Rock Picks: DJ Spinna, Bodega Girls, Andre Nickatina, Elevated Suspects
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10
DJ SPINNA, J.ROCC, DJ DAZ AT THE ECHOPLEX
Remember when the DJ was the star? OK, so our memories of those days consist mostly of staring up at our impossibly glamorous mother sashaying out the door, trailing a cloud of Joy perfume, but that just means we have an all-the-more-nostalgic hankering for them. If anybody can resurrect the kind of dance parties you thought died with disco, though, it's the triple-threat lineup of Daz, J.Rocc and Spinna. Among them, they've worked with everybody, from J Dilla and DJ Jazzy Jeff to Madlib and Mary J. Blige. Throwing theme parties is Spinna's soul — Wonderful, his Stevie Wonder tribute, has packed clubs from Paris to Japan — and turning them out is J.Rocc, one of the original turntablists and longtime DJ for Madlib's live shows. Swirl both together with L.A. veteran Daz for tonight's Flavors '90s Party, and you've got the kind of flashing lights that'll make you glad your memories are of Tupac, not Travolta. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
TEARIST, MNDR, BODEGA GIRLS AT THE ECHO
This is how the girls do dance-pop and, wow, it's getting darker and freakier: Tearist's Yasmine on banshee cries and hiccupping pleas (backed by William on multisynth) bubbles, slashes 'n' bruises on your edgy, pleasingly melodramatic take on the form, all shady gothy and even a bit threatening — Pet Shop Boys, Cure, watch your butts. Brooklyn's Amanda Warner is MNDR, whose debut EP is chocka-fulla amazingly big-ass electro meltdown noises like the decaying echoes of a happy-pop earth dying; it's also defiantly aggro-sexy. Boston kids Bodega Girls invert the whole thing again with a wickedly bouncy morass of bodacious voice and actual electric guitars. They call what they do Afro-beat/electro/soul, but it's really their own peculiarly visualized alternate nebula, where sex and mind, body and soul, salacious sound and sultry beatbeatbeat just keep on keepin' on. (John Payne)
AIMEE MANN'S HOLIDAY VARIETY SHOW AT LARGO
The holiday season seems to bring out the blandest and most maudlin instincts in otherwise sane musicians, but Aimee Mann's annual revue serves up the usual Christmas sentimentality and cheer with a counterbalancing dollop of wit, intelligence and even sarcasm. The former Til Tuesday chanteuse obviously has a weak spot in her heart for this time of year, but her new Xmas album, One More Drifter in the Snow, is more wistful than sugary, with unusual songs like "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and the affecting "What Ever Happened to Christmas" juxtaposed with such traditional tunes as "White Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland." Of course, it doesn't hurt that she'll get by with a little help from her stellar friends at this fifth edition of her holiday soiree, including her husband, Michael Penn, and Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, as well as Gibbard's significant other, singer-actor Zooey Deschanel, showing what she can do outside the confines of She & Him. Making sure that the prevailing mood will be anything but reverential are comedian pals like Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, Rich Sommer and potential surprise guests. Also Sat.-Sun (Falling James)
ANDRE NICKATINA, SYSTEMATIC TRAGEDY, ELEVATED SUSPECTS AT KEY CLUB
Rapper Andre Nickatina (formerly Dre Dog) is one of San Francisco's best-kept secrets. With 18 years and 13 albums tucked into his waistline, he represents the greatest elements of Bay Area hip-hop combined: a mellow, pimped-out mien; a penchant for no-frills block-partying; earned street wisdom; and a love for lo-fi beats coupled with a kinda kooky delivery (think a thuggish, coked-up version of Del the Funky Homosapien). In fact, his first album as Nickatina was called Cocaine Raps (1997), and it has since become a collector's item ($200 on eBay) due to its tweaked G-funk and his unorthodox delivery. His 2003 LP, Conversation With a Devil: Cocaine Raps, Vol. 3, recently made Rhapsody's short list of the best "coke rap" records of all time alongside entries from T.I., Clipse, Jay-Z and Raekwon. His latest is called Khan! The Me Generation and it's another Nickatina classic, packed with melancholy yet stylish rhymes about the pros and cons of being an unsung ghetto genius. (Chris Martins)
SILVER LAKE IN POMONA AT THE GLASS HOUSE
As gentrification and high rents continue to chase away musicians and artists, Silver Lake is a far cry from its heyday in the early 1990s, when the neighborhood's creative scene was genuinely thriving. However, it takes a while for rigor mortis and ossification to fully set in, which is why the place still has a reputation as an indie-rock haven, and tonight some of the local bands that best embody the old communal ethos take their act on the road to exotic Pomona. Headliners White Arrows combine new-wave perkiness and Silver Lake smarminess in a way that's perhaps less winningly idealistic than forefathers like Possum Dixon, but their clever tunes still have some bounce and sparkle. Superhumanoids' garage-electronica collisions have a dreamy allure that does indeed communicate a sense of Urgency, which is also the name of their new EP on Hit City USA. The intriguing space-rock trio Gliss, who not only switch off on their instruments but also switch their time between Silver Lake and Copenhagen, haven't played much this year as they work on a new album, but they're digging into a fuzzier and more shadowy sound that evokes both Jesus & the Mary Chain and various shoegazer outfits. Other highlights, both here and at the nearby Aladdin Jr., include the cottony music-box exhalations of Kárin Tatoyan's Twilight Sleep and the chiming coed alt-pop of Light FM. (Falling James)
HILARY HAHN PLAYS TCHAIKOVSKY AT DISNEY CONCERT HALL
An opportunity to sit and perhaps fully absorb the detailed, deep artistry of the one and only Hilary Hahn, the violinist's violinist. Plentiful recent critical plaudits (e.g., Gramophone magazine's Artist of the Year, two Grammys) rightly hail the onetime prodigy as a grown-up player both highly intellectual and passionate. Onstage, Hahn is a surprisingly charismatic figure of seemingly divine focus on her chosen repertoire, which spans an awesome range: She's as adept at graceful Bach and Beethoven fare as she is on knottier Schoenberg and Stravinsky; and the way Paganini inhabits her is almost uncomfortable (but thrilling). With the L.A. Phil under the direction of acclaimed conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Hahn will tackle Tchaikovsky's hair-raising Violin Concerto and Berlioz's magical Symphonie Fantastique. (John Payne)
Also playing Friday: WARPAINT at the Troubadour; MIKE DOUGHTY (of SOUL COUGHING) at Bootleg Theater; ANDREA BOCELLI at Staples Center; THE BIRD & THE BEE at Skybar; PARALLAXSCROLL, P R O T E C T M E, CRAZY BAND at the Smell.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11
FYF CHRISTMAS PARTY AT GLASS HOUSE
The FYF Fest crew have faced difficulties in the scheduling and crowd-control departments over the past couple of years, but they've never suffered a lack of exquisite taste. Their holiday party is going down in Pomona, between a very manageable pair of sites: proper venue the Glass House and tiny Mediterranean restaurant Aladdin Jr.'s next door. L.A.'s noise-pop heroes No Age headline, backed up by San Diego garage-rock purists the Soft Pack, punk supergroup OFF! (featuring Black Flag and Circle Jerks screecher Keith Morris, plus members of Burning Brides, Redd Kross and Rocket From the Crypts), and Long Beach psychedelicians Crystal Antlers. But that's hardly the whole story. A pair of refreshingly arty hardcore acts appear as well — Dangers and Comadre — alongside the more melodic Lovely Bad Things and La Sera, a Vivian Girls spin-off founded by Kickball Katy (the redhead). Two special guests are promised as well, so consider your stocking stuffed. (Chris Martins)
PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS AT EL REY THEATRE
Debate rages over the decision of indie hip-hop artists to remain independent or sign with a major label these days, but People Under the Stairs smashed that argument years ago, when the answer wasn't even questionable. They're now considered one of the most successful independent duos in the history of hip-hop, but P.U.T.S. have rolled up their sleeves and managed, produced and engineered themselves for more than 10 years to attain that assessment. Emerging in the late 1990s, P.U.T.S., along with fellow L.A. underground hip-hop groups Jurassic 5 and Dilated Peoples, shrugged off the stridency of their West Coast forefathers in favor of fun-in-the-sun lyrics and happy-go-lucky humor. Seven albums and more than 20 worldwide tours later, their brand of L.A. leisure still sells out shows. Laiiiiid back — with their minds on the music and the music on their minds — or as they say, "We Make Songs People Dance." (Rebecca Haithcoat)
Also playing Saturday: KROQ ALMOST ACOUSTIC XMAS at Gibson Amphitheatre; BLACK CROWES at the Hollywood Palladium; PETER HOOK (performing Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures) at the Music Box (see Q&A box); MOSES CAMPBELL, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, SPIRIT VINE, THE SCHOENBERG KNIFE FIGHT ENSEMBLE at the Smell; PRIMA DONNA at the Redwood.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12
WARPAINT AT THE TROUBADOUR
Connections can take a band a long way, but once onstage they're on their own. So don't let Warpaint's impeccable scenester credentials — former members include model/actress Shannyn Sossamon and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, while ex-Pepper John Frusciante mixed last year's Exquisite Corpse EP — distract from their bleak, breathy beauty. These four local gals inhabit a reverb-y world of gaunt guitars, elusive pixie voices, hard-to-get harmonies and anxious, guilt-soaked melodies. Yet debut full-length The Fool (released in October) is no aimless shoegaze opus but rather a gently experimental exploration of the ethereal: Like the Joy Division and early Cure it acknowledges, it lends weight to whispers, with compelling beats and chatty bass lines. And the well-toured Warpaint — who've opened for everyone from The xx to Vampire Weekend — deftly (and even mildly enthusiastically) re-create these delicate charms in concert. More's the pity that The Fool's standout song, "Undertow," so compulsively plunders Nirvana's "Polly." Also Friday, Dec. 10. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Sunday: DONALD GLOVER/CHILDISH GAMBINO at the El Rey; NIGHT BEATS at the Satellite.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 13
PRINCETON AT THE ECHO
Twin bros Jesse & Matt Kivel and childhood bud Ben Usen have been making music together since they were all wee shavers but didn't get semi-serious about it until all three happened to meet up during a year of schooling in London in 2005. What the band studied there seemed to inform their tone or tenor, at least for a while, going by 2008's highly conceptualized four-song Bloomsbury EP. This wondrously musical (arranged, melodized) slab of pop layer cake, yes, depicted (and parodied) the infamous group of British intellectuals. With the addition of drummer David Kitz, the band followed up with last year's even more interesting Cocoon of Love (Kanine Records), where, if you can imagine, the Kinks meet Krautrock, calypso and Scott Walker. These are more melodiously moving tales inspired by "stacks of herbal tea, a glow-in-the-dark monument, paperback writers, the Wall Street Journal, a departing Mercedes, The Metamorphosis, a series of Cambridge-commissioned paintings, video arcades, graffiti and a cyclist on the Autobahn." Or so they claim. (John Payne)
BLACK IRIS XMAS PARTYAT SPACELAND
We've already logged a hearty endorsement for Sweaters' ongoing residency at Spaceland, so suffice it to say that you will fall in love with their winning mix of soulful rock & roll and high-energy pomp. Time to meet the rest of the gang. L.A.'s own Black Iris, a commercial music house with a budding label (White Iris), is mobilizing the gang for a Christmas celebration, indie rock–style. The Dead Trees split time between SoCal and Portland and have worked as the backing band to Strokes offshoot Little Joy (the band, not the bar). Their own tunes are a mix of clean garage rock, Pavement-like slack 'n' jangle and upbeat pop classicism. El Sportivo's story is a little harder to pin down, if not downright incredible. We don't mind, of course, as long as Fool's Gold and Foreign Born man Lewis Pesacov is masterminding the project, which appears to be a collective of very able musicians turning out smoky, easygoing rock grooves of the Fleetwood Mac variety. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday: MICHAEL BUBLÉ at Staples Center; BIG WHUP (record-release party) with KID STATIC, DAVID LIEBE HART and ADAM PAPAGAN, plus PETER PANTS at Pehrspace.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14
TAME IMPALA, STARDEATH AND WHITE DWARFS AT THE ECHOPLEX
Perth Australia's Tame Impala have out a recent debut album, InnerSpeaker, on the Modular label, and it's a magnificently maundering mess of great melodies and peppy-poppy beats. Yes, but dig a bit and savor, just under the band's breezy, swaying ambience, all these intriguing swells of textural sophistication. Oklahoma City's psychedelia-imbued Stardeath and White Dwarfs are fronted by Dennis Coyne, nephew of Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne; legend has it that Stardeath first erupted during the boys' time spent as the road crew for the Lips and they have, yea verily, studied under The Masters. The 'deaths can boast an excellent CD called The Birth (Warner Bros.), and they've recently collaborated with the Lips on their surprise-hit cover of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. (John Payne)
Also playing Tuesday: Elysium Sessions featuring RAIN PHOENIX, EMILY KOKAL (WARPAINT) AND GIFT HORSE PROJECT at Largo at Coronet; THE CIVIL WARS at the Hotel Cafe.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15
X AT HOUSE OF BLUES
With their tales of sugar-lit junkies, desperate Hollywood Boulevard evacuations, high-society morbidity, existential nausea and pulpy bus-stop assignations/assaults, X might not seem like the cheeriest band for the holidays. However, the beloved local roots-punk combo have been known to whip out a few souped-up Xmas carols in the middle of their crash-and-burn sets, and tonight they have several treats in store. The evening kicks off with a screening of documentary The Unheard Music, which manages to tell the band members' disparate stories in a way that's inventive and yet also satisfyingly definitive. (Who can forget the mesmerizing scene in which a house moves through the streets like a feverish dream, the perfect metaphor for Exene Cervenka's and John Doe's bed-bound philosophizing and restless wanderlust?) Then the band will come out and slam through a full-length live performance of their classic debut album, Los Angeles. If there's one drawback to all of this seasonal merriment, it's that Cervenka and Doe seem satisfied to just play X's oldies, even though each singer has separately released recent solo albums that prove they're still creatively thriving and capable of so much more than blue sparks of nostalgia. (Falling James)
BADLY DRAWN BOYAT THE TROUBADOUR
This fuzzy-faced English songsmith (real name: Damon Gough) emerged at the same time as Coldplay: Their Parachutes came out in 2000, a mere two weeks after The Hour of Bewilderbeast, Badly Drawn Boy's Mercury Prize–winning debut. Needless to say, the last decade has treated each act rather differently: Nowadays Coldplay might be able to fit its catering operation inside the Troubadour. Surprisingly, though, that change in fortune doesn't appear to have affected Gough's music much: Although his latest, It's What I'm Thinking Pt. 1: Photographing Snowflakes, dials down the lavish orchestral arrangements of earlier BDB efforts, it mines a familiar wistful-nostalgic folk-pop vein. As that somewhat unwieldy title suggests, Snowflakesis the first volume in a proposed trilogy; perhaps Gough hasn't completely lost his taste for the grandiose. These two shows cap BDB's current North American tour; maybe he'll get loose with a left-field cover or two. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Wednesday: LOW at Spaceland; HORSE FEATHERS and Y LA BAMBA at the Echo; ADAM LAMBERT at Music Box; ADAM SCHLESINGER and MIKE VIOLA at Hotel Café.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16
THE CHAPIN SISTERS AT THE AUTRY MUSEUM
Less is usually more, but in the case of the Chapin Sisters, it was more than a shame that Jessica Craven left the band earlier this year after the birth of her baby. When Craven twined her voice together with her half-sisters, Abigail Chapin and Lily Chapin, the effect was positively mesmerizing. The trio's golden harmonies were overtly beautiful, of course, but there was a corresponding undercurrent of sadness and soulful ruefulness, especially when Craven sang such stark and lonely songs as "Kill Me Now." On their latest CD, the aptly titled Two, Abigail and Lily pick up the slack with a set of new tunes, which shows the Chapins are ever evolving, even as they retain their traditional Appalachian harmonies mixed with gentle pop hooks. Craven does make a few songwriting contributions, and singer-guitarist Abigail is still the group's bedrock, but Lily — whose early songs were sometimes treacly and facile — surprises with a fuller, deeper range of emotions and melodies. New tracks like "I Can Feel," "Paradise" and "Sweet Light" are pastoral yet eerie, as the duo's searing voices echo through the woods like melancholic ghosts. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday: PIGEON JOHN at the Echoplex.
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