Rock Picks: Camper Van Beethoven, Cass McCombs, AC/DC
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
The Happy Hollows, the Health Club at Spaceland
The Happy Hollows are the kind of musicians who like to set up and play at spontaneously chosen locations around town — underground tunnels, parking lots, oil fields, an urban pumpkin patch — as they did last fall, when they were part of the Guerrilla Fest. The trio’s new full-length CD, Spells, is likewise full of surprises that crop up in the strangest places, such as the way that the giddy bubblegum pop of “We Will Find You” suddenly switches gears into a post-punk art-funk stoniness. Sarah Negahdari chirps sweetly enough at the fuzz-punk beginning of “Lieutenant,” but soon she’s bending her ethereal voice and manically intricate guitar riffs around the song’s proggy twists and turns like Marnie Stern. Similarly, “Monster Room” is pretty and weird, with its combination of Breeders harmonies and sideways-raining Urinals guitar. The Hollows cast their Spells out into the great, big world at tonight’s record release, supported by the Pity Party, the Boxing Lesson, and the Health Club, another local trio with a penchant for turning post-punk riffs inside-out. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
IDYLLISTS, COSIO, JUDSON MCKINNEY at the Bootleg Theater; FRANK SINATRA JR. at the Canyon Club; JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; UDACHI, BREAKDOWN, DEATHFACE, PAPARAZZI at El Rey Theatre.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Jay Electronica at the Hollywood Palladium
Even hardcore Mos Def fans had to have been worried about the health of the actor-rapper’s career for the past few years: First he releases the supremely half-assed True Magic, an album so uninspired it came without cover art, then he stars with Jack Black in Be Kind Rewind, Michel Gondry’s high-concept VHS-nostalgia dud. Fortunately, Mos came back strong earlier this year with The Ecstatic, a dense slab of brainy-gritty boogie-down widely praised as his finest since his landmark solo debut, Black on Both Sides. (Dude also cropped up in a nice episode of House.) Tonight’s show is the final date of his North American tour in support of the new record, and for the occasion he’ll be joined by Erykah Badu, who should never be missed; Badu reportedly plans to release the sequel to 2008’s New Amerykah before the end of the year, so perhaps she’ll provide a preview. Blog-rap buzz baby Jay Electronica opens. (Mikael Wood)
Long Beach Blues Festival at Rainbow Lagoon Park
Summer’s almost gone, and nothing says goodbye better than the blues. Don’t let this festival’s bucolic seaside setting fool you. There’ll be plenty of bittersweet romantic despair and existential soulful loneliness piercing the salty afternoon air, along with the occasional saving grace of gospel exultation. Saturday’s lineup includes the Funky Meters (New Orleans’ heirs to the Meters’ tradition), blues-guitar dazzlers Johnny Winter and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and the passionate Detroit ’60s soul singer Bettye LaVette, who’s thriving in the wake of belated critical recognition in the past decade. LaVette is a stirring vocalist, whether she’s bringing new life to Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” or turning Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” into an austere piano ballad. (“One thing’s for sure: I was the only black chick in the ghetto singing it,” she says about covering the latter tune in the mid-1970s.) Sunday’s bill features the legendary vocal group Blind Boys of Alabama, Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Womack (whose “It’s All Over Now” was covered by the Rolling Stones), and Mavis Staples, who is also having a bit of a resurgence in her long and storied career. The inspirational Staples Sister is resolved to take you with her down that swampy “Freedom Highway,” and she won’t brook any argument: “Made up my mind/And I won’t turn around.” (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
NINE INCH NAILS, HEALTH at the Wiltern; BUYEPONGO at Juanita’s; THE AVETT BROTHERS, SALLIE FORD & THE SOUND OUTSIDE at the Orpheum Theatre; CRAWLSPACE, SACCHARINE TRUST, PEG LEG LOVE at American Legion Post 206; THIS IS THE STATE, LISA DONNELLY at the Bootleg Theater; TANDEMORO, THE VOYEURS, THE BREAKUPS at Spaceland; BOB WEIR & RATDOG, JACKIE GREENE at the Greek Theatre; BUSHWALLA, BIG GIGANTIC at the Mint.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
Angel City Jazz Fest with Bennie Maupin, Wayne Horvitz, Dave Douglas, The Nels Cline Singers at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
It’s billed as “L.A.’s Only Alternative, Non-Commercial Jazz Festival,” and you really ought to be grateful for the progressive plateful of heavy hitters shreddin’ the boards for your new thing–seeking pleasure. This is a chance to experience the very best in the more modernist spheres of jazz-aligned new music. Certain highlights are Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker’s jam with the Nels Cline Singers, featuring superax from Wilco guitarist Nels (and not a singer in sight); Nels’ bro, drummer-composer extraordinaire Alex Cline, brings his Band of the Moment; revered nu-jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas debuts his alternatively arranged Brass Ecstasy; woodwind player/composer Bennie Maupin and an all-star crew present Dolphyana, West Coast premieres of newly discovered compositions by Eric Dolphy. Also, pianist Wayne Horvitz’s extraordinary Gravitas Quartet, pianist Motoko Honda and butoh master Oguri, the Gathering, featuring woodwind player Jesse Sharps and vocalist Dwight Trible, and many others. Also Mon. (John Payne)
Magda at the Standard Downtown
With its monthly Culprit parties at the Standard, L.A. DJ team Droog is pushing the limits of what type of dance music can start the party on the roof of a posh downtown hotel. With guests like Martin Landsky and Matias Aguayo, Culprit has stayed on the cutting edge of electronic music this summer, and that streak continues with Magda. Hailing from Berlin via Detroit and Poland, Magda has been an underground icon since the late 1990s. Her strikingly stripped-down selections helped to usher in this decade’s wave of minimal techno, and her ear for new and interesting sounds has kept her at the forefront of the genre. A cornerstone artist of Richie Hawtin’s label, Minus, she is part of one of the world’s most technologically innovative music teams. Her set this Sunday will foreshadow what every other DJ will be doing in two years’ time. (Liz Ohanesian)
Also playing Sunday:
NINE INCH NAILS, HEALTH at the Echoplex; REFRIGERATOR, WCKR SPGT, ADAM LIPPMAN, NEAL MORGAN at Echo Curio; NEBULA at Spaceland; WARPED ANNIVERSARY FEAT. BAD RELIGION, RISE AGAINST, NOFX, PENNYWISE, OZOMATLI, OTHERS at Club Nokia; LA RESISTENCIA, VIERNES 13, 8KALACAS, RED STORE BUMS, OTHERS at the Knitting Factory.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
Leslie & the Badgers at The Echo
Sometimes, a person just has to dig for the roots of a thing. Leslie Stevens climbed out on a handful of musical limbs — studying opera in Italy, learning jazz at USC, fronting the punk local band Zeitgeist Auto Parts — before she started working her way down to terra firma with her current outfit, the Badgers. The quintet’s brand of roots music gets deeper and more authentic with each release, and it doesn’t hurt that the new album, Roomful of Smoke, was produced by none other than Tom Petty and Tift Merritt boardsman David Bianco. On songs like “My Tears Are Wasted on You,” Stevens perfectly channels Dolly Parton over roomy, string-laden easy country, while “It’s Okay to Trip” builds twang and tinkling ivories into a saloon sing-along. Live, the Badgers’ familiar sound and gathered instrumental might make for a show both intimate and expansive. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday:
NICO VEGA, DIRTY STREET, GRINGO STAR at the Roxy; I.E., ABE VIGODA, MOMENT TRIGGER, BRO-MAGS at Pehrspace; SAINT MOTEL, THE JAKES, FIGHT FROM ABOVE, GIANT STATE at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8
AC/DC at the Honda Center
There was something wickedly ironic about the sight of thousands of AC/DC fans raising hell and sporting red glow-in-the-dark devil’s horns at the Australian hard-rock band’s show late last year at the Forum — which is owned by a Christian church. That little revival meeting was part of AC/DC’s first local tour in a decade, and it featured cannons, exploding fireballs, a humongous 90-foot-tall blowup doll, singer Brian Johnson dangling from a gigantic bell, lead guitarist Angus Young rising from a massive, phallic platform, and a stage set that looked like a crashed locomotive. All of that sound and fury actually signified something, since the group’s 2008 album, Black Ice, was their strongest in many years, with quintessential tracks like “Big Jack” and “Rock N’ Roll Train” contrasted by the sinuously snaky “Stormy May Day,” which wallowed lasciviously in muddy layers of woozy-bluesy slide guitar. For those about to rock, we salute you, but bring earplugs: An AC/DC concert causes the kind of nonstop ringing in your head where, the next day, you want to apologize to everyone nearby, thinking they must be hearing it, too. It’s that loud. (Falling James)
Hedgehog, Queen Sea Big Shark, the Casino Demon at Silverlake Lounge
The U.S.-based China AIDS Orphan Fund, which operates as the name implies, certainly couldn’t be accused of having its priorities mixed up. With so much attention being given to the charitable redistribution of resources, wrangling a halfway-decent Chinese rock band for a benefit tour would suffice. Well, evidently, someone at the CAOF has pretty good taste and a knack for negotiations, as the Sing for China tour features not one, but three exceptional East Asian acts. Beijing’s Hedgehog makes awesome pastoral slacker rock with pop overtones. The trio’s third album, Blue Daydreaming, could fit into the Merge oeuvre with ease. Queen Sea Big Shark also hails from the capital, but carves out a far more urgent sound. Lead songstress Fu Han sasses and squeaks like Karen O, while her bandmates play angular, synth-dripping surf rock. Opener Casino Demon carves out a slightly more mellow existence between Morrissey and the Libertines, but all three bands seem to represent the best of their respective scenes. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Tuesday:
OS MUTANTES at Amoeba Music; SUMMER DARLING, SING ORPHEUS at the Echo; COLLECTIVE SOUL, BLACK STONE CHERRY, RYAN STAR at House of Blues; THE 88 at Spaceland.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
Twilight Circus Dub Sound System at the Echoplex
The unreal universe revealed via the Twilight Circus Dub Sound System spirals from the hands of Ryan Moore, who in another galaxy several centuries ago served as the bassist for notorious art-prog deviants the Legendary Pink Dots — and whose time spent among that darkly surreal crew poked curiously at his brain like it was so much Play-Doh. Carried out in his secret laboratory in deepest, darkest, flattest Holland, the prolific and gung-ho Moore’s mixes — more subdued and trad versions of which can be heard in his work with reggae icons such as Big Youth, Ranking Joe and Michael Rose of Black Uhuru — are a state-of-the-art, thoroughly mind-shagging dub madness producing wild visions of the emerald forests beyond neveryear in a time that land forgot. Be, like, there. (John Payne)
Also playing Wednesday:
HEALTH, PICTUREPLANE, MI AMI, DAM-FUNK at the Troubadour; EMILY WELLS, JOEY RYAN, ANGIE MATTSON, KARI KIMMEL, LEAH ANDREONE at the Echo; NOT THE GOVERNMENT, STAB CITY, NARWAHL PARTY, BASTIDAS at Echo Curio; DAVE MATTHEWS BAND at the Greek Theatre; DAVID COOK, CRASH KINGS at the Henry Fonda Theater.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker at El Rey Theatre
One of California’s O.G. indie-rock outfits, Santa Cruz–based Camper Van Beethoven are out on the road celebrating their 25th anniversary together — though that doesn’t really take into account the fact that front man David Lowery spent most of the ’90s tending to his post-Camper country-punk trio, Cracker. In any event, CVB reunited in 1999, and soon thereafter released a track-by-track cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, of all things; clearly, the band’s considerable eccentric streak had not dulled over the intervening years. These days, Lowery splits his time between Camper and Cracker, the latter of which have been releasing consistently fine (and consistently underappreciated) records since their early-’90s brush with alt-rock success. Their latest, the wryly titled Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, came out in May and features a killer duet with Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. (Mikael Wood)
Cass McCombs, Girls at the Bootleg Theater
The term “singer/songwriter” has adopted an earthier slant in recent years, with Devendra Banhart and other psych-folk revivalists pushing a similar vibe. Cass McCombs, on the other hand, has kept his slow-churning, muted style even-keeled along his own distinctive trajectory, without veering off to the hippie fringes. With his buttoned-up looks and a howling vocal resonance resembling Doug Yule (’round the time he stole Loaded out from under Lou Reed’s nose), McCombs’ honest, intimate, occasionally bleak but humorous subject matter gets gently propelled along by meandering beats and lush melodies. He’ll be playing a load of new tunes tonight off his month-old release, Catacombs. After Girls’ wildly successful first single — the tearjerking opus “Hellhole Ratrace” — placed high on everybody’s top-songs lists of 2008, they hit town with two highly anticipated shows (this one, and one last month at El Rey with Los Campesinos!). The duo, Christopher Owens and Chet “J.R.” White, are about to release their debut album (September 9), with even more sticky-sweet exploding-heart musings in their gloriously melodic style. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Soulsavers, Jonneine Zapata at the Troubadou
Here’s an intriguing pairing of magnificently mournful singers. Mark Lanegan emerged from the mists of Washington state in the mid-1980s with the psychedelic grunge band Screaming Trees, and his foghorn vocals have lit up various solo albums and collaborations with Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana, Mad Season and, more recently, the Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli (as the Gutter Twins) and Scottish singer Isobel Campbell. Lanegan drifts into town tonight with the British electronica duo Rich Machin and Ian Glover, a.k.a. Soulsavers. On their third album, Broken, and on the new “Sunrise” single, the pair surround Lanegan’s weathered baritone with a stellar cast of fellow space cowboys like Gibby Haynes, Spaceman 3’s Jason Pierce, Richard Hawley and Will Oldham. The many moods range from psychedelic moonscapes and swinging Ian Curtis blues to somber piano dirges and shimmering spaghetti Western/Crazy Horse collisions. Like Lanegan, the Highland Park chanteuse Jonneine Zapata is often at her most mesmerizing on such glacially paced, funereal ballads as “No Big Deal” and “Bandit,” from her 2008 album, Cast the Demons Out. She channels her considerably fiery intensity into low-simmering, ominously building rockers like “Burn” and “Worry,” before she finally blows up on the defiantly romantic/enigmatic anthem “Cowboy.” (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
MAYER HAWTHORNE & THE COUNTY at the Roxy; LASER SWORD, RAINBOW ARABIA, HECUBA at the Echo; RIVER ROUGE, CLEM SNIDE, TOM FREUND at the Hotel Cafe; OUTRAGEOUS CHERRY, THE TYDE, ASTEROID #4, DEVON WILLIAMS at Spaceland; THE FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS, KATE RUSSELL at the Canyon Club; DERACINE, MOMENT TRIGGER, MIKKI & THE MAUSES, PROTECT ME at the Smell.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.