Rock Picks: Cat Power, Mountain Goats, Chapin Sisters
THURSDAY, FEB. 28
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Birdbrains of a feather: Blitzen Trapper
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Pretend shes back from the dead: Donita Sparks
Wild Don Lewis
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400 Blows, 400 decibels
Taken by Trees at the Roxy
Much has been made of the stylishly somnolent way that Cat Power reinvented the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" as a glacial, funereal ballad, but Swedish band the Concretes were just as clever in slowing down the Stones' "Miss You" in 2005 and dragging it out until it was an achingly haunting ode to loneliness. Former Concretes chanteuse Victoria Bergsman is now flying solo with her new project, Taken by Trees, but she's up to her old tricks with a version of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine," which she's transformed into a pretty piano-pop ditty. The title track of Taken by Trees' 2007 Rough Trade debut, Open Field, sallies forth with a soothing string-section instrumental, setting the stage for the gently shimmering pop of "Lost and Found," where she coos with a childlike innocence over candy-cane chimes. She's contrastingly haunting on the spare, chilling piano ballad "Julia." Bergsman was just as engaging when she sang with Peter, Bjorn & John on "Young Folks," from their 2007 CD, Writers Block. She doesn't need to belt it out loudly to make a deep impact. (Falling James)
Phill Niblock, Tom Recchion, Thomas Ankersmit at Beyond Baroque
Here we have a rare opportunity to hear high-quality "experimental" music by three veteran exponents of its varied gripping strands. Phill Niblock is a New York-based "forgotten" minimalist composer and multimedia musician, a hugely influential figure (on Glenn Branca, for one) whose recent work has involved 24-track digitally processed microtonal drones, often via sampled voice, resulting in glacially slow-moving monoliths of sound without easily perceptible melody or rhythm. Niblock was a founder of Experimental Intermedia in 1968 and has been its director since 1985; a heavy presence in the N.Y. downtown new-music scene, Niblock has also put on more than 1,000 concerts in his loft space by the likes of Ryoji Ikeda, Zbigniew Karkowski and Jim O'Rourke. Dutch-born Thomas Ankersmit is an improvising saxophone and electronics maestro working from a distinctly non-free-jazz sphere, preferring postminimal electro-acoustic explorations in microscopic density and detail. The invaluable Tom Recchion is a Los Angeles Free Music Society founder whose recent work offers exquisitely sampled and orchestrated exotica via laptop. 681 Venice Blvd., Venice; 7:30 p.m. (310) 822-3006. (John Payne)
Funland at the Knitting Factory
While Jello Biafra has been busy further marginalizing himself through a series of asinine statements about his former bandmates, Dead Kennedys co-founders East Bay Ray and Klaus Fluoride have been quietly doing what they always have: exhibiting impeccable musicianship and exploring new avenues of creative expression. Ray, of course, possesses one of the most distinctive and intoxicating guitar styles in rock & roll history, and Klaus has his hands full trying to keep pace as bassist for the Legendary Stardust Cowboy (no easy task, that). While maintaining their much-assailed dignity in the face of Biafra's illimitable hysterics, they've also formed Funland, a new band that Ray guardedly describe as "a work in progress." They're fronted by ex-Wynona Riders vocalist Skip, with former Translator drummer Dave Scheff on the riser. The deliberate air of mystery ups the intrigue ante, but, truth to tell, anywhere that East Bay Ray breaks out that action-packed ax is the place to be. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Thursday:
MISSY HIGGINS at El Rey Theatre; DIPLO, BLAQSTARR at Crash Mansion; SON DE LA FRONTERA at the Echoplex; WHAT MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS at Silverlake Lounge; RUN RUN RUN, THE VACATION at the Viper Room.
FRIDAY, FEB. 29
Cat Power & Dirty Delta Blues at the Wiltern
Cat Powers kicks off her new CD, Jukebox (Matador), with her remake of John Kander & Fred Ebb's standard "Theme from New York, New York," but given the track's sultry, Stax-y R&B makeover and coolly rumbling keyboards, perhaps she should call her version "Memphis, Memphis." She recorded her previous album, 2006's The Greatest, in the River City, where she collaborated with former Al Green guitarist Teenie Hodges and the Memphis Rhythm Band. This time around, she's backed by Dirty Delta Blues — which includes Dirty Three drummer Jim White and Blues Explosion guitarist Judah Bauer — although Hodges makes a guest appearance, along with Muscle Shoals session man Spooner Oldham. Apart from the new "Song to Bobby" (by Power, Bauer and Matt Sweeney) and a grandly chilling remake of her own "Metal Heart," Jukebox is her second covers collection and once again demonstrates the wonderfully enchanting way she slows down and reworks classic tunes. Her take on Oldham's "Woman Left Lonely" is more intimate than Janis Joplin's version, and she gives an even more solemn spin to Joni Mitchell's "Blue" after bringing James Brown's "Lost Someone" all the way back to Memphis. (Falling James)
Blitzen Trapper, Grand Archives at the Troubadour
Blitzen Trapper kick out some of the trippiest country-rock jams in Indieville: On the Portland sextet's most recent album, last year's action-packed Wild Mountain Nation, they use twangy guitars, ramshackle percussion, broken-computer noises and the occasional prog-jazz bass solo to create an aural equivalent of the dreams you'd have after falling asleep in a bathtub full of moonshine at David Crosby's house. The band just signed to Sub Pop; hopefully their next one doesn't sound like the Shins. Fellow Sub Pop signees Grand Archives are headed up by Mat Brooke, who until 2006 played guitar in Band of Horses, the buzzed-about psych-folk outfit from South Carolina. (Before that, Brooke and BoH front man Ben Bridwell collaborated in Carissa's Wierd.) The Archives' new self-titled debut is less dreamy and drifty than the Horses' stuff; it might suggest what the Zombies would've become if they'd moved to Seattle. (Mikael Wood)
Donita Sparks & the Stellar Moments at Safari Sam's
Rock & roll is much too predictable and sanitized these days. Even punk rock has been taken over by dopey-cutesy, smiley-faced Jugheads who have nothing new or shocking to say, so it's a big relief that Donita Sparks is back on the scene to dirty things up. The former L7 singer-guitarist wrote many of that band's memorable songs, including the grunge-era anthem "Pretend We're Dead." Now she's back with a new group, the Stellar Moments, and a new album, Transmiticate. She chops up skuzzy riffs on the foreboding "Infancy of a Disaster," warping her vocals through spacy sound effects. She's joined by L7 drummer Dee Plakas throughout, and Gram Rabbit chanteuse Jesika von Rabbit chimes in with robotic vocals on the psychedelic fuzz-fest "Fly Feather Fly." Sparks punks out on the Ramones-y "Need to Numb" and rocks hard and heavy on the midtempo glam love song "He's Got the Honey," but she reveals a newfound pop side on the jangly ballad "My Skin's Too Thin." She's not exactly mellowing out, though, rhyming "If I didn't have so much class" with "what you could shove up your ass." (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
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The Chapin Sisters: From the bottom of their hearts
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Thee Emergency always hate it when Scotty beams them down into a body of water.
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Magnificent fiends Howlin Rain
MSTRKRFT, Z-TRIP at Henry Fonda Theater (see Dance Clubs pick); GREEN JELLO at C.I.A.; SLUM VILLAGE at Crash Mansion; DEVILDRIVER, NAPALM DEATH at House of Blues; DEAD PREZ at the Key Club; PONCHO SANCHEZ, LEON MOBLEY at the Mint; VERY BE CAREFUL, UMOVERDE at Temple Bar.
SATURDAY, MARCH 1
Robert Rich, Lake of Sleep, Laura Escude, Kathie Talbot at the Goethe-Institut
There aren't a lot of venues for experimental electronic music and visuals in Los Angeles, and now we have the threatened closing of the venerable Beyond Baroque in Venice (because City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo wants to make leasing on the property where it resides competitively priced — hey, thanks, Rocky). The Goethe-Institut steps in admirably to fill the gap with its Partikel Series, the second installment of which features ambient/minimalist texturalists Lake of Sleep, bringing the swirling drone. Laura Escude is a violinist and sound designer who has performed regularly with L.A.-based electronica collective Fateless Flows; she'll be joined by flutist-vocalist Kathie Talbot. And there will be a rare appearance by veteran dark-trance/ambient pioneer Robert Rich, who'll perform a solo concert of instrumental electronics, incorporating flutes and lap-steel guitar. Visuals by Optical Light Pipe and Momo the Monster. 5750 Wilshire Blvd., No. 100, in the Institut's theater space; admission is $15 and parking is stone free! (John Payne)
Grizzly Bear, The Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall
This is when things start getting interesting. It's not just that we have two of the very finest exponents of modern music on the same bill, it's how each denotes presumably polarized artistic realms, that of Brooklyn-based "indie-rock" band Grizzly Bear and the classical mastery of the L.A. Philharmonic. The Phil will commence the proceedings with a set of orchestral pieces that have inspired Grizzly Bear's members in their own musical pursuits, and the Grizzlies will follow with a set of their roughly hewn folkie psychedelia, drawn largely from the wonderful 2007 Yellow House disc and the recent Friend EP. So, the audience may compare and contrast the relationships amid these musical spheres, and immerse in the imagery suggested by that fertile space in between. (You will not be tested on this.) Such a resourceful approach to programming, which has seen the L.A. Phil in collaboration with rock and pop artists in the summer series of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, is so valuable — educational, even — and very enjoyable. Starts at 9 p.m. (John Payne)
Also playing Saturday:
GRIZZLY BEAR, L.A. PHILHARMONIC at Disney Hall (see Music feature); THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES at Avalon; THE LOONS at the Bordello; KRIS DELMHORST, WINTERPILLS at the Hotel CafÃ©; PIGEON JOHN at Malibu Inn; KIND HEARTS & CORONETS, BEDROOM WALLS at Mr. T's Bowl; IMAAD WASIF & 2 PART BEAST at Pehrspace; HOLY FUCK, A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS at Spaceland; ACEYALONE at Temple Bar; VON IVA at El Cid.
SUNDAY, MARCH 2
The Movies, 400 Blows, Oliver Future at Spaceland
Has it already been 13 years since Spaceland opened, giving the Silver Lake music scene a national profile? So many things have changed since then: Even as official validation belatedly arrived when the "Silver Lake Rocks!" banners sprouted from lampposts a few years ago, gentrification and high rents had already driven out many of the musicians who'd started the local scene in the late '80s with backyard parties and impromptu gigs in tiny art galleries. Promoters Nancy Whalen and Mitchell Frank capitalized on the growing musical community — whose disparate bands shared a distaste for the prevailing sexism, muddle-headed metal and grunge derivations of the era — by hosting such musicians as Popdefect, W.A.C.O. and Beck at their Pan nights in the formerly sleepy bar Dreams. After Frank took control in the mid-'90s, Pan was renamed Spaceland and presented touring indie-rock bands. Tonight many of the club's longtime denizens gather, including the Movies, who have a Smiths-style pop-rock formality; similarly British-influenced post-punks the Blood Arm; the contrastingly savage and arty hardcore metal-punk pummelers 400 Blows; circusy indie-rockers Oliver Future; psychedelic-pop revivalists the Tyde and many others. (Falling James)
Spectrum at the Echo
The past: Spaceman 3 (1985), Experimental Audio Research (1994) and the most recent Spectrum album proper, back in 1999, A Lake of Tears, in collaboration with Silver Apples. The present: a new album by Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember, an alchemic admixture of vintage synths and '60s avant-garage that's the hardest-hitting thing out of Rugby since, well, rugby. Tonight lands about midway through a world tour that showcases the new material frp, the Birdman Records CD Spectrm Meets Cpt. Memphis — Indian Givers, and Kember promises "a selection of new songs, some classic Spacemen 3 stuff and some older Spectrum material." What's striking about the work is how dreamlike and calm it is even during the most cacophonous blasts of noise and confusion. It's a trip that could go wildly bad (e.g., the track "Owsley"), but Kember takes your hand and opens new windows for you instead of kicking you through them. (David Cotner)
The Magnetic Fields at Henry Fonda Theater
Given the extravagant scale of the Magnetic Fields' 1999 CD, 69 Love Songs, whatever came after it was destined to look small. Unfortunately 2004's i , from its lowercase title on, was even more gaunt than expected. Seemingly assembled from the scraps of its predecessor, it replaced the shimmer and flash of the Magnetic Fields' synth-streaked sad hits with scrawny piano-and-ukulele sketches enlivened by stale theatrics. No wonder this year's Distortion is so striking. Wreaths of squealing feedback and hissy reverb swirl around Stephin Merritt’s three-chord wonders. Though only a few of the songs are barbed-wire kissing cousins of the brothers Reid, the slathered noise — not to mention the Moe Tucker–minimal percussion (a sparkling tambourine here, rumbling toms there) — is pure Jesus & Mary Chain. That said, Distortion, with Merritt's unmistakable Ian Curtis–as–crooner baritone, the simplified FM melodies, the mordant wit and knowingly impossible romance, make it unmistakably a Magnetic Fields record. And a really good one, thankfully. Also Mon. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Also playing Sunday:
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Shape-shifter Kárin Tatoyan
MAGNETIC FIELDS at Henry Fonda Theater (see Music feature); VON IVA at Alex's Bar; KRISTIN HERSH at McCabe's.
MONDAY, MARCH 3 The Chapin Sisters at the Echo
The Chapin Sisters harmonize with such lush and entrancingly beautiful three-part harmonies that it's easy to overlook their dark side. The local trio first came to attention in 2005 with their somberly icy version of "Toxic," discovering the bittersweet melody that lurked underneath Britney Spears' pop hit, and they similarly turned Madonna's fluffy "Borderline" into a banjo-plucked, achingly lonely country ballad. The Chapins are just as captivating with their own memorable original songs on their debut full-length CD, Lake Bottom LP, on Plain Recordings (which follows two earlier EPs). The waves of sumptuous harmonies that sweep through "Kill Me Now" belie the song's sad lyrics, and those febrile voices twine together soothingly and hauntingly on Abigail Chapin's "I Hate the Moon." Lily Chapin is more down to earth on the homespun charms of "Wash Away," while Jessica Craven's spare, acoustic-guitar-driven "Don't Love You" floats away with an airy melody. It's a family affair: The title Lake Bottom celebrates the Chapins' familial connections — their uncle was the late Harry Chapin, Lily's and Abigail's father is the singer Tom Chapin, and their half-sister Jessica is the daughter of horror-film maestro Wes Craven. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
MAGNETIC FIELDS at Henry Fonda Theater (see Music feature); WADDY WACHTEL, BRETT TUGGLE, PHIL JONES at the Joint; METAL SKOOL at the Key Club; CAVIL AT REST, VOXHAUL BROADCAST at Spaceland; AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT, HENRY CLAY PEOPLE at the Troubadour.
TUESDAY, MARCH 4
Thee Emergency at Silverlake Lounge
Thee Emergency come rumbling out of Seattle, but with their hard-rock guitar riffs, funky-bluesy keyboards and Zana "Dita Vox" Geddes' soulfully passionate vocals, the quintet sound more like a band straight outta the Motor City. Their punky melange of classic rock, R&B and raw garage-rock psychedelia is much closer to the world of the Dirtbombs, the Detroit Cobras and L.A.'s BellRays than anything in the stodgy Pearl Jam or Soundgarden universe. (Hell, Thee Emergency's bassist is even named Nick Detroit.) Their new, aptly titled CD, Solid, rambles over the MC5/Deep Purple collision of "Heartbreaker," and trips out further on "2069 Space Time," as Geddes wails amid the hard-rock wreckage with incandescent power. She shows a seductively mellow side on the violin-spun ballad "My Lament" and the bluesy interlude "The Word," but Thee Emergency generally keep things moving on frantic, sax-charged tracks like "It's All in the Reflexes." Even better is "Attack of the Cobrasaurus," as Matt "Sonic" Smith's loopy guitar riffs become entangled in Dr. Schmeckle's pumping organ while Geddes declares herself the supreme Jezebel of all time. You damn well better believe her. Also at the Scene, Wed. (Falling James)
The Mountain Goats at the Troubadour
For the past two decades, John Darnielle has recorded as the Mountain Goats, creating an avalanche of strummed miniatures notable for their catchiness, fictional bent, and ability to accomplish in a handful of precise lyrics what many short-story writers can't do in 5,000 words. Darnielle's hundreds of songs share characters and themes, travel to exotic lands, dwell on destroyed lives, and manage to capture tough emotions in simple ways — "I know you're changing," he sings in "Snow Crush Killing Song," "god damn you for that." One ongoing cycle, called the Alpha series, concerns a troubled alcoholic couple who clink their glasses "and thick as molasses/ice cold vodka eases in/as the low pressure system brings the breezes in." After a series of autobiographical albums, Darnielle once again finds himself drifting toward (other) damaged characters and capturing their human essences on the Mountain Goats' new Heretic Pride. With Jeffrey Lewis & the Jitters. Also Wed. (Randall Roberts)
It's Casual at the Scene
There's Brian Wilson's fun-in-the-sun musical exploration of Los Angeles, and then there's Eddie Solis'. The It's Casual singer-guitarist isn't afraid to confront the anger, frustration and agony that come with living in a city consumed with big dreams and bigger egos. He's joined by drummer Wal Rashidi, and the duo perform a nonstop barrage of Slip It In-era Black Flag mixed with the showmanship of Kiss. Simplicity is key to It's Casual's sound as Rashidi plays a minimal kit consisting of a bass drum, snare, hi-hat and one cymbal while the duo gets their bottom end from a bass amp run through Solis' guitar setup. The group's Stop Listening to Bad Music and The New Los Angeles make for the perfect soundtrack to rush-hour traffic, thanks to songs such as "LAPD," a track featuring the lyrics "Los Angeles/there's too many people/I want them to go away/Even LAPD's afraid" repeated three times. (Ryan Ritchie)
Also playing Tuesday:
RAVEONETTES, BE YOUR OWN PET at El Rey Theatre (see Music feature); LINKIN PARK, COHEED & CAMBRIA at Staples Center; TEX BEAUMONT at 14 Below; BAD RELIGION at House of Blues; SIERRA SWAN, CARINA ROUND at Largo; KIND HEARTS & CORONETS at Safari Sam's; AMNION, LUKE TOP, LAYER at Spaceland.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5
Howlin' Rain at Spaceland
Remember the good ol' days? War? Protest? Goin' to jail? Well, forget all that, because tonight you'll hear some of the finest good-time rock jams in an evening so laid back, it'd make Perry Como seem riddled with tension. Founded in 2004 in San Francisco, Howlin' Rain — Comets on Fire singer Ethan Miller, Sunburned Hand of the Man drummer John Molodney and itinerant troubadour Ian Gradek — became a more relaxing respite from their comparatively raucous scree and jocular twaddle. They unveil tracks from their sophomore album, Magnificent Fiend, on Birdman, as well as Wild Life, a limited-edition CD on microlabel 3 Lobed Recordings — songs filled with fuzz and organ and grooves without ruts. "Tattooable melodies," "monster jams" and Latin rhythms: Yes, they're all here, straight from the bottom of the Grand Canyon of New Weird America — ranting, howling and prestidigitating all the way up into the ether. Also at Amoeba Music, Thurs. (David Cotner)
The Hackensaw Boys at Tangier
The Hackensaw Boys aren't your suit-and-tie bluegrass traditionalists. Nor are they trashgrass punkers or hippie newgrassers (then they might be called the Hackysack Boys). They do, however, attack old-time-style mountain music with rock & roll vengeance. On their current disc, Look Out, they rampage through spirited tunes like "F.D.R." and "Sweet Petunia" with a flurry of banjo, fiddle and guitar picking while also demonstrating steady hands on midtempo tracks such as "Baltimore" and "Radio." Despite their cornball nicknames (like Cousin Spits and the Kooky Eyed Fox), these guys aren't a hillbilly hokum act. Their ragged-but-right approach shows respect for their elders — they recently served as bluegrass icon Charlie Louvin's band — and their energetic performances have won favor with the jam-band kids. They even have a connection with the indie-rock world as Modest Mouse's Tom Pelosi is an auxiliary Hackensaw-ist. These Virginia boys are bound to turn Tangier into a hootin' and hollerin', foot-stompin' backwoods jamboree. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Wednesday:
CHRISETTE MICHELE at El Rey Theatre; RUFUS WAINWRIGHT at USC's Bovard Auditorium; FOO FIGHTERS, SERJ TANKIAN at the Forum; JIM BIANCO at Amoeba Music; RAVENS MORELAND, LIVE NUDE at the Derby; BAD RELIGION at House of Blues; FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at the Mint; NU-TRA, LONDON BROIL at Safari Sam's; THEE EMERGENCY at the Scene; LONESOME SPURS at Taix; MOUNTAIN GOATS, JEFFREY & THE JITTERS at the Troubadour; KENNY EDMONDS at Vault 350.
THURSDAY, MARCH 6
Twilight Sleep, Karin Tatoyan at the EchoKarin Tatoyan was born in a small town in Alabama and raised in Indiana before moving to Los Angeles, where she's been kicking around the unplugged coffeehouse scene for several years now. She recently metamorphosed into an electronics-based singer, backed in live performances by multi-instrumentalist the One Second Time Machine, a.k.a. Thomas Greene. Tatoyan colorfully describes her music as the "translation of my insides beaming via satellite," and she intones "Radio Cures," from her 2007 EP, The History of Stains, with an interstellar Bjork-style breathiness. "Fit In" unfolds with a Kate Bush sense of wonder, and the EP's title track swirls inside languid pop guitars. "Ver Cha Bess" sparkles via magic guitar harmonics while foreboding cello strokes seesaw under her plaintive pleas. Headliners Twilight Sleep have a similarly ethereal sound on their new EP, Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Tracy Marcellino coos with a dreamy haziness over partner Raj Lathigara's network of electronics and sound effects amid the sleek and wintry soundscape "Don't Fire Your Guns" before fading away into the spare echoes of the gentle "Broken Record." Space is still the place. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
FOO FIGHTERS, SERJ TANKIAN at the Forum; THE BILLYBONES, RUBBER CITY REBELS at the Airliner; HOWLIN' RAIN at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; THE KRIS SPECIAL at Mr. T's Bowl; ROONEY, BRETT DENNEN at the Roxy; MONOTONIX, ANAVAN, BAD DUDES at the Smell; VAN HUNT at Temple Bar; EEK-A-MOUSE, PATO BANTON at Vault 350.
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