Rock Picks: Mark Eitzel, Wanda Jackson, Dan Deacon, Heartless Bastards
FRIDAY, APRIL 17
COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL AT EMPIRE POLO FIELD
The 10th Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio commences today with evening sets by three of the late 20th century’s most iconic songwriters: Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney and Morrissey. Don’t care for older dudes talking about emotions and stuff? Franz Ferdinand, Black Keys and Silversun Pickups might make your nether regions tingle with rock. Think the guitar is overrated? Mike Patton and Rahzel will provide vocal beatbox insanity, Peanut Butter Wolf will break those kinds of beatz down, the Bug will explode said beats with reggaeton, dubstep and grime freak-outs. Too heady? Dance your fanny pack off to Felix da Housecat, Gui Boratto and Buraka Som Sistema. Tripping too hard? Quick, teleport across the unicorn grounds to Ghostland Observatory. Too scary? The Ting Tings do pop, will make you dance, calm you down. Still freaking out? The Hold Steady and the Airborne Toxic Event will look you straight in the damned eyes and tell what it means to be a man. Candy flipping? Girl Talk will mix all that crap together until it becomes one big-ass universal party. 81-800 Avenue 51, Indio. Also Sat.-Sun. (Randall Roberts)
RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT AT MCCABE’S
Veteran folksinger Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s new Anti-Records CD, A Stranger Here, could be more accurately titled (with apologies to Bette Midler) Songs for the New Depression, as it’s a collection of 1930s-era blues laments that suddenly seem relevant again. This might have been a quaint retro exercise a year ago, but songs like “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” and “New Stranger Blues” sound freshly chilling. And “Rising High Water Blues” serves to remind that disasters (natural or otherwise) never go out of style. Perhaps most impressive is the funereal stomp “Soul of a Man,” where producer Joe Henry adorns Elliott’s craggy philosophizing with evocative slips of acoustic slide guitar and welling violin. Such relatively folksy numbers as “Richland Women Blues” recall the New York troubadour’s early-’60s heyday, when he was the literal link between his pals Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Yes, he’s been around the block a few times — the Folksmen thought they were being clever when they poked fun at him in 2003’s A Mighty Wind, but Ramblin’ Jack parodies go back to at least the mid-’60s, when the BBC’s Kenneth Williams first made an art of it. Elliott gets the last laugh, though, when he somberly intones the austere ballad “Grinnin’ in Your Face.” Scary stuff. Also Sat. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
JOHN PRINE, JOSH RITTER at the Wilshire Theatre; BRITNEY SPEARS, PUSSYCAT DOLLS at the Staples Center; KEVIN RUDOLF at House of Blues; CAVE SINGERS, POCAHAUNTED, THE FINCHES at Spaceland; BUCKCHERRY at Club Nokia; BITCHES, FOOT VILLAGE at the Smell; HAWKWIND TRIBUTE WITH ED MUNDELL’S ULTRA MEGA GALACTIC, BACKBITER, THE HIGH SAINTS, OTHERS at the Knitting Factory; KYLESA, MADE OUT OF BABIES, INTRONAUT, BLACK ELK at the Echoplex.
SATURDAY, APRIL 18
MARK EITZEL AT LARGO AT THE CORONET
It’s a romantic notion, seeing singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel on the same stage that has premiered a Bertolt Brecht play, in the same room that debuted Kenneth Anger’s transformative experimental film Fireworks, beneath the office where Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote some of the classic American songs of the 20th century. Eitzel’s work both with his longtime band, American Music Club, and as a solo artist with a sturdy baritone and sturdier songs draws on emotions and stories as universal and lasting as the ghosts of the Coronet Theatre. His best songs, among them “Jesus’ Hands,” “Johnny Mathis’ Feet” and “I Know That’s Not Really You,” attack themes of redemption, worship and transformation, but it’s an effortless stealth examination unhindered by pretension or obviousness. For this show, the singer, whose first instrument is guitar, will accompany himself on piano. Note: This is an early show, and begins at 9 p.m. (Randall Roberts)
B.B. KING AT THE CANYON
There are kings, and then there’s B.B. King. The Mississippi-born blues man, who got his start in Memphis in 1948 as a singer/DJ known as the Beale Street Blues Boy, still sounds great at the age of 83 — almost five years after his “final” farewell tour of Europe (which was followed by yet another final visit in 2006). Of course, royal status wasn’t conferred on him merely for longevity. His ringing, pinging guitar solos are among the most distinctive in rock and blues, with a piercing sting that’s simultaneously spiky and velvety. King’s burnished vocals are similarly raw and smooth as he croons and howls his way through 2008’s One Kind Favor, a well-chosen set of covers by Lonnie Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy and John Lee Hooker. Remakes of Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years” and T-Bone Walker’s “I Get So Weary” really swing, thanks to an all-star band that includes pianist Dr. John, drummer Jim Keltner, trumpeter/arranger Darrell Leonard and saxist Ernie Fields Jr., among others. The rhythm section is sinuous and funky on the Blind Lemon Jefferson classic “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” which has a more amiably jaunty and unhurried feel than previous, doom-ridden versions. Death and heartbreak are always lurking at the bottom of the blues, but King staves them off here with a lot of soul. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK at the Palladium; JAMIE STEWART (XIU XIU) at Echo Curio; ABE VIGODA,THE INTELLIGENCE, THE DRONES at Spaceland; DUBFIRE (ONE HALF OF DEEP DISH) at Vanguard; SANDRA COLLINS at Avalon; DO OR DIE, KYRO KANAAN, SAURUS AND BONES at the Knitting Factory; GRANT-LEE PHILLIPS at the Little Room at Largo; HIPSTER HOEDOWN II WITH LESLIE AND THE BADGERS, COBRA LILIES, MISSISSIPPI MAN, ROMAN CANDLES at Pehrspace; KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD at House of Blues.
SUNDAY, APRIL 19
WANDA JACKSON AT ULTRA LUX HAIR SALON & LOUNGE
Wanda Jackson, the fiery, growling and universally acknowledged Queen of Rockabilly, rates as one of the most remarkable figures in American pop-music history. Aggressive scarcely begins to describe her vocal attack, and her classic 1950s-brewed set list positively blazes with a relentlessly hard-charging brand of nonstop guitaristic kapow. Moreover, Jackson’s mixed-race band represented an utter defiance of racial taboo, but that didn’t stop her — just imagine what fun a pretty little white girl had touring the Deep South with black musicians. Jackson epitomized rockabilly’s cultural insurgency, and as such, one would assume those squares at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame might be able to recognize such bold significance. Well, come to find out they just did — not by enshrining her in the Hall itself, but by relegating her to the boneyard “Early Influences” category. While she’s in good company there (alongside Jelly Roll Morton and Bessie Smith), the classification is as ludicrous as it is insulting — Jackson’s highly individualized sound is rock & roll at its most dizzyingly genuine. 1312 Aviation Blvd., Redondo Beach; 2 p.m. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Sunday:
GARRETT PIERCE, EVAN WAY at Home; RICHARD BUCKNER at McCabe’s; RAUL CAMPOS at Deep; CARY BROS. at the Roxy.
MONDAY, APRIL 20
SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS, FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at El Rey Theatre; FOOL’S GOLD, VERY BE CAREFUL, JAIL WEDDINGS, OLIWA AND THE PLEASURE CIRCUS BAND at the Echo; BLUE CRANES at Home; THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE, THE WHIP, ADELINE AND THE PHILISTINES, MARVELOUS TOY at Spaceland; CAPTAIN AHAB, BITCHES, I.E., CALIFORNIA JAZZ at Pehrspace.
TUESDAY, APRIL 21
JAMES PANTS AT THE ECHOPLEX
The story goes that James Pants walked right up to the DJ booth (on his prom night) and introduced himself to Peanut Butter Wolf, then needled his way into an internship at Stones Throw Records (where PBW runs the show). That was 2001, and now, eight years later, the always-style-forward James P. has carved out a niche so much his own, he’s almost like a present-day Gary Davis — a funk curiosity who can repel you with his occasionally epileptic electronic drone, then bring you right back with expertly crafted ’80s soul mixes, rhythmically kinky melodies, and his signature jerry-rigged multi-instrumental slop. He’ll mix anything, from Arabian Prince, Suicide or Cabaret Voltaire to the Whispers and Freestyle Fellowship, wrapping it up with a bouncy Herbie Hancock riff, and a sometimes cloying, never-ending loop of Skyy’s “Let’s Celebrate.” Pants’ live shtick is both a dirty, sweaty dance fest and a self-promotion machine that features Pants growling, contorting, goofing off and scooting his white-boy dance moves across the stage. (Wendy Gilmartin)
HEARTLESS BASTARDS AT SPACELAND
Before we fumble around in the dark for the appropriate metaphors and approximate comparisons meant to summarize Heartless Bastards’ impressively heavy (yet tuneful) sound, let’s establish some perspective and make things perfectly clear: They’re one of America’s best rock bands. That’s “rock” in the classic sense, as in power, intelligence, melody and volume, as opposed to “indie rock,” which all too often implies irony and self-awareness instead of actually kicking ass. That said, the Cincinnati trio aren’t a retro group, despite their affiliation with the Mississippi blues label Fat Possum. There are some bluesy undercurrents, as well as newfound strains of woozy violin and rootsy banjo plucking, on the Bastards’ third CD, The Mountain, but generally the album has an over-the-hills-and-far-away dreaminess, stoked by thunderously massive riffs, with a modern immediacy that goes far beyond grunge and Led Zep. Erika Wennerstrom has a majestically mournful voice, which has to be strong enough to soar over her surging guitar chords on epic rumbles like “Out at Sea” and “Nothing Seems the Same.” She recently reunited with one of her early rhythm sections, drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebaugh, and they lower the boom and doom with plenty of hazy intensity. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
JEFF BECK, DAVY KNOWLES at El Rey Theatre; BLACK MATH HORSEMAN at the Silverlake Lounge; THE WAR ON DRUGS, SLANG CHICKENS, RADEMACHER at the Echo; THE BOXER REBELLION, FUNERAL PARTY at the Troubadour.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22
HECUBA, RAINBOW ARABIA, LUCKY DRAGONS AT THE ECHO
It’s another night of the No Culture club at the Echo, but then perhaps they’re being ironic, because in fact you couldn’t ask for a higher-heaped plate of resonant new cultural madness than this night of musical and art provocateurs, all aligned with the exceedingly relevant Manimal Vinyl. Tonight is ostensibly a record-release party for Hecuba’s new Paradise album, due soon and which, like last year’s obliquely rarefied electro-pop-gospel-grainy-’70s-PBS-science-show Sir EP, offers an even deeper dive into the duo’s multidimensional music from a parallel universe. They’re also visual artists with a fine eye for unsettling plumage and film projections, so look out. Hecuba’s eerily complementary label mates Rainbow Arabia are something like hearing Hecuba from the other side of the globe; their unusually piquant blend of Middle Eastern microtonalisms and rhomboid polyrhythms gets crosshatched with catawampus guitar and vocals, and it’s a real toe-tapper’s delight. Lucky Dragons will strew the stage with things to pluck on, toot and beat at, maybe drag you up there to help out. (John Payne)
DAN DEACON AT THE TROUBADOUR
Perhaps the brightest light in Baltimore’s much-buzzed art-punk scene, Dan Deacon is best known for his giddy-chaotic live show, in which the portly electro-prankster plants himself in the middle of a venue’s floor and unleashes a stream of hyperspeed video-game beats that inevitably trigger the 20-something equivalent of the bouncy-ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. Deacon’s new album, Bromst, is not without its bouncy-ball moments. But with its expansive cast of guest musicians and its increased focus on “real”-instrument interplay, Bromst is also this conservatory alum’s stab at new-music sophistication; Steve Reich’s name is being thrown around in reviews, and not without reason. At the Troubadour, Deacon will perform with a 14-piece ensemble that he’s extremely unlikely to find room for on the club’s tiny stage. Good luck, brah. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Wednesday:
BRIGADIER JERRY, YELLOW WALL DUB SQUAD, SCIENTIST at the Echoplex; JEFF BECK, DAVY KNOWLES at El Rey Theatre; HORSE STORIES, HOLCOMBE WAILER, GABRIEL KAHANE at the Mint.
THURSDAY, APRIL 23
ANGUS & JULIA STONE AT THE TROUBADOUR
At first glance, the Australian brother-sister duo Angus & Julia Stone may not seem like especially flashy performers. The folk-pop songs on their 2007 debut CD, A Book Like This (released domestically last year by Nettwerk), are pleasantly mellow, with gentle harmonies and innocuous, laid-back instrumentation. On closer inspection, their music’s subtle pleasures eventually creep through, like the eerily reproachful vocals that cycle over the ending of “The Beast.” Most of the tunes have flat, blank titles like “Silver Coin” and “Paper Aeroplane,” but the simple lyrics sometimes have unexpected impact, such as the bittersweet fairy-tale awakening of “Hollywood.” Julia Stone has an unusual, plaintive voice that’s somewhere between Victoria Williams and a young Marianne Faithfull, while Angus (who performs solo under the name Lady of the Sunshine) chimes in with a breathy, androgynous accompaniment. Given the sensitive settings, they generally avoid being too precious. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
BLACK KIDS, MATES OF STATE at the Henry Fonda Theater; FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at Home; UB40 at House of Blues; DAWES, AMATEURS, MISSISSIPPI MAN at the Echo; CASXIO, OH DARLING, VANAPRASTA, THE NIGHTS at Spaceland; LENKA, GREG LASWELL AND GUESTS at Largo at the Coronet; WEYOU, SLINGSHOT DAKOTA, DAVID SCOTT STONE, BOB BRUNO, HOWARDAMB at the Smell; LEZ ZEPPELIN at the Key Club.
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