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Rock Picks

THURSDAY, JUNE 28

Secretary Bird at the Echo

Secretary Bird is the alter ego of singer-guitarist Mike Semple, who’s played with Friends of Dean Martinez, Campfire Girls and Giant Sand. He and FODM’s Bill Elm collaborated on the soundtrack to Fast Food Nation, but the Tucson native (who has been living in L.A. for a while now) reveals the full extent of his powers on Secretary Bird’s new self-titled CD (In De Goot Recordings). “Somewhere Girls” moves from a Jesus & Mary Chain darkness into a warm Neil Young & Crazy Horse haze, while “Imaginary You” recalls the art-folkie explorations of the Clean’s David Kilgour. You can hear the Arizona desert in such slowly unwinding, sprawling songs as “Seaward” and “Morning Horses,” which erupt like a summer squall with feedback and spacy guitar distortion. Semple’s slack-jawed vocals sometimes lapse into that colorlessly bland style popularized by Thurston Moore, but his majestic guitars are the real focus on Secretary Bird, which includes guest-star contributions from Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery and Marjorie Fair’s Evan Slamka. (Falling James)

The Mooney Suzuki at Spaceland

Can you still call yourself a garage-rock band when your songs are heard in Coors commercials? (Not to mention such hit movies as School of Rock and, duh, Suzuki ads.) After tons of good fortune, label-wise, the Mooney Suzuki hit a bad patch last year, which delayed the release of Have Mercy, the follow-up to 2004’s Alive and Amplified. The new stuff will please fans of gritty, fuzzy and wild rock. Lead singer Sammy James Jr. sounds appropriately pissy, like a “Mystery Dance”–era Elvis Costello in need of a good nose-blowing. Pick hit “99 Percent” has just replaced the Pipettes’ “Pull Shapes” as the air-tambourine shimmy-shaker of the summer. (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Thursday:

DEFTONES, DIR EN GREY at Gibson Amphitheatre; WIDESPREAD PANIC at Orpheum Theatre; NEW CARS at the Canyon; BIZ MARKIE at Key Club; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; GIL BERNAL at Lighthouse Cafe, 5 p.m.; MONSTERS ARE WAITING, MELLOWDRONE, GLISS, DAVID LOVERING at the Roxy; FORTUNE’S FLESH, GEISHA GIRLS at the Scene; THE LOCUST, MAE SHI at the Troubadour. FRIDAY, JUNE 29

Feist at the Wiltern

Even though the Canadian singer Leslie Feist gave her critically lauded 2004 solo album the semidark title Let It Die, its mostly mainstream songs were fairly lightweight and not nearly as clever and edgy as you would expect from someone who’s recorded with Peaches and is part of the creative collective Broken Social Scene. The music was pleasant and tuneful but hardly remarkable. Her new CD, The Reminder, is much better. It’s not that Feist is rocking out more or filling her lyrics with heavy political messages, but the introspective ballads and sweet pop chansons have more personality and emotional depth this time around. Her rueful vocals and some spare keyboard touches and birdlike sound effects turn “The Park” into a poignant interlude, while “My Moon My Man” is an artfully jaunty piano pop song that gives way to a lush, inviting chorus. Her performance of “I Feel It All” on a recent episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live was utterly charming as she strummed her guitar while riding on a bus, the airy strains of melodica lingering in the memory long after the program went off the air. (Falling James)

Andre Williams at Safari Sam’s

When R&B sensation Andre Williams first reared his magnificently ugly mug back in the late 1950s, his calling cards were a knockout stage show and some of the roughest wide-open numbers the idiom ever had visited upon it. The drawling raps of “Bacon Fat,” “Greasy Chicken” and the ’poon-fixated classic “Jailbait” represented the blues underworld at its finest: venal, lower than dirt, and put over with a wholesome decadence that lent anything Williams did an irresistible appeal. Despite his ’60s success as a songwriter (“Shake a Tail Feather”), Dame Fortune nearly crushed him, but for the past decade Williams’ second coming has been arresting, churning out latter-day stunners (“Agile, Mobile & Hostile,” “Pussy Stank”) that handily extend a rhythm & blues tradition he almost single-handedly codified. Not for the meek. (Jonny Whiteside)

Bimbo Toolshed at Mr. T’s Bowl

In this alternative universe in which Paris Hilton is the closest thing we have to Angela Davis, and dorky poseurs like Avril Lavigne and geeky dilettantes like Juliette Lewis are considered credible punk rockers, it’s nice to be reminded that there are genuine wild women out there, even if they’ve been neatly excised from popular culture and the airwaves — indie or otherwise. Bimbo Toolshed first came crawling out of the San Francisco underground in the mid-’90s, led by the irrepressibly boozy Swoopo Bravo, who still makes Amy Winehouse and the Detroit Cobras’ Rachel Nagy seem like Hilary Duff in comparison. Of course, the newly reunited Bimbos trade in a raucous, noisily impolite form of bike-messenger-celebrating gutter punk instead of retro R&B, powered by the jagged riffs of guitarist Shelley Cardiff. When Ms. Bravo howls, “I’m a chick with a lot of class/Everybody wants a piece of my ass,” she’s not making some ironic riot-grrl statement, especially when she concludes, “Don’t kick me out of bed because I puke in my sleep.” She’s not kidding — she’s just giving you fair warning. (Falling James)

The Veils, The Comas at Spaceland

Though it didn’t share much stylistically with the Strokes, the Hives or the Vines, the Veils’ 2004 debut got lost on these shores in the seemingly endless shuffle of similarly named neo-garage acts. Hopefully Nux Vomica, the band’s newish sophomore disc — which front man Finn Andrews made after a return from England to his native New Zealand — won’t meet the same fate: It’s a lovingly textured, richly dramatic guitar-pop disc perfect for people who find lead-singer histrionics much easier to swallow when they come equipped with killer tunes. The Comas’ 2004 album almost got lost in people’s fixation on the fact that its songs described front man Andy Herod’s breakup with actress Michelle Williams. Almost, but not quite: Enough folks dug Herod’s fuzz-pop ruminations that the band earned itself a deal with emo giant Vagrant, which just released the Comas’ new one, Spells. (Mikael Wood)

Warped Tour at Pomona Fairplex

The mostly male, mostly macho Warped Tour has always seemed like one of those boys-only tree houses where just the repressed-homosexual frat dudes are allowed to grope one other shamelessly in the closeted privacy of the mosh pit while chuckle-headed bands serenade them in that terminally goofy, insipidly exuberant, faux-kiddie singsong style that passes for punk rock crooning these days. To their credit, the Warped promoters have historically attempted to balance the festival’s surfeit of sound-alike nouveau corporate emo-punk outfits with at least a couple iconic inspirations, such as the Germs and Joan Jett, who appeared on the tour in 2006. This year, you get old-school survivors like the Circle Jerks, Bad Religion and the current mutation of O.C. parodists the Vandals (R.I.P. original singer Stevo Jensen, who died in 2005), as well as ’80s South Bay pummelers Pennywise, to counteract the sticky-sweet faux punk of New Found Glory and the rockabilly-flavored sentimentality of Tiger Army. The lineup is actually better when the tour concludes in L.A. in late August with the addition of punk-surf sizzlers Agent Orange and funk-mad prophets Fishbone. Also at the Ventura Fairgrounds, Sat. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

EXPANDERS at the Bordello; ZOLAR X, SHADY LADY, DEATH PARTY at Knitting Factory; RESTAURANT, KEY PARTY at the Mint; APEX THEORY, CASKET SALESMAN at the Roxy; THE MORMONS at the Scene; AS TALL AS LIONS, ARMY OF ME, LOW VS. DIAMOND at the Troubadour; BUSDRIVER at Montmartre Lounge; PRINCE at Hollywood Roosevelt.

SATURDAY, JUNE 30Cyndi Lauper, Deborah Harry, Erasure, The Dresden Dolls, The Gossip, The Cliks at the Greek Theatre

The True Colors Tour is the femme-tastic antidote to the testosterone overload of the Warped Tour, with a potent lineup ranging from the groovy pop and jazzy explorations of Blondie singer Deborah Harry to newer bands like androgynous sensations the Cliks. There’ll be plenty of sumptuous romantic drama from the theatrical Boston duo the Dresden Dolls, when madly talented singer-pianist Amanda Palmer engages in high-wire exchanges with dynamically attentive face-painted drummer Brian Viglione. Make sure to arrive early for the soulful belting of the Gossip’s fiery Beth Ditto, who is the most technically powerful and awe-inspiring singer on this bill loaded with better-known divas. Token males Erasure will likely play their ’80s synth-pop hits (let’s hope they avoid the lesser tunes from their deadly-dull 2006 album of feeble acoustic remakes, Union Street). And please don’t underestimate tour den mother Cyndi Lauper, who’s collaborated recently with the brilliant singer Nellie McKay and whose memorable ballad “Time After Time” was recorded by Miles Davis. Even the rumors of a potential visit from professional lip-syncher Britney Spears can’t distract from tonight’s thrills. (Falling James)

Battles at the Troubadour

The Battles crew consists of ex-Helmet tub-whacker John Stanier plus such ex–Don Caballero and Konopka types as Ian Williams, Dave Konopka and Tyondai Braxton on a variety of guitars, electronics and keyboards. And what they do is a kind of techno or drum & bass, infusing and fracturing a spellbindingly convoluted post-progressive-metal or math rock and modern jazz with the latest in mutative software and digital effects. The sum oughtta not be thought of as any of the above, though; in fact, it seems dedicated to the total annihilation of genre’s limiting expectations . . . Well, call it electronic chamber music if you have to, but their latest is titled Mirrored (Warp), where the trio hash it all out with frightening power and precision, and more than a little funkadelical goofery courtesy Braxton’s digitally damaged vocal flights. Equal parts Steve Reich, Ohio Players, Mahavishnu and Stockhausen, this band encourages open ears and hearty constitutions. (John Payne)

Angela McCluskey, Paul Cantelon at the Church of Truth

When the Wild Colonials started playing around L.A. in the early ’90s, fans who live for rich, layered arrangements of literate, Celtic-inspired folk-rock songs knew the band was something special. It was only a matter of time until they got huge. While they never got Fleetwood Mac–ian in their popularity, the members have all gone on to success in other incarnations. Lead singer Angela McCluskey joined French electronic band Télépopmusik, whose hit “Breathe” was nominated for a Grammy and was in a Mitsubishi commercial. Violinist-pianist Paul Cantelon’s music can be heard in such films as Everything Is Illuminated. For this special benefit for Heart of Horsemanship, McCluskey and Cantelon headline a bill that also includes Celtic singer Aeone. McCluskey’s people hint that she’ll probably do Tom Waits’ “Soldier’s Things,” maybe Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul” and a Randy Newman tune TBA. From Cantelon, expect “a set of Chopin etudes, which he recently premiered to great acclaim at Miss Porter’s School in Maine!” Church of Truth, 690 E. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena; 4-9 p.m.; $25. (626) 795-6905. (Libby Molyneaux)

The Donnas at Safari Sam’s

Do you really need a Donnas ringtone? Because you can buy them on the Donnas’ Web site, and then every time the chorus of one of their big hits blows up your celly, maybe your friends will go, “Oh, hey, is that the Donnas?” Initially, when they popped out of Palo Alto as shaggier, chestier Ramones still lacking their high school diplomas, they worked a decent shtick, a straight-faced punk lite. They mimicked years of bounce-punk before them, and the focus on boys and parties was flawless. But instead of respecting the natural trajectory of teenage rock (get better or die off), they cozied up to major-label mediocrity and toyed with hair metal, evolving in only the most apathetic and disappointing way. Their oeuvre differs only artificially — ultimately, it’s the same monotonous teenage playground, one that’s become worse for wear. (Kate Carraway)

Also playing Saturday:

WARPED TOUR at Ventura Country Fairgrounds, 11 a.m.; MOVING UNITS at Henry Fonda Theater; MONSTERS ARE WAITING, THE ADORED at Kolor Graphics Bureau; RADARS TO THE SKY at the Echo; STEVIE WINWOOD at House of Blues; L.A. GUNS, LOVE-HATE, LITTLE CAESAR at Knitting Factory; CECILIA NOEL at Malibu Inn; BACKBITER, CHIP KINMAN & P.C.H. at Mr. T’s Bowl; YEAR LONG DISASTER at Spaceland; PRINCE at Hollywood Roosevelt.

SUNDAY, JULY 1Joan Armatrading at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre

Joan Armatrading arrived on the music scene too late for the post-Woodstock sensitive-singer-songwriter boom and too soon for the Lilith Fair festivities. The late ’70s and early ’80s were an awkward time for intelligent introspective musicians, and Armatrading was too musically idiosyncratic to fit into a convenient pop box. She combined folk, rock, reggae, R&B and even new-wave elements into music identifiably her own. Emotionally resonant songs like “I’m Lucky,” “The Weakness in Me” and “Me Myself I” gained her a loyal following. After operating under the American-music radar in recent years, she currently finds herself topping the Billboard blues chart with her recently released disc, In the Blues. While she’ll be showcasing her new blues-based material at this show, Armatrading hopefully will perform some old songs that her fans hold with much “Love and Affection.” (Michael Berick)

Also playing Sunday:

BLUE HAWAIIANS at the Bordello; LEMONADE, FOOL’S GOLD at the Echo; RED STORE BUMS, VIERNES 13, LA RESISTENCIA at Knitting Factory; ROSIE FLORES, VICTOR KRUMMENACHER at Safari Sam’s.

MONDAY, JULY 2 Playing Monday:

FALL OUT BOY, +44, COBRA STARSHIP at Honda Center; WADDY WACHTEL, RICK THE BASS PLAYER at the Joint; LACO$TE, SAD PANDA at Pehrspace; GHOST LULLABY, PEACHFUZZ, JESSIE DELUXE at Safari Sam’s; ESKIMO HUNTER at Spaceland; QUINTO SOL at Temple Bar.

TUESDAY, JULY 3 Earth, SunnO))) at El Rey Theater

HEAVY METAL! CAPITAL LETTERS! IN GERMANIC SCRIPT! That was then, this is now. S.E. Hinton references aside, today’s heavy metal is propulsed by a youth more in love with the power of low-end bass than it is in hate with the world. Earth, purveyors of a heaviest strain known as doom metal, create a sound not unlike those great iron gates of the afterlife scraping open to suck in souls, and count current member Slim Moon and, at one point, Kurt Cobain among their ranks. Both Earth and SunnO))), the New York duo of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, look to Sunn Amplifiers as their aesthetic Big Bang — amps invented by guys from the Kingsmen, who did “Louie Louie” and whose effect on rock (and, by extension, metal) is heard even today, the tolling of an enormous, incessant bell. (David Cotner)

The Chapin Sisters at the Echo

Is it just me, or does it seem like every celebrity these days is the nepotistic spawn of some earlier celebrity? Is being famous the American version of royalty or a caste system — no commoners need apply? The Chapin Sisters often get accused of having made it in show business (whatever that means) only because Lily and Abigail Chaplin are Harry Chapin’s nieces, while their half sister Jessica Craven is the daughter of film director Wes. I’m not sure how their family connections helped the trio learn to sing with such wondrous harmonies on their beautiful new picture disc on Manimal Vinyl Records, a split 12-inch EP with Winter Flowers. “Let Me Go” starts with starkly elegant a cappella harmonies before a somber acoustic guitar, subdued keyboards and lonely tambourine come in. “Slow Devotion” is glassy and fragile, a simply lovely love song that’s worlds away from “Cat’s in the Cradle.” (Falling James)

Also playing Tuesday:

THE SHAKES, THEE MAKEOUT PARTY at the Bordello; PARIS LOVES L.A. at the Derby; CARLOS GUITARLOS, DALE PETERSON, RONNIE MACK at El Cid; LEMON DROP KICK, VOODOU, RED HEARTS at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE BINGES, THE VACATION, YEAR LONG DISASTER, TOKYO SMOG at the Roxy; TALKDEMONIC at Spaceland.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 4The Farce of July at Self-Help Graphics

The democratic ideal that inspired Independence Day would probably be worth celebrating if it had originally been extended to the dozens of nations and cultures who were on this continent first. Instead, it’s just fancy red-white-&-blue window dressing to mask several hundred years of attempted genocide and cultural ethnic cleansing; the American experiment in democracy should be considered an ongoing failure until it includes genuine power sharing with the so-called Native American tribes. (And, no, casinos don’t count as equality.) It’s in this spirit that Self-Help Graphics hosts the annual “Farce of July” festival with workshops, readings, and a wide-ranging lineup of new and classic Eastside bands. “Living off the poor man’s labor/sucking all our spirits dry,” the Brat’s Theresa Covarrubias sang in the early ’80s. “We say this democracy is laced with their hypocrisy.” The Brat were one of the most important bands to emerge from the East L.A. underground scene, combining the punk attack of songs like “High School” with such melodically yearning tunes as “The Wolf.” They’re joined by heavy-rocking rap-punk warriors Aztlan Underground and Resist & Exist, “experimental progressive” punks Mystery Hangup, and Quetzal, who subverted the romantic illusion of Manifest Destiny with good humor on their recent CD, Die Cowboy Die. The festival starts at noon. 3802 Cesar Chavez Blvd., E.L.A. (323) 881-6444. (Falling James)

Also playing Wednesday:

DIE DIE DIE, TEENAGE FRAMES at Silverlake Lounge; BAD DUDES, FLEE THE CENTURY, IMA FUCKING GYMNAST, LOVE BOAT, VOMIT BOMB at the Smell.

THURSDAY, JULY 5

Playing Thursday:

DAVID LINDLEY, JOHN CRUZ, BRANDI SHEARER at Santa Monica Pier, 7:30 p.m.; VOLT PER OCTAVES, HANS FJELLESTAD, RED SQUARE, PLASTIQ at Il Corral; PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND at the Mint; PATRICK PARK at Spaceland; KINGSIZEMAYBE, 50 CENT HAIRCUT at Taix.