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Rock Picks: Air, Rufus Wainwright, Arctic Monkeys, Bad Brains

{mosimage}THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

Dobet Gnahoré, Ashley Maher at Temple Bar

If sweetness and light is all you seek in your Pan-African musical dish, don’t bother sound-checking Dobet Gnahoré or her new CD, Na Afriki. But if you crave emotional breadth and unfettered soul, fierceness leavened with tenderness, angry sociopolitical rants balanced with gentle heartstring pulls, then sup from Gnahoré’s potent sonic stew. Brought up in an artists’ community in Ivory Coast, she not only packs a multilingual vocal wallop (seven African languages and counting) but can bust some serious warrior-princess moves. Still in her 20s, a new contender on the African diasporic scene, Gnahoré’s got game. Ashley Maher seems poised to break through to the wider world too. The L.A.-based, Afro-inspired singer-songwriter’s two early-’90s Virgin albums will be reissued on iTunes, while “Boul Bayekou,” a song cowritten with — and performed by — Youssou N’Dour, is tearing it up on YouTube and down in Dakar, Maher’s recording-and-dancing destination next month. (Tom Cheyney)

Also playing Thursday:

NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, LAVENDER DIAMOND at Henry Fonda Theater; ARCADE FIRE, LCD SOUNDSYTEM at Hollywood Bowl; DAMIEN RICE at Greek Theatre; ERIC JOHNSON at the Canyon; JAGUARES at House of Blues; SUPERSUCKERS at Key Club; RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS, YEAR LONG DISASTER at the Roxy; BILL KIRCHEN at Safari Sam’s.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

{mosimage}Mindy Smith at the Hotel Café

Nashville ingénue Mindy Smith seems poised at the threshold of hitting the big time. With two albums under her belt that have been decorated with critical accolades, she’s well positioned to make the leap out of Americana cultdom. It’s easy to see why, becaus her smartly crafted country-pop-folk-rock glides confidently between the ethereal and the earthy, following in the footsteps of Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith. This demure New York native tends to be more Sunday morning than Saturday night: A minister’s daughter, Smith imbues her music with a spiritual quality that never gets preachy. In several songs (like the lovely “Peace of Mind”) on her recent album, Long Island Shores, her search for answers travels down both secular and religious paths. But she hits her true transcendent moment on the love ode “What If the World Stops Turning.” Smith brings a breath of fresh air to the often-stagnant Nashville musical environment. (Michael Berick)

Diplo at the Echoplex

The humble, super-industrious white kid from Philly who happened to transform American DJ culture with his mashes and mixes doesn’t really emit “ass-hat name-brand superstar,” but Diplo isn’t completely removed from the neon coke festival that is world youth-party culture: He had a heavy hand in Tamil tigress M.I.A.’s music, co-founded the Hollertronix institution, led baile funkers Bonde do Role into this hemisphere via his Mad Decent label, and released fresh and dextrous solo work. While the man’s portfolio is a successful advertisement for profitable undergroundism, Diplo (a.k.a. Wes Pentz) is an earnest harbinger of the new era of party art and artists begetting some higher-level purpose (and counting bills in the process). More than the beats, Diplo’s artglomerate reflects the Richard Florida “rise of the creative class” ethos — dude makes good beats, but the real trade is in ideas. (Kate Carraway)

Air, Sondre Lerche, Sea Wolf at the Greek Theatre

The conventional wisdom says that the French duo Air will never match the ethereally cool charm of their 1997 debut, Moon Safari, an album of ineluctably faraway pop subtly laced with warm vintage analog synths and a general sonic template lifted largely from ’70s American cop-show themes. Subsequent albums saw Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunkel try to expand and harden the Air effect, with spotty results, but their recent Pocket Symphony, with guest vocals from the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon, is a low-key, mood-soaked affair that deliberately gets them back on the downbeat, dreamy track with consistently satisfying results. Norway’s inspired young romantic Sondre Lerche’s got a great, great new score coming out for the Dan in Real Life soundtrack, a typically ecstatic, heart-tugging buncha stuff that takes his folky-jazzy songs through ever-more surprising twists and turns. L.A.’s Sea Wolf opens with material from their just-out Dangerbird debut, Leaves in the River. (John Payne)

{mosimage}Cat Power & Dirty Delta Blues at Avalon

The pairing of sleepy folk singer Cat Power with Memphis Soul session men Leroy “Flick” Hodges and his brother (and former Al Green guitarist) Mabon “Teenie” Hodges might not make sense on paper, but it sure sounds wonderful on record, on Power’s 2006 CD, The Greatest (Matador). The album sways with Power’s trademark languid ballads like “Lived in Bars,” which is framed gorgeously by her solemn piano punctuations, but a little bit of soul — transmitted through R&B horns and churchy organ swells — picks up the beat of “Living Proof.” She’s persuasively romantic on “Could We,” which swings with jaunty horns and the casually suave swoops and dips of Mabon’s guitar. “Will you still be around when they put me six feet underground?” she asks the moon on the fragile idyll “The Moon,” a gentle oasis of quietly stunning transcendence that’s topped only by the majestic string-section strokes of the album closer, “Love & Communication.” Although the Hodges brothers toured with her as the Memphis Rhythm Band last year, she’s backed tonight by Dirty Delta Blues, a band that includes Jon Spencer Blues Explosion guitarist Judah Bauer. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

FRIENDS OF DEAN MARTINEZ at Getty Center, 7:30 p.m.; THE RENTALS, GOLDEN BOY at Henry Fonda Theater; HIGH ON FIRE, MONO, PANTHERS at El Rey Theatre; B-52’s at Pomona Fairplex; JAGUARES at House of Blues; OVER THE RHINE at Knitting Factory; BILLY JOE SHAVER at the Mint (see Music feature); MIDNIGHT SHAKES, JINXES, SADIST V at Mr. T’s Bowl; VERUCA SALT, GIRL IN A COMA at Safari Sam’s; HABANEROS at Taix; BESNARD LAKES at the Troubadour.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

Silver Apples, Residual Echoes at Spaceland

Drummer Danny Taylor and man-machine Simeon Coxe crafted some of the eeriest weirdo pop of the late '60s as Silver Apples, naming themselves after a suite of gurglescapes from electronic pioneer Morton Subotnick. Behind his bank of mostly homemade analog engines and Moog whirligigs, Coxe fired Telstar frequencies and strobing blips to accompany his disembodied pleadings and Taylor’s shuffling rhythms. Back again, after a proper return in the ’90s that yielded new music and collaborations with their electric progeny (Sonic Boom among them), the Apples — minus Taylor, who passed away two year ago, still brandish a primitive synthetic cosmos of phantom gamma rays and barbed electrons. Tonight’s bill will also find a transformed Residual Echoes airing some of their newly dreamy tunes. Once all scuzz and adolescent ferocity, the band have relocated to Los Angeles from Santa Cruz, lost and gained some members, and now jangle sleepily in baths of fuzz. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Refined Art & Music Festival at Wilshire Royale

L.A.’s own Quality Collective are hosting “Redefined: Vol. 3,” their third annual art and music festival, showcasing some of the fantastic local musicians, visual artists and DJs doing their thing here in Los Angeles: Black Shakespeare, Weapon of Choice, BlackBird, Dez Hope, Kodak, Sadie Barnett, the I AM art collective, Gino Espinosa (exhibiting photos from Project Luz), DJ LP, DJ Puff Loc and many others. Although admission is free — and all ages until 10 p.m. — the goal of the festival is to raise funds for Quality Collective’s Art & Music Appreciation Project, and pay-what-you-can donations will be accepted at the door. Founded on the belief that music and the arts are avenues for creative solutions to at least some of the ills plaguing the inner city, the Q.C. project raises awareness of the myriad styles of music and art to disadvantaged children in an effort to counter the damage inflicted by reduced funding for the arts in public schools. Great cause, great art. 2619 Wilshire Blvd. (213) 985-0676. (Ernest Hardy)

Chupacobra at Mr. T’s Bowl

The Chupacobra saga began in Galveston, Texas, where the Wise brothers — singer-guitarist Dallas and bassist-singer Dylan — grew up. They eventually made their way to Las Vegas and started the Pervz, who — despite their corny name — quickly became one of Sin City’s more authentically rampaging punk combos. A couple years ago, the brothers relocated to L.A. and — joined by no-nonsense, slash-&-burn drummer Mikey Mayhem — reinvented themselves as Chupacobra, cranking up a hard-driving classic-punk sound that has absolutely nothing in common with modern emo whiners and corporate pop-punk careerists. Original tunes such as “350 Tonight” and “Machine Gun Eyes” (from the band’s demo CD and also available on their Myspace page) surge with anthemic, Misfits-style choruses, while “Lie to Me” starts innocently with Dylan’s low-key bass line and Dallas’ lazy drawl before slamming into a typically exhilarating punk chorus. The Chupas’ one flaw is their lyrics (the words to “Party City” are little more than “Party City, it’s the place to go/if you want to party/whoa-oh” repeated endlessly), but even their lesser songs are still damn catchy. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

SMOKEY ROBINSON at Pasadena Civic Auditorium; SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO at the Echoplex; TODD RUNDGREN at House of Blues; KIDS IN THE HALL, PECULIAR PRETZELMEN, ELECTROMAGNETIC, ORANGE, COYOTE SHIVERS at Safari Sam’s; HURT MODEL, DUCHESS OF TEK, HEAD OF DESTINY, TWEAK BIRD at the Cocaine (at Live Jazz).

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

{mosimage}Rufus Wainwright at the Hollywood Bowl

Take note, Rufus fans: Despite the refined setting and the participation of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, at tonight’s show Wainwright will not be performing the lushly appointed piano-pop ballads from this year’s Release the Stars. In fact, he won’t be performing as Rufus at all: This show brings to Los Angeles the painstaking tribute to Judy Garland that Wainwright premiered last year at Carnegie Hall, where he faithfully re-created Garland’s legendary 1961 concert there, stage banter and all. (Director Sam Mendes is currently at work on a documentary about the event, and a live CD is due in December.) Of course, even with Wainwright doing someone else (as he did in The Aviator, in which he and sis Martha played nightclub singers), you still get a considerable amount of Rufus. Don’t expect his portrayal of Garland tonight to keep him from flexing his well-developed charm muscles. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Sunday:

PITBULL, AKWID at L.A. Sports Arena, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; THE RANDIES, GIRL IN A COMA at Alex’s Bar; MEDESKI, SCOFIELD, MARTIN & WOOD at House of Blues; VELOURIA, THIRD GRADE TEACHER, MAD LOVERS, BLACK ANGELS DEATH SONG at Mr. T’s Bowl; TIJUANOS, MONTE NEGRO, FITTER, SECTOR LIBERTAD at Safari Sam’s; ACUTE, HOLLY RAMOS, BOBBY BIRDMAN at Tangier.


MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24


Playing Monday:

EDITORS at the Wiltern; EVAN SLAMKA, KELLY DMARTINO, SECRETARY BIRD at the Bordello; HAPPY HOLLOWS, THE MOVIES at the Echo; MARTHA WAINWRIGHT at Hotel Café; DEL THA FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN at House of Blues; BEDROOM WALLS at Mr. T’s Bowl; HEALTH at Pehrspace; GRAM RABBIT, SPORES, LAST VEGAS at Spaceland.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

{mosimage}Arctic Monkeys at the Hollywood Palladium

If today’s teens are artless, OMG/BFF/LOL X-Box zombies, then where the fuck did Arctic Monkeys come from? School kids when they formed in 2002, the Brit foursome have already spattered two albums with articulate, stylistically and emotionally mobile guitar pop. After the record-breaking sales of their ’06 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Arctic Monkeys didn’t consciously tamper with the formula that had critics nursing adjective-draped boners when they somehow conjured up Favorite Worse Nightmare just a year later. Sure enough, Nightmare is another ludicrously assured musical statement delivered with the inimitable irreverence of youth (surely rock & roll’s Holy Grail combo?). Still Clash brash, with the Jam’s slam, lyrical Streets-smarts and the shabby swagger of those blokes in the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys have added metallic-aftertaste heartache, bleak beauty, and ducking-and-diving bass brilliance from newby Nick O’Malley. (Paul Rogers)

Also playing Tuesday:

MIDLAKE, MARIA TAYLOR at Henry Fonda Theater; JAMES BLUNT at El Rey Theatre; MONOLATORS, MEZZANINE OWLS at the Echo; STEEL PULSE at House of Blues; ISRAEL VIBRATION & THE ROOTS RADICS BAND, CECI BASTIDA at Knitting Factory; HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T’s Bowl; BARBARELLATONES, BLACK FUZZ at the Scene.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26

{mosimage}Bad Brains at House of Blues

The punk rock world had never seen anything quite like the Bad Brains when the quartet (named after a Ramones song) emerged from the Washington, D.C., scene in 1979. Starring former members of the jazz-fusion combo Mind Power, the Bad Brains were an awesome force of nature, playing faster and harder — and more dynamically — than any of their peers in the still-developing hardcore genre, but they also had a contrastingly spiritual reggae side, downshifting into lulling grooves that were more authentic than the Clash (not to mention the hundreds of Johnny-Too-Bad/Come-Lately reggae-metal bands the Brains have inspired over the past two decades). The original lineup is back with an exhilarating new album, Build a Nation (Oscilloscope/Megaforce), produced by the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. “Universal Peace” belies its gentle title with Dr. Know’s insanely blurry lead-guitar scribbles over Darryl Jenifer’s rumbling bass and drummer Earl Hudson’s crunching tempos, which move seamlessly from a hardcore frenzy to a chunky metal groove that bumps insistently against singer H.R’s ghost-laden echoes. The supertight staccato accents of “Pure Love” and the thrash-metal rush of “Send You No Flowers” give way to the sunny uplift of “Jah Love” and the slow-skanking, trumpet-laced refrain of the haunting “Peace Be Unto Thee” — amazing tracks that should prove to be positively incendiary when they’re amped up onstage. (Falling James)

Also playing Wednesday:

KLAXONS at Henry Fonda Theater; !!!, THE FIELD at Avalon; GLISS at the Boardner’s; CHRIS BLACK, JOHN GOLD, BUDDY, SARA LOV at the Bordello; MAN BAND, FANGS ON FUR at Silverlake Lounge.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

{mosimage}Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers at the Blue Cafe

Those Southern Bible-thrashing psychobillies known as Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers return for more salvation soaked in sweat and delivered at a bazillion beats per minute. The leader of this traveling American Gothic monster of a show is singer J.D. Wilkes, whose lanky frame recalls Iggy Pop via an upbringing among Pentecostal, speaking-in-tongues disciples. Wilkes can write lyrics like “Careful of the Devil and be prayerful/The phalanges of St. Vitus/Were stricken with arthritis/So he lobbed them off and left them on the table.” With a toned and underfed physique not unlike that stud on the cross, Wilkes is the wiliest singer since Lux Interior and was even dubbed “the last great rock & roll front man” by the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra. And when he shuts up and wails on his blues harp, the roof will indeed be raised. (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Thursday:

BLAQK AUDIO at the Mayan; MUTE MATH, EISLEY at Avalon; SLEEPING IN THE AVIARY at Knitting Factory; THE HEAD CAT at Safari Sam’s; SWEET EVIL, ALARMA, THEE L.A. GENTLEMEN CALLERS at Silverlake Lounge.


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