Rock Picks


Bill Kirchen at Safari Sam’s

When it comes to hip-hick, Sturm-und-Twang guitar heroes, Bill Kirchen’s name always rises to the top of the list. He initially damaged heads flying with Commander Cody’s Lost Planet Airmen over 30 years ago, notably resurrecting the souped-up postwar-era thriller “Hot Rod Lincoln,” a frantic, fret-fracturing exercise that provided Kirchen with a permanent honky-tonk calling card. He has done anything but squander that cachet, maintaining both a steady flow of increasingly stinging work and an ever-rising profile among the rabid cult of six-string fanatics. He strikes tonight with a mitt full of tunes from his sharp new (and most aptly titled) album, Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods album. Kirchen’s amiable modus operandi — drastically relaxed, expressive vocals and a guitar that stalks the wildest back alleys of country and rock & roll — should manifest ample evidence supporting the Kirchen mystique. (Jonny Whiteside)

{mosimage}Eleni Mandell at the Echo

Eleni Mandell’s sixth album, Miracle of Five, begins not with a bang but with a sultry come-on titled “Moonglow, Lamp Low.” The snare beat and languorous sax that set the tone tell us that the singer — make that chanteuse — is in a “Blue Velvet” kind of mood and ready for her David Lynch close-up. The 12 songs are all pretty, dreamy and unsettling, featuring an array of superb guest musicians including Nels Cline and DJ Bonebrake. There’s the psycho waltz of “Girls” (“I am the dice you roll in the alley/I am the pennies that come in handy”) and the hill-Billie Holiday swoon of “Miss Me,” that latter of which could actually break your heart. Slow dancing will ensue. (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Thursday:

at House of Blues; VOLUMEN CERO, LOS SUPER ELEGANTES at the Knitting Factory; NINJA ACADEMY at Mr. T’s Bowl; JUCIFER, SASQUATCH at the Scene; VISIONARIES at the Viper Room.


{mosimage}Sparklehorse, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at Henry Fonda Theater

Sparklehorse is Mark Linkous, but he gets by with a little help from his heavy friends on his ambitious sprawl of an album, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain. Guest pianist Tom Waits and Dambuilders violinist Joan Wasser paint the wide-open spaces of “Morning Hollow” with subdued, funereal shadows, while Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse and Flaming Lips drummer Steven Drozd take Linkous for a spin around the galaxy on the Beatles psychedelia of “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away.” The album works best when there’s more sparkle and less songs that sound like they were recorded on horse; all the glittery Christmas lights and electronic embellishments can’t salvage some of the ponderously long, sleepier ballads, and the stiff tracks where the multitalented Linkous plays all the instruments do miss Drozd’s heft and swing. Seattle’s Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter specialize in taking the slow road on their just-released Barsuk CD, Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul. Sykes intones with a soulfully mellow intimacy on the pastoral stillness of “Eisenhower Moon” and “Spectral Beings” as partner Phil Wandscher lights the hearth with embers of glowing guitar. (Falling James)

Miho Hatori, Los Abandoned at the Troubadour

Los Abandoned are simply one of L.A.’s most exciting new bands. Lady P. comes off like a hipper Debbie Harry on “Panic-Oh!” and slyly name-drops Drew Barrymore on the obsessed-fan anthem “Stalk U,” from last year’s Mix Tape CD, as partner Don Verde cranks up a variety of sunny musical settings that range from Oingo Boingo/Devo–ish new-wave bounciness to punk-rocking fuzz. And don’t let her smart-&-sassy bilingual lyrics on “Van Nuys (Es Very Nice)” and “Conquistarte Bien” fool you into thinking that Los Abandoned are just an ephemeral and silly pop band; the jangly acoustic closer, “State of Affairs,” is a sweetly rueful Valentine and calling card to the world. Headliner Miho Hatori moves away from the cartoonish cutesiness of her old band Cibo Matto into dreamier electronic-pop settings on her new solo album, Ecydysis (Rykodisc). “Today’s like the rainy season of my thoughts,” she coos over the mellow keyboard chimes of the ethereal “Today Is Like That,” while subtle traces of harmonica and accordion are woven into the electronic folds of “Barracuda.” It’s all quite charming without being too precious. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

at the Galaxy Theatre; NORAH JONES at Amoeba Music, 6 p.m.; KRS-ONE at Blue Cafe; JOEY ALTRUDA, COATI MUNDI, PLEASANT GEHMAN, MR. UNCERTAIN at the Bordello; THAILAND, RADARS TO THE SKY at El Cid; ERIN McKEOWN at the Hotel Café; JUCIFER at the Mint; XU XU FANG at Tangier; PAT TODD & THE RANK OUTSIDERS at Studio Suite.


Mirah, Anna Oxygen at the Troubadour

You know those girls who are totally sweet and sort of befuddled, pushing their glasses up their nose and poking holes in their tights, but manage to bag wicked-hot lovers and get straight A’s without trying? This is Mirah. She’s a strong songwriter who seems to have cutely stumbled into the kind of collaborations (most notably, with Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie) that most solo guitar-slinging outfits couldn’t roll with. Every Mirah record is a treasure chest of gloriously breathy sing-alongs about hurt feelings and doing it. A cozily wholesome, Jewish-sexpot kind of lesbian, Mirah is destined to make this show a tea-and-cookies-style love-in. Opening is Kill Rock Stars’ Jazzercise queen Anna Oxygen, who applies a Lycra-pants performance shtick to her Kraftwerk-oriented techno beats and regular calls for the audience to get in on the action. (Kate Carraway)

Songs of Protest with Cindy Lee Berryhill at Largo

To paraphrase the late Molly Ivins, we must sing about this war until we find some way to end it. Cindy Lee Berryhill and friends gather tonight to counter the horror with beauty and dissent. Berryhill’s forthcoming album, Beloved Stranger, is her finest in years, a poignant honky-tonk lament to the devastation wrought by a rich man’s power grab fought by the less privileged. Most of the evening’s artists are featured on Neil Young’s “Living With War Today” Web site (, one of the countless efforts to ratchet up the critical democratic mass against the slaughter. These singers and their songs personalize the dehumanizing and insane surges ordered by the tyrants in Washington. The sum total empowers our community and demands that decisions affecting our destiny be returned to we the people. As Ivins said, “We are the deciders.” With John Doe, Rev. Madison Shockley, Josh Hisle, Jenny Yates, John Hughes, Gale Mead and special guests. (Michael Simmons)

The Roots, Lupe Fiasco, Jill Scott, Akon at Gibson Amphitheatre

Last year’s Def Jam debut by the Roots hardly vindicated hip-hop snobs convinced that reporting to label prez Jay-Z would cause the Philly-based outfit to go bling. If anything, Game Theory — with its Radiohead sample and extended free-rap tribute to the late J Dilla — revealed how useful major-label lucre is for funding in-studio experimentation. Still, as their live work with Hova, Eminem and others suggests, what distinguishes the Roots from many of their reactionary peers is that they don’t fear the mainstream or its pleasures. To drummer and de facto front man ?uestlove, a dope beat is where you find it. Tonight’s pre-Grammys bash should underscore that point: ?uest and his bandmates will perform their own material, but they’ll also back up neo-soul songbird Jill Scott, skate-rap young’un Lupe Fiasco and Akon, the Senegalese singer-rapper whose sharp tune sense is matched by an unfortunate taste for caveman sex. (Mikael Wood)

Go fish: The Roots, Saturday.

Sarah Shannon at Spaceland

It turns out the ex–lead singer of Velocity Girl is a big musical dork — and that’s just swell. Sarah Shannon’s abandoned the “indie-rock darling” rep and is now feedback-free, singing like she’s auditioning for a revival of

South Pacific

. She writes on her MySpace profile, “I’m still interested in old-school pop-songwriting — Carole King, Carly Simon, Burt B., Smokey R., Randy Newman.” And as for her crush on Rufus Wainwright, she says, “I have listened to Poses so many times that I imagine big Broadway production numbers with each of the songs — set, costumes, choreography, I’m not kidding.” On

City Morning Song

, her second solo effort, she Nellie McKays it up on peppy tunes that are beguilingly simple, with copious amounts of that oh-so-fresh feeling. (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Saturday:

at Alex’s Bar; LOUIE CRUZ BELTRAN at Boardner’s; JOEY ALTRUDA’S CRUCIAL RIDDIMS at the Bordello; THE MENTORS at the Knitting Factory ; CHRIS HILLMAN & HERB PEDERSEN at McCabe’s; LOFTY CANAANITES at Mr. T’s Bowl ; THE ETTES at the Scene ; CHIP KINMAN, I SEE HAWKS IN L.A., KINGSIZEMAYBE at Taix; DEEP EYNDE at Roberto’s; JAMES INTVELD at the Fret House.


{mosimage} ZZ Top at House of Blues

It’s fitting that ZZ Top’s Web site is crude and shamelessly out of date. They’ve earned the right to coast. Why change with the times when you’ve given the world such Southern-rock staples as “Legs,” “Tush,” “Tube Snake Boogie” and “Cheap Sunglasses”? These guys are the originators of the get-a-look-and-stay-with-it-philosophy. Take several years from touring and recording? No problem! We’ll wait. Dusty Hill, Frank Beard and Billy Gibbons, the latter two with their Cousin It–inspired facial tumbleweeds, are touring with no new product to plug — just their poop-kicking songs. Miraculously, it’s the same lineup since they began in 1969, when they proudly named themselves for competing brands of rolling papers and haven’t looked back since. (Libby Molyneaux)

Smiths Night at Part Time Punks at the Echo

Every day is like Sunday at the Echo’s weekly soiree

Part Time Punks

, and tonight, just a week after His Mopiness passed through town, several local bands take on the Morrissey myth, legend and catalog. (Adding to the meatless allure and sense of Anglophile authenticity, British impresario and Creation Records founder Alan McGee is scheduled to play DJ.) The Moon Upstairs, who are heavily influenced by Pink Floyd and George Harrison, should put a classic-rock spin to Smiths classics with their spectral, slowly unwinding, hazy-spacy embellishments. The Sniks, meanwhile, are a one-night-only supergroup with members of the Sharp Ease and Longstocking doing Smiths covers with a femme-pop twist. Sharp Ease originals like “LA Mist” and “Peoplewich” blend Paloma Parfrey’s yearning vocals with Aaron Friscia’s post-punk, Cure-style guitars, so it might be fascinating to see how they combine with Longstocking’s lovely riot-grrl pop harmonies in reinventing Morrissey tunes. And catch the Sharp Ease playing their own songs when they open at the Troubadour on Saturday. (Falling James)

Also playing Sunday:

at the Wiltern; D.I., TIPPER’S GORE at the Knitting Factory ; DAVE SHIELDS, ROVER’S PINKY at Mr. T’s Bowl ; JULIE CHRISTENSEN at Frank Pictures.


{mosimage} Miss Derringer, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots at Safari Sam’s

When artist Liz McGrath sang with the old L.A. punk band Tongue, rants like “Do You Me” — a wondrous avalanche of febrile noise and chaos — exploded garishly all over the place, leaving bits of bloody wreckage that evoked the bizarre, horrifically beautiful sculptures that she exhibits at galleries like La Luz de Jesus. And yet her latest band, Miss Derringer, doesn’t sound anything like the anarchic cacophony of Tongue. On Miss D’s new CD,


, McGrath pulls in her claws for a subtler approach, with rootsy guitars veiling her countrified, melodic vocals on a shimmering, restrained version of Nick Cave’s “People Ain’t No Good.” In the past she’s worked with supreme sidemen like former Avenger/Chris Isaak guitarist Jimmy Wilsey, and on the new album Blondie traps man Clem Burke sets down the rhythmic law on such gauzy originals as “Death Car Ride.” Miss Derringer are nicely paired with Denver’s Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, whose gothic funeral marches are slivered with Rebecca Vera’s cello and Frieda Stalheim’s and Elin Palmer’s smoky violins, contrasting Munly’s ticking acoustic guitar and languorous low-baritone croaking. (Falling James)

Also playing Monday:



Playing Tuesday:

at the Wiltern; TENACIOUS D at Arlington Theater; PATTY GRIFFIN at the Hotel Café.


{mosimage} The Head Cat at the Knitting Factory

Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister looks like he could convincingly portray a surly biker thug or perhaps an ax murderer in a slasher flick, but when he reaches for some of the higher notes on the Head Cat’s new CD,

Fool’s Paradise

, he occasionally makes himself as vulnerable as a newborn kitten stuck in a tree. On paper, this rockabilly project with Lonesome Spurs guitarist Danny B. Harvey and Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom shouldn’t work: Instead of being powered by Motorhead’s trademark throttling crush, here Lemmy’s strumming an acoustic guitar (!) and singing tunes by Buddy Holly & the Crickets whose melodies gave even the Beatles trouble. He growls and hiccups his way through “Peggy Sue Got Married” — this from the man who once crooned “Orgasmatron” — while the feathery pop of “Take Your Time” is as close as he’ll ever get to sounding like Herman’s Hermits. It all works, though, thanks to Harvey’s percolating riffs and Phantom’s straight-ahead drive. With his rough, weather-beaten voice, Lemmy has the rich, burnished delivery of an ageless blues man on jumping versions of “Not Fade Away” and Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox.” This ol’ rocker’s one pretty cool cat. (Falling James)

Albert Hammond Jr. at the Troubadour

It’s like the Strokes with a double shot of sugar on top when their mop-topped six-string-slinger Albert Hammond Jr. kicks it on the solo tip. Familiar are his clear-eyed and thematic guitar lines intertwined with rhythmic and jangle-heavy riffing, but his eager, optimistic vocal style and hopeful lyricism are a far cry from Julian Casablanca’s world-weary mutterings. Junior’s solo LP,

Yours to Keep

, is a giddy collection of feel-good power-pop rock that strikes a charming balance between

Is This It?


Get the Knack

. Taking a night off from wooing the alterna-teen set by opening for Incubus on their current tour, Hammond hits L.A. right in the heart with this Valentine’s night one-off for hipsters in love (or those who at least still believe in it). Now c’mon and get happy! (Scott T. Sterling)

Also playing Wednesday:

at Grove of Anaheim; COMMON at House of Blues ; BETTY DYLAN at Molly Malone’s; BODIES OF WATER at the Scene ; MV & EE, CHARALAMBIDES at the Smell.


{mosimage} Blowfly at Alex’s Bar

To simply call foul-mouthed genius-showman Blowfly “the original dirty rapper,” as he is so frequently touted, is a grave disservice. Blowfly is much, much more: He’s a superhero, the high-flying emperor of his own self-defined “weird world,” a poster child for the illimitable beauties of the First Amendment and a scourge to straight-laced squares everywhere. An underworld arbiter of all things off-color, he’s been muddying the waters for the better part of four decades and, as his latest release,

Punk Rock Party

, makes quite motherfuckin’ clear, he just gets better. Blowfly’s rapid-fire, high-caliber exercises in outrage are not only some of the most hilarious song send-ups you’ll ever hear, they’re also a testament to the man’s near-supernatural energies. Expect eye-popping wardrobe, incendiary on-the-spot improv, and a skull-denting tour through his untamed catalog of insane orations and filth-infected song stylings. (Jonny Whiteside)


Also playing Thursday:

at Pasadena Civic Auditorium; FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at the Bordello; JOSH HADEN, MINOR CANON, CHAPIN SISTERS at the Echo; LOS AMIGOS INVISIBLES at House of Blues ; SMITHEREENS, EJECT at the Key Club; GIL BERNAL QUARTET at Lighthouse Cafe; IMA ROBOT at the Roxy; CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN, CRACKER at Safari Sam’s ; MIKE STINSON, CAT HAIR ENSEMBLE at Silverlake Lounge.

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