Rock Picks: Fol Chen, Moonrats, Brightblack Morning Light, Bachelorette
FRIDAY, MAY 29
Brightblack Morning Light at Eagle Rock Cultural Center
Brightblack Morning Light hang at the fringe of society (even by desert-rat standards), with stories of commune life and solar-powered recording sessions, a fondness for crystals and yurts onstage, and tales of performances holding Anasazi arrowheads in their mouths. I’ve even heard “Everybody Daylight” in a yoga class — but just let that go. Breathe in Brightblack Morning Light deeply and hold it, because what comes next is pure sonic bliss (and because life’s too short to be a hater, cynical hipster). When Nathan “Nabob” Shineywater (on slide guitar) and Rachel “Rabob” Hughes (on her junk-store Rhodes) supernaturally coalesce after about five minutes of playing, they conjure up a ghostly, ancient blues crawl — executed at the clip of a dirge — and it’s one of the more enlightening and enjoyable live experiences to be had. The saxophone sighs and slightly swung beats (compliments of Otto Hauser, from Devendra Banhart’s band) invoke cool twilight breezes off the Mesa and whiffs of burning sage and hash — the perfect soundtrack for an early summer’s eve. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Riverboat Gamblers, Miss Derringer at Spaceland
Riverboat Gamblers are a straightforwardly hard-rocking, punkish band from Texas who started out in 1997. At their best, on tracks like “True Crime,” the Gamblers come close to the flat-out intensity of their influences the Candy Snatchers and the Humpers. On the other hand, such recent songs as “A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology” and “Victory Lap” reveal a distressing tendency to mimic the slap-happy emo-ish vocals and generically slick production of most modern corporate-punk bands. It’s a shame that a once-distinctive outfit like Riverboat Gamblers would suck up to the mainstream in such an obvious fashion, but the group’s notoriously rowdy live assault should at least temporarily drown out and bury such bland ambitions tonight. Locals Miss Derringer continue to perfect their stylized reinvention of ’60s girl-group pop and semi-rootsy rock on their upcoming full-length CD, Winter Hill. Considering that they’ve worked with Blondie drummer Clem Burke (as well as folks like former Avengers/Chris Isaak sideman Jimmy Wilsey and Throw Rag howler Sean Wheeler), it’s not surprising that Miss D evoke Blondie on “Bulletproof Heart” and “Death by Desire.” Noted artist-sculptor Liz McGrath is a winsome front person, and her guitarist-husband, Morgan Slade — despite some tearstained, romantic lyrics that aren’t especially memorable — pens effectively evocative retro music. (Falling James)
Graham Parker at McCabe’s
In the late ’70s, Graham Parker was lumped together with Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson as the “Angry Young Men” of the English new wave, a designation that ultimately seemed arbitrary and kind of silly. For one thing, Parker predates the other two; for another, he’s the only one of the trio who actually rocked. While he wasn’t nearly as fiery as Britain’s real angry young men (e.g., Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer and Crass’ Steve Ignorant), Parker had the balls to diss his own record company with the ebulliently rebellious “Mercury Poisoning” in 1979. His records with the Rumor, especially Squeezing Out the Sparks, combined his Bob Dylan sneer and Motown pop influences with the band’s pub-rock energy. After the breakup of the Rumor in 1980, Parker continued to make fine, mostly overlooked records, but he’s had a bit of a career resurgence in the past decade after signing with Bloodshot Records. He looked back on his life with the catchy folk song “I Discovered Columbus,” and his 2007 CD, Don’t Tell Columbus, ranks as one of his best albums. Last year, he shone the searing light of reason and logic on the concept of superstitious religious beliefs, with the digital single “The End of Faith,” showing that Parker’s still testing boundaries and messing with expectations even as folks like Costello slip ever further into a comforting easy-listening obsolescence. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
BASSNECTAR, J BOOGIE, NOSAJ THING at the Henry Fonda Theater; ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, GROUPER at the Wiltern; GREG LASWELL, SAM BRADLEY, MOLLY JENSON at the Hotel Cafe; JON BRION AND FRIENDS at Largo at the Coronet; TIGA, JAMES MURPHY at Avalon; LYKKI LI at the Masonic Cemetery; KING KHAN AND THE SHRINES at the Echo; THE BRIGGS, MAJORITY LOST, TIME AGAIN, VIVA HATE at the Knitting Factory; BUTCH WALKER, PONDEROSA, SHOVELS AND ROPE at El Rey Theatre; PASSION PIT, CALE PARKS, HARLEM SHAKES at the Echoplex; VAST at the Key Club.
SATURDAY, MAY 30
The Flatlanders at the Troubadour
The Lone Star State’s resumé of iconic characters spans a wild gamut — Ernest Tubb, Leatherface, Gov. Ann Richards — and chief among the West Texas division are singer-songwriters Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, back in town again working as the Flatlanders, the offbeat unit with which they launched their professional careers almost 40 years ago. The Flatlanders were a gentle rabble who crafted an innovative type of post-Outlaw modern country that ranged in outlook and attitude from defiant honky-tonk desperation to interstellar philosophizing, all put over with a Texcentric emphasis and insurgent relish that’s always colored the work of each man. Hitting the bandstand with their clutch of vintage classics and a slew of new numbers from the current Hills & Valleys disc, this three-headed monster never fails to get the job done. The new set is a marvel in terms of their painstaking employ of symbolism and metaphor, and with country music roaring full-throttle in the opposite direction, the trio have achieved what, for such full-blown misfits, once seemed impossible: preservation of the peace and dignity of the idiom as a whole. (Jonny Whiteside)
The Refugees at the Getty Center
Back in 2007, singer-songwriters Wendy Waldman, Deborah Holland and Cindy Bullens decided to form the supergroup the Refugees, realizing that their combined talents made them the musical equivalent to the Justice League. On their new CD, Unbound (Wabuho), they play all of the instruments, trading off on lead vocals and twining their voices together in magnificent folk-pop harmonies. They collaborated on some new tunes, as well as reworking several of their better-known solo songs, such as Bullens’ “Jellico Highway,” Holland’s “(There’s a) Spy in the House of Love,” and Waldman’s “Save the Best for Last,” which is given an austere makeover and, not surprisingly, closes the album. All of it is carefully rendered and lovingly crafted, and makes for a restful idyll amid the madness of city living. The only drawback is that, as with so many performers of their generation, the Refugees’ musical influences appear to stop stubbornly at the year 1975. Although their music is righteously rooted in tradition, it would have more impact and relevance if the trio had at least a passing familiarity with the diversity and changes in folk and Americana styles over the past three decades. (Falling James)
Langhorne Slim, Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers at Spaceland
“If I ever make a sound that seems nervous or unfound, take it as a child skippin’ town,” Samantha Crain sings on the title track of her new CD, Songs in the Night (Ramseur). Indeed, there is a childlike delight and wonder to the 22-year-old Oklahoman’s breezy folk-pop songs, which are given added jangle and sparkle by her indie-rocking backup band, the Midnight Shivers. Crain’s melodies have a Feist-y buoyancy, even as she confides on “Bananafish Revolution” such evocatively strange lyrics as “The trees were my audience applauding ... That piano, it’s the angels/Calling me home.” There’s a similarly charming folkie intimacy on the acoustic-guitar ballad “Scissor Tales,” where she admits to her lover, “I’ve been standing out in the rain/So you’ll come dry me off again.” The Shivers open tonight for the Brooklyn folk-pop crooner Langhorne Slim, whose rootsy rambles sometimes venture into pleasingly soulful territory. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
BLACK DICE, RICHARD BISHOP, WOLF EYES, EARTHLESS at Gilbert’s; BISHOP LAMONT at the House of Blues; DAVE SEAMAN at Avalon; KARYN ALLYSON at the Catalina Bar & Grill; JULIAN LAGE GROUP at McCabe’s; GREG LASWELL, BUDDY, BRIAN WRIGHT AND THE WACO TRAGEDIES, AUSTIN HARTLEY LEONARD at the Hotel Cafe.
SUNDAY, MAY 31
The Curious Mystery, Audacity, Devon Williams, Moonrats at the Smell
A lot of Smell quadruple bills are populated with at least one toss-away act, a 45-minute exercise in trying-too-hard obviousness or enthusiastic misguidedness that tends to deflate the whole bill. This Sunday show, however, ain’t one of them. Moonrats is a project of Aska Matsumiya, whose work as vocalist to Aaron Rose’s instrumentation in the Sads is singular in its beauty, and whose new AsDSSka project with analog synthian David Scott Stone is exquisite. Moonrats writes sturdy guitar-drum-maraca songs with choruses and hooks. The Curious Mystery are from Seattle, and make guitar rock with meandering structures, a fearless willingness to wander into extended instrumental passages, and at least two guitarists who like to explore the fretboard. They like to jam, basically, but not in a navel-gazing way; more like in a Television/Tom Verlaine/Richard Lloyd kind of way (though they sound little like said NYC art rockers). Audacity is a seriously underrated treble-punk band from Long Beach that likes noise, the chorus-as-tantrum, and the collision of the two. Devon Williams is a songwriter with a little bit of Anglophilia in his pop sensibility, likes a good “ooh ooh” chorus and a touch of feedback and echo in his guitar sound. The songs on last year’s Carefree reveal an Angeleno artist gaining confidence and earning respect. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Sunday:
PROPAGANDHI, BRIDGE AND TUNNEL at the Echoplex; CALE PARKS, MEREDITH MEYER at Pehrspace; ROSEWOOD THIEVES, HE’S MY BROTHER SHE’S MY SISTER, HENRY WOLFE at the Bootleg Theater.
MONDAY, JUNE 1
Bachelorette, Pikelet at the Smell
Her hometown is the far-off New Zealand burg of Christchurch and her songs are largely bedroom-composed, but Bachelorette’s Annabel Alpers makes music that’s as bright and transcendent as it is detailed and personal. You’ll hear Stereolab in her songs’ elegant electro sweeps, Krautrock in the rolling arrangements, a little Americana in the folksy instrumentation, and even some old WHY? in the more collagist moments. Bachelorette’s new album, My Electric Family, is populated with its titular characters: an array of vintage synthesizers and drum machines (she’s a bit of a gear-head) complemented by the usual six-stringed suspects, plus a cameo from the Royal New Zealand Air Force Brass Band. The record is also her Drag City Records debut, and a refreshing one at that: homespun, but more pop-inflected than the label’s standard (also exceptional) fare. Opener Pikelet, who hails from Melbourne, is named after an Australian teatime treat (a small, unsweetened pancake), and her pretty, ethereal pop is consistently pleasant, but never sugary. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Monday:
PONTIAK, MAGIC LANTERN, POCAHAUNTED, DOG at the Relax Bar; BIG BUSINESS at the Troubadour; BUTTERFLY BOUCHER, CASTLEDOOR at Spaceland; ANDREA GIBSON, TIMMY STRAW at the Mint; OLIVER FUTURE at the Echo; T.D. LIND, MIA MAESTRO AND AARON ROBINSON, WILLOUGHBY at the Silverlake Lounge; LARCHMONT CHARTER WEST FUNDRAISER FEATURING SARA BEREILLES, JIM BIANCO, LILI HAYDN, BRENDAN JAMES, JAY NASH, OTHERS at the Hotel Cafe.
TUESDAY, JUNE 2
Mayhem, Marduk, Cephalic Carnage at House of Blues
Few bands could name their first demo Pure Fucking Armageddon and then go on to deliver on it — almost literally. Norwegian black-metal forefathers Mayhem have an insane history. Founded in 1984, the band was living in the rural Norwegian woods (sorry, couldn’t resist) and creating the template for a movement when vocalist Dead slit his wrists, then blew off his head with a shotgun. Guitarist Euronymous found him, but rather than call the cops, he photographed the dead singer, and then, rumor has it, scooped up pieces of Dead’s brain, made some stew out of the meat flecks and necklaces out of the skull fragments. Two years later Euronymous got his come-uppance when Barzum bassist Varg Vikernes stabbed him 23 times, killing him and, in the process, creating a myth surrounding Mayhem, Barzum and the entire Norwegian black-metal scene. (Vikernes’ church burnings in Norway during this time didn’t hurt.) So on and so forth. Twenty years later, drummer Hellhammer is the only string that ties Mayhem’s history with the present — and he’s apparently some sort of rightist Aryan nationalist. (There’s also an upcoming film called Lords of Chaos in the works, which is based on the bloody story of the band, and will reportedly feature Twilight’s Jason Rathbone as Vikernes.) If you don’t feel like supporting Aryan assholes, go for Marduk, Sweden’s legendary black metallurgists, whose work has actually remained menacing and awesome — first album’s called Fuck Me Jesus, recent DVD’s called Blood Puke Salvation — which is something of a feat in a genre where the line between awesomeness and ridiculousness is razor-thin. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Tuesday:
CROMAGS, OUTBREAK, CRUEL HAND, THE MONGOLOIDS at the Key Club; THERESA ANDERSSON at Largo at the Coronet; THE MINOR CANON, SING ORPHEUS, MATT DWYER, DNTEL at Spaceland; YAWNING MAN, JADED ASH, TOMMY MILLS, KATE CRASH at the Viper Room.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3
2 Live Crew at the Key Club
In the annals of rap history, the rise and success of 2 Live Crew was simultaneously one of the budding genre’s low and high points. Luther “Luke Skyywalker” Campbell sprouted from the Miami bass scene with an ass full of party anthems that celebrated, er, derriere, vagina and breasts to the exclusion of all other topics save one or two ditties about penis. The Crew created a few left-field hits — “Me So Horny” and “We Want Some Pussy” — that, in hindsight, were way too raunchy for the public at large. Those lyrics were just plain wrong. They fed into stereotypes, embarrassed the true headz, and so pissed off the Miami/Dade County authorities that they arrested three members of the 2 Live Crew (and one record-store owner) for indecency. Underneath the raunchiness, though, was a brand of rap production that had its seeds in Riverside, California, where producer David “Treach DJ Mr. Mixx” Hobbs created a wildly unique and occasionally thrilling sound that concentrated on the polarized high and low frequencies: While a tinny, frantic high hat drove you batty in the head, a bowel-tickling, subharmonic bass hummed and rumbled in the dungeon below and a crisp snare stabbed you in the belly. It drew from Detroit techno and Jamaican dub, and influenced British drum & bass. After Hobbs moved to Miami, he hooked up with Campbell, biters stole his sound and turned it into a few more one-hit wonders — “Whoot There It Is!,” anyone? — and the craze ran its course. Long story short: Hobbs is working his own Web site, Collegepeepshowtv.com, and tours as Afroman’s DJ, and Campbell, who made millions in the ’80s, is playing the Key Club tonight. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Wednesday:
PENNYWISE, PEPPER, DEATH BY STEREO, BIG B, AUTHORITY ZERO at Club Nokia; NICK RALLIS BAND at Molly Malone’s; BLAME SALLY at Largo at the Coronet.
THURSDAY, JUNE 4
Fol Chen, Kárin Tatoyan at The Echo
Fol Chen are an enigmatic five-piece from Highland Park who claim to be waging war against an enemy named John Shade, a man (presumably) whose existence is even more shrouded than the band’s. But don’t let this group’s self-mythologizing chase you away. Fol Chen’s debut full-length, Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made, released by Asthmatic Kitty in February, is a highly enjoyable collection of danceable art-pop that owes its timbre to Of Montreal, Prince and some menacing unnamed force (Mr. Shade, perhaps?). Their songs run the gamut from cheeky little ditties about enjoying life’s simpler pleasures (“Cable TV”) to hair-raising chamber pieces like “The Believers,” a song that takes advantage of its atypical instrumentation and boy-girl vocals to create an atmosphere of supreme creepiness. Kárin Tatoyan sings with a voice that has earned her many a comparison to Björk, and the fact that she consistently makes good on such a tall order is a testament to just how good the local artist actually is. Her live show combines electronics, cello, drums and Tatoyan’s soaring croon to create a living, breathing art piece. (Chris Martins)
Anthony Hamilton, Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele at Nokia Theatre
Here’s a solid triple bill no fan of grown-and-sexy R&B should miss: One of soul music’s most underappreciated talents, North Carolina’s Anthony Hamilton has been doing excellent work since 2003, when his Comin’ From Where I’m From caught some commercial heat he hasn’t managed to reignite since. (At least among record-buyers, that is; Hamilton is a favorite of other artists — check his guest spots on discs by Young Jeezy, Mark Ronson, Buddy Guy and Al Green.) Last year’s The Point of It All is typical of Hamilton’s style, with a clutch of tender but muscular slow jams that make recession-era romance sound much sexier than you might think: “If we ain’t got enough for a movie we can just sit at home,” he sings in “Cool,” “Have a little role-play, baby — whatever turns you on.” Musiq Soulchild’s latest, Onmyradio, reflects his recent move from Philadelphia to Atlanta; it’s less tuneful than his earlier stuff but just as atmospheric. Opener Chrisette Michele debuted two weeks ago atop Billboard’s album-sales chart with her new one, Epiphany, so expect a bit of headliner ’tude from her. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday:
DELUX, INSITE, CLAXONS, RUIDO DE FONDO at House of Blues; JAMES OTTO at the Mint; COTTON JONES, THE PARSON REDHEADS, LINDA DRAPER at Spaceland; SWING OUT SISTER at El Rey Theatre; SARA WATKINS at Largo at the Coronet; I AM GHOST at the Knitting Factory; UPSILON ACRUX, POLAR GOLDIE CATS, HOWL, PETER KOLOVOS at the Smell.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Los Angeles, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.