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Rock Picks: Os Mutantes, Hall and Oates, Bat for Lashes, Davila 666, Maia Sharp

Cracked actors: The Warlocks
Grant Peterson

FRIDAY, AUGUST 28

The Warlocks, Morning After Girls at Spaceland
Let’s face it, that descriptive term psychedelic is getting a bit tired and nebulous. But then, it’s still the right umbrella to hoist over L.A.’s veteran dark freaks the Warlocks, among the first of the second wave of “psychedelic” bands to make the scene in the ’90s. After cutting down his massive guitar army to a small core unit to record the pop market–accessible Surgery (Mute, 2005), main man Bobby Hecksher changed labels to Tee Pee and layed out 2007’s ectoplasmic stoner epic Heavy Deavy Skull Lover, sort of a benchmark for all things, well, “psychedelic.” But you gotta hear the new The Mirror Cracked (Tee Pee), a superb return to formlessness utterly drenched in the band’s trademark losing-control menace. There is no sound like the Warlocks’ draggy, dolorous peals of dissonance to better conjure the essence of a really bad acid flashback — which sounds like it’d be a bummer to hear, but it’s not; lovely melodies buried beneath the band’s echoed-out descents into hell bring a strange kind of ecstasy to these windswept nightmares. The band also plays Spaceland on Saturday with Useless Keys and Black Apples. (John Payne)

 

Os Mutantes at the Echoplex
The very strange and curiously influential Brazilian fellowship known as Os Mutantes was formed in Sao Paulo in 1965 by Arnaldo Baptista, Sergio Dias and future pop diva Rita Lee with the aim of purveying a tropicalia-tinged psychedelic rock that incorporated environmental sounds and musique concrete, ultradistortion and way-out studio FX into a frenzied, sprawling, good-humored and quite toe-tapping alternative pop music. Their humorous but musically deep brand of progressive rock found favor with discerning and with-it tastemakers such as Kurt Cobain and David Byrne, the latter snatching it up for release on an essential collection for his Luaka Bop label. The rest is not exactly history, but suffice to say that general critical acclaim has ensued right up to today, when the re-formed Mutantes release their first album of new stuff in 35 years. A wonderfully resonant blend of lilting acoustic folk and exhilaratingly freaky chaos, Haih or Amortecedor (Anti-) finds leader Dias in collaboration with Brazil’s legendary surrealist sambista Tom Ze. (John Payne)

 

Also playing Friday:

GANG GANG DANCE, ARIEL PINK at the Troubadour; B-SIDE PLAYERS, ROCKY DAWUNI, ALLENSWORTH at the Roxy; J.J. GREY & MOFRO, THE WHITE BUFFALO at El Rey Theatre; PETE YORN, JULIETTE COMMAGERE, J.D. KING at Henry Fonda Theater; TOM FREUND, MATT THE ELECTRICIAN, JESS KLEIN at McCabe’s; LIZA MINNELLI at the Hollywood Bowl; TED LEO & THE PHARMACISTS, JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD at the Echo; GREAT WHITE, JANI LANE, MANDY LION, STEEL THUNDER at House of Blues; THE HONKY TONK ANGELS, ROSIE FLORES, PATTY BOOKER, JANN BROWN at the Redwood Bar; HECUBA, LUCKY DRAGONS, BEAST COP at the Smell.

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 29

Akron/Family, Howlin’ Rain, Lucky Dragons at El Rey Theatre
Akron/Family has been spending a lot of time in Los Angeles of late, most notably holding down a three-night May residency at the Steve Allen Theater, but if those shows proved anything, it’s that this trio operates without template. The results can be mixed — Dana Janssen occasionally breaks into a well-intentioned freestyle rap — but the energy is always high, and the Family’s extremes are tempered by an internal system of checks and balances fueled by Seth Olinsky’s love for jamitude and Miles Seaton’s post-punk background. The band’s new record, Set ’Em Wild, Set ’Em Free, is Akron at its best: experimental yet hummable, ruminative yet danceable (in a tribal sort of way). Oakland’s Howlin’ Rain is an offshoot of Comets on Fire (each fronted by Ethan Miller), and is steeped in the traditions of San Francisco’s vintage blues-rock. Think Wolfmother with more melody and less put-on. Lucky Dragons is far harder to pin down in terms of genre, but just as concerned with soul-stirring. Make sure to arrive early enough to participate in the duo’s interactive show. (Chris Martins)

 

Box Elders, Audacity, Tijuana Panthers at the Echo
These Omaha boys have a rep for explosive, loud shows propelled by garage-rock fuzz and sweaty energy — compliments of well-listened-to Nuggets albums, old Dinosaur Jr. riffs and classic girl-group hooks. Like Fugazi might have sounded if they were recorded and produced by Phil Spector in 1963, brothers Clayton and Jeremiah McIntyre (along with drummer Dave Goldberg) are playing fucking punk skiffle. Their new one, Alice and Friends, is less than one month old and getting loads of attention online and on college radio stations. The LP’s infectiously catchy tunes are all stand outs, but unpretentiously modest with a home-recorded, bare bones approach. Their busy fall tour is gonna expose them to loads of new fans — see them now while you can get up close. The Southbay’s Tijuana Panthers swagger to a sweet and snuggly brand of nostalgic surf rock, with just a smidge of tough guy attitude to make the girls wilt. Audacity, on the other hand, throws down spazzy, old-fashioned, snot-nosed punk. This is an early show at 4 p.m. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

Maia Sharp at the Hotel Café
The daughter of country songwriter Randy Sharp and UCLA anthropologist Sharon Bays, singer Maia Sharp is a local gal who grew up in the San Fernando Valley. She’s perhaps best known for writing songs for the Dixie Chicks, Art Garfunkel, Keb’ Mo’ and her champion, Bonnie Raitt, who took her out on tour and covered three of Sharp’s tunes on 2005’s Souls Alike. She comes into her own as a promising performer in her own right on her fifth album, Echo (Crooked Crown), with a little help from such celebrity guests as the masterfully subtle drummer Jim Keltner, producer Don Was, and Raitt, who duets with Sharp on the gentle folk-pop track “Death by Perfection.” Elsewhere, Sharp declares, “I will never be a part of your polite society,” although, ironically, the arrangement and Was’ generic production make the power-pop song sound too polite to work as a rebel anthem or a truly defiant statement of purpose. Still, despite Sharp’s middle-of-the-road aspirations, her music is more thoughtfully crafted and less cliché-prone than most of her mainstream peers’. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Saturday:

GEORGE CLINTON & PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC at Club Nokia; HIS ORCHESTRA, SOUL PUPPET, KENNETH PETTENGALE at the Bootleg Theater; BAND OF HORSES, WILLOUGHBY at the Fox Theater (Pomona); PRINCETON, FOL CHEN at Pehrspace; LIZA MINNELLI at the Hollywood Bowl; JOE PERNICE at McCabe’s; KATY PERRY, THE BIRD & THE BEE at the Palladium; THE NATIONAL at the Wiltern; FAT JOE, S.O.G. CREW, ROOSEVELT, TONI MONROE, OTHERS at the Key Club; SHURMAN, WELLDIGGERS BANQUET, TONY GILKYSON at the Redwood Bar; THE MONOLATORS, BOX VIOLET at Silver Factory Studios; THE MINUS FIVE, BASEBALL PROJECT at the Troubadour.

 

SUNDAY, AUGUST 30

The Mars Volta at the Hollywood Palladium
Since they formed in 2001 out of the ashes of At the Drive-In, L.A.’s Mars Volta have gotten off on routinely tweaking their fans’ expectations, alternating near-perfect alt-rock radio singles like “The Widow” (from 2005’s Frances the Mute) with virtually impenetrable slabs of prog-punk wild-out, such as last year’s The Bedlam in Goliath. The band’s latest, this summer’s Octahedron, represents something of a détente between those opposing impulses; it has both gnarly riffs and memorable melodies, both speed-demon tempo changes and relatively relaxed future-soul grooves. (It’s also the Mars Volta’s first effort for Warner Bros. after a long stint at Universal.) Should Octahedron lead you to expect a tight, concise concert experience tonight? Definitely not. Given the way singer Cedric Bixler Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-López change their minds on creative matters, they might not even play anything from it. (Mikael Wood)

 

Mark Burgess at the Echo
Throughout the bulk of the 1980s, and then again (briefly) at the turn of the century, Mark Burgess fronted the Chameleons, Manchester’s sorely underrated purveyors of maudlin rock bliss. The band didn’t crack the mainstream like its contemporaries New Order and the Smiths, nor did it even receive much of a reevaluation in the midst of this decade’s post-punk revival. However, the Chameleons did gather a substantial cult following and their music, oddly enough, took a stranglehold of Los Angeles, where their songs remain in regular rotation on the decks of the city’s darkest nightclubs decades after being released. It’s likely that you have heard “Swamp Thing,” its Southern twang of a guitar wrapping around a stomp of a beat, and “In Shreds,” a punk-ish number that breaks down into an emotional collapse. Perhaps, too, you’re familiar with the sinewy goth dance rhythm of “Less Than Human.” Presented by Part Time Punks and Post-Punk.com, Burgess’ engagement will consist of songs by the Chameleons, and will feature a backing band of L.A. musicians. Also on the bill are locals the New Room and War Tapes. (Liz Ohanesian)

 

Also playing Sunday:

KILLAH PRIEST, EVIDENCE, PLANET ASIA at the Roxy; THE FAINT, MOVING UNITS, AUTOEROTIQUE at Club Nokia; DREDG, RX BANDITS, AS TALL AS LIONS at El Rey Theatre.

 

MONDAY, AUGUST 31

Bat for Lashes at the Henry Fonda Theater
Like so many of us, Bat for Lashes singer Natasha Khan prefers to spend her time in the Land of Nod instead of in this mundane real world. Bat for Lashes’ recent CD, Two Suns, is steeped in hazy dreamscapes like “Sleep Alone,” where her ethereal cooing is set against an austere, pulsing bass line. “I can’t stand to sleep alone . The darkness is a stranger,” she tells a lover. “Do you hear me coming in my blue dream?” Such mysterious blue dreams are the setting for her lushly romantic entreaties, which are wrapped up in fairy-tale imagery and exotic musical flourishes. Adorned with giant peacock feathers and decked out in elaborately dramatic costumes that combine Native American motifs with theatrically glam makeup, Khan can’t help evoking Kate Bush. However, unlike Tori Amos, she imbues songs like “Daniel” and “Glass” with enough of her own personality and creativity to conjure convincingly bewitching spells. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Monday:

THE GROWLERS, MY PET SADDLE, GRAND ELEGANCE, THE MOON UPSTAIRS at the Echo; LOCAL NATIVES, THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE, AUSHUA, FUN at Spaceland; BLACK JOE LEWIS & THE HONEYBEARS, EXTRA GOLDEN at the Troubadour.

 

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Davila 666, Mika Miko at the Echo
With their fuzz guitars, bratty vocals and rabid stage show, Davila 666 are the kings of the Puerto Rican trash-rock scene. Such stomping songs as “Muy Mal” have a Ramones-y punk rock drive, but newer tunes like “Sabes Que Quiero” also have peppy bubblegum hooks. This combination of punk rudeness with ’60s garage-rock jangle is similar to the Black Lips’ shtick, but Davila 666’s Spanish-language anthems, like the aptly titled distortion romp “Basura,” have their own inexplicably silly power. Lead shouter Sir Charles Davila spits out his wild rants like a cross between Iggy Pop and the late Sky Saxon, while the rest of his band churns out a noisy guitar-based racket. Davila 666 insist that their music sounds like “Menudo on lots of drugs,” but they’re just being atypically humble; their 2008 self-titled CD on In the Red Records is a riotous blast of unrefined, undiluted rock & roll. They play tonight with L.A.’s own manically frenzied coed punks Mika Miko. Davila 666 also at Alex’s Bar, Sat. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Tuesday:

THE DUKE SPIRIT, BAND OF SKULLS at El Rey Theatre; WEEN at the Fox Theater (Pomona); JOHN LEGEND at the Greek Theatre; LANTVRN, MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS, LULUC at the Bordello; THE 88, DANIEL BRUMMEL at Spaceland; MEW at the Troubadour.

 

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

Nine Inch Nails at the Hollywood Palladium
You may have heard that Trent Reznor is shutting down Nine Inch Nails, at least as a live band. Or at least for the time being — it’s getting hard to tell: Earlier this year Reznor said that his recent tour with Jane’s Addiction would be NIN’s last, then he scheduled a series of intimate small-venue shows in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. So who knows; maybe he’ll be back. We’re getting the supposedly final four gigs here, which seems right given that the band has called L.A. home for quite a while now. In any event, you should go to however many of these sold-out shows your hookups can score you entry to. When I caught NIN on the NIN/JA tour in May, at Verizon Wireless in Irvine, they made Jane’s Addiction look like a bunch of jam-band dropouts (wasn’t hard, but still). If Reznor’s truly going out, he’s going out on top. Also Thursday at the Henry Fonda Theater, next Saturday at the Wiltern and next Sunday at the Echoplex. (Mikael Wood)

 

Hall and Oates at Nokia Theater
With recent releases by bands like Passion Pit and Phoenix, it seems there’s a resurgence of that gold-mine concoction so many ’80s hit-makers exploited: feel-good music. Young bands have figured out if you can make it bounce, a streamlined combination of simple beats, fearlessly catchy melodies and hopelessly optimistic intentions will spawn long-lasting pop accolades and endless earworms. Case in point, Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True” is rearing its infectiously peppy head in the darnedest of places — like the (500) Days of Summer dance number and Keyboard Cat on YouTube. Daryl Hall and John Oates have been ridiculed to no end for their oftentimes silly, but enduring, piles of hits. But now, like ABBA, the Carpenters and others who’ve made it from jokey castoffs to those elevated and embraced for seamless pop gems, it looks like Hall & Oates are rounding the last curve. Live, they try to tone down the synth and make it “more contemporary,” which means acoustic guitars. We say, go whole hog, boys — your time has come. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

Also playing Wednesday:

JOHN LEGEND at the Greek Theatre; MIKE HERRERA’S TUMBLEDOWN, JOHN NOLAN at the Knitting Factory; NINE INCH NAILS at the Palladium; NEW RADIANT STORM KING at the Echo; RICHIE SPICE at the Echoplex; DIVISION DAY, BAD VEINS, LOVELIKEFIRE at Spaceland; GREENSKY BLUEGRASS, FINDING FICTION, CHRIS AYER at the Mint; HEARTLESS BASTARDS at the Troubadour.

 

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 3

Gun Outfit, Milk Music, Mr. Highway, Francis Harold & The Holograms at the Smell
Olympia, Washington’s Gun Outfit doesn’t play bass. The trio’s debut LP for Dean Spunt’s PPM label, Dim Light, features dueling guitars and drums, but nary a deeply resonant pluck — and that’s perfectly fine. Singer Dylan Sharp sings in a low David Berman warble that resounds just fine, especially singing simple truths (“Filling each and every hole/Evolution’s only goal”) over his band’s divine, slackerly punk. Sharp and co. should fit right in at the Smell, even while maintaining that patent sleepy Northwestern vibe. MySpace offers few clues as to the M.O. of Milk Music, a local act that seems to have ties to up-and-coming rapper/producer Kenan Bell, and may or may not simply loop single beats (as in: one drum hit) for minutes at a time. Francis Harold & the Holograms hail from Bisbee, Arizona, and hew tough metallic sludge from vaguely poppy punk. It’s black and screechy, but all that guitar shredding is laid down over a backbeat fit for head-nodding and spazz-dancing. (Chris Martins)

 

The Pretenders, Cat Power, Juliette Lewis at the Greek Theatre
Tonight you get two great divas for the price of one, along with an opening set by the dilettante musician/actor Juliette Lewis, whose overly mannered Mick Jagger imitations should provide some unintended comic relief, and a distinct contrast with the no-bullshit headliners. (Still, you’ve got to give Lewis some credit for being brave enough to risk comparisons with such iconic singers as Cat Power and Chrissie Hynde.) Power follows with a set of languidly enchanting ballads, blending her gorgeously mournful vocals with Memphis-style soul music. There is a convulsive and cathartic strength to Power’s songs, even as they pierce you deeply with a heartbreaking and bottomless sadness. Hynde is similarly engrossing on such ballads as “The Nothing Maker” and the countrified “One Thing Never Changed,” from the Pretenders’ excellent 2008 CD, Break Up the Concrete (Shangri-La), but she’s equally adept at Dylanish wordplay on an uptempo rocker like “Boots of Chinese Plastic” or when she tells her Samson-like boyfriend, “Don’t Cut Your Hair.” The Pretenders even trip out a little amid the spacy shimmers of the radiantly glowing gem “Almost Perfect,” which is, indeed, almost perfect. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Thursday:

PATTI SMITH at Santa Monica Pier; MIA MAESTRO & A. ROBINSON, BUDDY with IAN BALL, FRANK ORRALL, ANNALIESE at the Hotel Cafe; NICKELBACK, HINDER, PAPA ROACH, SAVING ABEL at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; LAST AMERICAN BUFFALO, THE OUTLINE, MISSISSIPPI MAN, GET BACK LORETTA at the Bootleg Theater; LILY & THE LADIES at the Echo; ISRAEL VIBRATION, GIANT PANDA GUERILLA DUB SQUAD at the Key Club; COLIN HAY at Largo at the Coronet; TIM EASTON, WAKE UP LUCID, FARAWAY PLACES at the Redwood Bar.