Rock Picks: New York Dolls, Lizz Wright, Brother Ali
THURSDAY, MARCH 6
Twilight Sleep, Karin Tatoyan at the EchoKarin Tatoyan was born in a small town in Alabama and raised in Indiana before moving to Los Angeles, where she's been kicking around the unplugged coffeehouse scene for several years now. She recently metamorphosed into an electronics-based singer, backed in live performances by multi-instrumentalist the One Second Time Machine, a.k.a. Thomas Greene. Tatoyan colorfully describes her music as the "translation of my insides beaming via satellite," and she intones "Radio Cures," from her 2007 EP, The History of Stains, with an interstellar Bjork-style breathiness. "Fit In" unfolds with a Kate Bush sense of wonder, and the EP's title track swirls inside languid pop guitars. "Ver Cha Bess" sparkles via magic guitar harmonics while foreboding cello strokes seesaw under her plaintive pleas. Headliners Twilight Sleep have a similarly ethereal sound on their new EP, Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Tracy Marcellino coos with a dreamy haziness over partner Raj Lathigara's network of electronics and sound effects amid the sleek and wintry soundscape "Don't Fire Your Guns" before fading away into the spare echoes of the gentle "Broken Record." Space is still the place. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
FOO FIGHTERS, SERJ TANKIAN at the Forum; THE BILLYBONES, RUBBER CITY REBELS at the Airliner; HOWLIN' RAIN at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; THE KRIS SPECIAL at Mr. T's Bowl; ROONEY, BRETT DENNEN at the Roxy; MONOTONIX, ANAVAN, BAD DUDES at the Smell; VAN HUNT at Temple Bar; EEK-A-MOUSE, PATO BANTON at Vault 350.
FRIDAY, MARCH 7
Why?, Y.A.C.H.T. at the Natural History Museum
As is noted in the program for the Natural History Museum's "Discovery in the Age of Mammals: Building Brains and Making Minds" exhibit, "One hallmark of mammals is the evolution of a highly developed brain capable of orchestrating amazingly complex behaviors." A funky demonstration of this phenomenon might be found in the performances of two amazingly complex, behaviorally, bands who'll play at the museum tonight, namely Bay Area hip-hop/indie-rock weirdos Why? and Y.A.C.H.T., which is Seattle multimedia workaholic Jona Bechtolt in electro power-jam mode. Each will give aural examples of "how this might to make decisions and to solve problems, the ability to communicate through verbal and nonverbal languages, the ability to form deep social networks, the ability to be consciously aware of the world arises from our highly developed brains." DJ sets in the African Mammal Hall by Ale and matthewdavid add to the intrigue. And don't miss Daniel Dennett's 6:30 p.m. discussion "From Animal to Person: How Cultural Evolution Furnishes Our Minds With Thinking Tools." (John Payne)
Balkan Beat Box at El Rey Theatre
"Come along, children, now we're going to have a little music like old times," a sampled voice declares amid the festively woozy horns, spacy sound effects and funky marching rhythms of "Hermetico," from Balkan Beat Box's 2007 CD, Nu Med (JDub). The 10-piece Brooklyn collective makes a little music like old times, stirring up swooning Eastern European klezmer and folk melodies, while making music for future times through hip-hop, reggae and techno grooves. This new Mediterranean melange sometimes evokes the febrile world-beat sounds of Manu Chao and Gogol Bordello, for whom Balkan Beat Box's Ori Kaplan used to play sax. At other times, their merry whirlwind of influences is stranger than mere exotica, from the flurry of horns whipping around the desert landscapes of "Balcasio" to the serpentine Middle Eastern saxes of "Gypsy Queens" to the soaring voices and magically unwinding guitars of "Joro Boro." The Beat Box are fronted by Kaplan and drummer-programmer Tamir Muskat, from the similarly eclectic Firewater, who, by the way, are scheduled to hit the Roxy in June. (Falling James)
New York Dolls at Henry Fonda Theater
On paper, this reunion of the New York Dolls absolutely shouldn't work. Two-thirds of the classic early lineups — Billy Murcia, Jerry Nolan, Johnny Thunders and Arthur "Killer" Kane — are dead, leaving only rhythm guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and singer David Johansen to carry on with replacement musicians. Although Sylvain wrote the music for a handful of the band's early-'70s tunes (the sassy "Puss 'n' Boots" and the sublime glitter-pop collision "Trash") and Johansen was (and still is) a witty lyricist, it's hard to imagine the Dolls without rambunctious drummer Nolan and Thunders, whose plaintively wasted alley-cat yowling and crudely distinctive lead-guitar snarls gave the group some real junkie soul. And yet, miracle of miracles, the reincarnated Dolls' 2006 comeback CD, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, is a damn good rock & roll record, in part because bassist Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks) and lead guitarist Steve Conte don't try to slavishly mimic their dead counterparts. Yaffa's "We're All in Love" has a coolly hypnotic descending melody, while "Gimme Luv & Turn on the Light" (with guest star Iggy Pop) is a rockin', sockin' harmonica workout. Despite all the amputations, the new Dolls have perfected a kind of "Maimed Happiness," as Johansen croons. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
KIOSK at Skirball Cultural Center, 8 p.m.; DIE! DIE! DIE! at the Echo; LESLIE & THE LYS, DEVON WILLIAMS at the Echoplex, 7 p.m.; BLOOD ON THE SADDLE at 14 Below; BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA at the Knitting Factory; THE MONOLATORS at Mr. T's Bowl; THE TRANSMISSIONS, THE HEALTH CLUB at the Scene; MICHAEL WHITMORE at Taix; FIREBALL MINISTRY, THE KNIVES, TOTIMOSHI at Viper Room; LIZ PAPPADEMAS at Redballs Rock & Roll Pizza, Canoga Park.
SATURDAY, MARCH 8
Dale Hawkins, Big Jay McNeely at Safari Sam's
While Louisiana swamp-rock overlord Dale Hawkins will be eternally remembered for his feverish smasheroo "Susie Q," a song so irresistible that it made him the first white boy ever to perform at Harlem's Apollo theater, the singer-guitarist has also reached far into a kaleidoscopic musical spectrum that almost relegates his signature tune to footnote status. He made his studio bones working with Johnny Horton and Merle Kilgore at the Louisiana Hayride KWKH facilities, later worked as RCA's West Coast rock & roll A&R man, and along the way kept churning out some of the finest, funkiest rock & roll numbers known to man (hell, he even cut for Chess Records). Teamed with Los Angeles R&B sax honker Big Jay McNeely, Hawkins is going to have really deliver — at 81, McNeely still has the same supercharged wherewithal to compel audience members to leap from balconies, expose themselves and generally go so raving mad that he was banned from performing here circa 1952-'53. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Saturday:
RUBBER CITY REBELS, THE CROWD at Alex's Bar; CONNIE PRICE & THE KEYSTONES at Crash Mansion; GIL MANTERA'S PARTY DREAM, MAHJONNG at the Echo; W.A.S.P. at the Key Club; I SEE HAWKS IN L.A., MOIRA SMILEY & VOCO at McCabe's; THE MAE SHI, OLD TIME RELIJUN, CLIPD BEAKS at the Smell; SACCHARINE TRUST, INSECT SURFERS at Taix.
SUNDAY, MARCH 9
Big Business, Red Fang, The Cops at Spaceland
Hard to believe the dense groove of Big Business springs from a mere duo. With Coady Willis' meaty fills and articulate cymbal washes hitched to the rumbling bass licks and King Buzzo-esque vocals of Jared Warren, the L.A.-based band work a familiar ur-metal sound on Here Come the Waterworks that is plain massive, if not a tad satiric. Only a real wet blanket wouldn't dig Red Fang's bombastic yet supremely melodic rock — just when you think it's wandering off onto some druggy tangent, it snaps back into the pocket. From a whole different place, the Cops are clearly inspired by certain British post-punks from 25 years ago, and the Seattle band's choppy, stop-&-go guitars, occasional dips into Clash-style reggae rhythms and dance-y drum beats bring a funk-punk pulse to their otherwise blinkered pop. The track "It's Epidemic" from their new release, Free Electricity, is reason enough to be here before the hipster witching hour. (Andrew Lentz)
Crystal Castles at the Roxy
"We are 1 boy and 1 girl. We are named after She-Ra's home. We play rough." Crystal Castles' MySpace manifesto is, straight up the pants, an outright admission of Nutrasweet-twee guilt. Too rad for mom and dad, fashion brats Ethan Kath and Alice Glass are a suddenly successful, heavily touring techno project picked up by Last Gang Records — and the heavily derided bane of Toronto's chattering (on message boards, anyway) classes. The garage-sale electro poppers Ethan Kath of Kill Cheerleader (read: metal juvenilia) and Alice Glass forgo substance of any kind to prove a real commitment to all style, all the time. Self-reflexive keyboard jams, blandly obtuse and falsely tough, it's a fun time if you're under 25 and don't read books. What's curious is that cheap, awkward prefab beats, the kind that inspire haphazard 15-second raps about how fucking good brunch was, haven't been newsworthy for several lifetimes of indie rock. (Kate Carraway)
Also playing Sunday:
THE BLASTERS, TONY GILKYSON at the Echo, 5 p.m.; PETER HIMMELMAN at McCabe's; GANG WIZARD, GOLIATH BIRD EATER at the Smell; TARA BUSCH, LIZ PAPPADEMAS, ALEX & SAM at Tangier.
MONDAY, MARCH 10
Lizz Wright at the Hotel Cafe
Lizz Wright created a buzz in jazz circles with her first two albums (Salt and Dreaming Wide Awake), but she's isn't your standard "jazz standards" singer. More in the tradition of genre-busting vocalists like Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln, Wright falls in with such contemporaries as Norah Jones and Cassandra Wilson (although she's more soulful than the former and less eclectic than the latter). The Georgia native draws R&B, gospel, folk, blues and even rock into her sound and her song selection. In the past, she has made such diverse songs as "A Taste of Honey" and Neil Young's "Old Man" her own with her warm, emotionally resonant vocals. On her terrific new disc, The Orchard, she adds tunes by Led Zeppelin, Ike Turner and Patsy Cline to her diverse songbook. However, it's also notable for her strong originals, from the funky "My Heart" to the spare ballad "Song for Mia." This Hotel Cafe show offers the chance to catch Wright in an intimate small-club setting. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Monday:
ED HARCOURT, THE CHAPIN SISTERS at the Echoplex; DANDI WIND, ARI SHINE at the Knitting Factory.
TUESDAY, MARCH 11
Landon Pigg at the Knitting Factory
Upon opening Landon Pigg's MySpace page, I wondered why such a prolific young songwriter was promoting the hell out of a cover tune — only to discover that "Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop" isn't some early-'70s chestnut revisited, after all. The song's uber-familiarity is due to its use on an ubiquitous television-ad campaign (for diamonds). Yep, jingles are the new singles. In person, Pigg's a distracted, wild-haired Ashton Kutcher look-alike with a motor-mouth foaming with pearls of charisma — a Nashville-based, knee-weakening prodigy who'd have landed a record deal in any of rock & roll's eras. His own compositions on his debut album, LP (geddit?), are contemplative Rufus Wainwright-y expressions with just enough Britpop in their Americana — and just enough melancholic melodic surprises — to keep Pigg on the right side of oh-so-sensitive, post-Dashboard Confessional dorm-room rock. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Tuesday:
SHERYL CROW at El Rey Theatre; ATLAS SOUND, WHITE RAINBOW at the Echo; AM, BUDDY, SUSIE SUH at the Hotel Cafe; BAD RELIGION at House of Blues; AZALIA SNAIL at Molly Malone's; MAGIC CHRISTIAN at Safari Sam's.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12
DEATH TO ANDERS, THAILAND at the Echo; MAD PROFESSOR at the Echoplex; BAD RELIGION, CHUCK RAGAN at House of Blues; BING JI LING at the Roxy; OLLIN at Seven Grand; CAT HAIR ENSEMBLE, CREEKBIRD at the Bordello.
THURSDAY, MARCH 13
Brother Ali at the Troubadour
The truth is here and — not coincidently — so is Brother Ali. The albino Minneapolis rapper might be white, but he's no foolish Vanilla Ice dilettante. The devout Muslim doesn't just sound black, he combines the full force of his thoughtful and rebellious rhymes with the understanding of 400 years of oppression and slavery, powered by every outsider's secret weapon: truth. Truth is relative, but Ali's 2007 CD, The Undisputed Truth (Rhymesayers), examines the vanishing concept from all angles, from the personal to the political, to come up with a new, clearer understanding. "You don't need to hear my race in the song ... Your ears might help you to see," he suggests on "Daylight." He delves into reggae rhythms on "Freedom Ain't Free" but never strays far from the cold, hard realities of the slinky-funky "Uncle Sam Goddamn" ("Welcome to the United Snakes") and the somberly grooving "Letter From the Government" ("I ain't dying for no president, sending kids to die when we didn't even elect the bitch"). Liner-note testimonials from Rakim, Saul Williams and Umar Bin Hassan underscore Brother Ali's impact. (Falling James)
George Tabb benefit at Safari Sam's
Remember when you watched the World Trade Center towers fall and wondered about all that dust everyone was inhaling as they fled? Remember how you forgot all about it because who did you know who was actually there? Well, now you know someone. George Tabb — venerable punk activist and Maximum Rock 'n' Roll columnist — has World Trade Center Syndrome, a malady from which countless thousands of firefighters and citizens suffer, and the number's dropping all the time, if you catch my meaning. Tabb, age 46, has PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease — translation: kidney calluses that create a kind of agony at which even Satan winces) as a result of him living near Ground Zero, and, to help defray the costs of his medical expenses, all ticket revenues tonight go toward that end. Mike Watt & the Missingmen open up, along with Money Mark, the Latin funk of OO Soul, the garage-psych stylings of Woolly Bandits, former Zappa guitarist Mike Keneally and others. (David Cotner)
Also playing Thursday:
CLUTCH, MURDER BY DEATH, MAYLENE & THE SONS OF DISASTER at Henry Fonda Theater; SAY ANYTHING, MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA, BIFFY CLYRO at Avalon; STAN RIDGWAY at the Canyon; ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE, DANAVA at the Echoplex; NELLIE McKAY at Largo; OLLIN at Seven Grand.
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