Rock Picks: Former Ghosts, Steely Dan, the Dirtbombs, Six Organs of Admittance
FRIDAY, AUGUST 21
THE SONICS AT THE ECHOPLEX
Long before Mudhoney and Nirvana first plugged in their fuzz boxes, the Sonics built the foundation for guitar-based PacNorWest rock & roll. While other American bands were meekly imitating the Beatles in the mid-1960s, the Sonics were turning up their amps and churning out a harder and louder version of garage rock with such classic originals as “Strychnine” and “Psycho.” Everyone from the Cramps and Bruce Springsteen to the Fall, the Things, Eddie Vedder and the Nomads has covered their songs, and Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin were among their many celebrity fans. Just about every modern garage-rock band has ripped them off (the Hives’ entire career, for example, appears to be based on shamelessly lifting the Sonics’ riffs and style). After breaking up in the late 1960s, they’ve stubbornly stayed out of the spotlight, particularly singer Jerry Roslie, who was once so reclusive, he made J.D. Salinger seem as ubiquitous as Paris Hilton. No one thought the Sonics would ever reunite, but they received a belated career boost when their version of “Have Love, Will Travel” was used in a recent Land Rover commercial, of all things. Now founding members Rob Lind, Larry Parypa and, yes, even Roslie are back, and they’re reportedly as loud as ever. Don’t dare miss ’em. Also at Sunset Junction, Sun. (Falling James)
LOS CAMPESINOS, RAMONA FALLS, GIRLS AT EL REY THEATRE
The Los Campesinos! indie-pop seven-piece — their native Wales must seem empty when the group’s on tour — hews out a catchy and cerebral middle ground between the easy earnestness of the Get Up Kids, the angsty instrumentalism of Cursive, and the cockeyed spoken word of Art Brut. The Cardiff crew displays a trademark Welsh cheekiness (outwardly evident in song titles with names like “The International Tweexcore Underground”) that’s undercut by chopsy playing and tight arrangements that still leave room for the occasional ethereal haze. (This will be the last tour for female vocalist Aleks Campesinos!) Ramona Falls too falls into the greater chamber-pop genus, even though it’s technically the solo project of Menomena’s Brent Knopf. His just-released debut LP, Intuit, includes contributions from 35 Portland musicians (members of 31knots, the Helio Sequence and Loch Lomond, among others) and finds the songwriter exploring more many-passaged tunes as ominous as they are showy in structure. San Francisco’s Girls (all boys, of course, like the Girls from Seattle or Calgary’s Women) make quiet music for the hippies at heart. (Chris Martins)
STEELY DAN AT GIBSON AMPHITHEATRE
Steely Dan fans are advised to buy tickets carefully for these four Gibson gigs: On what they’re calling their Rent Party ’09 tour, the hipster-beloved jazz-rock geniuses are dedicating some shows to playing one of their studio albums in its entirety. Here in L.A., they’ll do Aja on August 21, Gaucho on August 22 and The Royal Scam on August 24; August 25 is “Takin’ It to the Seats Internet Request Night,” which is exactly what it sounds like. For the last two concerts, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker and their insanely accomplished 13-piece band will be joined by guitarist Larry Carlton, whom the Dan tapped for some killer session work back in the good old days. (That’s Carlton on “Kid Charlemagne” and, by extension, Kanye West’s Dan-sampling “Champion.”) Provided Fagen successfully staves off the cold that caused the group to cancel a show in New York last month — and maybe even if he doesn’t — a good time is all but guaranteed. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Friday:
TIJUANA PANTHERS, PALEFACE, SILVER DARLING, EMA & THE GHOSTS at Pehrspace; BENJI HUGHES, B.R.A.M. at Spaceland; JAIL WEDDINGS, BLUE JUNGLE, HORSE THIEVES, ENOCHIAN KEYS at American Legion Post 206; THE ZEROS, THE HANGMEN at Alex’s Bar; SUGARWALL, JASON BOLAND & THE STRAGGLERS, GOODBYE TO PRETTY, MERCHANTS OF MOONSHINE at the Mint; RUIDO DE FONDO, SUCKER FOR PUMPS, GARDENIA at the Roxy.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 22
SUNSET JUNCTION STREET FAIR IN SILVER LAKE
Every year, as the Sunset Junction festival gets bigger and bigger, it moves progressively further away from its roots as an all-inclusive neighborhood party. While it’s unlikely that the fair will ever recapture the magic and spirit of its peak in the 1980s and early 1990s, when admission was cheap and the promoters primarily booked the most subversive local bands from the underground-music scene, the tradeoff is that the Junction has hosted in recent years such national acts as Sonic Youth and the New York Dolls. Saturday’s potential highlights include reggae masters Sly & Robbie, whose lilting grooves should be perfect for a hot August evening; trembling-voiced bard Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band; pop charmers the Submarines; the Parisian R&B duo Les Nubians; Cambodian-American psychedelic-pop adventurers Dengue Fever; and the Blondie-style retro pop of Miss Derringer. Sunday’s bill features two contrasting, trans-generational bands from the Pacific Northwest, Built to Spill and the Sonics (see Friday pick); rabid punks Mika Miko; Atlanta hip-hop vets Arrested Development; Nortec Collective’s Bostich + Fussible; soul singers Cody Chesnutt & Martin Luther; the jazzy improvisations of Build an Ark; cumbia madmen Very Be Careful; and slinky dance-rockers Love Grenades. 3700-4300 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. (Falling James)
FORMER GHOSTS, CASY & BRIAN AT THE SMELL
Three of the current music scene’s most rigorous sonic experimenters join forces in Former Ghosts to re-engineer the conventional structures of pop music. Mostly led by Freddy Ruppert (This Song Is a Mess But So Am I) with Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) and Nika Roza (Zola Jesus) on call, each takes on vocal duties, collectively leaning on Ruppert’s amped-up synth drone, which sometimes recalls Magnetic Fields’ “All the Umbrellas in London”–era buzz or Factory/4AD’s more minimal lineages, like In Camera and This Mortal Coil. It’s not all pop revision though; Former Ghosts’ January show at the Smell, one of their first ever gigs, delivered punching beats, impending doom and the all-or-nothing musical flip-outs one would expect from this supergroup of sorts. S.F.’s Casy & Brian layer tight drums, fuzzed-out Casio keyboards and cowbell on top of unbending, sweaty energy. Songs start out as simple jams, then turn into repetitive chants, erupting quickly into call-and-response crowd-stomping frenzies. (Wendy Gilmartin)
THE MATCHES AT THE TROUBADOUR
Same old story: Band releases a handful of wildly creative albums, each more schizophrenic than the last and increasingly harder to classify. Marketers are mystified, sales remain negligible, band grows jaded. A onetime labor of love ultimately reaps only debt and disappointment, crushing even the most buoyant of spirits. On July 9, after 12 years, three albums and an Epitaph Records deal, manic frontman Shawn Harris and Co. announced an indefinite hiatus. No more careening, indie-alt-pop-punk free-for-all. An end to sure-handed meanderings into R&B, cabaret, folk and even lavish Broadway-musical territory. Hasta la vista to intelligent, feverish, maddeningly catchy attacks on cynicism, apathy and the commonplace. As a parting gift, however, a fourth, digital-only collection cheekily titled the Matches album 4, unreleased; graphics? title? or not needed? is available on the band’s Web site. The Troubadour gig marks their penultimate show, with San Francisco’s Fillmore hosting the Matches’ final appearance the following evening. (Julie Seabaugh)
Also playing Saturday:
THE CULT, YEAR LONG DISASTER at Club Nokia; BENJI HUGHES, THE BELLE BRIGADE at Spaceland; KINGS OF LEON, THE WHIGS at the Forum; STEELY DAN at the Gibson Theatre; EAGLE & TALON at Echo Curio; HARVEY DANGER at Largo at the Coronet; TOAD THE WET SPROCKET, THE JANKS at Pershing Square.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 23
VANS WARPED TOUR at the Home Depot Center; THE SABBATH ASSEMBLY BAND WITH TIMOTHY WYLLIE at the Silent Movie Theater; HEROES OF WOODSTOCK WITH JEFFERSON STARSHIP, TEN YEARS AFTER, CANNED HEAT, COUNTRY JOE McDONALD at the Greek Theatre; PAUL COLLINS & JOHN WICKS at McCabe’s; CAPTAIN AHAB, FLESHTONE, PHARMAKON, TIK TIK, GUIDANCE COUNSELOR, BEAST COP at the Smell.
MONDAY, AUGUST 24
SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE AT THE ECHO
The prolific and boundless Ben Chasney, a.k.a. Six Organs of Admittance, is one very fine guitarist and musical down-melter. This multihued sage Chasney, who also heads up such future-directed “rock” combos as Comets on Fire, Current 93, Badgerlore, August Born and Plague League, has yet another new Six Organs disc out on Drag City, this one called Luminous Night. It reveals his darker, surreally misty dreams and wistful regrets, and does so via artfully produced and sublimely droney excursions flecked with acoustics, spikily soaring electrics and an increasing reliance on clanky percussives, plucked piano innards and stomp-box arcanery. As always, Chasney’s are deceptively lulling tales of mystery and imagination that explode with massive psychic force from time to time. Be prepared. (John Payne)
Also playing Monday:
STEELY DAN at the Gibson Amphitheatre; MARIEE SIOUX, GRAHAM FOREST, PAIGE STARK, DEAREST at Echo Curio; PALEFACE, JAMES SNYDER, JOE FIRSTMAN, ELIZAVETA at the Hotel Cafe; LOCAL NATIVES, THE PARSON RED HEADS, THE CHEAT, FLYING TOURBILLON ORCHESTRA at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 25
TOM JONES AT THE GREEK THEATRE
Always the consummate ladies’ man, Sir Tom Jones — knighted in March of this year — is 69 years old and still gets piles of panties thrown at his feet. He’s a multifaceted performer whom very few leading men can match, what with his mellow, manly timbre that only breaks during those over-the-top moments of emotional climax. And then there are those sleepy eyes, curly locks, cheek bones and hips. No dumpy indie boy can compare. Hence Jones has culled an age-spanning female audience over the years with his tender-yet-tough crowd pleasers, like “Delilah,” “Treat Her Right,” “She’s a Lady,” and his unforgettable cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” which, even more strangely, he recorded with the Art of Noise. But tonight’s show will have a tinge of sadness attached to it. Just last month Jones revealed he’s planning to move back to the U.K. after 35 years in Los Angeles. The green, green grass of the British Isles looks even nicer with its universal socialized health care for the elderly, eh, Tom? We ladies will truly miss you. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Tuesday:
GREEN DAY, FRANZ FERDINAND at the Forum, STEELY DAN at the Gibson Amphitheatre; THE DEAD WEATHER at the Wiltern; THE PHENOMENAL HANDCLAP BAND at Cinespace; LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY, THE PEDAL TONES at the Key Club; LOVEMAKERS, KID KOSOVO, LEXICON DON at the Silverlake Lounge.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26
DUNGEN AT THE TROUBADOUR
Swedish polymusic or whatever (they’re eclectic, y’see) wizards Dungen had, by the September 2008 release of Dungen 4, mastered the rare art of creating a new rock sound that was both ruminative and head-banging. By this time the band’s savagely rocking psychedelia had morphed into territories where things got really intriguing, mainly because you couldn’t pinpoint exactly what they had achieved: Was their creation the most richly musical yet most blisteringly raw guitar rock on the planet, or perhaps some sort of new, kool space jazz whose stunningly deep orchestral maneuvers were the soundtracks for films yet to exist? Of course, how one categorized it ultimately mattered not at all, and still doesn’t, because what emerged was a vast sea of sound sources fused and transmogrified into a space we’d never fallen into before — or pumped our fists to. Also at the Echoplex with Conor Oberst and others, Thurs. (John Payne)
CHRIS ISAAK, SUSAN TEDESCHI AT THE GREEK THEATRE
Chris Isaak hasn’t really thrilled anybody since his 1989 smash, “Wicked Game” (or perhaps since the Herb Ritts–directed video for his 1989 smash, “Wicked Game”), but neither has he disappointed: This Northern California native claims one of the sturdiest songbooks in adult-oriented rock, a deeply crafty catalog of Presley/Orbison/Everly echoes that never sacrifices sexiness at the altar of authenticity. This year Isaak’s been busy; in February he launched The Chris Isaak Hour — a Bio Channel chat show — and released Mr. Lucky, his first new studio disc since 2002, with highlights including “We’ve Got Tomorrow,” a kicky rockabilly jam, and “Breaking Apart,” a tender Trisha Yearwood duet. Still, don’t expect him to sound anything other than perfectly relaxed tonight. Opener Susan Tedeschi sings and plays a mean blues-soul guitar; she and her hubby, Derek Trucks, run what must be the jam-friendliest household in America. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Wednesday:
THE DEAD WEATHER, TYVEK at the Mayan; CAKE at the Henry Fonda Theater; MUSIC GO MUSIC, RAINBOW ARABIA, TOMMY SANTEE KLAWS at the Bordello; DAWES, MICHAEL DAVIS & LIONS, ANDREW LYNCH at the Echo; PAGING BETO, DON JUAN & LOS BLANCOS at the Redwood Bar; FRUIT BATS, DEATH VESSEL, AB & THE SEA at Spaceland.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 27
WOODS, BEST COAST, GARBAJ KAETZ, LA FOG, TEARIST AT ECHO CURIO
Brooklyn-based Woods sounds anything but “of the city.” The band’s fourth and latest full-length, Songs of Shame, dwells in a sort of organic psychedelia that one would assume could only be sourced deep within, well, the woods. How main man Jeremy Earl manages to eke out such a kaleidoscopic (yet humble) folksiness from concrete and iron, one may never know, but enigma becomes Earl’s work, which also includes running the hotly tipped indie label Woodsist. That imprint has played host to a few L.A. underdogs as well, including Wavves and Eagle Rock’s Pocahaunted. In fact, supporter Best Coast features an ex-member of the latter band, Bethany Cosentino, who here combines her talents with solo artist Bobb Bruno (he of the bunny suit, drum kit and noise box) to make lo-fi SoCal surf pop. Garbaj Kaetz is a local guy-girl duo as well, though one which leans more heavily into the psychedelic haze, and drinks more deeply from the well of weird. (Chris Martins)
WALTER LURE & THE WALDOS AT THE KNITTING FACTORY
Uptown, downtown, Walter Lure has seen both sides of New York City. Today, he’s a Wall Street stockbroker, but in the 1970s and 1980s he was a guitarist with Johnny Thunders’ post–New York Dolls band the Heartbreakers (not to be confused with Tom Petty’s group, which later nicked the name). In 1975, rock was its most bloated, dominated by tepid singer-songwriters and soggy prog musicians who noodled endlessly, when the Heartbreakers broke things down with short, fun, rude, loud and hooky anthems that directly influenced the Sex Pistols and the other early punks. While the swaggering Thunders got most of the attention, Lure was actually the better guitarist, and the latter wrote and sang lead on several of the Heartbreakers’ classics, including “Get Off the Phone,” “All by Myself,” “Can’t Keep My Eyes on You” and “One Track Mind.” Since then, Lure has worked with the Ramones and started several of his own groups, most notably the Waldos (whose original guitarist Joey Pinter joins him tonight), but it’s been many, many moons since he last performed in Los Angeles. (Falling James)
THE DIRTBOMBS AT THE ECHO
On their way to the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco, the Dirtbombs swing down low to Los Angeles tonight for a quick shot of garage-soul-punk kicks. Led by singer-guitarist/science-fiction writer Mick Collins (whose 1980s band the Gories were a major influence on Jack White), the Dirtbombs are Detroit’s preeminent garage-rock auteurs, combining a skuzzy, dirty, raw punk-blues attack with wide-ranging, intelligently probing lyrics. Their 2008 CD, We Have You Surrounded (In the Red), was a thrilling mix of such shadowy Collins originals as “Wreck My Flow” and “I Hear the Sirens” and unusual remakes of tunes by Sparks and Dead Moon. “I want to be the one ... to catch you as you tumble while the empire falls,” Collins shouts urgently, as the punk chords of “Ever Lovin’ Man” crash together. Assuming that you (and/or rock & roll) can still be saved, Collins is the man for the job. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
GARY WILSON & THE BLIND DATES at the Bootleg Theater; CROCODILES, PENS, GRAFFITI ISLAND at Spaceland; FRANZ FERDINAND at the Palladium; CONOR OBERST & THE MYSTIC VALLEY BAND, DUNGEN, KURT VILE at the Echoplex; RYAN BINGHAM at the Troubadour; PETE YORN, ZEE AVI at the Henry Fonda Theater; U.N.I., ’87 STICK UP KIDS, NEW KINGDOM, NOLA, DARLINGS at the Roxy; KINKY, RUIDO DE FONDO at the Canyon; THE WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo at the Coronet.
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