Rock Picks: Exodus, Altamont, Art Ensemble of Chicago and more
FRIDAY, JANUARY 18
A taste of power: Elaine Brown (Click to enlarge)
Exodus: The severed-heads exhibition (Click to enlarge)
The Hangmen: Big city, bigger guitars (Click to enlarge)
Elaine Brown, Lysa Flores at LargoSinger, songwriter, pianist, author and activist Elaine Brown is performing her first gig in Los Angeles since the 1970s. She joined the emerging Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1967 and eventually became its leader and one of the most prominent and charismatic women in the history of the black liberation struggle. A conservatory-trained musician, she merges classical-piano skills with a sonorous voice, marked by her volcanic vibrato and razor-sharp phrasing. Her first of two albums, Seize the Time, was released in 1969 with arrangements by jazz giant Horace Tapscott and songs by Brown that proudly and unapologetically enunciated the Panthers' cry for African-Americans "to get guns and be men." While the original Panthers disbanded, Hurricane Katrina reminds us almost 40 years later that an organized and muscular response to institutional capitalism and racism is as topical as ever. Seize the Time is now available on CD, and Elaine Brown is thankfully once again available in person. Chicana songstress and L.A. native Lysa Flores opens the show. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Friday:
CHROMEO, PEANUT BUTTER WOLF at El Rey Theatre (see Music feature); JOHN DOE, CINDY WASSERMAN at the Getty Center, 7:30 p.m.; LOS CREEPERS at Anarchy Library; XU XU FANG, WINTER FLOWERS at the Bordello; MOE at House of Blues; KOTTONMOUTH KINGS, SOULJAZ at the Key Club; SOULIVE at the Knitting Factory; THE ADICTS, THE DIFFS at Malibu Inn; DAVE ALVIN, CHRIS GAFFNEY at McCabe's; SACCHARINE TRUST, AMADANS, SWORDS OF FATIMA at Mr. T's Bowl; KRS-ONE at the Roxy; THE BINGES, TURN ME ON DEAD MAN at Safari Sam's.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 19
Art Ensemble of Chicago at REDCATDespite the absence of founding trumpeter Lester Bowie (who died in 1999) and bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut (who passed away in 2004), Art Ensemble of Chicago (Roscoe Mitchell on reeds and percussion, Famoudou Don Moye on drums) appear in L.A. for the first time since 1990. "Despite," as in "to spite"— or, more precisely, to spite death and continue their mission of life and creation into their fifth decade as a viable option for the detonation of the boredom factory. Joined by Harrison Bankhead on bass and Corey Wilkes on trumpet, they close out the CalArts Creative Music Festival with their presence tonight in a repertoire called "Ancient to the Future." Bridging the gap between Afrobeat, Sun Ra and the later period of fusion jazz, the Ensemble present a spectacle of painted faces that are neither primitive nor alien, and piles of interesting instruments like conch shells, liberty bells and gong vibrations. Also: the conjugal duo of pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and violinist Mark Feldman, and jazz singer Dwight Trible and Kamau Daaood's Sacred Urban Echoes with T.I.M.E. on Fri., Jan. 18. (David Cotner)
The Hangmen, Th' Legendary Shack Shakers at Safari Sam'sFor 20 years now, the Hangmen have been one of L.A.'s best bands, rocking nonstop through various lineup changes with a swaggering, punk-infused bravado that resolutely avoids the excesses of heavy-metal wankery. The quartet's new EP, In the City (Acetate Records) — produced by Social Distortion's Mike Ness — is another mighty collection of well-calibrated time bombs that burst with lonely Gun Club slide guitars under big, loud AC/DC-size chords. Bryan Small sneers with a raspy yowl about dirty cities and their dirty temptations on "The Devil" and "King of the Road," letting up briefly for a hazy spell on the rusty, windswept ballad "Dark Eyes," which sizzles with whistling trails of Neil Young-style feedback. Headliners Th' Legendary Shack Shakers are yet another band with a corn-prone, cartoony (if enjoyably lively) reduction of Southern roots-rock on their recent album, Swampblood (Yep Roc), but they're actually at their most interesting when they stretch their Americana clichés into something weirder on earlier songs like "Agony Wagon" and "Ichabod," whose merrily exotic violins sound like a Nashville version of Gogol Bordello. (Falling James)
Altamont, Rolling Blackouts at the SceneNot to be confused with the Lords of Altamont (who play this evening over at Safari Sam's), Altamont — featuring Dale Crover, drummer from Melvins — celebrate a lucky 13 years together. Their 2005 album, The Monkees' Uncle, was a binary black hole swallowing up pop and hard rock and spitting them out into other dimensions as noise and gentle terror. Rolling Blackouts, the hottest thing out of Lomita since Peanut Records, further compound the irony of their name because there is, in fact, no shortage of power in their live sets. Choruses and harmonies, truck-stop blues, fuzzed-out scuzz-riffs — they're all there, blazing and powerful, and in such vivid 3D that even a cyclops can see the worth of their wrath. New songs from an unnamed album crop up regularly alongside selections from their tastefully titled Black Is Beautiful LP (Record Collection) — so rock lively, live free or get owned hard. (David Cotner)
Joe & Mike Nolte at La Luz de Jesus GalleryWho put the bomp in rock & roll? That would be the late Greg Shaw, who edited the influential '70s music fanzine Bomp! and started the still-ongoing garage-rock/power-pop/punk rock label Bomp Records. To celebrate the publication of Bomp!: Saving the World One Record at a Time— an overview of the magazine and label with reprints of stories by Lester Bang, Lisa Fancher, Greil Marcus and Shaw and vintage interviews with the Ramones, the Doors, the Troggs, Janis Joplin and others — the book's co-editors, Suzy Shaw (Greg's ex-wife and longtime label partner) and science-fiction writer/Deviants singer Mick Farren, will be on hand this evening to sign copies and wax nostalgic about the golden age of hot wax. Even better, brothers Joe and Mike Nolte of the Last, who released their debut album, L.A. Explosion, on Bomp in 1979, will perform a set of acoustic tunes. The Last's combination of power-pop melodicism and punk rock energy was a major influence on the Descendents (whose mastermind, Bill Stevenson, is producing the Last's upcoming album), as well as such disparate groups as the Gun Club, the Bangles, the Dream Syndicate and the Urinals. 4633 Hollywood Blvd.; 6-9 p.m.; free. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
Jason Isbell declares, Were Number One! (Click to enlarge)
Getting higher inna de yard: Earl Chinna Smith & Kiddus I (Click to enlarge)
Om: Rattling rib cages (Click to enlarge)
BEN KENNEY, DJ KILMORE at Avalon; TOWER OF POWER at the Canyon; COOL KIDS at the Echo; KOTTONMOUTH KINGS, SEN DOG, X CLAN at the Key Club; SOULIVE at the Knitting Factory; DAVE ALVIN, CHRIS GAFFNEY at McCabe's; LANGUIS at Pehrspace; OLIVER FUTURE, CASXIO at Spaceland; KINGSIZEMAYBE at Taix; L.A. GUNS, REVLON RED at the Whisky.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 20
Om at the EchoOnstage they're just two guys looping like automatons, but Om exist somewhere else. Had electricity existed in the ancient world, it's quite possible Salome would have danced the seven veils to something like Om's entrancingly spare drone poems. A strip of rumbling bass and chanting intonations from Al Cisneros snake through the hulking lock-rhythms of drummer Chris Hakus. Though Cisneros and Hakus got their start sluicing overtonal avalanches for San Jose's bong-sucking sludge-shamans Sleep, Om have evolved beyond post-metal's primordial tar pit. 2007's Pilgrimage, the band's third album, again contains a handful of compositions averaging hypnotic lengths, each of them variations of a few beats and notes bobbing like flotsam over an oceanic maelstrom. But this time, the group's torqued monoliths curve and fold with greater subtlety. Cisneros' fingers knead thick bass lines that knot around Hakus' drums as they thunder and drag. Cymbals don't crash; they toll like church bells. Cisneros chants in a Wailing Wall whisper or intones as if reciting from parchments. The music's minimalism contrasts with the spill of symbolist verse from Cisneros' half-parted lips. Not a guitar in earshot, just rattling rib cages. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Also playing Sunday:
JAIL WEDDINGS at the Echo, 10 p.m.; VERY BE CAREFUL at Safari Sam's; JEREMY ENIGK at the Troubadour.
MONDAY, JANUARY 21
Exodus at House of BluesIt's been six years since founding member and lead singer Paul Baloff died of a stroke, but pioneering thrash-metal merchants Exodus have for the past 25 years understood the essence of the game: Thrash never stops; it just keeps flailing away, always energetic and perpetually in motion. Tonight's live action — with newish vocalist Rob Dukes (where "vocalist" here means "ironically clean singing plus flange"), guitarists Gary Holt and Lee Altus (the latter hails from the surprisingly rather-good NWOBHM band Angel Witch), bassist Jack Gibson and drummer Tom Hunting — kicks off a six-week nationwide tour in support their new album, The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A, on Nuclear Blast. Dukes, after being fired by his old band, rode out from New York and spent 11,000 miles on an exodus of his own without a clue he would ever join Exodus — arriving at a fairy-tale ending that happens but once in a sainted lifetime. (David Cotner)
Also playing Monday:
RADAR BROS., HOLLOY, KARIN TATOYAN at the Echo; THE PARSON RED HEADS, THE SHAKY HANDS at Spaceland; THE MOVIES at the Viper Room.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 22ABBY TRAVIS at the Hotel Café; RESTAURANT, THE BLOODY HOLLIES at Safari Sam's; MERLE JAGGER at Spaceland; POISON THE WELL, THE LOCUST at the Troubadour.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23
Kiddus I, Earl "Chinna" Smith at the EchoplexThat darned Dub Club just keeps bringing in astonishing live acts, and this bill ups their cannabis-fumed cultural ante even higher. With the presence of pioneering Jamaican ax-man Earl "Chinna" Smith, a.k.a. the High Priest of Reggae guitar (although Ernest Ranglin fans might argue about that), the potential for revelatory sonics goes far beyond recognizable boundaries. Smith's chugging, restrained and reliably mind-shattering fretwork has been featured on records with many of reggae's most significant stylists for decades — and he's also outlived such peerless collaborators as Prince Far I, Augustus Pablo and King Tubby, artistic titans with whom he both elevated and toughened up the music to a flabbergasting degree. He's paired with silky-toned vocalist Kiddus I, another veteran of the classic Scratch Perry/Jack Ruby JA studio era (and seen in the unforgettable smoke-out jam opening sequence of Rockers), for both an acoustic set and a dub-mad, full band session. It's sure to, as Far-I would say, leave you battered, flattered, shattered and scattered. (Jonny Whiteside)
Gallows at the TroubadourFurious five-piece Gallows, who appeared as if from nowhere at last year's South by Southwest, spew deliciously animal, authentic punk rock with intoxicating, gang-you-want-to-join gusto. Skipping a couple of punk's less-salubrious generations, they take starting points similar to its three-chord, cartoonish 1980s Brit bastardization and the mall-pop mutant that fizzed out of O.C.'s (double) garages a decade later — Black Flag's and Minor Threat's lean hardcore and the Sex Pistols' and the Clash's sneering discontent — yet avoid the dilution and uniformity that plagued the dark ages of the genre. Theirs is a truly 3D, visceral avalanche: solidly sincere and significant but twinkling with an almost At the Drive-In sense of sonic adventure. Front man Frank Carter comes on like a tattooed Thom Yorke after an electrifying Red Bull (and red hair) infusion, and, unlike his metalcore contemporaries, keeps his wits'-end, vein-straining London lilt (relatively) melodic and intelligible. Gallows' shows have left both band and fans bloodied — bring Band-Aids. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Wednesday:
TREVOR HALL, SHATTO, MADAMN GRISLEE at the Derby; WAZ, MEIKO, BUDDY at the Hotel Café; DAVID GARZA at Largo.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 24
Jason Isbell at the Vault 350He gave up his spot in Georgia's Drive-By Truckers last year, but Jason Isbell hasn't lost his flair for the kind of tear-in-your-beer laments he contributed to the Truckers' last several albums. Isbell's touring in support of Sirens of the Ditch, his 2007 solo debut, on which he presented his melancholy character sketches free of the post-Skynyrd guitar heroics that make the Truckers such a thrilling live draw. That's not always a good thing: With its tasteful, NPR-approved country-rock vibe, Ditch could probably stand to be a little more dynamic (and a lot less polite). But Isbell's songwriting still ranks among the No Depression crowd's most thoughtful, and who knows how things might go after a few drinks tonight? Isbell shares the bill with rootsy singer-songwriters Will Hoge and Jeremy Fisher; they're scheduled to hit Spaceland next Fri., Jan. 25. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday:
MONEY MARK, HEY WILLPOWER at the Echo; JOHN WEST, PRISCILLA AHN at the Hotel Café; BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB at the Key Club; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; TODD SNIDER, ZACH BROOCKE at the Mint; AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT at Spaceland; INGRID MICHAELSON, GREG LASWELL at the Troubadour; ROB DICKINSON at the Viper Room.
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