Rock Picks: Peanut Butter Wolf, Serj Tankian, Conor Oberst
THURSDAY, JULY 31
Sarah Christine Wilson
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Carrie Rodriguez: Wild thing
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Buddy Guy: Stone-cold chilling
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Dolly Parton outside her Barbie dream house
Alejandro Escovedo at the Troubadour
Alejandro Escovedo is a real wild child, going back to the Nuns in the late ’70s, when he was literally one of the first troublemakers to arrive on the San Francisco punk scene. He helped cobble together the cowpunk and No Depression genres in the early ’80s with Rank & File and, after moving to Austin, the True Believers, but he’s really excelled during the past two decades with his solo albums, which range from darkly literate Velvet Underground rock stomp to glassily momentous balladry riven with Susan Voelz’s masterful and woozy violin. The big time seems to be finally catching up to him now that he’s represented by Bruce Springsteen manager Jon Landau, but Escovedo is as wonderfully unsettling as ever on his new album, Real Animal, crisply helmed by David Bowie producer Tony Visconti. There are some lovely and certainly commercial pop songs, such as “Swallows of San Juan” — where Voelz’s violins rush in dreamily like the namesake birds — but Escovedo also sends his not-necessarily-fuzzy punk nostalgia into stranger places. He ends up putting a bag on his head and punching himself in the mouth on “Nuns Song” (“mix in some Bowie trash,” he sings), while “Chelsea Hotel ’78” is utterly riveting — a palpably foreboding and urgently seedy rocker that doesn’t make it quite clear if Sid Vicious was set up or not. (Falling James)
Eddie & the Hot Rods, The Joneses at the Knitting Factory
This is one of those superhero match-ups that could only occur in a parallel comic-book universe, like Spider-Man joining forces with Batman or Howard the Duck battling Godzilla. I mean, what are the chances that the ’80s Hollywood punk & rollers the Joneses would ever play on the same bill as the ’70s English pub/punk rockers Eddie & the Hot Rods? Both bands broke up long ago and had their heydays in different decades, in underground scenes that occurred thousands of miles apart. And yet the pairing makes some sense. The Hot Rods were linked with the early British punks because of singles like 1976’s “Teenage Depression,” which was more of an Eddie Cochran update than anything nihilistic. They were really a power-pop band at heart on such nearly perfect tunes as “Do Anything You Wanna Do.” With their slower, more classically rocking Johnny Thunders style, the Joneses were nearly trampled in the conformist macho panic of the early-’80s hardcore scene/stampede, but their sexy, sassy form of trash-punk aligned them with Hollywood’s hair-metal bands later in the decade. Unlike so many N.Y. Dolls clones, though, singer/former bank robber Jeff Drake writes his own sneeringly wonderful anthems. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
JOHN MELLENCAMP, LUCINDA WILLIAMS at Greek Theatre; MOBY at Malibu Performing Arts Center; THE HEALTH CLUB at Echo Curio.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 1
Peanut Butter Wolf at Grand Star
You all know homie Peanut Butter Wolf, the acclaimed local DJ, producer and founder of the esteemed Stones Throw Records label. Starting August 1 at Firecracker at Grand Star in Chinatown and concluding triumphantly on August 8 at a private party in Hollywood, Wolf will go where no astronaut or DJ has gone before, spinning eight different genres of music over eight consecutive nights at — you guessed it — eight Los Angeles venues. That’s right, and no song will be played twice. This mad collector to the 20th power of recorded vinyl and music videos has shown no limits in the way he hears and sees good, funky music, which his label is a testament to, of course, and to which his live VJ skills will attest, too. Wolf will be spinning early house to new wave, ’80s boogie to reggae, Afro-Latin to classic hip-hop, hipster ironic to beyond. (By the way, get a copy of the Time Out DVD Peanut Butter Wolf’s Guide to L.A. for a far fuller enjoyment of your life in this fascinatingly evil town.) 943 N. Broadway, Chinatown. Also at Crane’s, Sun.; Cinespace, Tues.; the Echoplex, Wed.; Little Temple, Thurs. For more info, dial 1-888-WOLF4LA. (John Payne)
Buddy Guy, George Thorogood at the Greek Theatre
You’ve got to feel a little bit sorry for George Thorogood. The Delaware singer-guitarist is a likable and engaging performer, tearing into his blues-rock originals and souped-up covers of classics by John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley with a barreling drive and hound-dog enthusiasm. But pity him if he has to follow the co-headlined Buddy Guy onstage tonight. Thorogood may be “Bad to the Bone,” but his good-time boogie just doesn’t carry any of the supernatural dread and flat-out menace lurking in every one of Guy’s stinging, pinging (like a bullet) licks and straight-from-the-swamp declamations. By most accounts, Guy stole the show during his guest-star turn in Marty Scorsese’s recent Rolling Stones concert film, Shine a Light. The Chicago guitarist’s high string bends were stone-cold chilling, and the scary-intense look in his eyes was fierce enough to give Mick Jagger pause and send Ron Wood scurrying back into rehab. We’re talking about a Guy who taught Jimi Hendrix most of his shape-shifting tricks in volume, distortion and showmanship. He’s got a new album, Skin Deep, the latest in a long line of prime blues platters. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
PUBLIC ENEMY, GHOST FACE KILLAH at Crash Mansion; Z-TRIP, TROUBLEMAKERS at the Echo; JON BRION, GRANT-LEE PHILLIPS at Largo; RAY WYLIE HUBBARD, I SEE HAWKS IN L.A. at McCabe’s; CHERRY BLUESTORMS at Molly Malone’s; PEACHFUZZ at Redwood Bar & Grill; SI*SE at Temple Bar; THE SUBWAYS at the Troubadour.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 2
Carrie Rodriguez at McCabe’s
Austin-bred, Brooklyn-based singer-violinist Carrie Rodriguez became known in Americana circles for her three-CD partnership with Chip Taylor, although she often played second fiddle to the legendary singer-songwriter. Even after the duo dissolved, Taylor produced and wrote much of her well-received solo debut, Seven Angels on a Bicycle. Rodriguez fully sheds Taylor on her upcoming disc, She Ain’t Me (due September 5), collaborating instead with acclaimed songwriters like Gary Louris and Mary Gauthier, and, most significantly, teaming up with producer Malcolm Burn. While the new album isn’t a total cowboy-boots-to-high-heels makeover, Rodriguez impressively dresses up her musical style. The hooky title track winningly blurs the lines of rock, pop and country, while the gauzy atmosphere of “Ragdoll” feels drawn from Burn’s past with Daniel Lanois. Jaunty rhythms enliven the long-distance love ode “El Salvador,” and she more than holds her own singing with Lucinda Williams on the soulful “Mask of Moses.” With She Ain’t Me, Rodriguez further develops her own musical identity as a skilled purveyor of sophisticated twang. Also at the Hotel Café, Mon. (Michael Berick)
Serj Tankian at the Wiltern
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Fully armed, Amanda Palmer prepares to do battle.
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Puppy love: Conor Oberst
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Ax reflections: Oliver Mtukudzi.
With his debut solo album, last year’s Elect the Dead, Serj Tankian further nurtured the strengths of his on-hiatus outfit System of a Down (evocative Old World harmonies, stylistic and lyrical irreverence, attention-deficit dynamics) while knowingly neglecting that band’s sonic shackles (pit-pleasing hesher riffing, self-conscious wackiness). Elect the Dead’s frame of unremarkable rock guitars, keys, strings and drums is lent flesh by Tankian’s supple, succulent voice: an exotic and hypnotic instrument that veers into slap-around-the-face boot-camp rants and passages of Wicked Witch wrinkles. At the flick of some throat-controlled switch, Tankian can trigger flower-child grinning and Neanderthal moshing, his educated and injustice-bruised words completing a coiled, clever boa of massaged message. Choruses heavy with harmonic intervals odd and intriguing to Western ears simultaneously transmit tidal, first-love bliss and fathomless, fetal-position grief. Onstage the spritely Tankian’s disarmingly genial ringmaster demeanor adds echoes of vaudeville and a zest of Zappa to an already complex, fascinating anomaly. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Saturday:
DENGUE FEVER at El Rey Theatre; RINGO STARR, EDGAR WINTER at the Greek Theatre; MOTLEY CRUE at Glen Helen Pavilion; PHANTOM SURFERS at the Bordello; JOHNNY RAMONE TRIBUTE at the Cat Club; PEACHFUZZ at Fais Do-Do; HONEYHONEY at the Hotel Café; JOHN WICKS & THE RECORDS at Molly Malone’s; JOE BAIZA at Mr. T’s Bowl; DEADLY 7, BUFFALO KILLERS at Safari Sam’s; SIMON STOKES at Taix; THAO NGUYEN, HORSE FEATHERS at the Troubadour; CHIP KINMAN & PCH at La Luz de Jesus, 6 p.m.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 3
Dolly Parton at the Greek Theatre
Dolly Parton’s combination of illimitable talent, otherworldly beauty and lightning-quick wit have earned her a status that few other major country-music stars have gracefully managed — the fine art of crossover. The singer-songwriter became a household word without sacrificing a shred of her self-propelled, high-gloss integrity, and that quality is all the more remarkable when considering her dirt-poor mountain background (a punishing childhood so remarkably documented in songs like “Coat of Many Colors” and “Tennessee Mountain Home”). But when it comes to Dolly Parton, what’s most striking is the sheer quality and consistency of her music, and from mid-’60s hits like “Dumb Blonde” to her current, ravingly well-received Backwoods Barbie album, Parton’s individualistic approach and instantly recognizable style stand as one of country music’s most downright unbeatable and appealing confections. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Sunday:
THE SCORPIONS at Pacific Amphitheatre; EDDIE & THE HOT RODS, THE JONESES at Alex’s Bar; PEANUT BUTTER WOLF at Crane’s; MIKE STINSON, DAVE GLEASON at the Echo, 5 p.m.; THE HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE TENNESSEE THREE at Safari Sam’s.
MONDAY, AUGUST 4
Amanda Palmer at the Troubadour
Considering that she’s already the lead singer and main songwriter of a vastly popular band — the Dresden Dolls, an outfit that has only one other member, drummer Brian Viglione — it might seem strange that Boston singer-pianist Amanda Palmer also needs a solo career to express herself. But it makes more sense when you consider the mad variety of past projects she’s plunged herself into, including collaborating with the American Repertory Theatre and the Boston Pops, leading the Shadowbox Collective and busking as a living statue, among other performance-art high jinks. On her upcoming Ben Folds–produced solo CD, Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, her brainy piano-based confessions aren’t that far removed from the Dresden Dolls’ trademark sound, but they’re pumped up with full-band arrangements and a grand billowing of strings. Palmer pounds her long-suffering piano on “Runs in the Family,” where she pairs the neurotic, high-speed lyrical delivery of early tracks like “Girl Anachronism” with frantic violins that slip in and out of the song’s cracks. “Ampersand,” a stately romantic ballad, is sliced with momentous strokes of violins and cello, while “Leeds United” has a swanky horn section and sounds like Siouxsie Sioux caught up in a second line in New Orleans. Terminally enchanting. (Falling James)
Also playing Monday:
STEELY DAN at the Honda Center; CARRIE RODRIGUEZ at the Hotel Café; JUICEBOXXX, THE MONOLATORS at Mr. T’s Bowl; DAVE GLEASON at Redwood Bar & Grill.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 5
Conor Oberst at the Troubadour
Having some kind of definitive identity is challenging for American singer-songwriters. In a glutted market, where man-with-guitar is the most accessible kind of musicianship to market and tour, singer-songwriters also happen to often sound alike, and appear on MySpace and on Pitchfork in quick succession. Yet, we do know the not-quite-30-year-old Omaha, Nebraska, native Conor Oberst (and his beloved wounded-puppy/pasty-goth visage), who first emerged in versatility-proving bands the Faint, Commander Venus, Desaparecidos and, most famously, Bright Eyes. He’s primarily established himself as a commanding solo guy, very much at home alone with his shabbily artful songs. His new self-titled record, out soon on Merge, is his first solo effort in more than a decade, and what helpfully distinguishes Oberst from the fleet is his ballsy dramatics, channeled into any number of genres that he deals in, a truly unusual ability. Out-rocking Ryan Adams and out-cooling John Mayer, Oberst is a rare-bird artist. (Kate Carraway)
Also playing Tuesday:
THE HUSH SOUND at El Rey Theatre; HUMAN LEAGUE, BELINDA CARLISLE, ABC, DEAD OR ALIVE at Gibson Amphitheatre; GARY WILSON at the Echo; KRISTIAN HOFFMAN, 17th PYGMY, IO PERRY at Spaceland; JOHN TRUDELL & BAD DOG at Temple Bar; PEANUT BUTTER WOLF at Cinespace; HECUBA at the Silent Movie Theatre.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6
THE TING TINGS at El Rey Theatre; STEVE MILLER BAND, JOE COCKER at Nokia Theatre.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 7
The Faint, Jaguar Love, Shy Child at Henry Fonda Theater
Here’s a solid triple bill that shouldn’t be missed by anyone wondering if the indie-rock underground has outgrown its love affair with danceable post-punk. The Faint, from Omaha, have a new album out this week called Fasciinatiion, and though it’s the first record the band are releasing on their own (until now they’ve been part of the sprawling Saddle Creek family), the CD doesn’t reveal any big departure from the electro-goth jams they kicked out on Danse Macabre and Wet From Birth. Jaguar Love are a kicky new Portland-based outfit featuring members of Pretty Girls Make Graves and Blood Brothers, both of whom recently called it quits; on their Matador debut, Take Me to the Sea (due on August 19), the Jaguars dial down the basement-show fury of their previous acts and bump up the off-kilter tune sense. New York’s Shy Child play a sort of American version of the nü-rave stuff being churned out by British bands like Klaxons and Does It Offend You, Yeah? Also Fri., Aug. 8. (Mikael Wood)
Oliver Mtukudzi, Rocky Dawuni at the Santa Monica Pier
Why does the Western media focus on the bad news from Africa? In some cases, though, no news may mean good news, even though the lack of coverage remains a sore point. Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi’s Zimbabwe has been in the headlines as a continental basket case, largely because of the policies of hold-on-to-power-at-all-costs leader Robert Mugabe. For years, Tuku’s subtly intoxicating southern African home brew has offered Zimbabweans a way to unwind and reflect, his gruff-voiced morality tales commenting on personal choices and societal ills. Yet, L.A. resident Rocky Dawuni’s homeland, Ghana, rarely gets any ink or photons, even though it’s a working democracy with a free press, and — despite endemic poverty and problematic corruption — is generally regarded as an African beacon. No stranger to global music fans here, the peripatetic Dawuni has been working with the likes of UNICEF, gigging back home and elsewhere, as well as finishing his long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s Afro-synergistic Book of Changes. Get ready for some good news with this double-thrill bill, which starts at 7 p.m. (Tom Cheyney)
Also playing Thursday:
AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT, RADARS TO THE SKY at El Rey Theatre; BIC RUNGA at Largo; ROLLING BLACKOUTS at Silverlake Lounge; TARA JANE O’NEIL, BOBB BRUNO at the Smell; DARKER MY LOVE, TWEAK BIRD at the Troubadour; PEANUT BUTTER WOLF at Little Temple.
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