Gabriel Andruzzi (of the Rapture) at Avalon
As fans of New York’s finest dance-punk outfit know all too well, the Rapture are taking their sweet time crafting the follow-up to 2006’s excellent Pieces of the People We Love. In a July blog post announcing singer-bassist Mattie Safer’s departure from the group, sax-and-synth dude Gabriel Andruzzi wrote that he and his remaining bandmates have been writing and demo-ing, but that “it’s still gonna be a minute before we hit the studio for real.” In the meantime they’ve been playing sporadic live shows and polishing their celebrity-DJ resumes; fortunately, as demonstrated on last year’s Tapes mix for !K7, these guys make the latter seem like an honorable pursuit. Any mix that unites Ghostface Killah, the Bar-Kays and Armand Van Helden is okay by us. This week Andruzzi headlines Avalon’s Friday-night Control party, and because that happens to coincide with Christmas, the club’ll knock 10 bucks off the cover if you bring an unopened toy for charity. (Mikael Wood)
Hepcat at House of Blues
Ska, the effervescent mid-’60s precursor to reggae, was as crucial to Jamaican pop as rockabilly was here in America, and while each endured for only a brief span of years, both of these influential styles constantly recur, thanks to cyclical eruptions of well-intentioned but oft-ludicrous revivalists. Ska stewards Hepcat are the noble exception to that rule, a band that has perfected the art of owning the style’s musical bedrock and upholding its traditions with excruciating precision, even while informing it with carefully administered jolts of their own creative impulses. That’s a damn nifty trick, and over the course of the past two decades, despite several extended hiatuses, personnel departures, even death, Hepcat has remained an exemplary force, a group whose combination of technique, good taste and genuine sincerity results in music that is not only moving — it also really moves. (Jonny Whiteside)
Danny B. Harvey,Mason & Co., RubyJames at Taix
Taix booker Mason hosts a big combo party tonight where he’s celebrating his birthday, Christmas and “the last Saturday of the decade.” As such, the lineup is a good cross-section of the diverse performers who regularly play on the tiny stage in this French restaurant’s lounge. The Lonesome Spurs’ Danny B. Harvey is a scintillating rockabilly guitarist who’s worked with Wanda Jackson, Johnny Ramone and Nancy Sinatra. Tonight he strums a set of his own tunes before he heads west down Sunset Boulevard later in the week to the Viper Room, where he’s playing a New Year’s Eve gig in the Buddy Holly–fixated trio the Head Cat with Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and the Stray Cats’ Slim Jim Phantom. Mason and Harvey are also taking part this evening in Mason & Co., a veritable supergroup of Taix loyalists that features Marc Doten, power-pop guitarist (and former Brady Bunch regular) Robbie Rist and the versatile underground/art-rock drummer Joe Berardi (the Fibonaccis, Double Naught Spy Car, Ann Magnuson, Lydia Lunch et al.). Austin, Texas, singer Ruby James and go-go dancer Moana Santana are also scheduled to appear. As usual, there’s no cover, which makes Taix one of the best musical bargains in town. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
CUT CHEMIST at the Echoplex; STEPHEN PEARCY at the Roxy; SALT-N-PEPA at Club Nokia; MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP at the Canyon; WAMPIRE, ASSS at the Echo Curio.
Riot Grrl Christmas Carnival feat. the Outskirts, Las Sangronas y El Cabrón, Toy Attica, the Potential Lunatics at the Smell
Despite the surfeit of Muzak-y holiday tunes and soft-jazz interpretations of junk like “Frosty the Snowman,” there’s no official rule that mandates that Christmas music has to be saccharine, soulless and insufferably bland. Tonight’s “Riot Grrl Xmas Carnival” is not only for a good cause — benefiting the Downtown Women’s Center — but it also features ruthlessly energetic, rude, silly and loud femme-fronted punk bands. The Outskirts’ Charlie De Kay is not exactly reverential about babes in mangers on “Anti-Christ Devil Children,” and she transforms the Ramones’ version of “California Sun” into a boozy ode to getting trashed, “All Fucked Up.” Las Sangronas y El Cabrón crank out an even skuzzier form of hard-core on blistering rants like “Brujeria” and “Bitter Youth.” The South Bay’s Toy Attica contrast their colorfully playful fashion sense with a dark sound that infuses post-punk bursts like “Mr. Feline” with an arty goth decadence; they get even stranger amid the rusty echoes of the creepy pop idyll “Somewhere.” The Potential Lunatics are a sibling duo featuring singer-guitarist Emma Simons-Araya (age 14) and drummer Isaac Simons-Araya (age 11!), and they do indeed reveal crazy potential on embryonic, thoughtfully unfolding indie-rock reveries like “Deranged Love Song.” (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
NEIL HAMBURGER at Spaceland; AVI BUFFALO, WAIT.THINK.FAST., ANGUS KHAN, MOSES CAMPBELL at the Echoplex; 100 MONKEYS at the Roxy; REEL BIG FISH at House of Blues.
Boogie Nazis, Mikki and The Mauses, Moment Trigger at Women of Crenshaw
After the ham, the eggnog, the family time and the general overall lethargy of Christmas week, head out to Crenshaw and wake up with Tucson’s Boogie Nazis as they come barreling into town like a clattering suburban sandstorm. These kids from Arizona take their blaring sonic barrage to another level with a force-fed, sweaty, shirtless blitzkrieg in the form of mutated and too-fast surf punk — all the weirder since these guys live nowhere even close to an ocean. Mikki and the Mauses bring a Tokyo-meets-L.A. melange of poetry-spewing, free-for-all antics and sadomasochistic tendencies onstage. Practically the house band at the Women of Crenshaw house is Moment Trigger, whose ear-bleeding, stoner-noise racket comes from the boy/girl team of Chris Lazard and Tierra Williams, with their piles of rickety gear including unruly wires all over, samplers, effects boxes, guitars made out of Slinkys and lots of metalhead hair flinging. 1852 Crenshaw Blvd. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Monday:
MERE MORTALS, CANNONEERS OF THE NEW COMMAND, VESUVIASONIC at Spaceland; THE PRICKS, COLD FLAMEZ, ELECTROLYTES at the Roxy; BLESSURE GRAVE, MR. OBJECTS at Pehrspace.
Good Old War, Anthony Green at the Roxy
Pennsylvania’s Good Old War released a soft-spoken jewel of a debut, Only Way to Be Alone (Sargent House), to some small acclaim in 2008. On it, the trio offered pure and ultrapleasant three-part harmonies that gently wrapped around Keith Goodwin’s rather Paul Simon–ish vocals and wonderfully stitched acoustic-guitar shades. An amazingly spare presentation, the album zeroed in on what sounds like the artful essence of acoustic harmony, in a small and unpretentious way that sucked you into the band’s intelligent storytelling. Nothing earth-shattering, just very intelligently done and way soothing to the ear. Good Old War will play their own set and serve as the backing band in a ruminative spot by ex-Saosin singer-songwriter Anthony Green, who’s got a satisfyingly non-emo solo disc out called Avalon on Photo Finish. (John Payne)
The Growlers at Pershing Square
As you bask in the quiet (and less traffic-heavy) urban village that is Los Angeles at Christmas time, take a brisk spin over the ice downtown with Brooks Nielsen and Matt Taylor’s band the Growlers, who’ll be serving up the soundtrack. There’s a shuffling, Captain Beefheart–ish funk and tinny, surfside guitar sound that places the Growlers in the good company of SoCal’s best-known and darkly tripped-out musical bastions, like Arthur Lee and Love, not to mention the Doors during their groovier blues moments. The Growlers know how to wow a crowd, too, and Nielsen (voice) and Taylor (guitar) know that musical sweet spot well — where meandering, occasionally melancholy guitar work still gets people up dancing. Their latest release, Are You In or Out? (just two months old), is a collection of half-baked ideas, EP songs and fully realized orchestrations, many of which will be played out in glorious, shimmering tones and beats tonight. (Wendy Gilmartin)
The Mayfly Dance, Douglas Lee, Quebb at the Echo Curio
Better known (only just barely) as Stuart and Caan, English duo the Mayfly Dance specialize in a quavering brand of folk music that makes them distant cousins to L.A.’s own Devendra Banhart. But while Banhart has pushed his oeuvre in directions unforeseen — loungy electric numbers, bouncy reggae shufflers, Latin-flavored ditties — Mayfly stay low to the ground and invariably acoustic. Anacortes indie label Knw-Yr-Own (itself a cousin to K Records) released Stuart and Caan’s somewhat eponymous debut, The Mayfly Dance, earlier this year, showcasing not only the pair’s mastery of dark-toned, finger-picked psychedelia, but also a unique worldview that the Echo Curio site describes as “magickal with a ‘K’ — like ‘living behind waterfalls and making out with leprechauns’ magickal.” Douglas Lee is a renaissance man who works traditional Chinese folk instruments, Western classical music, throat singing and beatboxing into his fluid, jazz-steeped repertoire. It’s a strange and beautiful thing to witness live, equal parts ancient and of a pan-global musical future yet to be explored. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Wednesday:
MIKA MIKO, LE JOSHUA, PRS HLTN, MTHRFCKRS, MR. WRIGHT AND THE EL SALVADORIANS at the Smell; MINIATURE TIGERS, ALL WRONG AND THE PLANS CHANGE, A B AND THE SEA at Spaceland; KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND at House of Blues.
Dengue Fever at the Mint
Twist and shout in the New Year exotically, strangely, excitedly! — with Dengue Fever, whose righteous mishmash of the dislocatedly rocking musical fetishes of Cambodia circa early ’70s will make you happy. The L.A.-based band’s deftly modernized take on lovey-dovey lounge pop, skanky surf-spy, gnarly garage and whimsical psychedelia features Cambodian thrush Chhom Nagol’s enchanting, birdlike warbles and founders Ethan and Zac Holtzman on wicked Farfisa organ, cheap-o synth and some real, real greasy Strats — a sound remarkably faithful to the stuff the Holtzman Bros. found on decomposing old cassettes in the moldy back corners of fish markets in Phnom Penh. The band’s been on a long roll this year, hot off the glory of its third and best album, Venus on Earth (M80 Music), and recently released a DVD documentary film, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, that follows Dengue to Cambodia in 2005, when they became the first Western band to perform Khmer Rock since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. (John Payne)
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The Henry Clay People, the Switch, the Monolators at Spaceland
While many of the other New Year’s Eve shows around town have expensive admission charges — it’s almost as if some promoters still don’t realize there’s a recession going on — tonight’s lineup at Spaceland is a reasonably priced $12. More important, it boasts several of L.A.’s best underground pop-rock bands. The Monolators have a relatively lo-fi garage-pop-punk approach, with husband and wife Eli Chartkoff and Mary Chartkoff exchanging winsome, whimsically charming valentines like “Strawberry Roan” and “You Look Good on the Train.” Formerly a duo, the Monolators now have a fuller, more enchanting sound with bassist Ashley Jex, lead guitarist Ray Gurrola and keyboardist Jillinda Palmer. Le Switch singer-guitarist Aaron Kyle, meanwhile, puts a poppy spin to his soused Leon Russell–style rambles and Harry Nilsson–esque bar ballads, abetted by the swanky piano rejoinders of Josh Charney. Led by brothers Joey and Andy Siara, the Henry Clay People mask their wounded hearts with hard-rocking sarcasm and jangling guitars on such power-pop gems as “Working Part Time” and the Pixies-like “This Ain’t a Scene.” On the anthemic “Something in the Water,” from their excellent 2008 CD, For Cheap or for Free, they master the seemingly lost art of combining catchy rock hooks with intelligent lyrics. For one night, at least, THCP (who insist that “they have no affiliation with Henry Clay, nor do they support the obsolete platforms of the Whig Party”) will be able to “find some kind of place that will take us in and have us back again.” (Falling James)
The Zeros at the Redwood Bar & Grill
Any show by the reunited Zeros is a big deal, and this New Year’s Eve blowout should be the appropriately rambunctious start to a “Wild Weekend.” The Chula Vista quartet were one of the first and finest West Coast punk bands, starting out in 1976 with Ramones-y power chords and their own Mexican-American twist on lovelorn teenage angst. Along with drummer Baba Chenelle, the Zeros have three semi-secret weapons — guitarists Javier Escovedo and Robert Lopez (better known as El Vez) and bassist Hector Penalosa, all of whom sing and write their own distinctly memorable tunes. There’s a lot of Johnny Thunders cockiness in their collective swagger and attitude (not to mention in their remake of his New York Dolls classic “Chatterbox”), but they’re also unique enough to have directly influenced the Muffs (who covered Lopez’s “Beat Your Heart Out”), as well as a recent all-female tribute band, Wild Weekend. The Zeros have only intermittently gotten back together with the full original lineup in the past three decades, so better catch them now before they disappear again into the mists of time and the musty pages of old punk fanzines. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
MIKA MIKO, STARING PROBLEM, IMA FUCKING GYMNIST, DIGITS at the Smell; ERYKAH BADU at House of Blues; CHROMEO, PEANUT BUTTER WOLF, VEGA, GASLAMP KILLER at Club Nokia; BOYS NOIZE, A-TRAK, DJ MEHDI, DESTRUCTO at the Palladium; APACHE, AUDACITY, PEAR, AM, WHITE NIGHT, PIPSQUEAK at L’Keg Gallery.