Rock Picks

THURSDAY, MARCH 29 Jill Cunniff at the Hotel Café

Even hardcore fans of Luscious Jackson, the mid-’90s all-lady Beastie Boys spinoff group, had to be surprised by the appearance last month of a major-label L.J. greatest-hits disc: Though they made a respectable contribution to funky-fresh post-Odelay pop, singer Jill Cunniff and her bandmates never really broke out of the big-city hipster ghetto and connected with the kind of listeners for whom greatest-hits discs were invented. As it happens, the best-of isn’t the only L.J. product in stores right now; Cunniff also just released her solo debut, City Beach, whose mellow folk-hop grooves she brings to the Hotel Café tonight. Brooklyn-based Cunniff says she made the album “to bring the beach to caged-up city dwellers,” and though that’s not a trick in huge demand around these parts, she’s retained enough of her appealing tunecraft to charm even a career surf bum. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Thursday:


FRIDAY, MARCH 30TV on the Radio, The Noisettes at Henry Fonda Theater

There’s ample reason why tickets for TV on the Radio’s obscenely sold-out shows are the hottest this city has seen in eons. While the stunning headphone opus Return to Cookie Mountain ruled the Pitchfork Nation (and beyond) in 2006, there are still legions of freshly minted fans who have yet to experience the band live, especially here in L.A., where their only local appearance was a simmering campfire of a show at the Hollywood Bowl opening for Massive Attack (a fruitful match, as TVOTR’s production mastermind David Sitek is producing M.A.’s upcoming album). Their reputation as an incendiary powder keg live precedes them, and rightfully so. The world needs a band like TVOTR — who are equal parts art and heart — now more than ever. U.K. thrash-bashers the Noisettes open, getting down like a multiracial Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with singer Shingai Shoniwa as the black Karen O. Also Sat. (Scott T. Sterling)

The Ettes, Buck, Miss Derringer at Spaceland

Long Gone John, we hardly knew ye — unless you count the past two decades the surly, shaggy Sympathy for the Record Industry anti-mogul spent holed up in his Long Beach cave baiting his enemies and issuing a nonstop hailstorm of lovingly/tastelessly designed records by Roky Erickson, the Gun Club, the Come Ons, Lazy Cowgirls, the Detroit Cobras, Wanda Jackson, the White Stripes and Turbonegro. The subject of a recent documentary (The Treasures of Long Gone John), he’s moving to Olympia and taking his toys with him, saying goodbye tonight with several of his favorite bands, including a reunion of the punk-pop trio Buck, whose leader, Lisa Marr, has stretched out in a more countryish direction in recent years (one of her ballads was recorded by Neko Case). Former Tongue howler Liz McGrath also comes from a punk rock background, but her new group, Miss Derringer, is more subtle than garish, with a stylish rootsy-noir vibe. The Ettes are in many ways the quintessential Sympathy band, with superfuzzy riffs and primal beats contrasted by kittenishly charming vocals. Swoon over ’em while you can — they’re apparently also thinking of relocating. (Falling James)

Jewmongous at the Knitting Factory

Sean Altman is one outrageous schnook. With unhinged songs like “They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat)” and “Reuben, the Hook-Nosed Reindeer,” Altman is clearly not averse to taking risks. He also makes some big talk about how his brand of Semitic yocks are part of a new and different breed of Jewish comics like Sarah Silverman and Jon Stewart. But, on closer examination, it seems as if Altman may himself be in a bit of sociocultural denial; he first became enamored with life as a musical performer while working as a busboy in a Catskills resort, the classic locale for Jewish-American humor, and while his punk-rough approach and vividly iconoclastic lyrics place him in an up-to-date arena, he echoes such forebears as Eddie Cantor and Lenny Bruce and upholds the tradition with biting, bitchen acuity. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Friday:


SATURDAY, MARCH 31 Richie Hass benefit with The BellRays, Mike Watt, Adz, Backbiter, Saccharine Trust, Amadans at Safari Sam’s

If you’ve been meaning to check out L.A.’s wild-&-crazy underground music scene for the past few decades but have been too busy to actually get around to it, here’s the perfect chance to catch up in one night, with bite-size, easily digestible 20-minute sets from the most out-there anti-garde bands of the recent future. Never mind that the concert raises funds for myeloma research and honors cancer-stricken multi-instrumentalist Richie Hass (Zoogz Rift, Saccharine Trust, Richie Hass & the Beatniks), playing tonight with Freehead. Forget about it when Mike Watt says that Hass is “probably the top vibraphonist in Southern California” (not to mention the composer of wicked tunes like “Battle Hymn of the Repugnant”). This show is really about you. Without half trying, you’ll encounter two of L.A.’s best punk-instigated hard-rock bands (Backbiter, Adz), free-spazz and outer-spatial specialists (Marc Mylar, Vinny Golia, Freehead), word-besotted jazz-punk sharpshooters (Saccharine Trust, the Amadans), free-ranging desert-landscape impressionists (Fatso Jetson), disparate veteran insurrectionists (Freda Renté, Weba Garretson, Carey Fosse), relentless souljazz funkateers (the Atomic Sherpas), wailing soul-punk avengers (the BellRays) and one of Iggy’s real cool friends (Mike Watt). Crazy, no? (Falling James)

Earl Greyhound, The Starlite Desperation, Lion Fever, Eastern Conference Champions at the Troubadour

New York’s Earl Greyhound have played L.A. more often over the past few months than some local bands, but that’s no reason not to seize this opportunity to watch ’em do their wildly kinetic soul-rock thing one more time. On Soft Targets, the trio’s high-octane debut, they answer the long-simmering question of what the White Stripes would sound like as produced by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. Despite a recent bout of record-biz trouble, the Starlite Desperation are still kicking out scruffy psych-garage jams well suited to Dandy Warhols fans hungrier for tunes than noodles. Lion Fever’s Casey Geisen used to play in Starlite; now he and his current bandmates churn out a spooky brand of sex-drenched goth-blues. Openers Eastern Conference Champions split their time between L.A. and Pennsylvania and split their sound between Smashing Pumpkins and the Violent Femmes. (Mikael Wood)

Aterciopelados at the the Ex-Plex After releasing separate solo albums, singer Andrea Echeverri and bassist/producer Hector Buitrago got together last year to record Oye (Nacional), their first CD as Aterciopelados in five years. Although the new disc isn’t as rambunctiously rocking as their early work in the mid-’90s when they first emerged from Bogotá, Colombia, there are entrancingly lovely interludes such as the upbeat prayer for peace, “Paces,” where guitar lines are twisted up exotically to sound like sitars. In “Cancion Protesta,” Echeverri issues a gently funky roll call of her favorite inspirational protest singers and poets (Bob Marley, Victor Jara, Joan Baez and Manu Chao), as flutes filter light like rays of sunshine bursting through clouds. Curtly rhythmic chords punctuate the love song “Complemento” as Television-style lead-guitar patterns swirl like glowing satellites around Echeverri’s soft cooing. The Velvety Ones keep things simmering smoothly with laid-back percussion, mellow harmonies, magic-pipe exhalations, sunny arrangements and warm, uncluttered production. This show occurs in the Echo’s adjoining downstairs club, the the Ex-Plex. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

TV ON THE RADIO, NOISETTES at Henry Fonda Theater; SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK at Royce Hall; TOTIMOSHI at Alex’s Bar; JIM ROSE SIDE SHOW at Boardner’s; MARIA TAYLOR at the Echo; VAINS OF JENNA, SIXTH CHAMBER at Knitting Factory; VAGABOND OPERA, MOIRA SMILEY & VOCO at McCabe’s; MITCH EASTER at Silverlake Lounge; MARIA FATAL at the Westchester; FISHBONE at Malibu Inn.

SUNDAY, APRIL 1 You Am I at Spaceland

You Am I live in a parallel universe where they routinely top the charts with gold albums and are invited to tour with the Rolling Stones and the Who. In this parallel universe — also known as Australia — they’ve played with Oasis and introduced the Detroit Cobras and the Strokes to their first audiences in a land Down Under. They throw a curve on their latest CD, Convicts (Yep Roc), starting things off with “Thank God I’ve Hit the Bottom,” an atypically scuzzed-out hard-rock exercise that sounds like Motorhead or L.A.’s Binges. Before long, though, Tim Rogers and company (including Radio Birdman drummer Russell Hopkinson) return to the hook-filled power-pop they’re famous for — at least in that parallel universe — including sing-along anthems like “Friends Like You.” Rogers spits out a quick character sketch on “A Nervous Kid” like an antipodal Jim Carroll, while the insanely catchy “Explaining Cricket” starts off with a jaunty, jangly Kinks stroll (“My words are drowning in amber again/It’s like explaining cricket to an American”) before blowing up into a Who-like psychedelia. Great stuff. (Falling James)

Also playing Sunday:

MARC FORD, KAT MASLICH BODE, LISTING SHIP at the Echo; QUINTO SOL, EL VUH at Knitting Factory; SLUM VILLAGE at Temple Bar; AFTERHOURS at the Troubadour; INSECT SURFERS at Liquid Kitty.

MONDAY, APRIL 2 Ratatat, 120 Days at Henry Fonda Theater

Ratatat is the N.Y. duo of guitarist Mike Stroud and electronics/beats man Evan Mast, adeptly diverse dudes whose seemingly simple all-instrumentals on an eponymous first album and the recent Classics (XL) revealed upon further scrutiny some very smart craft and an unlikely array of probable source materials (Neu, Boston), cuing that they were capable of deep thought within this ostensibly electro-rock-like format. Built on Mast’s intricate hip-hop-aligned drum programs, Ratatat songs usually come laden with Stroud’s soaring multitracked guitar rays in superbly melodious haikus that chomp kinda hard while stopping short of full-on dance-punk aggro. Meanwhile, on their Vice label debut of last year, Kristiansund, Norway’s four-piece combo 120 Days dished a frothier blend of Kraftwerk machine beats and tinny New Order synths, dollops of Smiths-y guitar peal and disconsolate vocal warble — overly sensitive stuff that one would pooh-pooh if it weren’t so bloody heart-rending. (John Payne)

Also playing Monday:

WADDY WACHTEL at the Joint; ANAVAN, HEALTH at Pehrspace; ROONEY, BIG CITY ROCK, SCANNERS at the Roxy; AKIL THE MC at Safari Sam’s; MINOR CANON at Spaceland; THE BINGES at King King.

TUESDAY, APRIL 3 Playing Tuesday:

MARS VOLTA at the Orpheum Theatre; SON VOLT, JASON MOLINA at El Rey Theatre; JOHN LEGEND, CORINNE BAILEY RAE at Bren Events Center; DON CARLOS, DIGNITARY STYLISH at House of Blues; TOM BROSSEAU, JOHN DOE at Largo; OZOMATLI at Amoeba Music, 6 p.m.


The Yardbirds at the Knitting Factory

When you think of the Yardbirds, you probably think of their trio of lead guitarists who went on to fame with other projects (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page) or perhaps their late singer, Keith Relf, who died from electrocution in an accident while playing guitar at home in 1976. What probably doesn’t come to mind is the idea of the British band ever reuniting — especially without Relf or any of their celebrated ax-slingers. And yet here are the band’s original drummer, Jim McCarty, and rhythm guitarist, Chris Dreja, on tour celebrating the release of Live at B.B. King Blues Club, a concert album that was recorded with a new lineup in New York last year and released on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label. Vai, Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell and other guest stars are slated to sit in on guitar tonight, and it’s rumored that one of the band’s lead guitarists might drop by — although it’s not clear which guitarist that might be. Either way, it should be a real kick to rave up again to such early ’Birds classics as “For Your Love,” “Shapes of Things,” “Over Under Sideways Down” and perhaps even “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” (Falling James)

El Gran Silencio at House of Blues

Have you ever seen music journalists dance? Trust me, it’s not a pretty sight. Put it this way: As a group, M.J.s are not an attractive lot. At South by Southwest a few years ago, one could witness not just writers but even “The Dean of American Rock Critics” himself, Robert Christgau, moving their fanny-packed, note-scribbling butts to the new sensation that was El Gran Silencio. Now with their third record, Comunicaflow Underground, the group continue their joyful and melodic punk/rock/hip-hop/folk/ska/polka barrage. With their energy, those trumpets and a singer who’s muy yummy, you may finally get that Mano Negra experience you’ve dreamed of. (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Wednesday:

THE MOTELS at Cerritos Center; DE LA SOUL, KRS-ONE at the Canyon; RICHARD BUCKNER at the Echo; BODIES OF WATER at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE RANDIES at Safari Sam’s; LITTLE ONES, SEA WOLF, TEMPORARY THING at the Troubadour.

THURSDAY, APRIL 5 Nurse With Wound at Amoeba Music

Tonight spells the first-ever Los Angeles performance by British experimental surrealists Nurse With Wound. And it’s free! Founding Nurse Steven Stapleton has for the past three decades stood staunchly at the forefront of arch-strangeness in music, but only recently has he performed live, including sold-out nights in San Francisco and London (tonight’s Nurses: John Contreras, Jim Haynes, Stapleton, Hazel Two Twiggs and Matt Waldron). Besides his collage-music presentation, he’s also one of the most distinctively and psychotropically original graphic designers working today, illustrating the covers of NWW records like Chance Meeting on an Operating Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella, Nylon Coverin’ Body Smotherin’ and Alas the Madonna Does Not Function. That the night spells a united appearance of Los Angeles’ fringe contingent is an understatement of metaphysical proportions. And he’s working on a hip-hop album next! Starts at 7 p.m. (David Cotner)

Les Sans Culottes, Donita Sparks at Spaceland

Quel fromage! Named for the “ill-clad and ill-equipped volunteers of the French Revolutionary army,” Les Sans Culottes (meaning “without underpants”) take on the ’60s French pop sound of Serge Gainsbourg and add arrangements à la the 5th Dimension to ridiculously groovy effect. They have names like Kit Kat Le Noir, Edith Pissoff, Theo Neugent, Johnny Dieppe, Françoise Hardly, Jean L’Effete and Max Gauche, and you can expect to have your Gainsbourg thoroughly Serged. Look for a new record in the reasonable future from L7’s Donita Sparks — and expect it to be damn great, based on the fetching new songs on her MySpace page. (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Thursday:

DE LA SOUL at Galaxy Theatre; PEPPER, MAD CADDIES at Henry Fonda Theater; FANTAN MOJAH at Dragonfly; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; MAN MAN, SIMON DAWES at the Roxy; XU XU FANG at Silverlake Lounge.


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