Rock Picks: Lucy Lawless, The Dagons, Big Daddy Kane and more
FRIDAY, JAN. 25
Lucy Lawless stoops to conquer. (Click to enlarge)
Danielle St. Laurent
Geek love: Mirah (Click to enlarge)
Up from the Delta: Honeyboy Edwards (Click to enlarge)
Lucy Lawless at the Roxy
What kind of music would Xena the Warrior Princess make? She would probably belt out something fierce and mighty along the lines of rabble-rousing punks like the Plasmatics, the Avengers and Vice Squad, or perhaps echo the spiritually feminine direction of the show's later episodes with rebelliously arty riot-grrl experiments similar to Rasputina, Le Tigre and Marnie Stern. Of course, it's not fair to expect actor Lucy Lawless to live up to her most famous role's persona, and the music on her 2007 live DVD, Gimme Some, Sugar, is more middle of the road than it is heroic or risk-taking. Lawless has a fine voice and plenty of charisma, but she's undermined by a light-hitting backup band, who, like so many of these thrown-together mercenary lineups, lack fire and genuine chemistry (due in no small part to American Idol arranger Michael Orland's treacly keyboards). Lawless mixes in a couple of decent blues-rock originals such as "Down on My Knees" with a karaoke-style selection of "lady love" anthems like "True Colors" and "Delta Dawn," as well as "What'd I Say," which is fairly tepid despite a frisky go-go-dancing guest appearance from Lawless' Xena co-star, Renee O'Connor. Also Sat. (Falling James)
Mirah, The Blow at the Henry Fonda Theater
Techno-laced electro-pop doesn't always have to come from German robots. Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn showed that geeky indie-rock girls can have fun on the dance floor with her 2006 double CD, Joyride: Remixes (K Records). Guest remixers such as Anna Oxygen, Ben Adorable and Krts pumped up the beats without distracting from Mirah's confessional, confidential love songs. Oxygen cut Mirah's breathy-cool vocals into little strips on "Monument" and pasted them onto a backing that's simultaneously austere and heavily grooving. Adorable wrapped mysterious shadows around Mirah as she cooed "You know all of my secret ideas ... everybody sees a funny look in our eyes 'cause they know that we already won the sweepstakes prize." She evoked the "Argentine sky" on the breakup travelogue "Dogs of Ba," framed by touching, melodic piano chords. Shok juiced up the eerie, hunting-themed "Advisory Committee" with a spacy soundscape, while a vaguely exotic, George Harrison-style melody sleeps beneath the Disney-electrical-parade sounds of "The Light." Tonight she'll likely perform selections from Share This Place: Stories and Observations, her 2007 collaboration with Spectratone International, following an opening set by the similarly breezy Oregon electro-pop singer Khaela Maricich, a.k.a. the Blow. (Falling James)
David "Honeyboy" Edwards at Cozy's Bar & Grill
The blues are always there, way down at the bottom, of just about every form of musical expression America has produced for the last 100 years, yet in the case of Mississippi-born singer-guitarist David "Honeyboy" Edwards, you get not affectionate homage but a direct, high-tension line to the very source. Edwards plied his trade at the side of the mythic Delta overlord Robert Johnson, may well have had a hand in the much-disputed composition of the crucial standard "Sweet Home Chicago," and remains both an undeniable force and the sole representative of the 1930s blues tradition. The legendary blues avatar may be turning 93 this year, but he has not exactly been sitting at home clipping coupons: Edwards' current album, Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas, has been nominated for the Best Traditional Blues Grammy, he recently took the '07 W.C. Handy best acoustic blues artist award and maintains a schedule demanding enough to wear out the average retiree. Get it while you can, kiddies. Also Sat. (Jonny Whiteside)
The Dagons, The Slow Poisoner at the Scene
If you'd like to take a break from this mundane level of reality, tonight's bill offers a cheap flight into the fantastic and the surreal. It took Hurricane Katrina to return the shape-shifting folk-goth punks Dagons to Los Angeles; the duo evacuated from New Orleans just hours before the disaster struck (which inspired singer-guitarist Karie Jacobson to write an atypically political song about George Bush's conservatively compassionate rescue efforts: "Not Enough"). She and her drummer-partner, Drew Kowalski, prefer to trip out with hazy psychedelic odysseys like "In Gingham," which sizzles with baleful sitar drones, and "It Flies Out," where Jacobson's dreamy little-girl keening sails out of a fuzzy storm cloud of Stooges power chords. Like Number Six getting hemmed in and bounced back by Rover in every episode of The Prisoner, the Dagons have not been able to successfully escape this city despite several attempts; enjoy them while you can, as they've spent much of the past year touring in Quebec and Europe (it's rumored that they'll break out the sitar onstage tonight). They're preceded by the recently previewed, morbidly whimsical San Francisco one-man blues-roots band the Slow Poisoner, who's better known as Andrew Goldfarb, the creator of the loopy comic strip Ogner Stump's One Thousand Sorrows. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
THROW RAG at Alex's Bar; TALIB KWELI at House of Blues; TOASTERS, BUCK-O-NINE at Knitting Factory; ODETTA at McCabe's; TODD SNIDER, STEVE POLTZ at the Mint; BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB at Safari Sam's; JASON ISBELL, WILL HOGE at Spaceland; QUINTO SOL at Temple Bar; AU REVOIR SIMONE, KARIN TATOYAN at the Troubadour.
SATURDAY, JAN. 26
MGMT, Yeasayer at the Echoplex
Brooklyn's blog-buzzed MGMT don't stick to a single sound on their major-label debut, Oracular Spectacular, which has been available on iTunes since last fall but just hit record stores this week. Actually, they don't even stick to two or three sounds: Produced by Flaming Lips pal Dave Fridmann, the album flits from Bowie-damaged art-pop to Beck-style funk-hop to fake-Dylan folk-rock and beyond. It's an approach the duo might well have lifted from shapeshifting Of Montreal mastermind Kevin Barnes, who's acted as something of a mentor to Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser; he's taken MGMT on tour and is reportedly at work on a side project with VanWyngarden. As at an Of Montreal show, expect costumes tonight. Equally blog-buzzed openers Yeasayer, also from New York, play an appealingly hectic brand of indie rock full of auxiliary percussion and Eastern-accented melodies. (Mikael Wood)
From the Jam, Hugh Cornwell at El Rey Theatre
From the mists of time: Yeasayer (Click to enlarge)
Heavy D: Big daddy, big cigar (Click to enlarge)
Magic-carpet riders Drug Rug (Click to enlarge)
"From the Jam" may seem like a curiously awkward name to describe the reappearance of founding Jam members Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler — it's the equivalent to Ringo Starr dubbing himself as "From the Beatles"— but, no matter what you call them, it's a welcome return to action by these two ace musicians. Singer-guitarist and main songwriter Paul Weller got most of the attention as the Jam's leader, but it's hard to imagine early hits like "In the City" and "News of the World" without Buckler's energetic drumming. Foxton penned a few of the English band's hits, including "Smithers-Jones," and his memorably elastic, melodically popping bass line forms the backbone of Weller's "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight." It's frustrating that Weller apparently won't reconcile with his old mates — he toured here last year, playing Jam favorites with a generic backup band — because the old tunes just don't sound the same without his classic rhythm section. Former Stranglers lead singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell also is making a rare appearance on these shores; his previously scheduled local gig last year was postponed due to this country's strict new visa policies. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
CIRCLE JERKS at Ventura Theatre; DIOS MALOS, MIKE WATT & THE MISSINGMEN at Alex's Bar; GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS at Amoeba Music, 3 p.m.; JANET ROBIN, MAIA SHARP at the Hotel Cafe; TALIB KWELI at House of Blues; MARC FORD at Malibu Inn; ODETTA at McCabe's; TODD SNIDER, COUSIN LOVERS at the Mint; BACKBITER, SMASH FASHION at Mr. T's Bowl; CORREATOWN at Pehrspace; LUCY LAWLESS at the Roxy; MOTORCYCLE BOY, STITCHES, SUPERBEES at Safari Sam's; TIM FINN, MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS at the Troubadour; MONTE NEGRO at the Westchester; JERRY SIKORSKI BAND at the Stone Bar.
SUNDAY, JAN. 27
Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh, Heavy D at House of Blues
Not so much old-school as the headmasters themselves, the cream of mid-'80s hip-hop crop comes together tonight, evoking a comparatively placid time in which fights were just as easily settled with a dance-off and "put your hands up" meant a jam not a stickup. Big Daddy Kane, forever getting the job done, was most recently heard with the GZA on 2007's "Cameo Afro," while Slick Rick's pal Doug E. Fresh showed up on American Idol doing "The Show"— and likely the Human Beatbox will rhythmically zrbtt before long this night; just don't ask him about the Tom Cruise video. Slightly lighter lately, Heavy D may play songs off a forthcoming LP alongside "Now That We Found Love"— yes, you'll hear all the hits, and they might sound the same as endless times before, but Abba-Zabba never changes, and I don't hear you complainin'. And R.I.P. Trouble T-Roy! (David Cotner)
Also playing Sunday:
WHITE WILLIAMS, MAGIC BULLETS, THE BLAKES at the Echo; GEOFF MULDAUR at McCabe's; LIZ PAPPADEMAS at Mr. T's Bowl; SWORDS OF FATIMA, CHUMP CHANGE GANG at the Scene; UPSILON ACRUX at Spaceland; DAEDELUS at Charlie O's Lounge, Hotel Alexandria.
RADAR BROS. at the Echo; WADDY WACHTEL at the Joint; METAL SKOOL at the Key Club; THE PARSON RED HEADS, IDAHO FALLS, THE MONOLATORS at Spaceland; NICO VEGA, FRED ARMISEN, PETRA HADEN at the Troubadour.
TUESDAY, JAN. 29
Drug Rug at Spaceland
The indie-rock world has been populated with its fair share of music-making couples. Kim & Thurston, Exene & John, Ira & Georgia on through to Dean & Britta and Win & Regine. You can add to this musical lovebirds list Drug Rug's Tommy Allen & Sarah Cronin, who say that they came together over their shared love for a not-quite-indie musical couple: Paul & Linda McCartney. While Drug Rug's endearingly frayed sound conveys some Ram-like qualities, perhaps a more apt description is that the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based band weave strands of the Velvet Underground's dark downtown drone rock with the sunnier '60s psychedelic folk-rock spun by the Byrds and Moby Grape. Riding high on their buzz-generating '07 self-titled debut, Drug Rug are sweeping through L.A. for the very first time, dispensing generous doses of their shambling stoner folk-rock. (Michael Berick)
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Brandi Shearer at the Troubadour
Onstage, Grace Potter is a refreshingly down-to-earth singer who rips it up on her Flying V guitar when she's not pumping out warm sheets of sound from a Hammond B-3 organ. She and her Nocturnals trade in a retro, crowd-pleasing style of R&B-spiked classic rock that's roughly akin to Bonnie Raitt. "Here's to the Meantime," the best song on the Vermont group's major-label debut, This Is Somewhere, swaggers with molten Southern-rock riffs while Scott Tournet churns up some nicely woozy Stones-y slide guitar. Elsewhere, Potter relies too heavily on cliched phrases like "fading fast" and "finding the edge of the world," and you wish that she dug a little deeper on such hooky but lyrically facile tunes as "Mr. Columbus" and "Mastermind" (where she pledges her unquestioning obedience to some industry Svengali — hardly a radical riot-grrl sentiment). Brandi Shearer rocks occasionally with Motels-style songs like "Yes, Yes, Yes" on her Amoeba Records debut, Close to Dark, but she specializes in languid balladry such as the slinky, noirish jangle "You're Mine" and the charming folk tune "That's How You'll Know." Shearer gets a bit corny on "Oh, Singer," an ode to a mythically nostalgic America where everyone rides the rails and loves to pick cotton. Potter at Amoeba Music, Sat., 3 p.m. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
SHELBY LYNNE at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; HONEYHONEY at the Hotel Cafe; JILL SOBULE, TOM BROSSEAU at Largo; VIRGINIA CITY REVIVAL, PUSSYCOW at Safari Sam's; UPSILON ACRUX, POLAR GOLDIE CATS at the Smell.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 30
Mr. Lif & the Perceptionists at the Knitting Factory
If Yo! MTV Raps was filmed on location at Project Blowed (Leimert Park's weekly cipher), Mr. Lif would make the perfect host or, rather, MC. Though the young verbologist (he makes up words too) born Jeffrey Haynes is from Boston, there's something in him that recalls the rap renaissances in New York and L.A. — from the revolution-inspiring P.E. and KRS-One to the word-pondering/play of the Freestyle Fellowship. And with his Def Jux supergroup the Perceptionists — including the never-stuttering Akrobatik, also on vocals, and their friend Fakts One on the ones & twos — he's got the perfect partners to pass around all sorts of proverbial hot potatoes. Their 2005 full-length, Black Dialogue, was more of a tongue-lashing of our president, but it wasn't without its fun as "Let's Move" somehow made it to all the video games. (Daniel Siwek)
Von Iva, Jessie Evans at Silverlake Lounge
On their own island: Von Iva (Click to enlarge)
Morning has broken: Mary Gauthier. (Click to enlarge)
It's always a neat thrill when San Francisco's Von Iva bring their soul train to town. This fashion-forward trio of X-chromosomes somehow manage to set every dance floor on fire and let loose that pent-up inner shimmy. It's no wonder, once the music starts, there's a primal urge to grind with anybody in arm's reach. Or, at the very least, to want to lick singer Jillian Iva's legs. Their latest release, Our Own Island, is a treasure trove of stripped-down, luscious booty waiting to be, er, plundered. The music's a saucy little affair somewhere between Tina Turner and Tubeway Army with Giorgio Moroder in the middle. Also on tap is ex-Vanishing's Jessie Evans, who, along with Iggy Pop drummer Toby Dammit, mambos into town via Berlin bringing their sax-otic musical oddity in for a soft landing. Evans also at the Bordello, Thurs. (Kat Jetson)
Also playing Wednesday:
THE MARS VOLTA at U.C. Irvine's Bren Events Center; THE CHAPIN SISTERS at the Bordello; THE SECTION QUARTET at the Echo; MONTE NEGRO, CECI BASTIDA at Knitting Factory; DAVID GARZA at Largo; LEON RUSSELL at Malibu Inn; VONDA SHEPARD, CYDNEY ROBINSON at the Roxy.
THURSDAY, JAN. 31
Mary Gauthier, Mark Olson at the Troubadour
Louisiana singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier, her growing legion of fans will tell you, doesn't just turn folk and country music upside down, she gives it a swift kick in the rump. Her deliberately rough-hewn tales of ruined lives on the skids wipe off the glossy sentimentality to which those genres' storytellers are often prone, harkening back to the starkly sorrowful tales of Johnny Cash or of Bob Dylan in his remotest bouts of gloom. Gauthier's recent Daylight and Dark album on Lost Highway is a ponderous, weighty thing that requires some real listener commitment, made much easier by the strangely uplifting effect of its artful melancholy. The album was produced by sound artist/roots-music visionary Joe Henry (whose own recent album, Civilians, vies with Daylight as the Americana album of 2007). Henry, along with guests Van Dyke Parks and Loudon Wainwright III, gives Gauthier's amazingly authoritative voice ample room to reverberate through the skull and right down to the heart. With former Jayhawks singer Mark Olson. (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday:
JESSIE EVANS, DAME DARCY at the Bordello; DENGUE FEVER at the Echoplex (see Music feature); THE BOWMANS at the Hotel Cafe; BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, 3 INCHES OF BLOOD at the Key Club; ENTRANCE, LANGHORNE SLIM, RUMSPRINGA at Knitting Factory; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT, DEADLY SYNDROME, CASTLEDOOR at Spaceland.
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