements like “Please don’t dance to our music.” Their often-improvised songs range from confrontational, straight-up punk rock to funkier post-punk structures and atmospheric, psychedelically wandering krautrock, often with hilariously abrasive lyrics. They’re part of the mysterious and somewhat ominously titled Central Second Collective with such bands as the Transmissions, Anchors for Architects and Death to Anders, all of whom are coagulating tonight to raise funds for underground Internet station Killradio. Prepare to die. (Falling James)


Also playing Thursday:

DIXIE DREGS, STEVE MORSE
at the Canyon; PAPA GROWS FUNK at the Mint; LOS ABANDONED at Amoeba Music.