Rock Picks: Circle Jerks, Money Mark, No Age


Dirty white boys: Captain Ahab (Photo by Renata Raksha) (Click to enlarge)

The Circle Jerks: Still sweatin’ out the oldies (Photo by David Miyamoto) (Click to enlarge)

Rock-a-bye your B.B. with a bluesy melody... (Click to enlarge)

Babyland, Captain Ahab, The Mae Shi at the Smell

The Smell’s Ten Year Anniversary Series barrels into 2008 like a truckload of dead rats in a tampon factory with the stomach-bashing pulsebeat of Los Angeles’ electro elite. Babyland, edging into their second decade of danceable punk junk funk, roll out their oil drums and computers to create the kind of musical voice that power lines would have if they could be shocked themselves. On the other hook, Captain Ahab created tracks for the soundtrack to the impressively violent Wrong Turn 2, starring Henry Rollins, delivering their filthy disco with a beat that urges even Templar bankers to shake their moneymakers. Longtime Smell stalwarts the Mae Shi play tonight before going on tour with the Germs and Adolescents, unveiling tracks from their upcoming HLLLYH LP, early samples of which promise a triumphal, advanced level of hi-hatted body-moving. Also: Electrocute, Dommm, Lucky Dragons. (David Cotner)

FRIDAY, Jan. 4

Circle Jerks at the Henry Fonda Theater

When you’ve got the sickness and solid punk rock is the only remedy, the Circle Jerks are always there for you. But never mind you and your ’80s hardcore panic attacks — let’s talk about history! Close your eyes and think about Keith Morris and his thick nest of dreads; crank a few bars from Group Sex; or watch a clip of the seminal punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization... does it not bring back all the sights and smells of the L.A. punk universe where the Circle Jerks germinated, broke up and hooked up again? Well, you can re-experience all the blood, sweat and mosh-pit glory tonight at the Fonda — just remember, you’re not as young as you used to be. (Kate Carraway)

B.B. King at the Wiltern

When it comes to the matter of that little old guitar picker B.B. King, the blues never had it so good. King not only elevated the form and drastically expanded the audience; he also never made a fool of himself in pursuit of the greenback dollar — unlike so many of his peers. (Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf cut egregious “psychedelic” albums at the Chess Brothers’ eager behest, and Buddy Guy had that prolonged ofay-courting ’80s-era period of nails-on-the-blackboard Jeff Beck–style riff slinging.) From his 1949 start, King proposed a model that delivered both rumbling, agonized funk and a sleek, high-toned modern sound (the fruit of all those after-hours Beale Street shindigs), and from that solidly seductive foundation, he ascended to perhaps the greatest height any bluesman achieved. The fact that he’s still at it is a gift; acknowledge him as the ninth wonder of the world and act accordingly. (Jonny Whiteside)


Jerry Butler at Cerritos Center for Performing Arts

Sure, they call Jerry Butler “the Iceman,” but the chills he evokes are anything but frigid. The veteran soul chieftain, whose collaboration with the late, great Curtis Mayfield produced some of the most emotionally loaded, delicately delivered and irrefutable masterpieces that idiom ever enjoyed, is now one of a depressingly fast-dwindling handful of soul-music architects. Carrying not only those Mayfield-penned classics — like the monster “He Will Break Your Heart (He Don’t Love You, Like I Love You)” — but also a slew of superb, post-Impressions Gamble-Huff classics, Butler always works a set list of brilliant material, invariably making it his own with that trademark mixture of smoldering vocals and serene, outward stoicism. Verily, the Iceman cometh — and his subtle, irresistible romanticism and soul-deep expression are flat out unbeatable. (Jonny Whiteside)

Angels and Airwaves at the Henry Fonda Theater

For guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge, abandoning the multiplatinum, permanent pop-punk prom that was Blink-182 for his own brainchild, Angels and Airwaves, is like attempting promotion from the Monkees to U2. You see, DeLonge (alongside three lesser punk-lite luminaries) is now seeking something more thoughtful, grown-up and significant. Thankfully, he has retained his instinctive street-level songcraft (though it sometimes seems to be the same song), meaning that A&A end up sounding more like a maturing Blink than probably intended. But DeLonge isn’t kidding: Angels and Airwaves released their second album in the space of 18 months, I-Empire, in November, continuing the grandiose-yet-peppy theme of their ’06 debut, We Don’t Need to Whisper. It’s more Forum-ready refrains; emo-approved, eyes-on-the-horizon optimism; twinkly guitars/keys; and wafts of ’80s MTV. While hardly of Dave Grohl proportions, DeLonge’s effort to reinvent himself is both admirable and (more crucially) singable — if not remotely as fucking important as he thinks it is. (Paul Rogers)


SUNDAY, Jan. 6

Sir Richard Bishop at Museum of Jurassic Technology

Though the sudden death of drummer Charles Gocher this year concluded the active phase of the Sun City Girls’ history, they’ve always operated somewhat shrouded in self-imposed obscurity, slipping out as many archival treasures as newly minted jams. But recently, SCG brothers Alan and Richard Bishop have pursued new projects. The former is one of the proprietors of prolific ethno-delic imprint Sublime Frequencies, while the latter goes solo as a master of 12-fingered trawls through ragged forests of trembling brush. Befitting Bishop’s mongrel practice, he’ll play tonight at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a life-size Joseph Cornell box of surrealities both actual and dreamt. He’ll be supporting his first record for Drag City, Polytheistic Fragments, a true-to-its-title assortment of liberally devotional drones, jangles and strums. Preferring the rhythm and color of pick to string, Bishop can unspool reams of flickering, semicinematic melody tempered by bristles of tangential electricity. Echoes of Reinhardt, Bull and Fahey may surface. Bishop deserves his royal prefix by virtue of his own generously inventive playing — the spray of notes dazzles as they spill to sublime elsewheres. (Bernardo Rondeau)

Mike Watt and the Missingmen, Calvin Weston with Monster Cock Rally at the Knitting Factory

Time to genuflect and throw flowers to the man in the van w/bass in hand, Mr. Mike Watt, on the 50th year of his birth, can you believe it. The pride of Pedro — Minutemen! Firehose! Banyan! Dos! Slapping bass with the Stooges! Outrageous various solo stuff! — just is not slowing down at all; why, you need to check out his site at to make even the most feeble attempt at keeping up with it all. Among Watt’s billion current projects is the Missingmen, who originally formed to bring his third punk rock opera, Ten and Twenty Does Not Make Fifty, to fruition; Tom Watson’s on guitar/some singing and Raul Morales performs on drums, in 39 miniatures of sculpturally modernistic yet Hieronymus Bosch–suggestive thud-thwacking. Do not miss opener Calvin Weston with Monster Cock Rally: The ex–Ornette Coleman/Blood Ulmer/Derek Bailey/Tricky/John Lurie drummer jams maximo in collab with Oakland’s dark kings of avant-metal colossalness. Watt and the Missingmen also at Mr. T’s Bowl on January 7; at Silverlake Lounge on January 9; Watt with Banyan at the Mint on January 3. (John Payne)

Stone cold: Soul man Jerry Butler (Click to enlarge)

Mika Miko: Who would believe such cute kids could make so much friggin' noise? (Click to enlarge)

Talk about eclectic: Wrestling aficionado Bob Mould plays Disney Hall (Click to enlarge)

Mika Miko, No Age, David Scott Stone at the Smell

The crème de la crème of the punk world in a show with everything but Yul Brynner, tonight’s installation of the Smell’s 10-year-anniversary series starts early (7 p.m.) and boasts $5 haircuts for those willing to risk their cred by having their shaggy Samsonite locks so surely shorn. Stone, longtime heavy-noise stalwart and collaborator with the Melvins (whose Buzz Osborne is married to the gal who created Social Distortion’s drunken dancing skeleton — fact!), alchemizes his usual ur-concrete thud into sexy(!) French(?) swagger(~) on the MOTM modular synthesizer. Mika Miko, longtime Smell-noise stalwarts, unleash their flaming-arrow hail of growly-scowly synths and guitars, while the avant power-pop duo of No Age (conquistadors who recently retook the L.A. River from the forces of puzzled and beige park rangers) make even the lag time on songs on their MySpace page sound good. Also: Abe Vigoda, Disaster, Fast Forward, Hard Bop, Silver Daggers. (David Cotner)

MONDAY, Jan. 7

Radar Bros. at the Echo

Senon Williams is a busy man these days: On January 22, his local Cambodian-inspired psych-rock outfit, Dengue Fever, is scheduled to release its latest studio disc, while the following Tuesday will bring a new album from Radar Bros., the fuzzy indie-roots combo Williams has played in alongside ex-Medicine guy Jim Putnam for more than a decade now. Auditorium, the new Radar CD, finds Putnam, Williams and the rest of the band (which now includes guitarist-keyboardist Jeff Palmer) doing what they do best: sounding like a laid-back West Coast version of New York’s Luna. Fans of slow tempos, twinkly guitars and mellow vocal harmonies will find much to admire. This show kicks off the band’s Monday-night January residence at the Echo; admission is free. (Mikael Wood)



Songs of the City at Walt Disney Concert Hall

One of the central highlights of the L.A. Phil’s appealingly eclectic "Concrete Frequency" festival (see “Frequency Response,” page 80), this program aims to “celebrate the symbiotic relationship between music and the urban environment” (as a press release puts its) with performances by a bevy of globe-tripping indie-pop road warriors: Sean Lennon, whose terrific Friendly Fire didn’t receive half the attention it should’ve last year; former Hüsker Dü and Sugar front man Bob Mould, who has a handsome new solo disc due for release in February; Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche; John Doe of X; Inara George of the Bird and the Bee; Zach Rogue of Oakland’s Rogue Wave; Money Mark, the Beastie Boys’ amiable organ-funk buddy; Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio; Stevie Jackson of Belle and Sebastian; Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear; Marc Bianchi, who has made a series of dreamy electro-pop records as Her Space Holiday; Franklin Bruno, the songwriter (and occasional L.A. Weekly critic); actress Zooey Deschanel and others. Big cities require bright lights. (Mikael Wood)

Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration at the Henry Fonda Theater

On January 8, 1935, as Gladys Presley gave birth to twin boys, the skies above Tupelo, Mississippi, were filled with weird flashing beams of light, a phenomenon that climaxed several weeks of disturbing commotion out in the bushes surrounding the Presley shack — nocturnal occurrences so troubling that father Vernon had already cleared the surrounding property. The ramifications of this extracurricular — presumably extraterrestrial — activity remain a mystery, but one definite outcome is the annual Elvis birthday blowout, and this edition covers a wild stretch of EP-fixation. Between Billy Bob Thornton’s jackass bray and the Surfaris’ deep reverb riff-slinging, the King’s influence clearly still reaches across the musical spectrum as an inescapable force. Acolytes like masterly 1950s rockabilly Glenn Glen and Hollywood rabble-rousers the Groovy Rednecks polish the Presley rock of ages with reliably untamed enthusiasm, and the presence of the Mafia-groomed former teen idol Jimmy Angel, who just traded his two-decade Tokyo gig for a contract in Las Vegas, guarantees a high voltage, lid-flipping, Presley-infused ball. (Jonny Whiteside)


Money Mark at the Troubadour

Well rested from springtime touring with the Beastie Boys, Money — née Mark Ramos-Nishita — has focused some of his recent energies with the Omar Rodríguez-López Group, which consists of the majority of the Mars Volta and, at one point, Damo Suzuki of Can, playing longish, formless jams steeped in the laid-back coffee culture (cough cough) of Amsterdam. His seventh studio album, Brand New by Tomorrow (on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records imprint), features the jazzy, faintly rueful and laconic single “Pick Up the Pieces,” the video for which shows sign-spinning street-corner guys plying their trade downtown as the Money store opens for business. He displays such an earnest level of nerd-bourgeoisie that one suspects it’s not an act and that Mark cuts his $2 bills from sheets straight from the mint to help pay for his cracked electronics and beats — and who said troubadours had to be about mandolins and sackbuts, anyway? (David Cotner)


Six Organs of Admittance at the Echo

The ghosts of probing six- and 12-stringers John Fahey and Sandy Bull hover benignly above the nimble-fingered guitarist and singer Ben Chasney, but that tells a mere small part of the multihued musical sage-isms he brings to his own Six Organs of Admittance. Chasney, whose ultra-guitar intuitions also grace up such progressive-spirited bands as Comets on Fire, Current 93 and Plague League, has a new Six Organs disc out, Shelter From the Ash (Drag City), done in collab with producer Tim Green of the Fucking Champs, the Magik Markers’ Elisa Ambrogio and Chasney’s Comets on Fire bandmate Noel Harmonson; it reveals much of the darker implications of Chasney’s surreally misty dreams — or ruminations on war — in tightly structured or droney excursions flecked with flickering acoustic guitars or spikily soaring electrics; tin pots and plucked piano innards add to the often ambiguous allure — which can explode in one’s face without fair warning. (John Payne)

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