Rock Picks: Part Time Punks Festival, The Breeders, Rodney Crowell
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13
Robyn Hitchcock at Largo at the Coronet
One of the big trends in the rock-concert world nowadays is the “perform the classic album” show. Legends (Van Morrison and Brian Wilson) and cultists (Mission of Burma and Slint) alike have all taken a ride on this artistic wayback machine. And now the psychedelic-dipped folk-rocker Robyn Hitchcock is jumping aboard the nostalgia bandwagon too. He’ll perform his “director’s cut” of his memorable 1983 record, I Often Dream of Trains, which gleefully runs the gamut from the weird (“Sometimes I Wish I Was a Pretty Girl”) and wacky (“Uncorrected Personality Traits”) to the downright wistful (“Trams of Old London”). So why join Hitchcock on this back-catalog flashback? Because, besides being a talented albeit eccentric singer-songwriter, the loquacious Englishman indulges in trippy, often-hilarious stage banter that makes each show a sublimely unique experience. His last time through L.A., while touring with Nick Lowe, the 50-something Hitchcock proved he was still an irrepressible showman, so expect that he’ll keep playing long after his Train has reached its final track. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Thursday:
KATHLEEN EDWARDS & JOHN DOE at El Rey Theatre; ALANIS MORISSETTE at Orpheum Theatre; JOE SATRIANI, MOUNTAIN at the Wiltern; AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD at the Echo; JESCA HOOP at the Hotel Café; GYM CLASS HEROES at Key Club; LEGENDARY PINK DOTS, NORA KEYES at Knitting Factory.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14
Uh Huh Her at Avalon
Named after a song by PJ Harvey, Uh Huh Her is fronted by Camila Grey, the talented former Mellowdrone bassist who’s worked with Busta Rhymes and Dr. Dre, and Leisha Hailey, who used to play in the Murmurs but is perhaps better known for her role as Alice Pieszecki on The L Word. The L.A. duo’s new CD, Common Reaction (Nettwerk), doesn’t really sound much like PJ Harvey or evoke the British singer’s artful edginess and ambitious musical range, but their ethereal dance-pop is still entrancing. Grey and Hailey coo airy harmonies that sail prettily over an electropop backing on soft and sugary confections like “Wait Another Day” and “Covered.” They’re positively dreamy on “Not a Love Song,” where these diehard romantics claim that they’re through with love. “Hollow is the way you like it,” they accuse a heartbreaker, even as they spin a gauzy web of fuzzy guitars and spacy synthesizers. “I’d love to hurt you, honey,” Grey confides sensually amid icy keyboard strokes on the engrossingly ambivalent attraction/repulsion of “Explode,” then adds enigmatically, “You should pay if you wanna go.” Breaking up/staying together has never sounded so dramatically bewitching. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
BEN FOLDS, MISSY HIGGINS at the Wiltern; ALANIS MORISSETTE at Orpheum Theatre; MASON JENNINGS at Henry Fonda Theater; MUDHONEY, MODEL/ACTRESS, JAPANESE MOTORS at El Rey Theatre; MOTLEY CRUE at Hollywood Palladium; PARSON RED HEADS, CASTLEDOOR at Alex’s Bar; ASIA at the Canyon; LITTLE ONES, WHAT MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS at the Echo; DEERHOOF at the Echoplex; SKELETONS at the Smell.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15
Adult at the Echoplex
If there’s any group capable of providing the soundtrack to the dystopic apocalypse that has become Detroit, it must be Adult. Juan Atkins’ Motown may have been suffering from white flight, but at least his techno gave the promise of assembly-line funk. While the Big Three decompose, married couple Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller produce short widgets of fear via the electro-punk of the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” and that other J.G. Ballard fetishist, John Foxx. Speaking of soundtracks, Adult will provide the live soundtrack to their own silent film on Wednesday at the Silent Movie Theatre. The 40-minute Decampment will make you wonder if a bear shits bricks in the woods. Their 2007 album, Why Bother? (Thrill Jockey), has titles like “I Feel Worse When I’m With You,” and their new E.P. is called Let’s Feel Bad Together, but, even though Kuperus plays it straight, there’s humor, evil kitsch and even the thrill of Dionysian pessimism in their destructive despair. Just don’t ask them to play “Nite Life”; that could get ugly. (Daniel Siwek)
Gang Gang Dance, Marnie Stern at El Rey Theatre
Not unlike their close demographic peers Animal Collective, New York’s Gang Gang Dance have always spiked their tribal-drum psych-noise freak-outs with liberal dollops of pop. Yet with its propulsive dance-club beats and supercatchy vocal melodies, the band’s new Saint Dymphna represents a major step forward for these art-scene big shots; in tracks like “Holy Communion,” a funky mashup of African-pop guitars and hard-edged crunk synths, and “Princes,” which features an unexpected cameo from the English MC Tinchy Stryder, it’s not impossible to envision GGD someday striking left-field “Paper Planes”–style gold. Tonight, expect to hear the new stuff, but expect it to take new shape. Opener Marnie Stern, also from New York, just released a solid new disc as well; it sports an exceptionally long title we’ll shorten here to This Is It and I Am It and features a fresh batch of Stern’s trademark electric-guitar shred. Request her triumphant cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and her furious remix of Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss.” (Mikael Wood)
James Intveld at Joe’s Great American Bar & Grill
Few musicians burdened by the rockabilly yolk manage to transcend its implicit limitations, yet local veteran James Intveld has done precisely that. With an extensive track record marked by impressive highs (just get a load of his ace current CD, Have Faith) and punishing doses of tragedy (the 1985 death of his brother, who went down in then-boss Ricky Nelson’s defective DC-3), Intveld is on a ceaseless quest, marked by a striking mixture of raw talent and quiet dignity, which has allowed the singer-guitarist to attain a level where genuine contemporary expression and honor for country-music tradition coexist as a complementary, natural whole. That’s a hell of a balancing act, but Intveld, with his coolly alluring image, low-key presentation and high-voltage technical mastery, always makes it look easy. Ultimately, he’s driven more by demanding honky-tonk sacrament than his own ambition, and it’s that unusual surrender of self that allows him to so thoroughly inhabit his chosen musical realm. Long story short: The guy kicks ass. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Saturday:
AMERICA at the Canyon; Q-TIP, THE COOL KIDS at House of Blues; KOTTONMOUTH KINGS at the Key Club; PINE BOX BOYS, GROOVY REDNECKS at Redwood Bar & Grill; JUNKYARD, JET BOY, LITTLE CAESAR at Sam’s at the Regent; ANNABELLA LWIN at the Viper Room.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16
Part Time Punks Festival at the Echoplex
The good folks behind the Part Time Punks series have assembled a mighty lineup for their annual festival, which takes place today at the Echoplex and its adjoining upstairs neighbor, the Echo. The bill ranges wildly from straightforward punk rock bands like Mika Miko to stranger and noisier art combos, with a healthy shot of post-punk pioneers to provide some historic context/contrast. The reunited Manchester outfit A Certain Ratio (with three early members) headline with their influential late-’70s neo-dance grooves, which combine slippery funk with dour, emotion-free vocals, albeit without the exhilarating crunch of more adventurous early rivals like Gang of Four. Whether it’s a good thing or not, they’re responsible for much of the softer ersatz disco and new-romantic styles that followed in punk rock’s purifying wake in Britain. Then we skip across the pond for a rare return by the original lineup of Pylon, the coolly indefinable early-’80s band that launched the vaunted Athens, Georgia, music scene with Michael Lachowski’s serpentine bass lines and Vanessa Hay’s probing caterwauling. Just as exciting are flashbacks from such early L.A. art rockers as the abrasively confrontational synth mob Nervous Gender, the minimalist pop-punk-fuzz reductions of the Urinals (whose songs have influenced Sonic Youth and been covered by Yo La Tengo and the Gun Club) and the current version of the grandly percussive Savage Republic. Keep an ear out for a onetime reunion of the Wild Stares, the cryptically poetic and sonically bent Boston electric-rock precursors to the local chamber-folk collective W.A.C.O. The festival starts at 2 p.m. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
THE B-52’s, THE 88 at Club Nokia; KIOSK at El Rey Theatre; MINUS THE BEAR, ANNUALS at Henry Fonda Theater; ROBBY KRIEGER at the Canyon; PURE COUNTRY GOLD, GUILTY HEARTS at Redwood Bar & Grill; MEXICAN INSTITUTE OF SOUND, VOLUMEN CERO at the Roxy; CHARLIE WADHAMS at Tangier.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17
The Breeders at the Wiltern
For all of the hype about the Pixies reunion a few years ago, many of us were more thrilled about the return of Kim Deal’s other band, the Breeders. While the brief Pixies revival was more about nostalgia, the Breeders continue to make interesting, unusual records, including the consistently excellent Mountain Battles, which came out on 4AD earlier this year. There’s a newfound exhilaration in rumbling, tumbling songs like “Overglazed,” which is topped by Deal’s searingly clear vocals and wrapped up in a blanket of backwards guitars, and she trips out further on weird interludes like the shadowy “Istanbul.” As ever, much of the excitement comes from the seductively smooth way Kim’s cool harmonies blend with her twin sister Kelley Deal’s on the rustic ballad “Here No More” and, especially, the stately, spare beauty of “We’re Gonna Rise.” “I’ll tell the story — or not,” Kim teases, her voice trailing off delicately into the void, as the guitars subside into a glassy silence before sparking up again. Other surprises await: Kim practices her best German on the chugging midtempo rocker “German Studies” and her best Spanish on the languid idyll “Regalame Esta Noche.” She “waits for Mercury to fall” on “Walk It Off,” where she advises her fans, “Nobody’s allowed to fight/Till the band starts playing tonight.” (Falling James)
Weave at the Echo
Is the name Weave an ironic reference to the ubiquitous faux follicles rocked by sistas and starlets alike around L.A., or is it a more introspective statement about the band’s varying stratum of sound and overlapping influences? With local rockers Weave, you never know (their MySpace addy is “Weave Yo Head”). The quartet definitely inject a sense of quirky fun into their hypnotic, dance-y yet vicious tunes. Compared to everything from Blonde Redhead to the Slits (we think the girl vocals recall Le Tigre and even a little X), the arty grinders definitely have a respectable pedigree. The band emerged from Ivory Lee Carlson and Nicole Turley’s Seventh Sea & Blood Everywhere and spent 2007 with pickup members, including Ariel Pink (Haunted Graffiti), ultimately solidifying their lineup with Philip Haut (the Centimeters, Bubonic Plague) and Bryan Lasley (Bubonic Plague), both of whom offer rhythmic presence to the femme-driven fervency. Also Mon., Nov. 24. (Lina Lecaro)
Also playing Monday:
EL GRAN SILENCIO, MEXICAN DUBWISER at the Echoplex; THE MONOLATORS at Pehrspace; JAKE LA BOTZ at Redwood Bar & Grill; FREE MORAL AGENTS at Sam’s at the Regent; WESTERN STATES MOTEL, MARCHING BAND, BRAM at Spaceland; THE BINGES at the Viper Room.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18
Emily Wells at Henry Fonda Theater
The Hotel Café Tour comes to town with a lineup of women pop-folk singers who’ve outgrown the namesake Hollywood bar’s tiny stage and are ready for a bigger spotlight. There’s an impressive variety of intelligently tuneful performers — including the soothing confessions of headliner Rachael Yamagata and the whimsical, rambling pop of Thao Nguyen (appearing tonight without her usual band, the Get Down Stay Down) — and we urgently recommend arriving early for the local singer-violinist Emily Wells. Her new CD, The Symphonies: Dreams, Memories & Parties, is divided into 10 “symphonies,” which are actually endearing, arty songs layered with up to 21 tracks of violin apiece. “So I learned to play a little bit of violin, but most of all I learned how to listen,” she explains on the rapid-fire autobiography of “Symphony 3,” a.k.a. “The Story” (which features a guest rap from Count Bass D). Wells carves up elegant, classically based pop tunes and frosts them with Björk/Kate Bush–style embellishments. Her lyrics draw upon fantastic imagery, such as the secrets hidden in “suitcase of fireflies” in “Fair Thee Well,” and “Synesthesia tastes just like a rainstorm, hears like a lover’s kiss,” from “The Click Boom Boom.” This multi-instrumentalist is multitalented, with subtle powers of magic and persuasion; she even “taught the neighborhood how to creep for you.” (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
MATISYAHU, FLOBOTS at Club Nokia; EVEREST, HENRY CLAY PEOPLE, NICO STAI at the Echoplex; LUDOVICI EINAUDI at Largo; MIKE STINSON, DAVE GLEASON at Redwood Bar & Grill; ABE VIGODA at the Smell; SPINDRIFT at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Miranda Lee Richards at Tangier
Miranda Lee Richards first came to some attention in 2001 with the release of her debut album, The Herethereafter, which featured a wonderfully sparkling version of the old Rolling Stones tune “Dandelion.” Written just as the Stones were entering their psychedelic period in the mid-’60s, it was a perfect little ephemeral soap bubble of a song, with atypically sunny, hippie-ish lyrics and an airy-fairy musical backing that was countered by Charlie Watts’ thunderous tom-tom fills. Richards’ remake was even more precious, with her sweetly true melodies replacing Mick Jagger’s rough shouting, and it announced the arrival of a unique stylist. Her long-awaited follow-up album, the new Light of X (Nettwerk), produced by Rick Parker, charms with delicate, carefully rendered balladry and gently laid-back pop tunes. There’s a hint of country music and wide-open spaces with Ben Peeler’s pedal-steel adornments on “Savorin’ Your Smile” and “Olive Tree,” and Richards’ radiant voice lights up the dusky guitar riffs of “Early November.” She gives good jangle on the power-pop reverie “Pictures of You,” while Parker frames her solemn piano chords with shimmering guitar plucking on the ballad “Here by the Window,” which builds a haunting momentum with bluesy grandeur. Her lyrics dip a little too often into facile clichés (“biting the hand that feeds us,” “caught in the headlights,” etc.), but Richards’ gorgeous singing usually elevates even the plainest sentiments. (Falling James)
Ohgr at El Rey Theatre
Nivek Ogre, you might recall, was the front man for Vancouver’s semi-legendary industrial fear-mongers Skinny Puppy. The appropriately named vocalist shifts slightly as Ohgr with this really intriguing new album called Devils in My Details, wherein his old band’s doomy, wicked factory sounds of jackboot percussive stomping and buzzsaw synth work are submerged amid huge loads of clean-lined electro-rock and subtle swaths of swirling musique concrète hinting at Satanic ritual, vintage sci-fi reels and eerily obscure Christian infomercials from a time when the world was black & white. With Ohgr, there’s always a kind of bleakly black humor involved, and if you’re listening closely — as his intensely devoted cult will assuredly be — you’ll find cleverly bleak yocks aplenty on Devils. You’ll also hear one of the most ingeniously engineered productions in recent memory, thanks to Ohgr’s longtime studio partner Mark Walk. The live show promises jaw-dropping new technology and special-guest “chaos magicians.” (John Payne)
Also playing Wednesday:
USHER at Club Nokia; LUCINDA WILLIAMS at Ventura Theatre; SUGAR MINOTT, SCIENTIST at the Echoplex; CARINA ROUND at the Hotel Café; VONDA SHEPARD at Largo; ELISA, ARI HEST, SARA HAZE at the Roxy; AIDS WOLF, ARRINGTON DE DIONYSO at the Smell; DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix; PORTUGAL THE MAN at the Troubadour.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Kaiju Big Battel, Busdriver at the Mayan
Women will cry! Men will laugh! For . . . it seems to be alive! Not one but two Kaiju Big Battels are coming to town, live monster-mayhem spectacles bringing to thrilling life the very real threat of the evil brains from the outer galaxy who have come to destroy planet Earth and probably steal our jobs. The Kaiju Commissioner will be doing his best to save the entire world before it explodes in a flame of terrible color! Unfortunately, we are currently being threatened by an active roster of more than 50 monsters, including Kung-Fu Chicken Noodle, Dusto Bunny, Call-Me-Kevin and the notorious square-headed mad scientist known as Dr. Cube. Referee Jingi will ensure evenhandedness in the ring, even when the monster has 10 of ’em, while Davio Salbino is an urban-renewal expert who reconstructs the crumbled cityscapes between Battels; your host for the events is MC Louden Noxious. Mind-warping speed-rapper Busdriver opens the proceedings. (John Payne)
Rodney Crowell, Joe Henry, Jenny Scheinman at Largo at the Coronet
Houston native Rodney Crowell may be Nashville’s consummate “outsider insider,” achieving success in the Music Row mainstream while also maintaining his artistic integrity. In the mid-1970s, he arrived in L.A. to be Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band guitarist and song source. He moved on to Nashville, where he shepherded his then-wife Rosanne Cash’s career and penned hits for country stars like Crystal Gayle and the Oak Ridge Boys and scoring solo successes too. Although his star dimmed slightly during the mid-’90s, Crowell regained his creative footing in 2001 with his stirring, semi-autobiographical The Houston Kid. He has put out four more profoundly powerful discs (including this year’s Sex and Gasoline) that transcend country conventions. Crowell’s current work, fitting somewhere between Nick Lowe’s sagely contemplation and Steve Earle’s angry rants, delves into personal and political issues with a fierce clarity that’s tempered by a folksy humor. Sex producer Joe Henry, another talented hyphenate, will sit in with him tonight and in-demand violinist Jenny Scheinman (who authored her own fine Americana-style disc this year) will open, as well as play in Crowell’s band. (Michael Berick)
The Sounds at Hollywood Palladium
Boasting a blonde beauty, slight lads in leather duds, spunky words, punky guitars and squelchy new-wave synths, the Sounds have the perfect pop-band formula pretty much covered. So, while headlining the freshly spruced-up Palladium is none too shabby, it’s surprising that these ’80s-obsessed Swedes aren’t stuffing enormo-domes by now. Truth to tell, they’re just one genuinely great song away from high-street ubiquity, their two albums to date (2002’s Living in America and 2006’s Dying to Say This to You) being consistent Blondie/Cars/Missing Persons post-punk pleasures but lacking that involuntary hum-inducing hit (though the shameless organic/electronic celebration of “Queen of Apology” comes close). Onstage, the hard-touring Sounds are all about the panda eyes, impossible cheekbones and leggy ambition of front gal Maja Ivarsson, whose rawk Björk inflections and déjà vu Debbie Harry aura make her black-clad bandmates’ spirited instrumental efforts worthwhile. At best, the Sounds are a band on the cusp of utter greatness; at worst, they’re a guilty-pleasure, skinny-tied sonic flashback. Either way, we win. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Thursday:
WIL-DOG ABERS Y SU BANDA JUVENIL at Eastside Luv; TERRA NAOMI at the Hotel Café; WARREN G at the Key Club; MONTE NEGRO, PILAR DIAZ, BEATMO at the Roxy; SLANK at Sam’s at the Regent; WEST INDIAN GIRL, POOLABOMB, POLYAMOROUS AFFAIR at Spaceland; NELLIE McKAY at Music Recital Hall, Cal Poly Pomona.
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