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Rock Picks: Dan Auerbach, Primal Scream, Lyrics Born

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys: Electric crunch and blues-rock roar
James Quine

Friday, March 13

Francois K. with John Tejada and Robtronik at King King

Dance music is a religion. You convert (Kanye West). Sometimes you flirt (P. Diddy). But you rarely return to your old time rock & roll (Tommy Lee). Frenchman in New York Francois Kevorkian started as a drummer, became a spinner at disco’s height, and evolved into a studio entrepreneur (Madonna, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige graced his facilities). Today his occasional Body & Soul parties are, alongside David Mancuso’s Loft events, pontifical masses for true believers from New York to Tokyo. On the turntables Kevorkian is a high priest of dub-style and deep-end offerings who channels not only the black roots of post-disco but the future-forward space exploration of house music’s heavenly promise. In that way, he’s a multidenominational shaman, skipping happily between the righteous and the raptures. So what’s coach K. doing at a techno party in L.A. spinning records alongside local legend John Tejada? Mixing it up like a true missionary man. (Dennis Romero)

 

Tindersticks at Henry Fonda Theater 

The shrouded-in-legend Tindersticks haven’t graced U.S. stages in more than five years, but they’ve come out of the cave to showcase The Hungry Saw, out a couple of months ago on Constellation. The album is another of the English group’s trademarked (near-excruciatingly) sensitive renderings of the most elegiac, melancholic sound poetry. The music’s fabric is a low-key kind of gorgeous, treading a highly romanticized Euro-urbanity whose burnished grandeur is conveyed so movingly in leader Stuart Staples’ heartrending lyrical themes, delivered in that tremblingly hopeful baritone tinged with ... sigh ... a very Continental ennui. ... The live Tindersticks band is a seven-piece miniorchestra that features founders Staples on voice and guitar, David Boulter on various electric keyboards, and guitarist Neil Fraser; they’ll be augmented by brass and cello players to further dampen the hall in foggy, fading elegance. (John Payne)

 

Cursive at the Troubadour

During their decade-long career, the Omaha band Cursive have broken up at least once and gone on hiatus at other times, but it’s a good thing that they’ve stuck around as long as they have. Their new CD, Mama, I’m Swollen, on Saddle Creek might be their most fully realized and stylistically diverse album yet. “I’m writing out a confession/every record I’ve written has left me spitting,” Tim Kasher sings on the ambivalent autobiography “Mama, I’m Satan.” He references “a career in masturbation,” the nature of creativity, the commonality of evil and this country’s history of slavery and declares, “We are the sons of butchers,” before being consumed in a storm of spacy post-punk guitars. Cursive aren’t as rootsy or countrified as many of their Saddle Creek peers, ranging instead from the punk urgency of “In the Now” to the gently lulling pop of “From the Hips,” where a reluctant Kasher claims, “I’m in my best when I’m at my worst ... I don’t want to know the goddamn words/I don’t want to have to spell it out.” But spell it out he does on “I Couldn’t Love You,” where he wails with a fractured yearning like Robert Smith of the Cure, who were paired with Cursive on the alliterative Curiousa Tour in 2004. (Falling James)

 

DJ/Rupture and Tormenta Tropical L.A. at Guatelinda

If any DJ/producer can be accused of being the globetrotting party-rocker, Rupture (a.k.a. Jace Clayton) definitely belongs in the lineup. Gold Teeth Thief from 2001 established him as guy with a good ear for music, but last year’s Uproot (the Agriculture) proved he was a bonafide musicologist. The album’s addendum, The Ingredients, gives you even more riddims to ponder. Crooked, crooked beats are twisted up and then broken up, dance hall from Zaire is tampered with by industrial-house, and nearly subconscious dub-step is sent to Afghanistan and then back to his home base of New York. This is why he’s the perfect headliner for the Los Angeles version of “Tormenta Tropical,” a club night that heats up San Francisco every month. Hosted by the neo-cumbia kings Disco Shawn and Oro 11 and brought to you by the Bersa Discos label (www.myspace.com/bersadiscos), the night will have your butt moving to the Pan-American/African percussion, your head spinning along with the synthesized accordions, and you may not remember where you are, or if you are in the past or the future. (Daniel Siwek)

 

Also playing Friday:

RICHARD SWIFT, DAPPLED CITIES, WE BARBARIANS at Spaceland; BURNING STAR CORE, JOHN WIESE, OTHERS at the Smell; BEN WEASEL at the Knitting Factory; LADY GAGA, CHESTER FRENCH at the Wiltern; MILLENCOLIN at El Rey; SF JAZZ COLLECTIVE at the Catalina Bar & Grill; SIMPLY RED at Club Nokia; SAY HI, TELEKINESIS at the Echo (early show); GRAM RABBIT, EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS at the Echo (late show).

 

Saturday, March 14

Dan Auerbach at El Rey Theatre

Singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach’s recent solo debut, Keep It Hid (Nonesuch), has some of the same electric crunch and blues-rock roar of his band the Black Keys, but he also reveals other, subtler musical personas that he had, indeed, previously kept hidden. “Whispered Words” has a spare and lonely guitar sound as he croons over a garage-soul groove, while the lo-fi, organ-pumped “Real Desire” relies on a low-key drum machine. “When the Night Comes” is an unexpectedly gentle acoustic ballad that’s closer in spirit to James Taylor than Robert Johnson. Thankfully, Auerbach does kick out the jams somewhat amid the tumbling blues riffs of “I Want Some More” and “Heartbroken, In Disrepair,” where he keens through shimmering waves of buzzing tremolo guitar. His guitar freaks out further with psychedelic licks on “Mean Monsoon” and the aptly titled blues-rock scuzz of “The Prowl,” but there’s also a John Fogerty–style sunny pop on tracks like “My Last Mistake.” (Falling James)

 

Phosphorescent, Viva Voce at the Regent Theatre

Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck may be a city slicker by day, but once the sun sinks under the prairie, the cowboy comes out. Houck was raised in Alabama, cut his teeth playing guitar in Georgia, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he and his band recently cut an album-full of Willie Nelson covers. That collection, affectionately dubbed To Willie (the disc reads “. from Phossy”), pays tribute to both the outlaw country icon and Houck’s ear for artful understatement. Classics like “Reasons to Quit” and “Walkin’” sound sweet as ever coming from the man who penned 2007’s late-blooming folkie hit, Pride, and a set comprising songs from both albums should be nothing short of stunning. It could be quite rowdy as well, as the Phosphorescent boys are known to get proper roostered before, during and after a good performance. Viva Voce’s smooth psychedelia may calm things a bit, but surely not by much. (Chris Martins)

 

Lyrics Born at the Mint

There were some amazing performers at last year’s inaugural Outside Lands festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, ranging from Radiohead’s contemplative electric haze to Manu Chao’s hopped-up rebel ska-punk to Howlin Rain’s classic-rock shtick, but no one had a sharper, tighter band than Lyrics Born. While the Berkeley native explored the contradictions of being a Japanese-American rapper, his group sliced and diced his imagery with exacting precision. Steve Wyreman is a wickedly dazzling guitarist, especially when he’s given room to stretch out a little in concert. Lyrics Born’s 2008 CD, Everywhere at Once (Quannum Projects/Anti-) is thoroughly enjoyable and bubbles with shiny funk beats and slick wordplay from this self-declared “syllable killer,” but it doesn’t fully capture the forceful energy of his band’s onstage delivery. As neatly boxy and fully produced as the album sounds, the songs have a lot more funky menace when they’re kicked out with live drums. Apart from the goofy-serious skit “Homeland Security” and the tragic memorial “Whispers” (with guest C-Holiday), Mr. Born’s lyrics are generally about having a good time and bear little in common with more-fashionable strains of gangsta rap. (Falling James)

 

The Von Bondies at the Roxy

Von Bondies singer Jason Stollsteimer might be best known, at least to some casual observers, for his notorious dustup with the White Stripes’ Jack White at a Detroit nightclub in 2003. (Interestingly, the Bondies’ ironically titled first album, 2001’s Lack of Communication, was originally purported to have been produced by White; following the fistfight, the band now claims that it was really helmed by ubiquitous Motor City producer Jim Diamond.) None of that tabloid-fueled hysteria matters; what’s important is that the Bondies’ latest CD, Love, Hate and Then There’s You (Major Domo), is a strong set of anthemic power-pop tunes, especially “Pale Bride,” with its surging guitars and rousing hook. Perhaps not surprisingly, Stollsteimer doesn’t seem to have much use for gossips on songs like “She’s Dead to Me,” where he rails, “You’ve been talking all this shit/I think it’s time for you to quit.” When he wonders, “Can you say a good word about us?” on the curtly titled “Shut Your Mouth,” it’s not clear if he’s addressing a lover or his various critics (music or otherwise). Here are a few good words, then: Stollsteimer’s anger and frustration make for some damn catchy rock & roll. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Saturday:

SMEGMA, AARON DILLOWAY, JOE & JOE at the Smell; YOUNG DUBLINERS at the Key Club; THE WHISPERS, HOWARD HEWETT, LAKESIDE, STEPHANIE MILLS at the Nokia; DAN ZANES AND FRIENDS at Royce Hall; FUTURE COP!, SHOUT OUT OUT OUT at the Echoplex; RICKIE LEE JONES at Largo at the Coronet; JULIETTE AND THE NEW ROMANTIQUES at Spaceland; SF JAZZ COLLECTIVE at the Catalina Bar & Grill;

 

Sunday, March 15

Arthur Verocai and orchestra, Madlib, DJ Nuts at Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex 

Part 3 of Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s “Timeless: The Composer/Arranger Series” finds our hip-hop heads paying homage to one rather obscure but influential Brazilian composer, Arthur Verocai. He’s a sort of folk-jazz iconoclast who is credited with devising a lot of the creative and complex arrangements and compositions for, among others, modern sambistas Jorge Ben and Gal Costa back in the ’70s. The thing that sealed Verocai’s legend, though, was his one-off eponymous solo album of 1972, a string-drenched, multicolored orgy of funky psychedelia and experimental soul-jazz stylistics that the casual listener might liken in hindsight to work from that era by David Axelrod. A 30-piece orchestra of devoted locals will be on hand to interpret, hopefully not too reverently. Opening magic comes from Madlib and DJ Nuts, and there’ll be surprise others popping in as well. Be there or be square, real square. (John Payne)

 

Also playing Sunday:

TOUMANI DIABATE at Largo at the Coronet; DAN ZANES AND FRIENDS at Royce Hall; AUSTRALIAN BBQ WITH THE DRONES, DAPPLED CITIES, MY DISCO, RED RIDERS AND OTHERS at the Echo; SF JAZZ COLLECTIVE at the Catalina Bar & Grill.

 

Monday, March 16

Primal Scream, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Kuroma at Club Nokia

Though they’re still a big deal in their native U.K., Primal Scream have been on cult-fave duty for the past decade or so on this side of the pond, due in no small part to bandleader Bobby Gillespie’s decision ’round about 2000’s XTRMNTR to transform the group from a flower-powered dance-rock troupe into a vehicle for half-baked radical left-wing politics. (“Kill All Hippies,” the lead track on XTRMNTR was called.) Primal Scream’s latest, last year’s Beautiful Creature, contains no shortage of the expected agitprop — sample title: “Suicide Bomb” — but it also features Gillespie’s prettiest writing in years; “Over & Over,” an unlikely dub-soul duet with Linda Thompson, could bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened commie scumbag. Last year Brian Jonestown Massacre released the supremely craptastic My Bloody Underground; fortunately, their shows are more about engaging in onstage high jinks than they are about playing music. Athens, Georgia–based opener Kuroma is the pet psych-pop project of former Whigs and MGMT dude Hank Sullivant. (Mikael Wood)

 

Also playing Monday:

O+S, GREAT NORTHERN at the Silverlake Lounge; SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO at the Henry Fonda Theater; WAIT.THINK.FAST, VOICES VOICES, THE LATE BIRDS, DAME SATAN at the Echo; LARYTTA, GIRLS, HECUBA, NOSAJ THING at the Echoplex; NICO STAI, JOSH PIKE, YOUTH GROUP at Spaceland.

 

Tuesday, March 17

Ladyhawke at the Troubadour

Pip Brown started playing guitar for rockers Two Lane Blacktop in 2001, then moved on to the hormone-crazed electronica duo Teenager with Pnau’s Nick Littlemore. Together, those experiences gave Brown a peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate revelation before she finally got it right in her fully formed project, Ladyhawke. The rock-fused dance pop, big on synth riffs, theatrical ’80s affectation and sexual suggestion, is the musical equivalent of a sweaty pillow fight in those shiny American Apparel tights. Ladyhawke’s really packing venues in the U.K., but Americans aren’t as apt to swallow her easy, candy-coated ’80s shtick. Brits know better: It’s more fun to give in to Ms. Brown’s bravura. With her kick-in-the-balls delivery and her Stevie Nicks–meets–Debbie Gibson looks, Ladyhawke may still sound tame enough for airplay on KCRW, and Christina Aguilera may cover Pip Brown’s songs (the track “My Delirium” will be featured on her new album), but you can be sure, after this show, you’ll be proud to scribble “Ladyhawke” across your math folder without shame. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

Also playing Tuesday:

...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF THE DEAD at the Echoplex; SKID ROW at the Key Club; MICKEY AVALON, THE PRICKS at the Roxy; DJ BONEBRAKE’S BONEBRAKE SYNCOPATERS at the Echo; OLLIN, SPEEDBUGGY at Spaceland.

 

Wednesday, March 18

Golem at the Echo

Golem are a New York City band that takes klezmer and Eastern European folk strains and bashes them out with a punky fervor, which aligns them philosophically with Gogol Bordello and such JDub label mates as Balkan Beat Box and Matisyahu. Accordionist-bandleader Annette Ezekiel Kogan and Aaron Diskin trade off lyrics in English, Yiddish and Ladino as trombonist Curtis Hasselbring and violinist Alicia Jo Rabins stitch the songs together with frantic tempos and madcap melodies on their latest album, Citizen Boris. But Kogan’s lyrics don’t ape the surreal bohemianism of Gogol Bordello singer Eugene Hütz’s wild-eyed tales. Instead, her tunes are more overtly sensual, such as “Tucheses and Nenes,” where Diskin frankly lists his favorite types of women (“I like them dirtier than clean”). Even more intriguing is “Come to Me,” which unwinds with mesmerizing, serpentine weaves of Rabins’ violin as Kogan sighs and screams with orgasmic delight. The song pulls off that rare trick of being sexually thrilling without being crass or juvenile. Diskin and Kogan are also delightfully whimsical on the title track, where they grill each other with questions lifted directly from a citizenship test. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Wednesday:

TAYLOR HICKS at the Roxy; THE HAPPY PROBLEM at Spaceland.

 

Thursday, March 19

Dave Rawlings Machine & Gillian Welch at Largo at the Coronet

Gillian Welch’s long-time collaborator stops by for an evening of loose folk, country and rock originals and cover songs, with Welch appearing in a supporting role. Rawlings, whose voice is as strong and honest playing lead as it is tender and complementary in the role of Welch’s foil when she’s in charge, has an encyclopedic knowledge of American music, and possesses the carefree confidence of a seasoned guitar player whose strings are extensions of his arms. This Thursday-night show could be special for one very specific reason: With the entire music industry in Texas for South by Southwest, the evening offers a rare opportunity to see musicians create without sharing seats or oxygen with jive-asses and judgmental types. (Randall Roberts)

 

Also playing Thursday:

CHICK COREA FIVE PEACE BAND at Royce Hall; SEMANTICS, JANU & THE WHALE SHARKS at the Roxy; RICK SPRINGFIELD at the Key Club.