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Rock Picks: George Clinton, the Kris Special, Banyan

Piano man: Aaron Beaumont
Daniel Bedell

FRIDAY, JANUARY 2

Aaron Beaumont at the Hotel Café

Maybe, just maybe, a new Elton John might be just what the doctor ordered, someone who can bring a new life to the ancient music-hall/pop piano-man tradition, with clear-headed songs of genuinely witty lyrical oomph and, most of all, a historically informed musical depth — all delivered with style, grace, wit and élan, of course. Your candidate for such a new contender might very well be one Aaron Beaumont, a young L.A.-based singer-songwriter who’s just put out this very choice platter on Milan Records called Nothing’s Forever, Not Even Goodbye. Beaumont’s love of the melodic flair of the ’20s and ’30s will take him far; his stuff simply never sounds trite, at least not in the earnest passion of his emotional palette — and he’s got that in spades. It might have something to do with his training as a classical pianist, or his experience playing trumpet in jazz bands, or being a bassist in hard-rock bands, sure, but ultimately it’s a matter of talent + taste + a keen intelligence. (John Payne)

George Clinton at Club Nokia

George Clinton puts on a new set of musical disguises on his recent all-covers CD, George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love, where the P-Funk mastermind digs into some of his favorite songs and expands on them with typically freaky sonic twists. His version of “Let the Good Times Roll,” abetted by Kim Manning and protégés the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Clinton produced the Peppers’ 1985 album, Freaky Styley), is truly weird with its psychedelic hard-rock guitar, funk rhythms and childlike vocals, all of it anchored to a gospel foundation. Guest star Carlos Santana adds some stinging licks to brighten a mellow R&B take on “Gypsy Woman,” while “Sway” drifts on an exotic (pot) cloud of flamenco guitars and exotic vocals. And is that a rare Sly Stone sighting on Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar”? The remake, which also features El Debarge, moves with a slinky, spacy cool-funk groove that makes it one of the stranger makeovers of this song since the Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce turned it into a rural-blues anthem. Meanwhile, gospel singer Kim Burrell gives “Mathematics of Love” a contrastingly straightforward jazz-pop feel, before Clinton drops in with his gruff, craggy vocals to take the song into tripper places. At tonight’s show, Clinton promises to tear the roof off the very unfunky Club Nokia with a set of his P-Funk classics. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

THE SLACKERS, SEAN WHEELER & ZANDER SCHLOSS at El Rey Theatre; L.A. GUNS at Brixton South Bay; YOU ME & IOWA, SHILOE at the Redwood Bar & Grill; MICHTO PELO at Taix; THE MORMONS, THE MONOLATORS, SEASONS at American Legion Post 206, Highland Park; THE FORTY FOURS at Cozy’s Bar & Grill; PHIL GATES at the Cellar; CODY BRYANT at Viva Cantina.

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 3

The Kris Special at Spaceland

The Kris Special are really two bands in one on their 2007 CD, Alone Feels Like a Hotel Room. There’s the mellow outfit that stirs up laid-back ballads like “Fiasco” and “April Loved John,” which glows with a Mazzy Star charm. There’s a hint of high-&-lonesome pedal-steel guitars washing over the austere ballad “I Sleep Alone Sometimes,” as singer Anne Pointer confides her rueful lyrics with a countrified lilt. You could call it country music, but it’s been stretched out and expanded across dusty desert landscapes until it’s become something more haunting and less predictable. And, of course, there’s the other Kris Special that allows drummer Nick Schutz to rip it up on faster, harder-rocking tunes like “Untitled Z” and “Little Red Song,” which churns with a punky X-style attack. “I knock down for-sale signs,” Pointer sings enigmatically on the jangly romp “Theme for the Get-Away Car.” What sets the Kris Special apart — whether they’re rocking it up on “Shadow Smart” or getting glacial on the lulling soundscape “Wet Payphone” — is Pointer’s gift for unexpectedly poetic lyrics. They’re already one of L.A.’s most intriguing bands. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

PRIMA DONNA, LADYKILLERS at the Knitting Factory; PSYCHOSTAR, CARNAGE ASADA, STAB CITY at the Redwood Bar & Grill; CHENCHA BERRINCHES, ORGULLO CAFE, VIERNES 13 at the Roxy; SIMON STOKES, DOGWEED at Taix; CODY BRYANT at Viva Cantina; ROD PIAZZA & THE MIGHTY FLYERS at Arcadia Blues Club; CADILLAC ZACK, DEACON JONES at the Cellar.

 

SUNDAY, JANUARY 4

Playing Sunday:

REEL BIG FISH at Grove of Anaheim; SECRET SOCIETY OF THE SONIC SIX at Echo Curio; FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at Hotel Café; WOUNDED LION, BODIES OF WATER at the Smell; JAKE LA BOTZ at Liquid Kitty; THE TOLEDO SHOW at Harvelle’s.

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 5

Teeth at La Cita

You might think Teeth belong a few doors down from La Cita at the scene-setting club the Smell (in fact, Teeth are playing there Friday, January 9). But there’s probably no better way to celebrate the dawn of a new year (and to wave bye bye to the turd that was 2008) than with the combined onslaught of La Cita’s fabulously fun club Moustache Mondays and Teeth’s no-frills, dance-punk frenzy. Ximon Tayki (a.k.a. Simon Leahy) is affiliated with other queercore assemblages like Acid Bwabes and Tiniest Muscles, and makes the melodies in Teeth by formulating Atari-esque beeps and buzzing swoops (you won 10,000 points!) on his crappy laptop. Teeth’s boorish beats and happy delivery sink in easy, thanks to spastic pounder Simon Whybray and his patchwork kit of drum parts, as well as shouter Veronica So, who pogos and growls with a flair all her own. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

Also playing Monday:

WADDY WACHTEL at the Joint; GAY BEAST, TLEILAXU MUSIC MACHINE, KAWAIIETLY PLEASE, FRENCH QUARTER at Pehrspace; JAKE LA BOTZ at the Redwood Bar & Grill; BIPOLAR BEAR at the Smell; ROCCO DELUCA at Spaceland.

 

TUESDAY, JANUARY 6

Eleni Mandell at the Hotel Café

Los Feliz chanteuse Eleni Mandell’s latest CD, Artificial Fire (Zedtone), rocks a little more electrically than her previous releases, thanks in large part to Jeremy Drake’s “space fog” and flickering dots of arty guitar. In the past, Mandell has claimed that her low vocals and acoustic-based ballads don’t mesh well with a full band, but her current lineup of supporting musicians (which includes longtime bassist Ryan Feves and drummer Kevin Fitzgerald) gives her plenty of room to breathe. Drake spins angular, Television-style licks on the title track, where Mandell finds herself staying up late, getting dreamy and poring over maps. Despite such occasional — and tentative — experiments in volume and rock arrangements, the singer remains, at heart, a laid-back romantic balladeer, even when a delicate interlude like “It Wasn’t the Time (It Was the Color)” culminates in an unexpected crescendo of fuzzy noise. Her simple-minded, narcissistic lyrics are still a major weakness, but Mandell’s languidly enchanting phrasing and her band’s inventive arrangements usually keep things from getting too cloying. Guest stars, including X percussionist DJ Bonebrake and singers Charlie Wadhams and Inara George, help flesh out the tunes with additional sonic depth and coloring. (Falling James)

Also playing Tuesday:

SEASONS, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY at the Bordello; SARA LOV, PATRICK PARK at Spaceland.

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7

Banyan at the Mint

In the handbook of rock & roll dos and don’ts, somewhere near the top should be a rule about banning supergroups. These harebrained schemes reek of publicist stench or rotting flesh from players whose 15 minutes were up long ago. Either way, rarely do they account for good tunes, because three-chord shredders are not schooled in the same fashion as improv-heavy jazz players and blues men. But, like a broken clock, Banyan prove there are exceptions to this rule. Composed of drummer Stephen Perkins, bassist Mike Watt, guitarist Nels Cline and trumpet player Willie Waldman, the quintet (painter Norton Wisdom creates on a vertical canvas behind the band) takes jazz’s play-the-head-then-let-’er-rip approach for an instrumental set with enough raw emotion to make Bird smile. The best part is, you don’t even have to like Jane’s Addiction, the Minutemen or Wilco to dig Banyan, because the last thing on these guys’ minds is running through their collective résumés. The result is the best jazz/punk/funk/rock hybrid since Miles Davis introduced the word “fusion” into the jazz-rock lexicon. (Ryan Ritchie)

Tom Verlaine & Jimmy Rip’s music for experimental film at Silent Movie Theatre

So, so freshly creative is the way veteran guitar artists Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Rip apply themselves to the live interpretation of little-seen vintage avant-garde films. Verlaine, of Television fame, and studio-session mainstay Rip add digitally burnished new angles to these grainy, black & white images, sometimes in the cranking chunks of scree that might be indicated by the oblique geometrics of the films, but just as often in roiling lyrical modal moves that have the effect on the attentive participant of birthing a third entity of sensation, when heard in combination with the abstract projections onscreen. Films included are Emak-Bakia by Man Ray, Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mecanique and Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21. Verlaine is a guitar hero’s hero, a wonderfully idiosyncratic player who meanders his way into spiky-then-soaring melodic lines; you seem to hear the process in his playing. It was this stumbling into splendor that made Television sound so very different, an artful process by a master that will be on rare view tonight. At 8 & 10:15 p.m. (John Payne)

Also playing Wednesday:

ILENE GRAFF at the Canyon; GUNS ’N BOMBS at the Echo; SALLY KELLERMAN at Genghis Cohen; PATRIA JACOBS, BOLL WEEVIL at Taix.

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 8

Sabrosa Purr at the Roxy

 

Yes, there are still amateur Angeleno bands building robust reps through self-financed recordings and compelling club shows (and without monkeying themselves out to reality TV). Sabrosa Purr are an odd collision of loner, stoner introversion and crotch-thrusting fuzz-box rawk. They lurch from the ultra-ethereal, flotation-tank vocals and slithery, succulent guitars of “Suckerpunch Kiss” to the open-shirted glam strut of “Fashion Kills” without so much as an explanation or apology. Though probably more convincing at the former than the latter, they seldom sound contrived. Yet for every moment of earnest Pink Floyd–ish psychedelia, each hint of enigmatic early Cure b-sides or sexy T-Rex flexes, Sabrosa Purr are really all about the original Jane’s Addiction — they’re eclectic because Jane’s were. The heavily delayed yelps of “Killing the Aries” and “Sabrosa Purr, Pt. 1”’s druggy whimper are downright Jane’s addicted, but they’re lost in enough love to forget and forgive. Few bands traverse heel-stomping, classic-rock crunch and eyes-clenched, headphone bliss like this. (Paul Rogers)

Bostich + Fussible at Echoplex

North Hollywood’s Nacional Records has been doing a bang-up job over the last couple of years, releasing a diverse string of terrific Latin-pop records by acts including Manu Chao, Aterciopelados and the Pinker Tones. One of 2008’s most likable was Tijuana Sound Machine, a border-busting mash-up of hip-swiveling electro beats and traditional instrumentation by Bostich + Fussible, two members of Mexico’s acclaimed Nortec Collective. If your affection for Beck’s work took a serious dive following Odelay, these might be the guys for you: In tasty tracks like “Shake It Up” and “Akai 47,” Bostich + Fussible set about making unlikely connections in a way that never once makes you think about any intellectual heavy lifting (even as it’s occurring). Expect cuts from Tijuana tonight, but also expect the unexpected; part of Nortec’s deal is making the live techno experience seem, y’know, live. (Mikael Wood)

Elvis Presley Birthday Concert at Avalon

Ceremonial veneration of Elvis Presley has assumed a strange, semi-theological role in American society — a public examination of the King and his ongoing relation to the world, through the analysis of his rock & roll teachings and humble hillbilly origins. This year’s lineup seems especially suited to meet such a standard, with an expanded psychedelic edge brought by Strawberry Alarm Clock, I See Hawks in L.A. and ’60s-era psych spearhead Simon Stokes, and, with Ronnee Blakely, Lisa Finnie and Michelle Shocked, even more of the contemplative feminine intellect coming into play than is usually seen at these pilgrimages. Of course, it’s not just a case of purely cerebral approbation — you also get the roaring rockabilly of E.P. contemporary Ray Campi; the perpetually electrifying teen-idol war cry of Jimmy Angel; the Groovy Rednecks’ boozy, knock-down honky-tonk; Carlos Guitarlos’ rocked-blues bite; and the tender country soul of tavern troubadour Mike Stinson. With a couple of dozen additional worshippers, the inevitable too-big-to-announce participants and the fact that all proceeds go to benefit fallen firefighters, baby, it’s a don’t-be-no-square, mandatory-type affair. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday:

THE METEORS at Brixton South Bay; CAVA at Eastside Luv; JESCA HOOP at the Hotel Café; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo at the Coronet; MIGHTY REGIS, MEGASOUL CONNECTOR at Molly Malone’s; CODY BRYANT at Viva Cantina.


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