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Rock Picks: Ozomatli, Harper Simon, Spain

Calexico get surly waiting for their appetizers to arrive.

Friday/December/18

Harper Simon, the Chapin Sisters at the Bootleg Theater
When the Chapin Sisters started out in the local scene five years ago, the folk-pop group needed little more than Abigail Chapin’s and Lily Chapin’s acoustic guitars to support the sumptuous harmonies on their deliciously somber remakes of the Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” as well as the often-bewitching original songs that eventually ended up on their 2008 full-length debut, Lake BottomLP. Earlier this year, the trio (which also includes half-sister Jessica Craven) began performing live with a full electric band, whom they jokingly refer to as “the Brother Brothers.” While there was a stark intensity and an austere simplicity in the Chapins’ previous, virtually a cappella arrangements, the new guys help the sisters rock out a little more, giving their spare tunes more warmth and rhythmic push without getting in the way of those fabulously eerie voices. Like Abigail and Lily (the daughters of folkie Tom Chapin) and Jessica (the daughter of film director Wes Craven), the pleasantly soft-rocking headliner Harper Simon has the considerable advantage of being born into pop royalty — as opposed to, say, the singers of bands like Vampire Weekend, the Wiyos and Everest, who seemingly have less of an excuse for sounding just like Harper’s dad, Paul Simon. (Falling James)

Ozomatli at Club Nokia
Their old backpack-rap peers in the Black Eyed Peas may have gone superstar, but the members of L.A.’s Ozomatli are still keeping it real: Earlier this year these world-hop believers traveled to Southeast Asia under the aegis of the U.S. Department of State and rocked, among other unlikely venues, a Burmese school for the blind. Fortunately, Ozomatli haven’t started to sound like they’re keeping it real. In one track from their latest full-length, 2007’s aggressively rambunctious Don’t Mess With the Dragon, they cribbed the vocal melody from Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” of all appealingly unserious things. According to the band’s representative, they’re currently at work on Dragon’s follow-up with producer Tony Berg, which means new material may be on the docket tonight. Also Sat. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Friday:

JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; CAMP FREDDY, DARLING STILETTOS at the Roxy; ORGONE, DJ RIGHTEOUS TRASH, BLUESKYREALITY, WINDSOR DRIVE, FRANK & DEROL at the Mint; BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA, THE VENTURES at the Gibson Amphitheatre; TOYS THAT KILL, BIPOLAR BEAR at the Smell; AQUABATS, BUCK O’NINE, SUPERNOVA at the Henry Fonda Theater; RICKIE LEE JONES at the Orpheum; MICKEY AVALON at Vanguard; VERY BE CAREFUL, SERGIO MENDOZA Y LA ORQUESTA at the Echo; EL VEZ, LOS STRAITJACKETS at the Troubadour; FOREIGN BORN, BEST COAST, EL SPORTIVO & THE BLUES at Spaceland; TREMELLOW, SIGNALS, SNOWSUIT, NO BABIES, WHITMAN at the Echo Curio; MIKE WATT & THE SECONDMEN, SACCHARINE TRUST, LANDFILL, OTHERS at the Good Hurt; HO-HO-TEL feat. AM, JIM BIANCO, BROTHER SAL, CARY BROTHERS, BUDDY, ANDY CLOCKWISE at the Hotel Café; AM, GOSSIP TREE, MY PET SADDLE, THE FUNERAL PARTY at Pehrspace; SUKI EWERS, DUKES & GANNON at Taix.

 

Saturday/December/19

El Ten Eleven, Triorganico at the Bootleg Theater
Make not the mistake of confusing El Ten Eleven with similarly Spanglish-named groups like Los Lonely Boys or Los Super Seven — there’s nothing particularly Tex-Mex about what these guys do, and no language employed whatsoever in the execution of their danceable post-rock compositions. The local duo — doubleneck-ist Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty — offers a near-exact triangulation of Trans Am spoof, Fucking Champs shred and Ratatat synthery. Entertaining, yes, but the true highlight of the night should be Triorganico, whose bossa-infused jazz and easy summertime psychedelia breezed their way into this city’s consciousness earlier this year by way of a glorious debut, Convivencia. Oddly enough, that album was a mere afterthought to the intimate jam sessions that the flute-loving three-piece had been holding in mastermind Pablo Calogero’s L.A. garage. The Brazilian-born Fabiano do Nascimento is as handsome a looker as he is a guitar-player, and percussionist Ricardo “Tiki” Pasillas has played with everyone from Marc Anthony to Poncho Sanchez. (Chris Martins)

X, Calexico at the Wiltern
Jam in the key, stomp on the gas and roar down the road: Like a trusty, rusty old pickup, L.A.’s beloved ’77-school vets X just refuse to putter out. The faithful will flock to hear our most revered local beat combo blast their countrybilly-laced “punk rock” one mo time, wailing along with singer Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe as the iconic pair twine their darkly poetic lyrics like barbed-wire and the great Billy Zoom on electric guitar picks and grins, every damn one of us eager slaves to brother D.J. Bonebrake’s meticulously tight tub-whackin’. The Southwest Sound finds its artful counterpart in Calexico, ex–Giant Sand/Friends of Dean Martinez mates Joey Burns and John Convertino’s long-running Tucson collective, which simmers a dusty, burnt-orange country-indie rock with intriguing new strands of tejano/mariachi, Euro-modernism and a whole lot more. (John Payne)

 

Spain at Spaceland
Spain leader Josh Haden is a member of the prolifically talented Haden family, which includes his father, the legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden, and his sisters Petra Haden (That Dog), Rachel Haden (That Dog) and Tanya Haden (Let’s Go Sailing). Although Josh took part in the Charlie Haden Family & Friends concert last month at Disney Hall (where Charlie delved into his early folk-country roots), his own music is considerably different from his father’s jazzy explorations and his sisters’ energetic pop-punk. Instead, Josh croons funereal ballads in a somber, low voice, singing with the same serious, almost-spiritual intensity whether he’s rhapsodizing about a lover or talking to Jesus. That approach can get pretty ponderous, especially when Haden’s relatively plain lyrics don’t have much to say, but when it does work, on songs like “You Were Meant for Me,” it can be incredibly moving. Josh has reportedly assembled a new Spain lineup for tonight’s show, where he’ll also be selling an “exclusive limited-edition Spaceland-only CD.” (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

HONEST JOHN PLAIN at the Redwood Bar; JAIL WEDDINGS, GESTAPO KHAZI at the Smell; INFECTED MUSHROOM at Avalon; CHRISTMAS SWEATER FESTIVAL FEAT. THE DEADLY SYNDROME, ESKIMOHUNTER, CASTLEDOOR, THE PITY PARTY at El Rey Theatre; OZOMATLI, WIL-DOG Y SU BANDA SINALOENSE at Club Nokia; NITZER EBB at the Galaxy Theatre; BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA at the Gibson Amphitheatre; DANZIG, PENNYWISE, T.S.O.L. at the Long Beach Arena; AGAINST ME, OH PIONEERS at the Troubadour; HO-HO-TEL feat. IRINA BJORKLUND, BLEU, ROCCO DELUCA, TOM FREUND, GRAYDON at the Hotel Café. 

 

Sunday/December/20

Der Golem screening feat. Tom Peters, Jones Welsh, Liam James Springthorpe, Will Salmon at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts
Some scary things are perhaps left buried and forgotten, while others offer continual horrid relevance. The 1920 German expressionist silent Der Golem was part of a series of films directed by Paul Wegener that were based on an old Jewish legend in which an antique dealer finds a golem (played by a chilling Wegener), a clay statue that had been brought to life by a rabbi four centuries earlier. The dealer reawakens the golem to use him as a servant, but the golem falls in love with the dealer’s wife, you see, and she does not reciprocate his love, thus the spurned golem sets off on a path of murder and mayhem and — oh, my! With a new, modernist score by double-bassist/composer Tom Peters, this very, very spooky old film will be dusted off and given a fresh layer of dread, for it is said, “If we can compel the powers of darkness to reveal the magic word, we can bring the Golem to life.” Starts at 7 p.m. ... don’t be late. (John Payne)

Also playing Sunday:

JOHN FORTE, FREDDIE GIBBS, DJ SKEE, BROKEN ORNAMENTS & BRICKS at the Roxy; D.R.I. at House of Blues; THE ARMS, COBALT CRANES, 60 WATT KID, MOSES CAMPBELL at Spaceland.

 

Monday/December/21

Lady Gaga at the Nokia Theatre
It’s dangerous to even write this pick. For the past year, every time the words to that one Lady Gaga song are uttered, or it lands on the radio or in a hotel lobby, that thing enters my head and sticks. Long after the song was released, the one about faking a facial expression while bedding someone, it would loop around in my consciousness for, like, days on — damn. There it is. “Puh puh puh poker face/Puh puh poker face.” It will now be there for at least a few hours, the sweet pop confection, dangerous and deadly, so catchy and fun, swimming like a hungry shark through my mind. The next one, “Just Dance,” wasn’t as tortuous, for sure, but it, too, worked its magic on a population tired of Madonna, sick of Britney, looking for a new obsession. And Gaga is a cultural obsession, for sure, and the way her team — publicists, management, label and artists — has managed her ascendence has been a joy to behold. That story that she’s got an itsy penis to complement her vagina? They didn’t issue a denial immediately; rather, they let the ridiculous rumor swirl around the Web for a few weeks before laughing it off. You can’t buy that sort of conversation! Or that incredible photo of Gaga playing a Damien Hirst piano while wearing a Frank Gehry–designed hat? One more walletful of cultural capital. At the moment when Kanye was imploding, it was Gaga who canceled their tag-team tour. Gaga canceled on Kanye! The gall! The balls! Every maneuver a gold-medal performance. Are you already sick of her? Too bad for you. Best to accept that she’s here, crafty and shrewd, so she ain’t going anywhere. Also Tues.-Wed. (Randall Roberts)

 

Also playing Monday:

MOONRATS, VOICES VOICES, SISTER CRAYON, CORRIDOR at the Echo; ROBIN THICKE, RYAN LESLIE, LAURA IZIBOR at Club Nokia; STEEL PANTHER at House of Blues; NICOLE KIDMAN, KEVIN GREENSPON, SNOWSUIT, NO BABIES at Pehrspace; MERE MORTALS, HELEN STELLAR, HEALAMONSTER & TARSIER at Spaceland; THE BLIND BOY PAXTON & FRANK FAIRFIELD VARIETY SHOW at the Redwood Bar; RED TIDE, LINKS, SAMUEL STEWART, CHASING KINGS at the Silverlake Lounge.

 

Tuesday/December/22

Local Natives at the Echo
The rising froth surrounding Silver Lake quintet Local Natives is a mite bit rabid, but understandable nonetheless. Though the group formed little over a year ago, its debut album, Gorilla Manor (available on import now, coming to the U.S. via Frenchkiss in February), presents an infectious combination of contemporary influences that walks a tough-to-tread line between genuinely frenetic and well-arranged. Take the song “Wide Eyes,” for example: A Grizzly Bear–like flair for segueing between disparate bits takes the listener from taut wintry pop to spacious percussion-heavy swoon to folksy vocals-only passages. The band has the multipart songs to match its rich three-way harmonies, and the energy to actually pull off a midalbum cover of Talking Heads’ “Warning Sign.” Animal Collective too plays heavy among Local Natives’ touchstones, as does a thankfully patois-free touch of reggae, heard on the bubbly single “Camera Talk.” Catch ’em live to see for yourself: In spite of the band’s actual origins, even Orange County kids can show a little soul. (Chris Martins)

Honeyhoney at Largo
“I’m singing the same songs/Wearing the same old clothes,” Suzanne Santo confesses on Honeyhoney’s strutting pop-rock track “Black Crows.” And while it’s true that she and her guitarist-partner Ben Jaffe aren’t exactly inventing any radical new musical styles, they do whip up some charming tunes on their Loose Boots EP and their full-length debut, First Rodeo (on actor Kiefer Sutherland’s Ironworks label). Santo is a melodically beguiling singer-violinist who’s just as persuasive belting out barn-burning country-rock ravers like “Give Yourself to Me” as she is confiding bluesy soul ballads like “Who’s Loving You.” She’s also becoming a wittier lyricist than most mainstream pop divas. “I think that we should screw tonight,” Santo purrs as Jaffe strums a languidly folksy accompaniment. Honeyhoney performs tonight in Largo’s Little Room. (Falling James)

Also playing Tuesday:

SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK at Walt Disney Concert Hall; KID CUDI at Club Nokia; LADY GAGA, KID CUDI, SEMI PRECIOUS WEAPONS at the Nokia Theatre; GHOSTWRITERS, JERRY

HANNAN at the Mint; KILLBIRDS at the Silverlake Lounge; LEOPOLD & HIS FICTION, MAGIC MIRROR, OJOS ROJOS at Spaceland.

 

Wednesday/December/23

The Swords of Fatima at Pershing Square
At a time of year when there’s so much cloying white-bread holiday music polluting the aesthetic atmosphere, it’s a relief to see a band like the Swords of Fatima playing this week — and at a free outdoor show, to boot. The self-described “flamenco Bollywood disco punk” duo stir up febrile, messily exotic instrumental passages like “The Swaying Caravan” and “The Sea of Cortez,” on their debut CD, Two Days, Two Swords ... Walk Alone at Midnight. Buko Pan Guerra, who’s played with Lily & the Ladies, Black Cat Mafia and Sun Trash, peels serpentine riffs from her guitar while drummer Nick Scott (Popdefect, Project K) chases after them with rolling tom-toms and speedy surf-garage fills. Without really meaning to, Guerra’s darkly twisting curlicues on “Then He Called at Midnight” simultaneously evoke the Doors’ sprawling moodiness and the Velvet Underground’s droning distortion, while the blurry garage-punk rush of “Catch the Sword” isn’t far removed from the Dagons’ nightmarish reveries. Ultimately, though, the Swords of Fatima are weirder than most groups these days. As their MySpace page humbly explains, “Without the hindrances of pesky lead singers and bass players to get in the way, there’s nothing in the world to stop them.” (Falling James)

Tenacious D at Largo at the Coronet
Over the course of several conversations I had with him while reporting L.A. Weekly’s April story on Silver Lake’s Dangerbird Records, I discovered that label chief Jeff Castelaz isn’t just a savvy businessman and a devoted husband and father — he’s also something of an amateur comedian. So it makes sense that for the latest in a recent series of high-profile benefit concerts for the Pablove Foundation, which Castelaz and his wife launched to help fight children’s cancer after their son Pablo was diagnosed last year, he’d enlist the services of Tenacious D, the funniest folk-metal duo in the world. (Sorry, Flight of the Conchords.) Even minus the excellent cause, these guys are worth the steep $50 cover; perhaps that princely sum will earn you a preview of their long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s The Pick of Destiny. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Wednesday:

KID CUDI at Club Nokia; LADY GAGA, KID CUDI, SEMI PRECIOUS WEAPONS at the Nokia Theatre; CLOWNS & FETUSES, GREX at the Echo Curio.

 

 

Thursday/December/24

Playing Thursday:

CHOP SCHTICK at Genghis Cohen; FISHTANK ENSEMBLE, LISA HALEY, LOS PINGUOS at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.


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