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Rock Picks

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22

The Shakes at Safari Sam’s

For many years, the Shakes have warded off fame with an anonymous-sounding, generic band name and a morbidly sarcastic form of self-deprecation that usually keeps the hipsters at bay — even as relatively recent bands like the White Stripes have broken out with some of those same garage-rock influences. That’s why it’s so satisfying that the Shakes have finally fulfilled their pure-pop potential with the minor (and possibly — time will tell — major) masterpiece, The Rise and Fall of Modern Living (Teenacide), where Peter Gilabert’s ambitious song cycle about the streets of Silver Lake is fleshed out with lavish string and horn arrangements. It’s perfectly appropriate that the Shakes are part of tonight’s bill celebrating the music of the Kinks and Love — their snappy version of Britney Spears’ “Oops! . . . I Did It Again” a few years ago was cleverly dressed up in Kinks clothing, and the string parts on the new album often evoke Love’s Forever Changes. The Shakes’ own tunes encompass Big Star yearning and Monkees brightness, laced with the typically black humor of Gilabert (keeping one step ahead of invading yuppies on “Gentrification Blues”) and ex–Redd Kross drummer Janet Housden (singing the deceptively pretty, wickedly unsentimental child-hating ballad “Little Babies”). These are some great Shakes. (Falling James)

Cold War Kids at the Troubadour

Cold War Kids are one of the best post–White Stripes garage-blues acts around because they’re not afraid of using their imagination: On the Long Beach band’s debut, Robbers & Cowards, front man Nathan Willett narrates from the POV of all kinds of characters he’s not, including a pistol-packing thief and a recovering-alcoholic father. Where too many of his peers view tall-tale-telling as a compromise of indie-scene authenticity, Willett understands that playing lyrical make-believe is only natural when you’re doing music more often made by grizzled old men than by dewy young hipsters. (He also knows that singing about suppertime in solitary confinement is about 77 times more interesting than describing how fucked up you got at last night’s party.) Cold War Kids also at El Rey Theatre, Wed. (Mikael Wood)

Willie Nelson, John Trudell at Gibson Amphitheatre Willie Nelson, God love him, is nuts. The man is pushing 80 years of age but nonetheless maintains a road schedule so heavy that it’d probably cause a lot of 20-somethings to turn purple and wilt. This visit is of particular note, a cancer-awareness fund-raiser that pairs the venerable country renegade-philosopher with John Trudell, the profound Native American enigma whose calling card these days is as a rock & roll poet, but whose 1970s-era notoriety came as one of the leaders of the American Indian Movement (up to and including AIM’s occupation of Alcatraz Island and a prime spot on J. Edgar Hoover’s personal shit list). When Nelson’s and Trudell’s drastically unorthodox minds meet, the results are likely to be flat-out spectacular. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday: FLOGGING MOLLY, STREET DOGS at Henry Fonda Theater; MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD, BLACKALICIOUS at the Wiltern; MOONRATS at the Knitting Factory; SHARP EASE at Mr. T’s Bowl; PASTILLA at the Roxy; CARLOS GUITARLOS at Charlie O’s Lounge.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23 David J, Abby Travis, Nora Keyes at Safari Sam’s Bela Lugosi is dead, and so is the Black Dahlia, but that shouldn’t stop David J from hosting his own macabre Cabaret Oscuro, which the Bauhaus bassist has said is his attempt to link the “stark visual presentation” of German Expressionism with punk rock freedom and the fatalistic creativity of the 1920s Berlin cabaret scene. Dr. J is backed tonight by his own acoustic guitar and Joyce Rook’s cello, as well as pre-recorded music he cobbled together in the studio. He’s joined by a strange and merry crew of freaky sideshow performers and bizarre art-rockers, including the sometimes mannered but deliciously daffy Nora Keyes, who David J produced when she was in the local synth-rock saboteurs the Centimeters. Adding an air of old-Hollywood glamour is that Renaissance woman Abby Travis, who’s perhaps best known for backing the likes of El Vez, Beck, Elastica, the Love Dolls, Cherie Currie and the Bangles but whose own solo albums, including 2006’s Glitter Mouth, have a glam-rocking allure. The cabaret also spotlights such eccentrics as Vin Santos & the Ghost of Elizabeth Short, Fauxnique, Ego Plum, Creekbird and Count Smokula. (Falling James)

Flogging Molly at Henry Fonda Theater Celtic punk is alive and well, largely thanks to Flogging Molly, who got their name from their relentless Monday-night gigs at Molly Malone’s. Along with guitar, bass and drums, the band’s accordion, mandolin, tin whistles and banjo are what really make their music an assault on your uilleann pipes. And it’s all as authentic as stewed cabbage, since front man Dave King holds an Irish passport. And their fans? Let’s just say that heads that bop in unison like that are part of a special breed. After a Guinness or six, they will be glad to let you into their club. Also Thurs., Feb. 22. (Libby Molyneaux)

 

Dir en Grey, Fair to Midland at the Wiltern The outwardly simplistic world of heavy metal has never cradled so many sonic and aesthetic subplots, so the genre’s mix-’n’-match mongrels are, well, more mongrel-y than ever. Japan’s Dir en Grey manically scroll through hardcore breakdowns, deathly retching, melodramatic gothic murmurings, electro flirtations and oddly frantic pop hooks (sung mostly in Japanese). Oh, and their exhaustingly energized stage show is big on (mock) self-mutilation. Fair to Midland’s being signed to System of a Down singer Serj Tankian’s label is in itself a big clue to their sound. Like SOAD, Fair to Midland are ultra-eclectic, but their multitracked warbling, dexterous piano caresses, flecks of falsetto, and guitars more sturdy than shreddy lend their art-rock an organic, almost folkie fireside glow. Judging by the live tracks on their Drawn and Quartered EP, these Texans can light up a stage too. Also at Avalon, Sat. (Paul Rogers)

Also playing Friday:

GROOVY REDNECKS at Anarchy Library; JOEY ALTRUDA, COATI MUNDI, PLEASANT GEHMAN at the Bordello; CHEAP TRICK at the Canyon; OM, EARTHLESS, DEAD PONIES at the Echo; CHARLIE WADHAMS at El Cid; ENGLISH BEAT at Key Club ; JON BRION at Largo; BLUE HAWAIIANS at Lava Lounge; MIKE STINSON, I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. at the Scene; MICHAEL WHITMORE at Tangier; VERUCA SALT at Viper Room .

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24 Nudist Priest, Donita Sparks, Jon Wahl & the Amadans at Safari Sam’s There are probably more tribute acts now than at any other time since those dark days of the pre-punk mid-’70s, when practically every band at clubs like the Starwood was playing classic-rock covers. So we’re not exactly living in the golden age of musical creativity, but if you absolutely insist on living in the past, make sure that your tribute band has a clever name and a wildly over-the-top concept like Nudist Priest, who perform the golden oldies of Rob Halford completely naked. (Something Halford himself would probably find exciting.) This colony of Nudists are led by local-scene vet John Ramirez (who sometimes goes by the clever pseudonym Genre Mirrors) and haven’t performed live in five years, making this comeback show a nostalgic look at nostalgia. Singer-guitarist Donita Sparks’ solo songs have the grungy punk power of her old band L7 combined with a newfound glittery seediness, while ex-Clawhammer leader Jon Wahl’s rubbery vocal affectations and literary whimsy are buttressed by one of this town’s best rhythm sections, nimbly rumbling bassist Steve Reed and solidly explosive Backbiter drummer Bob Lee. (Falling James)

Perla Batalla presents The Gospel According to Leonard Cohen at Royce Hall

You’d think he was God, given that worshipful title. Oh wait, he sorta is if you bow down to writers of songs that are vivid, heartbreaking and utterly original. It’s no wonder countless singers have clamored to cover Leonard Cohen’s songs. The Flying Lizards sounded pretty deep on their version of “Suzanne.” Perla Batalla, Cohen’s former backing vocalist who went on to release Bird on the Wire: The Songs of Leonard Cohen and appear in the documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, leads a pack of Cohen-heads that includes Dave Alvin, Jackson Browne, Bill Frisell, Michael McDonald, Howard Tate, Kevin McCormick, Don Heffington. Dave Palmer, Robben Ford, Don Was and others. Let us praise him, and, as Mr. C writes, “I’ll stand before the Lord of Song/With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.” (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Saturday:

DIR EN GREY, FAIR TO MIDLAND at Avalon; SMOGTOWN at Alex’s Bar; JAMES INTVELD at Blue Cafe; JOHN MAYALL, DAVE MASON at the Canyon; IAN SCREAMS, DANBURY SHAKES, MOTORCYCLE BLACK MADONNAS, MADAMN GRISLEE at Mr. T’s Bowl; WHITESTARR, MICKEY AVALON at the Roxy; MIA DOI TODD at the Smell ; LA SYMPHONY at Spaceland; J.F.A., DECRY at the Westchester.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25 Playing Sunday: LAMB OF GOD, TRIVIUM at the Wiltern; RED JUMPSUIT APPARATUS, STATIC LULLABY at House of Blues; GROOVY REDNECKS, PINE BOX BOYS at Cinema Bar.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26

Chris Thile & How to Grow a Band at Largo It wasn’t too many years ago that Chris Thile was just a kid playing bluegrass in some SoCal pizza parlor. Now he is BBC Radio’s Folk Musician of the Year. But Thile is a natural. Having picked up the mandolin at age 5, he was winning national competitions at 12. With fellow teen phenoms Sara and Sean Watkins, he formed Nickel Creek, whose adventurous acoustic music garnered them gold albums and a Grammy. The band’s now headed for an “extended hiatus” after its spring tour. Thile’s two-night stand at Largo, which coincidentally follows recent gigs there from the other Creek offshoot, the Watkins Family Hour, undoubtedly will provide a glimpse into his musical future. His live shows are eclectic affairs much like his latest solo outing, How to Grow a Woman From the Ground, which organically intermingled Jimmie Rodgers and the White Stripes with his mandolin-fueled originals. Also Tues. (Michael Berick)

 

Love of Diagrams, Division Day at Spaceland The trio Love of Diagrams come from a land Down Under, but they step smartly with the jagged, angular rhythms of a vintage British post-punk band. Guitarist Luke Horton sends up wiry, interstellar smoke signals on their new self-titled EP on Matador, while bassist Antonia Sellbach chants out melodic bursts like “The Pyramid” and “Pace or the Patience.” Drummer Monika Fikerle chimes in with the swirling chaos of “No Way Out,” while Sellbach’s Cure-like bass figure coils around her like a python. The Melbourne group rely on some of Joy Division’s dark riffology, but they claim that they’re also influenced by David Lynch, Cindy Sherman and Roman Polanski. The new L.A. shoegazer combo Division Day close out their free monthlong Spaceland residency with songs from their recent CD, Beartrap Island, whose art-pop tunes mix Ryan Wilson’s jangly, blurry guitars with keyboardist Rohner Segnitz’s world-weary yet poppy confessions. Love of Diagrams also at Safari Sam’s, Tues. (Falling James)

Also playing Monday: THE WHO, TRAGICALLY HIP at Long Beach Arena; SIMON DAWES, SABROSA PURR at the Echo; WADDY WACHTEL at the Joint; BINGES, ANDY DICK at King King; GO BETTY GO at the Scene. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27

Charleston Grotto, Danny Cohen at Theater of Note

In your studious search for the true, righteous realness from way back in revered rock’s “glory” or “salad” days, you’ve no doubt come across frequent references to proto-punk bands like the Standells or Sonics or Seeds or whatever, most of whom might’ve got their start around ’66 or so. No band fits the proto-punk description better than Charleston Grotto, who were a bunch of 12-year-olds and younger when they began throwing down such pre-seminally nasty, weird and maniacal slams as “Kill the Teacher” in L.A. in 1961! Why, that means that their certifiably (they recorded it all on Sony reel-to-reel) punk rock sound actually predates the Beatles. Strange . . . Anyway, here it is almost half a century later, and the original members of C.G., which include the idiosyncratically great singer-composer Danny Cohen and his famous bass-playing brother, Greg (Tom Waits et al.), have reunited to present “50 Years of the Beachwood Boys and Charleston Grotto With Front, Rear, Bottom and Fidel.” There’ll be opening sets by Danny Cohen, a growing legend all on his own for his series of poetically outsiderish and musically superlative solo albums; he’ll play and sing stuff from his sterling new Shades of Dorian Gray (Anti-). 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; two sets, 7 & 9:30 p.m. (John Payne)

Also playing Tuesday: MOLECULES, FOREIGN BORN at Boardner’s; NELS CLINE & GLENN KOTCHE at the Echo; TOM BROSSEAU at the Hotel Café; CHRIS THILE & HOW TO GROW A BAND at Largo; GEORGIE JAMES, LOVE OF DIAGRAMS at Safari Sam’s ; MARTIN KLINGMAN at Tangier; MONEY MARK at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; GREG DAPONTE, CHIP KINMAN at Cinema Bar.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28

The Letter Openers at Safari Sam’s Of all the bands in the pop-punk collective Kiss or Kill, the Letter Openers have the most pleasingly cynical attitude. The longtime, if obscure L.A. quartet are informed by good old punk rock on their recent CD, All the Time Right Now — especially on the unsentimental documentation of a certain lost place and time with “Summer of ’79” — but they play with a mostly straight-ahead rock & roll drive. They abolish romanticism on the pounding hypnosis of “I Won’t Remember Your Name,” and they have a way with elegantly wasted descending chords on such tunes as “Peppermint.” Mac Dunlop’s gruff howling is brightened by Martin Ransbury’s judiciously quick lead-guitar adornments, while bassist Matt Peter and drummer-singer Jon Goldberg clobber everything in sight. “You know, it’s all about the wedding ring,” Dunlop sings on the power-pop-laden hook of “Special Things” before snatching away happiness with the sarcastic rejoinder “You get yourself a house in the Valley and then, baby, those are special things.” The Letter Openers come off like a darker L.A. version of Cheap Trick. Don’t miss ’em. (Falling James)

Baseck, Captain Ahab, Costes & Lisou Prout, Mr. Natural, Rale at the Smell As much a danger to traditional values as fluoride in the water or pee-pee in the Coke, legendary composer and absurdist Jean-Louis Costes appears with actress Lisa Prout in a Gallic superduo singing, stripping, rubbing semi-solid foods all over themselves and playing cracked electronics on this tour for Les petits oiseaus chient [Little Birds Shit], “an opera porno-social,” a voyage from youth to the bourgeoisie alongside acts of bizarre S&M sex and “the logical conclusion of this journey: finishing in hell.” Accompanying them on this magical misery tour is the pile-driving drum & bass of Captain Ahab and Mr. Natural’s living plants, transformed into noisy killing machines of verve and charisma. Baseck, he of the Sonic Death Rabbit collective/unconsciousness, thrives in a glitchy 17/2 backwater, while Rale purportedly is a member of Unnecessary Surgery and Beach Balls — two things in life we positively cannot do without. (David Cotner)

 

French Kicks at the Troubadour French Kicks aren’t uncool just because they suck. Make no mistake, this is a bad band which is exhausting to listen to, so absent are any good, original ideas. Plenty of bands suck, but the more human among them eventually recognize that shitting out banal music isn’t productive for anybody. Not French Kicks, who haul out their pop-rock triteness at every opportunity. If they’re remarkable at all, it’s in their tenacity. How the forces outside of the band, like their label and audience (fuck, even their best friends), haven’t put it to them that their shelf life in Brooklyn’s bargain basement has expired is a curiosity. Do they have trust funds that dig to China? What’s behind the curtain? Part of me would love to know. The other part is too bored with the French Kicks to care. (Kate Carraway)

Also playing Wednesday:

MIKE MARTT, DAVID BAERWALD, BILL BOTRELL at Dipiazza’s Lounge; STYX at House of Blues; MOONRATS at the Scene; ASTRA HEIGHTS, WAR TAPES, BUFFALO ROAM at Silverlake Lounge; GEORGIE JAMES at Spaceland; LISA FINNIE, PATTY BOOKER at Cinema Bar.

THURSDAY, MARCH 1  Rickie Lee Jones at Henry Fonda Theater The story of Jesus of Nazareth has been told, retold, interpreted and misinterpreted by a legion of true believers, spiritual seekers and even fanatics who deliver salvation with a sword or a gun. Rickie Lee Jones is probably thinking of such zealots on her new album when she declares, “See all those people praying on TV and in the churches/they like to make a big parade out of what they’re doing.” She prefers having a private conversation with God on her new CD, The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard (New West), which was inspired by her producer Lee Cantelon’s book The Word, which recasts the Christ legend in an artier, more personal and less dogmatic fashion. And unlike the sometimes slick mainstream-pop settings of her early work, the best songs on Exposition churn with a raw, acoustic-based radiance, such as “Tried to Be a Man,” where her filtered, hushed vocals simmer over swampy Creedence guitars, evoking the boho vibe of her old pal Tom Waits. Jones sounds just as influenced by another oft-misunderstood Jewish prophet — Lou Reed — on quietly ecstatic tunes like “Nobody Knows My Name.” (Falling James)

Macromantics at the Echo If you think Lady Sovereign is a weak rapper with little to say besides how great she thinks she is, you might prefer Romy Hoffman, a.k.a. Macromantics. The Australian performer is much more intelligent and aware of the world around her, and she’s influenced as much by feminist riot-grrl icons like Bikini Kill, Crass’ Eve Libertine and Lydia Lunch as she is by rap forefathers like Wu Tang Clan, Big Daddy Kane and Nas. On her new Kill Rock Stars CD, Moments in Movement, Miss Macro wastes little time on braggadocio and self-affirmation, preferring instead to “axe and slash the fascist fucks.” She’s joined by guests Ground Components on “Dark Side of Dallas,” where she reveals a surreally poetic side when she chants, “I give you the swarm of apostrophes/who dream in patches of splashes as magic as black is.” She meets her match on the autobiographical statement of purpose “Locksmith,” where she exchanges robotic-voice verses with her male doppelgänger, Sage Francis. DJ Amy scratches up an intriguing brew of magnificent sound effects, although a little more melodic variety would break up Miss Macro’s singsong delivery. (Falling James)

Also playing Thursday:

JOSH RITTER, SUBMARINES at El Rey Theatre; THE KRIS SPECIAL at Mr. T’s Bowl; BAD DUDES, THE MAE SHI, BIPOLAR BEAR at the Smell ; JOSH HADEN at Tangier.


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